Never has contemporary fiction been more widely discussed and passionately analysed; recent years have seen a huge growth in the number of reading groups and in the interest of a n-academic readership in the discussion of how vels work. Drawing on his weekly Guardian column, 'Elements of Fiction', John Mullan examines vels mostly of the last ten years, many of which have become firm favourites with reading groups. He reveals the rich resources of velistic technique, setting recent fiction alongside classics of the past. Nick Hornby's adoption of a female narrator is compared to Daniel Defoe's; Ian McEwan's use of weather is set against Austen's and Hardy's; Carole Shield's chapter divisions are likened to Fanny Burney's. Each section shows how some basic element of fiction is used. Some topics (like plot, dialogue, or location) will appear familiar to most vel readers; others (metanarrative, prolepsis, amplification) will open readers' eyes to new ways of understanding and appreciating the
John Mullan is Professor of English at University College London. He is the author of Sentiment and Sociability: The Language of Feeling in the Eighteenth Century and co-editor of Eighteenth-Century Popular Culture: An Anthology. A broadcaster and journalist as well as an academic, he writes a weekly column on contemporary fiction for the Guardian.