Ask the book buyer…about three of the best American novels you may never have read


Tom Wolfe and Philip Roth both died recently – two of the grand old men of American letters passing in the space of a week. Those two writers need little introduction and readers will inevitably now go back to books like Portnoy’s Complaint and The Bonfire Of The Vanities. Here, though, are three American novels you may well not have heard of, all of which deserve to be better known, says Jarrold book buyer Chris Rushby.

Dear Reader,

Partly prompted by the recent royal wedding, partly by the deaths of both Tom Wolfe and Philip Roth – two of the greats of twentieth century American fiction – I’ve found myself thinking about American fiction and want to share details of three twentieth century American novels by writers of whom you may well never have heard, the quality of which will, I'm pretty sure, though, astound you if you haven't come across them before.  


We Have Always Lived In The Castle 

Shirley Jackson


Chris says: "The author Donna Tartt describes this strange, compelling novel as ‘at once whimsical and harrowing’. Its narrator is clearly odd, her family situation weird to say the least. There’s an endless sense of foreboding, that bad things have happened, will happen. At the same time, though, the strangeness is mesmerising and the reader absolutely has to race through this gothic wonder of a book to its denouement, hoping to unravel some of the strangeness."    


Mrs Bridge

Evan Connell 


Chris says: "The wonderful Norwich novelist Emma Healey recommended this book and she’s right: it’s a tragicomic work of genius. You might just remember the film Mr And Mrs Bridge, starring Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, based on the novel and its sequel, Mr Bridge. The novel, though, isn’t much read, but it ought to be. Its central character is a middle-class, repressed, unfulfilled American housewife, increasingly out of touch with her family and the world around her. A book about an apparently deeply unremarkable character manages to be deeply moving."  



John Williams


Chris says: "This is the least forgotten of the three novels, if that’s the correct phrase. Published in 1965, its author died in 1994, but it was only in 2013 that the book became a European, then a worldwide bestseller. If you think the word ‘Stoner’ has drug connotations it doesn’t: it’s simply the name of the book’s central character, a mid-west university teacher whose life is apparently quiet, unremarkable and, after his death, largely forgotten by his colleagues. But the book uncovers depths, complexities and tragedies around this apparently anonymous character and, as one critic has it, ‘reclaims the significance of an individual life’."      





Ask the Jarrold book buyer 

Chris Rushby is on hand to answer all your book related questions. He can recommend books that you might be interested in and provides invaluable advice on finding a good read. Talk to him on the book department, lower ground floor, or email Chris at 

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