I'm looking forward to the discussion that emerges from this week's Literary Blog Hop (brought to us by The Blue Bookcase--thanks Ingrid!) Discuss your thoughts on sentimentality in literature. When is emotion in literature effective and when is it superfluous?
One of the big reasons I gravitate towards literary fiction rather than general, popular fiction is because the sentimentality and emotion--when present--often feel much more genuine. One thing that really bugs me in books is manipulation of emotions, (which is funny because in my late teens I absolutely loved Victoria Holt, Danielle Steel, and Mary Higgins Clark whose main purposes--if I remember correctly--were to do exactly that.) If the emotion and sentimentality in a book does not feel like a genuine portrayal, an artistic expression so to speak, then it's pretty much guaranteed I won't like the book. Perhaps I just had too much of it and just can't stomach it any longer? Perhaps that phase in my life is over (the hormones have settled down and so have I?)
My least favorite books last year all had an element of the insincere or implausible, or in some way felt like it was more about the author than the characters...the emotions in them (whatever type of emotions they might be) felt superfluous: Gods in Alabama, The Five People You Meet in Heaven, The Alchemist, 13 Reasons Why.
My most favorite books last year managed to strike me as very genuinely felt, more concerned with expressing emotional feelings than instigating emotional reaction: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, A Star of the Sea, Speak, The Good Earth.
I don't mind emotion and sentimentality, but it seems rare to find a book that really pulls it off. Without a personal connection, emotion and sentimentality have no lasting value...feelings are fleeting. There are enough dramatics and emotional roller coasters in real life...inside a book is where I find the comfort of some intelligent conversation and humor, beautiful language and interesting observations.