How Long Has This Been Going On?*

Long BooksI think most people would agree that there is such a thing as a book that’s too long. And if you’ve ever stopped reading a very long book halfway through, wondering why you’d even bothered with it, you know that some such books could do with a good editing. Both in my reading and in my writing, I tend to like books that aren’t overly long.

At the same time, some stories take longer to tell than others do. And some highly regarded books are longer than you might think. They may not be to everyone’s taste, but there are some longer books that really don’t seem too long when you’re reading them. Let me offer just a few examples. Keep in mind, everyone’s taste is a bit different. Still, I think you’ll get my point.

On Monday, I spotlighted Charles Dickens’ Bleak House, which is the story of a protracted lawsuit, a suspicious death, and a murder. Those aspects of the novel are woven into a larger picture of social class, the legal system and family dynamics in Victorian England. It’s a long book. And yet, fans will tell you that the story moves along, the characters are well-developed, the plot threads mesh together and the novel unfolds beautifully. In other words, the length isn’t a problem because the story keeps the reader absorbed. It’s a novel that needs extra time to evolve, if I may express it that way. It’s also worth noting that this novel (and plenty of others too) started life as a set of monthly instalments. The story unfolded over a period of time.

But there are plenty of long novels that didn’t start out as instlaments that have gotten a great deal of praise. Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall is one of them. It is the fictionalised account of the rise of Thomas Cromwell to power in the court of King Henry VIII. Wolf Hall isn’t a typical crime novel (is there such a thing?) complete with detective, suspects and an investigation. Yet it is a crime novel in the sense that there is plenty of court intrigue as well as plotting and untimely deaths. But it’s also the story of an era, of Cromwell’s background and the events that led to his coming into power and a lot more too. The novel is long and there are a lot of characters in it. It begins in Cromwell’s adolescence and moves through the next thirty years. There are a lot of events in the novel. But the story is woven together into a cohesive whole, so that a lot of people feel it isn’t ponderous at all. The story needs extra time.

Ian Rankin’s Exit Music has as its focal point the murder of Alexander Todorov, a dissident Russian poet whose death looks like a mugging gone horribly wrong. But as Inspector Rebus and DS Siobhan Clarke get deeper into the investigation and trace Todorov’s movements, they begin to believe there’s more to this case than a mugging. That’s even more likely when local recording engineer Charles Riordan dies and his studio goes up in flames. Todorov had done some recording of his work at that studio not long before, so Rebus and Clarke suspect the deaths might be related. Matters become more complex when it’s discovered that a group of wealthy Russian business executives were not happy about Todorov’s political stance. And when Rebus finds out that his nemesis ‘Big Ger’ Cafferty might have been involved with this group – might even have arranged for the murders – he thinks he’s found his man. Of course, this is Ian Rankin, so things aren’t quite what they seem. This is a long book; my paperback edition comes out at just over 520 pages. But Rankin draws the story threads together and the plot and action move along, so that fans of the novel don’t see the length as being burdensome.

That’s also true of Håkan Nesser’s The Unlucky Lottery (AKA Münster’s Case). In that novel, Intendant Münster and his team investigate the stabbing death of Waldemar Leverkuhn, who’s murdered after a night out with friends to celebrate a lottery winning. Münster’s team begins of course with Leverkuhn’s family members. There’s also interest in what Leverkuhn’s neighbours were doing at the time of the murder. And when it’s discovered that Leverkuhn and his friends had gone in together on a lottery ticket and won, the investigating team also takes a look at those friends’ backgrounds. Their alibis become especially important when one of them goes missing and is later found dead. It takes time for the team to trace the Leverkuhn family background and follow up on all of the evidence from Leverkuhn’s neighbours and friends. And there are some sub-plots in the novel too. So it’s not a short novel. And yet, fans will tell you that the story is absorbing, the pace solid and the character development rich.

Qiu Xiaolong’s Death of a Red Heroine introduces readers to Chief Inspector Chen Cao of the Shanghai Police. He and his assistant Detective Yu Guangming get involved in a very delicate case with far-reaching implications when the body of a young woman is discovered in Baili Canal. The woman is soon identified as national model worker Guan Hongying. Because the victim was a celebrity and a national role model, this investigation will have to be handled very delicately and very carefully. The first theory is that she was raped and murdered by a taxi driver, since she was known to have taken a taxi on the night of her death. But Chen and Yu soon find other possibilities. And as the trail begins to lead to some highly-placed people, the need for care and delicate handling becomes even more urgent. This novel is long by a lot of people’s standards – over 400 pages. But those who’ve loved it say that it includes solid sub-plots, interesting characters and a realistic look at 1990’s Shanghai. In this case, the book doesn’t feel too long, if I may put it that way.

Of course, everyone has a different idea of what counts as ‘long.’ What’s more, plots that feel too long to one person may not to another. So what’s your view? Are there any novels you’ve read that are long but that you’ve really enjoyed?  Do you have a cutoff point for novels (i.e. you won’t read novels longer than __ pages)? If you’re a writer, do you have a mental page limit as you write?

 

 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Paul Carrack’s How Long, made famous by Ace.

50 Comments

Filed under Charles Dickens, Håkan Nesser, Hilary Mantel, Ian Rankin, Qiu Xiaolong

50 responses to “How Long Has This Been Going On?*

  1. Personally, Margot, I prefer books in roughly the 200-to-300 page category, a range in which a great many classic mysteries would fit. However, there are plenty of exceptions. The latest edition of Sayers’ “Gaudy Night,” for example, runs well over 500 pages, but it’s a fascinating and enjoyable read.

    Among the “heavy” reading, you’d have to put the Harry Potter books – particularly the last four in the seven book series. It may not be a formal mystery story, but there are plenty of mystery elements in it, including sudden plot twists, authorial misdirection, cleverly placed clues, etc. I’m too lazy to go add up the total number of pages in the seven books, but it’s way up there – and I suspect most of its readers wouldn’t have minded even more.

    • Les – I agree; Gaudy Night is a terrific story, and doesn’t feel too long even if it is long. In that case, that length doesn’t seem burdensome. I’m glad you mentioned that.
       
      I’m also glad you mentioned the Harry Potter series. Fans of that series would most definitely agree with you that the novels aren’t ponderous at all although the stories are long. And I’m sure if the series were continued, there would still be people lining up…

      • By the way, you had me fooled on the title. My immediate reaction was to credit Ira Gershwin who, with brother George, wrote a terrific song by that title. But I suppose I’m just showing my age… ;-)

  2. I read Bolanos 2666 right after my twins were born. At the time I thought it was a ridiculous book to start as it was so damn long, but I loved it. I suppose it could be classed as a crime novel too, but I think the fact that it was originally supposed to be published as three books made it easier to read. Each third was entirely different from the others, keeping it fresh. I have Infinite Jest in the 746 and I am really avoiding it, solely because of it’s length at 1079 pages!

    • Cathy – Interesting! I have to confess I’ve not (yet) read that one. But you make such a well-taken point about the importance of keeping a book fresh. That’s a big part of what keeps a long book engaging. If the plot keeps going and the reader keeps wanting to know what happens next, the story simply doesn’t seem long and burdensome. Even so, to be honest, 1079 pages would make me think too…

  3. Many of the Victorian classics were published as serials, which gives them an excuse for being so long – I think they can sag a bit within episodes, but generally justify their length – they have been planned to last that long, and have plenty of plot going on. More modern long books that I have loved include Wolf Hall, Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy, and Michel Faber’s The Crimson Petal and the White. I think a straight crime novel is harder to sustain over great length, and I truly believe that most of the 400-500-pagers could be edited to good effect! Though an honourable exception is The Cuckoo’s Calling by JK Rowling, > 500 but worth it. (And only £2 on UK Kindle right now I found out when I went to look up the pagecount!)

    • Moira – You know, as I planned this post I thought about the difference between books such as Bleak House, which were intended as long books, and some modern novels that weren’t. There are, as you show us, exceptions, but I agree that a straight crime novel takes a very deft hand to sustain it for a very long time. Good to hear that the Rowling is on a good offer!

  4. Jane Austen said for her part, “if a book is well written, I always find it too short.” But I’m inclined to disagree. As a writer who has been privileged to work with some excellent editors over the years, I feel it when a book is too long. Some well-established authors seem to become beyond editing – I’m thinking of John Irving & JK Rowling as examples – and their later work suffers for it.

    That said, book length is only ever an issue if I’m pressed for time: I’m more interested in the quality of the story telling than anything else.

    Incidentally, in case anyone thinks size is not important, I was told the optimal length for a debut novel is 72,000 words (I had 30,000 words culled from my first ms in order to achieve this!). I was also told my ms of 83,000 words was a good length for a second novel. I think my third fell somewhere between the two – though I think you get to take more license, the more established you become as an author.

    • Angela – Thanks very much for those insights and for sharing your experiences. I think you have a very well-taken point that you get more license when you’re a bit more established. And there are some authors of course who’ve gotten so famous and are such best-sellers that you do wonder if they get a pass when it comes to editing.
       
      Like you, I feel it when I don’t sense that there’s been quality editing. It’s not just a question of length, but that’s part of it. Stories just move more smoothly and are more engaging (to me at any rate) when they’ve been edited. That said though, there are some novels (perhaps Austen had a good point!) that are just simply good stories, and it doesn’t matter that they’re 500 pages or more. In my opinion that’s the exception, but it does happen.

  5. I’m with you on shorter book lengths. Unless the story is really intriguing I want to get to the action and fast. That’s why I like fast paced novels from the Hard-Boil era.
    But as Angelasavage above said : I wouldn’t dismiss a book on its length.But it better be good!

    • Carol – Well-put! I’ve read some long books that are excellent even though they are long. I wouldn’t want them cut down. But in general, I think books tell stories best if they are edited for length. As you say, a good book is a good book regardless of length. But it needs to be quite well-written.

  6. kathy d.

    This has become an issue for me as I can’t read as quickly as I used to, and because of aging eyes, I’m finding it harder to read long books. However, I’ve read a few that come in around 450 pages, J.K. Rowling’s “The Cuckoo’s Calling,” and Sara Paretsky’s “Critical Mass,” and John Grisham’s “Sycamore Row.” All were excellent reads.
    When I read Rowling’s book, I thought there was too much detail, and that one-fifth of the text could have been edited out. But when I read the conclusion, I realized nearly all of the detail was included for a reason. So I’m not convinced it could have been shorter, although a few details could have been omitted.
    Paretsky’s was fine; so was Grisham’s. No repetition or details.
    But, when I look at some of the Nordic novels around now, I’m daunted by their length. I don’t think I can deal with a 450-500-page text right now. This is true of the books nominated for the Petrona Award.
    Also, that Yrsa Siggurdardottir’s Someone to Watch Over me is nearly 500 pages is intimidating. I like her books, have read a few, and don’t remember them being this long. So I’m in duality about reading it.
    Now I’m reading Elly Griffiths’ superb recent book, The Outcast Dead. It’s 370 pages, about my quote right now. It’s zipping along, but because I’ve been busy it’s taken a long time. So, anything longer seems to be too long.
    But good editing is always needed, especially in a mystery. We want to enjoy the words, but we want them to drive toward the solution and not veer off in 10 directions.
    Visitation Street by Ivy Pochoda and Blow on a Dead Man’s Embers by Mari Strachan were not overly long, and for different reasons, were excellent books. They have a lot to say about human relations, communities, and more but said what was needed in a reasonable length.

    • Kathy – You make a well-taken point. Any book, long or short, benefits from editing. There are some longer books that keep one reading, but limited time, ageing eyes and other factors can really make it harder to read novels of more than 400 pages. That’s not to say that they can’t be good stories, but you’re right that there are some excellent novels out there that aren’t overly long.
       
      You bring up an interesting point too about feeling daunted by the length of a novel. Even if a novel really is top quality, if it is long, it could indeed be daunting, so readers may not ‘dive in.’

  7. kathy d.

    Both of the two books I mentioned above are 320 pages; both told the whole story, with excellent character development in that length. It was
    just right in each case.
    Sometimes a book is longer because publishers are producing the texts in larger type with bigger margins. This is appreciated by those of us who can no longer read small print. If a book is longer due to font size, it is fine.

    • Kathy – That’s a very important distinction. Larger font size may increase the number of pages, but can be a real boon to people whose vision is not what it may once have been. That’s different to a novel that’s long per se. And your comment about the Strachan and the Pchocoda are good reminders that length of book has little to do with quality.

  8. Sometimes I’m in the mood for a long book with lots of characters and subplots, and sometimes I’m not, which means I discriminate against long books sometimes. Sounds like a very non-answer answer, I know. I usually don’t mind longer crime novels because the plotting is usually so much quicker than the plotting of other kinds of novels, but the one Leif G.W. Persson novel I tried felt as long as its 608 pages. I can list tons of non-crime novels I’ve read– especially ones I’ve been assigned to read— that have felt even longer.

    • Rebecca – It’s not a non-answer at all. Sometimes we’re in the mood for acertain kind of book, and sometimes not. And you’ve put your finger on something else that matters too. A lot depends on how it feels to the reader. Some books really do feel long and others don’t. And a book can feel long, even if it’s only 200 pages.

  9. Margot: Of the books you mentioned that I have read I found Wolf Hall dragged abit for me while Death of a Heroine never felt long at all.

    In recent years the Stieg Larsson triology was the longest group of books I have read and I raced through them. The story of Lisbeth and Mikael just drove me on to read each book.

    In the last 30 years the books of James Clavell were probably my favourite long books. He wrote such grand sagas set in Japan and Hong Kong. I may re-read again Shogun and Noble House. I loved the sweep and detail and characterizations in the books.

    • Bill – You’re not at all alone. Many people have found that the Stieg Larsson trilogy didn’t seem too drawn out although the novels are long. And no doubt about it: Clavell’s novels have also been very well-liked despite their length. I feel that way about Edward Rutherfurd’s work too.
       
      Of course, what counts as ‘too long’ is different for each of us. But the examples you’ve given are great illustrations of books that keep readers engaged despite their length.

  10. Col

    I think when trying to balance reading with work and family life, I’m going to stick to under 400 pages. Ideally anything less than 300 would be better, around 200 perfect. I have read and will read more longer books but I think I’m going to save them for holidays or a weekend start when I can devote a reasonable period of time to devouring a chunk and making inroads, otherwise I kind of get bogged down and mired and the book drags.

    I have baulked at getting books which have had rave reviews by friends because of length – for example I Am Pilgrim – 700 plus I think. I’d prefer to read 3 shorter books TBH in the same period of time.

    Interesting comments from Angela above offering the view from the other side. I have noted in my reading, some of my favourite authors have increased the length of their books over time and not always to great effect. James Lee Burke for one, Michael Connelly also. I have enjoyed most of Irving’s work though I haven’t read too much of his recent stuff, Garp and Owen Meany were particularly good so length wasn’t too noticeable.

    Sorry for rambling!

    • Col – No worries – ramble away! When people have work and family lives, it can be hard to fit in the reading of a long book. So it’s easy to see why your preference is for books less than 400 pages. There are, after all only so many hours in a day. Long plane rides, holidays and so on are better times for long books, I sometimes think. And I suspect you’re not the only one who wonders a bit at the length of I Am Pilgrim.
       
      I thought Angela’s comments interesting too. And it does seem that many authors have increased the length of their novels in the last years. I don’t know if that’ll continue or not, but I’ve certainly noticed it too.

  11. I’ve never knowingly avoided a book because of its length – in fact, I often prefer big door-stoppers when I go on holiday, because I feel I won’t run out of reading material. However, there are two long books which I recently tried to read and failed to finish. Although I enjoyed them at the beginning, towards the middle it (and I) started to sag a little. It just felt like it would be more of the same ad nauseaum and seemed to cry out for an editor. The two books were ‘Infinite Jest’ (generally considered a masterpiece, right, but it would have been even more masterful at half its length) and ‘A Naked Singularity’.

    • Marina Sofia – I know what you mean. I’ve read books like that too, where it just wasn’t possible to finish them despite all the rave reviews. And both Infinite Jest and A Naked Singularity are long books. I’ll confess I’ve not read them, but when a book is that long, it needs to have something special to really keep the reader going.
       
      And about travel? I like longer books for long plane rides and so on, myself. As you say, it means you don’t run out of things to read.

  12. Two of my favourite mysteries, The Moonstone and The Woman in White, are I suppose on the chunky side but what I dislike are modern-day thrillers that seem absurdly over-long and I have to sway, I pretty much ignore those in toto – couldn’t even get through the slimmest of Clancy thrillers either for that matter. But it’s not the size, as you say Margot, it’s what you do with it that counts!

    • Sergio – Interesting isn’t it how some novels, like the Collins, don’t seem long although they are if you look at it. Others, though, do seem far too long – at the same length. There are certain novels I don’t read either, because they just seem too long for what they are if I may put it that way. It’s about plot, character and so on – not about number of pages.

      • And yet it does seem, at least for commercial reasons, that people feel they are getting more bang for the their bucks with a greater page count – and that does seem silly to me (and truly wasteful in terms of the environment too).

        • I couldn’t agree more, Sergio! I suppose I understand that feeling – more for your money – but a well-written book is a well-written book. And that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a long one. *Sigh*

  13. I think “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” was a bit too long (I think they might have been in a pinch when the author died, in terms of how they could legally edit it), but I did really enjoy it.

    • Elizabeth – Oh, that’s an interesting point. Because Larsson had died, the whole question of what one could or couldn’t edit was different. Makes me wonder what the books would have been like otherwise. Either way, as you say, it’s a highly-regarded story. You’re not the only one who thinks it’s a bit too long, but still – a fine story.

  14. It’s the difference between ‘long’ and ‘overlong’ for me. As a lover of Dickens et al, I have no problem with length so long as it’s full of interest and most importantly maintains narrative drive. But give me a book of half the length that’s full of unnecessary detail, repetition or endless irrelevant sub-plots and my irritation will begin to grow, and the dread word ‘padding’ is sure to appear in my review. So Bleak House, yes – The Goldfinch, no. As far as crime novels go they’ve been getting longer and longer over the last few years and with very few exceptions I don’t think the plots justify the length. Up till now, I’ve rarely decided against a book on the grounds of length, but the bricks do tend to sit on the TBR pile for longer – time is a scarce commodity. And I have reached a point where I do look at how many pages before deciding whether to get a book now – so it may not be long before I start thinking in terms of limits.

    • FictionFan – I think you’ve nailed it beautifully. If the narrative, characters and the like are strong, a novel can be long and still be utterly absorbing. But when the author crosses into the ‘padding’ zone, that’s when even 300 pages can seem endless. I’m glad I’m not the only one too who’s noticed the increasing lengths of novels in the last years. It does seem to be a trend. Perhaps Sergio’s right and it gives people the notion that they’re getting more money’s worth from a book, but I still can’t say I have no reservations about it. A high quality story with solid characters, etc. should be the goal. When it stops being the goal, a story suffers. The suffering is just extended with a very long book. ;-)
       
      You’re right too about the value of time. Many of us have full-time jobs and other obligations, to say nothing of families. So we don’t have time to read everything out there. We need to make choices, and those long books don’t feel so appealing when we know how little time we have to get lost in a story.

  15. kathy d.

    This settles it. I doubt if I’ll read The Goldfinch. Don’t need to read a “padded” long, long book. Also, I am concerned about The Luminaries, too, for that reason. An 832-page book!
    I wonder why this is the current trend. It must have to do with marketing and sales. Publishers must be in favor of it or it would not happen. It does enable the publishers to raise the prices, especially of hardcover books. The more pages, the costlier.
    I was sent a just under 600–page book and it sells for $29.95. Yikes!

    • Kathy – That’s an interesting point. Perhaps the increased length of today’s books does have to do with what marketers and publishers think will sell. And people must buy them or they wouldn’t be published even at those elevated prices. I honestly have to be convinced that it’s worth the effort to read a super-long book. Sometimes it is. Sometimes it’s not.

  16. Oops! Les beat me to the punch: I was just going to say, wasn’t that a Gershwin tune? I’m with you as to the length of a book. I prefer mysteries under 200 pages, and if a writer can get the job done in novelette length (~ 40,000 words or less), all the better. Related : is it true we have shorter attention spans these days? But as has been discussed above, those publishers never seem to tire of long novels!

    • Bryan – That’s the thing isn’t it when two different songs have the same name. Nope; this one is from Carrack. At any rate, you do ask an interesting question about people’s attention spans. Some blame television and I can see the argument there. But I’m not sure that’s the whole answer. I do think that the advent of technology has meant that instead of long evenings reading or being read to as people used to do, we go online, watch television, or are often otherwise distracted. Interesting societal development.
       
      And about book length? I really do think an excellent mystery can be told without going on too long.

  17. I love nothing more than throwing myself into a story that I don’t want to end — long is good. BUT. I hate nothing more than throwing myself into a long story and then being disappointed by the ending. (The Historian leaps to mind.) It’s so frustrating to have invested so much and then think, like Colleen says above, I could’ve read 2-3 others. If only there were more Harry Potters. :D

    • Karen – That’s exactly it! If a book is deep and rich and full of good characters and a solid plot, it’s a joy to dive into it. If it’s ponderous, flat and ‘draggy,’ it really is a disappointment. And you’ve brought up another important point too. We invest ourselves in a book when we read, especially if it’s a long book. But that investment makes us really especially frustrated when the ending is ‘flat’ or otherwise disappointing. It’s like a double ‘slap in the face.’

  18. kathy d.

    Maybe the question of why books, especially fiction — and here, crime fiction — are so long these days is like the riddle of the Sphinx — a philosophical mystery. When I began reading mysteries way back in the Middle Ages, they were not longish, those by Conan Doyle, Stout, Gardner, Tey, Sayers, Christie.
    I don’t remember reading very long books, except “literary fiction” by Dreiser, Zola and other authors. Then there are classics, which are long.
    But mysteries, no. We want a good story that moves along and a solution. We don’t need to know every detail of issues irrelevant to the main characters or mystery.
    Maybe I should read some Nero Wolfe mysteries to get a jolt of shorter, punchier books.

    • Kathy – Interesting point. The crime fiction I read back when the dinosaurs roamed the earth was not long as a rule. As you say, some of the classic novels were, but not crime novels. That’s changed and I don’t honestly know that it’s a change for the better. There are some novels as I mention in the post that are longer and are really well-written, so that you see why the length is there. But for the most part, crime novels don’t need to be very long to be good.

  19. kathy d.

    John Grisham’s newest book “Sycamore Row,” is 464 pages long. Nothing is wordy or overly detailed or repetitive. It’s well done and well-organized. I didn’t feel like I was dragging along while reading it. I enjoyed it.
    But these 800-plus page books scare me. How could this be?
    And why?
    When anyone reads The Goldfinch or The Luminaries, please let everyone know about the writing and if the length is necessary.

    • Kathy – There are some books that are really, really long, and many of them really don’t have to be. Now I must admit I’m biased about this, possibly because I’ve not read many very long books that I truly, richly enjoyed. As you say, there are plenty, such as <Sycamore Row, that are long but where the plot and characters keep the reader’s undivided attention. But those books generally aren’t over 800 pages long.

  20. I am late to this post, but it is interesting, a subject I often think about and complain about. Last year I did not read any books over 450 pages, even though I had planned to read several. This year I have already read two very long books (over 500 pages) and am reading one now. And all have been enjoyed. But my favorite length would be around 200 pages, and up to 300 pages is OK. Over that and I cringe.

    Moira’s point about crime novels being hard to sustain at a longer length is interesting. Maybe that is part of my problem, since that is mainly what I enjoy reading. Although one reason I avoid fantasy novels is that so many are so long.

    I did think the Dragon Tattoo books were way too long, but I had not considered that they might have had problems with editing them down under the circumstance. I have read one very long book (The Company by Robert Littell) at 800 pages in the edition I read. I had to struggle through the first 600 pages but the last 200 made up for it. So once I get started, I usually keep going.

    • Tracy – You’re welcome here at any time. I think you and Moira really do have a point about how difficult it can be to sustain the suspense and tension in a well-written crime novel over a very long book. It’s not impossible but it is very difficult. As you’ve found, there are some longer books that work – some in fact that are excellent. It’s really all about the character development, plot and overall nature of the story and how well it fits with the length.

  21. As many have pointed above, it all depends upon whether the narrative is able to hold your interest or not. I remember reading Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy in a matter of days because I was so engrossed in the story. On the other hand Heyer’s Why Shoot a Butler? which I read recently was so boring that even at some 200 pages, it seemed way too long.

    However, the worst is when you devote a lot of time to a novel only to have it end in a whimper. The Harry Potter series ended on such a sour note for me that I cursed myself for spending so much time on it.

    • Neeru – I agree completely about disappointment at the end of a novel. I really do dislike having invested a lot of time and energy into a story only to have it go sour at the very end. So annoying!!
       
      In general, strong plot and engaging characters really are more important than actual length I think. That’s why we can sometimes think that long novels weren’t quite long enough and some short ones far too short. But that said, I also think there is such a thing as a novel that’s too long.

  22. I prefer shorter books too Margot. It’s how I first started reading crime fiction. However, that said, Bleak House is my favourite novel ever. But it’s not a crime story per as although there is, obviously, a murder.

    I disagree about Wolf Hall though. It’s a little long for me…

    • Sarah – And you’re not alone about Wolf Hall‘s length. A lot of people feel it’s a bit drawn out. But there are long novels like Bleak House that keep people turning pages despite their length. I think it depends on what the author does with the story and characters, and what the reader’s interests are. Still, for crime fiction, I like shorter novels as a rule.

  23. I don’t mind long books at all. If the story grabs me, I’m in. The longest one I read in the last few years was Stephen King’s “Under the Dome.” I hated to have that one end.

    • Pat – There are some books, I agree, that are just wonderful novels and draw the reader in. With books like that, page or word count is a lot less important…

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