Monday, 23 February 2015

Review: 'The Novel Cure' by Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin

I requested The Novel Cure from Netgalley on a whim because it looked like fun. Upon finishing I have decided I need it as a hardcover so I can pull it out whenever I am in need of a new book!

Publisher: Penguin Press

Pub. Date: 05/09/2013
A novel is a story transmitted from the novelist to the reader. It offers distraction, entertainment, and an opportunity to unwind or focus. But it can also be something more powerful—a way to learn about how to live. Read at the right moment in your life, a novel can—quite literally—change it. The Novel Cure is a reminder of that power. To create this apothecary, the authors have trawled two thousand years of literature for novels that effectively promote happiness, health, and sanity, written by brilliant minds who knew what it meant to be human and wrote their life lessons into their fiction. Structured like a reference book, readers simply look up their ailment, be it agoraphobia, boredom, or a midlife crisis, and are given a novel to read as the antidote. Bibliotherapy does not discriminate between pains of the body and pains of the head (or heart). Aware that you’ve been cowardly? Pick up To Kill a Mockingbird for an injection of courage. Experiencing a sudden, acute fear of death? Read One Hundred Years of Solitude for some perspective on the larger cycle of life. Nervous about throwing a dinner party? Ali Smith’s There but for The will convince you that yours could never go that wrong. Whatever your condition, the prescription is simple: a novel (or two), to be read at regular intervals and in nice long chunks until you finish. Some treatments will lead to a complete cure. Others will offer solace, showing that you’re not the first to experience these emotions. The Novel Cure is also peppered with useful lists and sidebars recommending the best novels to read when you’re stuck in traffic or can’t fall asleep, the most important novels to read during every decade of life, and many more.
The Novel Cure is incredibly fun. Although, as a dedicated bibliophile, I always knew that books were the answer to everything, it was great to see it being confirmed by others. Berthoud and Elderkin's writing style is energetic and intimate. Whether they're recommending Lolita while agreeing that Humbert Humbert is an absolute creep or advising American Psycho's gruesomeness as a cure for shopping addiction, it feels genuine. There is simply something genius about the idea behind The Novel Cure. We all feel the need to escape into a book every now and then but how would we previously have known which book will get us running from laziness or giving up on an unrequited love? 

One of my favourite things about The Novel Cure, despite not currently ailing of anything, were all the amazing book recommendations that I got from it. Berthoud and Elderkin went beyond what is considered 'canon' by many and there are a lot of diverse authors in this book. I was initially scared Dickens would be the answer to everything and I was very happy to find this not to be the case. Whether it's female authors or authors from Africa, Asia and South-America, you're bound to find what you're looking for in here.

One thing I did wonder about was the criteria according to which they chose their ailments. Some of them were unexpected while others were very obvious and then some were missing which I would have liked included. But I guess that is the thing with books like these, they can't be infinitely long and wanting more of it usually means good things for what there is. Berthoud and Elderkin's entries are fun and although at times I feel they may give too much away about the books they prescribe, they always make a good case for why they chose certain books. 

I give this book...

4 Universes!

The Novel Cure is fun and entertaining. Whether you read it all at once, like me, or use it to figure out how to get over your break-up or deal with the financial downturn. This is the kind of book which is perfect for either your coffee table or on your bedside table, so you can pull it out whenever anyone is even showing the slightest sign of being in need of new read!


  1. This sounds like a lot of fun! I love reading about reading, so I'll add this one to my wishlist, I think.

    1. It really is fun, I hope you enjoy it if you do get it! :)