Ahern is one of the best-selling popular fiction authors in today’s society, each of her publications touch the hearts of readers all over the world. Bringing appreciation from her faithful fans and gaining a rising number of new fans with the publication of each new novel. This could be due to the development in the maturity of her writing. If one reads reviews on Aherns works (reviews on Lyrebird) they can admire the support and appreciation for her work, however, this was not always the case. After the publication of her first novel, Ahern faced some harsh critics, specifically from the Irish papers due to her father and his high position in Irish politics. In an interview with The Guardian, Ahern although only aged 22 stays dignified and supports her father’s position and her writing style. Critics stated that her novel P.S. I Love You was filled with the cliches of the chick-lit genre. Yet Ahern stated, “I’d never even heard of chick lit!” (read full interview here) and the novel saw international success, and film rights were gained for a 2007 film adaptation of the same name. For one who is a true supporter of Ahern’s work can see how her work and writing style has improved and particularly matured since her debut novel.
When one looks at the writing style of P.S. I Love You and Aherns new works such as The Year I Met You and Lyrebird, they witness the deeper thoughts of the characters and greater detailed view points of the characters. One can understand their anxieties, fears and reasons for any unease they feel, some today would still consider Aherns work ‘chick-lit’ due to the the multiple novels narratives, some may consider it a uniqueness to the romance genre. Ahern has been dubbed the ‘Queen of popular romance fiction’ be that as it may it does not necassarily mean that her work is ‘chick-lit’. I strongly disagree with this, as a self-confessed admirer of romance, fantasy and adventure novels, I just do not see the connection of Aherns work to a neologism (a newly coined word or expression) of chick-lit. It seems offensive to Aherns writing style, I immediatly think of chick-flicks, a film genre of popular teenage films such as Mean Girls and Bride Wars, film which show narrow-minded fights between best friends and ill-suited couples. The are entertaining, but are not similar to Aherns novels, the films provide quick laughs and these novels give one a story in which they can idealise a beautiful romance or almost modern day Romeo and Juliet complicated love story.
“I’d never even heard of chick lit”
Ahern is a popular fiction author, this is made clear through her style of writing, the awards she has won and how her style is described in newspaper articles and critics. She does not step into the literary fiction of classic novels such as Pride and Prejudice, be that as is may there is not a brick wall that clearer defies what is popular fiction and what is literary fiction. There is a blurred line between the two styles. It has its clear dividers and similarities which put the significance differences between the two genres into question. Popular fiction is seen as a pass time and literary fiction is the serious texts which make you think.
Plot: Novels of popular fiction, such as Aherns contain a plot of multiple events, the novels tend to have more chapters that of a literary fiction novel. It is a mountain of exposition, conflict, rising action, climax, falling action and then resolution. Were as for literary fiction there is less to the plot, the structure of the story is still the same as that of a popular fiction novel, the single and primary plot of the story with a greater focus on details.
Character: In popular fiction, there are multiple characters in which one reads the view point of. As the story goes along the interpretation of a new character of events is expressed, allowing one to see the story from different angles. As for literary fiction, it is the viewpoint of the main character one experiences the story from, whether it be in a first or third person narrative it is that singular character who is the drive of the narrative.
Setting: The settings of popular fiction are “familiar or exotic” they are scenes one can identify or that in which one visually fantasize about in their day dreams. As for literary fiction, the locations are based on the theoretical features of the character, it is what is familiar to the character giving one an insight into the life of others and their culture.
Language: The language of popular fiction, is the language of the reader. What one reads is their or similar to their dialect, the use of slang one would recognise in everyday spoken language. Anyhow for literary fiction authors write and express with great care, using literary techniques that create clear verbal images for one to visualise the story.
Dialogue: This is much more simple, popular fiction is built upon dialogue and literary fiction expressed through detail. In popular fiction characters express their thoughts and feeling through the spoken word, were as for literary fiction it is the characters thoughts which one relies on for the story telling.
Theme: Every novel has a theme or multiple themes in which is explored through the novels different fiction styles. Issues are covered, some may be more modern in popular fiction and more political in literary. One way or the other both exploration of themes are based on society and the portrayed culture, bringing one to various thoughts and opinions covered within the pages of the book.
This is an open debate, one is entitled to say which they prefer and point out the pros and cons to the opposing style of fiction. One the other hand one could embrace both styles and possibly even see the combination of the two, a method I believe Ahern has attempted and to ones own opinion is a success or a step in an unnatural territory. As Sara Keating said, ““Lyrebird will do nothing to convince literary snobs that popular fiction is worth greater attention, but it does showcase the genre at its best.” I have read and admired the work of both popular fiction and literary fiction and I can see techniques used in both styles within Lyrebird, this can be credited to Aherns maturing writing style. She is bringing more formality to her style of writing.
A primary example is the use of language and dialogue, Ahern does provide a substantial amount of dialogue within the pages of the novel, yet there is an overpowering inside look of the characters deep thoughts and feelings. For example, Solomons and Lauras desires for each other, their feelings are not expressed with words, but within the details of their thoughts and described body language. From their sweaty palms to their inability to breathe normally, one can visualise their thoughts and actions through the detailed verbal images Ahern has provided one to see.
Of course, there is also popular and literary fictions agreed attention to theme. Ahern explores themes that relate to the modern set society and culture within the novel. There is a focus on popular fiction, which may not sound similar to the issues in which literary fiction would explore. There is also the exploring of deep issues such as family, nature, wisdom and details of the characters and elements of societies culture. The narrative follows Laura trying to fit into society and connects to its represented culture.
Bringing into question can popular and literary fiction can ever come to an agreed accord? It is an open question such to that of what is literature? A firm answer may not be found, yet supporting arguments can be continued to be made.
Here are some links for more detail on the differences between popular and literary fiction: