Fiction with Fangs by Eileen Padmore

If you had to pick the three main reasons you read fiction, what would they be? Mine are entertainment, humour and escapism. But our newly formed book club has thrown a stone into my millpond. To some, this is frivolous.

There is the reader who wants to learn, reads deliberately and takes time to reflect between sections. Then another who wants to read only 'worthy' books. The fallout from discussion around what constitutes worthiness is worthy of some kind of book on its own. We're a weird bunch.

Things came to a head following the reading of Notes from Underground by Fyodor Dosteovsky. To be honest, I baulked after page six. The clue was in the title. So dark! Feedback at bookclub prompted the liveliest discussion yet, with disagreement even about the genre. We're all very good friends by the way.

But it has caused me to reflect on why I read what I do. My earliest memory of being transported through fiction was when I found Jane Eyre in a cupboard at primary school. I

was gripped by Charlotte Bronte's description of life at Lowick school, perhaps my first experience of words coming to life on the page. When questioned about whether it really happened or was made up, my mother's answers were less than satisfactory. Now I know the passage was partly autobiographical.

And that is another reason why I read. If fiction refers to literature created by the imagination, there is one category that inspires me above all others. Literary Fiction. It overlaps with other genres but is character rather than plot driven. Story action impacts the main character or characters and leads to a story of the human condition, of socio-political issues that affect life.

Examples? Nevil Shute in No Highway, published 1948, wrote prophetically about metal fatigue in aircraft through the fictional character of Theodore Honey. Charles Dickens gave us Ebeneezer Scrooge, a name used today for someone who is damaged by greed. Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin inflamed American attitudes toward slavery and some think it sparked the civil war.

Then there is AJ Cronin's The Citadel, published 1937, that works at so many levels. I

love the book – a tad dated now, as evidenced when one of our number slammed it shut at the point where the heroine placed the hero's slippers by the fire to warm! That didn't worry me. But (spoiler alert) I relished where Andrew Manson, newly emerged from medical school with awards and plaudits, found the only way to curb a typhoid epidemic was to creep out at dead of night and blow up the sewers! The medical officer for health had proved unapproachable outside the golf course.

Cronin upset the medical establishment of his day. Some tried to get the book banned. But as a general practitioner he had trodden the path of his hero and his passion for change stands out. Many attribute the inception of the NHS to this book. Truly, fiction with fangs!

Eileen Padmore retired some time ago from health care and academia with a vow to

indulge in writing more creatively and less academically. Her background in Africa, Eire, Northern Ireland (in the troubles) as well as inner city Birmingham and Leeds provides plenty of copy. She has had articles published by Woman Alive, Christian Writer and contributed to the popular ACW Lent book.

Eileen operates a dynamic prayer shawl ministry which she blogs about under the name of Tabitha here.

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