Faith Hogan talks about the new reading trend.
We are living in ever-changing and surprising times. Each day, it seems that the world stage, politically and economically is filled with greater insecurity. Tragedy, terrorism and uncertainty top our news headlines. Perhaps, this is the reason that publishers are saying a new trend in the reading appetite is emerging. They are calling this ‘UpLit,’ and it is in complete contrast to the ‘grip lit’ thrillers that for the past few years have led the sales charts.
It turns out that we read to escape and people – women in particular are looking to read something that is uplifting and optimistic in these unreliable times. We have all enjoyed Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train, but now, people and readers are turning to something different.
For me, it seemed obvious that reading habits were changing when A Man Called Ove really stole the hearts of so many. This was a beautifully told tale that tugged at the heartstrings and prompted empathy and hopefulness in hundreds of thousands of readers. Truly, this was a wonderful book and its success signalled, I believe, a move in the direction of reading tastes to something so much more compassionate than before. This year’s leading book club titles are dominated by stories of hope and optimism like Ruth Hogan’s The Keeper of Lost Things and Gail Honeyman’s Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. It seems kindness and empathy are finally having their moment and the bestseller lists are reflecting this, with people like Matt Haig and Joanna Cannon’s offerings really taking over.
The reader’s appetite for UpLit is not to be confused with some silly notion of burying our heads in the sand while the kitchen burns down around us. These are not necessarily books with a standard happy ending. Instead, they are beautifully told tales of ordinary and extraordinary people living very commonplace lives. Rather it is the touching of the human heart with love – that is no longer fenced in by romance, that makes these stories stand out from the crowd. Love is, truly, international, but in this ever-shrinking world, perhaps we are learning that love, in and of itself, through compassion and understanding is enough to transform our lives.
My new novel, The Girl I Used to Know, is very much a book of women’s fiction – however, it is not a conventional romantic novel. It sits, rather oddly, in that spot where people reach out to each other, out of a sense of compassion as opposed to the traditional reciprocal agreement. The characters receive the help they need, not because they ask for it, but rather because their need is recognised by someone in a boat far worse than theirs. It is a story about women and men who are the unsung heroes or our everyday existence. Their heroism is not in stopping a serial killer or saving the day, but rather it is saving the person next to them, and with a little luck, saving themselves along the way.
I think the whole movement towards UpLit is a lot like that notion – the idea that we may not be able to save the whole word, but if we each work on helping the person next to us, we may just profit far more than we bargained for. It is about the idea of learning compassion and kindliness in a society where we have almost cut ourselves off from our neighbours. The notion that helping others is as satisfying as helping ourselves has always been there, but now, at last, it is gaining the kind of credence that makes it fashionable and believable.
I know, that in the last few years my reading tastes have moved across from crime to what I would have once termed more gentle books and I am the first to admit that for me at least, it has made the world I inhabit a far nicer, warmer and friendlier place.
Now, I’m just looking forward to curling up for Christmas with something cosy and hoping the new year will bring many books that are positive and buoyant my way. I really do believe that #KindnessMatters and I think it starts with each of us, being kind at first to ourselves and then to the person standing next to us. So, go on, do yourself a favour, step away from the crime, the gore and all that darkness and have a little spoonful of optimism – it really is the very best medicine in these changing times!
Amanda King and Tess Cuffe are strangers who share the same Georgian house, but their lives couldn’t be more different.
Amanda seems to have it all, absolute perfection. She projects all the accoutrements of a lady who lunches. Sadly, the reality is a soulless home, an unfaithful husband and a very lonely heart. By comparison, in the basement flat, unwanted tenant Tess has spent a lifetime hiding and shutting her heart to love.
It takes a bossy doctor, a handsome gardener, a pushy teenager and an abandoned cat to show these two women that sometimes letting go is the first step to moving forward and new friendships can come from the most unlikely situations.
Faith Hogan was born in Ireland. She gained an Honours Degree in English Literature and Psychology from Dublin City University and a Postgraduate Degree from University College, Galway. She has worked as a fashion model, an event’s organiser and in the intellectual disability and mental health sector. She was a winner in the 2014 Irish Writers Centre Novel Fair – an international competition for emerging writers.