Can A Novel Ever Be Too Long?


long novels

We’ve all read long novels at one time or another.

But just how long is too long?

That is a question I have been pondering recently, because I have just finished reading a massive tome.

“The Luminaries” by Eleanor Catton is a huge chunk of a book, numbering 832 pages (and the type is quite small, too!)

I am an avid reader, but even so it has taken me over a month to reach the end.

I usually love a decent-sized book that I can really get my teeth into. But this one seemed more super-sized than perhaps it needed to be.

I enjoyed it, but it did leave me wondering how much of that word count was there because it was essential to the storyline, and how much was to accommodate the fiendishly complex narrative structure.

It is certainly a very clever book (and it won the Booker Prize in 2013). But how many people will be put off by its gargantuan size?

Or lack the time or stamina to finish it? Or fear doing themselves an injury by falling asleep while reading it?

I was wary of starting this book because of the time commitment I knew it would demand.

It languished on my bookshelf until a long-haul flight came along. Which is possibly not the best of reasons to read a book!

The Longest Novel Ever Published

According to Guinness World Records, the longest novel ever published is “A La Recherche Du Temps Perdu” by Marcel Proust.

Published in 1912, it weighs in at an astounding 9,609,000 characters.

It is a literary masterpiece, but there is surely a smidge of irony in the title, which translates as “in search of lost time” . . .

It’s generally agreed that the optimum length for a novel is between 80,000 and 100,000 words.

A book of 80,000 words will have around 320 pages. Fascinatingly, different genres of writing have different optimum lengths — who knew?

For example, historical fiction can generally get away with being longer than a mystery.

Of course, a good read is a good read, regardless of how long it is.

But surely authors want people to read their novels, instead of feeling daunted by the very thought of picking them up?

To read some of the team’s book reviews, click here.

Story length is an important consideration for those writers looking to submit to “The People’s Friend”, too. Click here to read more.

Angela Gilchrist

Angela is Editor-in-Chief of “The People’s Friend” magazine. Her passions include cats, Highland ponies, good books, vegetarian food and long walks in the Scottish countryside. Her favourite place to get away from it all is the magical Isle of Skye.