People read novels for many varying reasons. They look to novels for information, wisdom, beauty, romantic inspiration, and diversion: sometimes for all these things at once, sometimes for one of these things preponderantly over all the others. In A Legacy, the excellent novel by Sybille Bedford, one character says of another that she now reads two novels a day, adding “The next stage is chocolates.”

For some readers, novels are as chocolates, things to be gobbled up till love or something better comes along to pass the time; for others, novels seem scarcely less essential than the air they breathe, and people exist— I happen to be one of them—who feel they have been educated chiefly by novels. For still some readers, a novel must have an element of elevation—it ought, in a non-Rotarian sense, to lift the spirit; for yet others, novels are best when they are non-committal and do not go beyond a strong...


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