I want some fruitcake books!
March 15, 2011 3:24 AM   Subscribe

Please recommend some ‘fruitcake’ novels!

I really like what I would call ‘fruitcake’ books – large, dense, absorbing, eccentric, somewhat old-fashioned and sometimes stolid, but full of tasty things and ultimately, extremely satisfying. :-)

For instance, I really enjoyed metafilter fave Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Little, Big, The Quincunx, A Prayer for Owen Meany, The Deptford Trilogy, The Manuscript Found in Saragossa, Wolf Hall, Foucault's Pendulum and The Crimson Petal and the White.

I've read quite a lot of Victorian stuff. I don't really like sagas or Neal Stephenson. I really like historical/fantasy but would welcome any suggestions, the more fruitcakey the better! Thanks.
posted by low_horrible_immoral to Writing & Language (39 answers total) 88 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The Recognitions
posted by fire&wings at 3:36 AM on March 15, 2011

Best answer: I like this kind of book too. I think The Children's Book by AS Byatt is in this line, and I'll be interested what other people suggest.
posted by communicator at 3:40 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You might like John Barth--The Sot-Weed Factor, Giles Goat-Boy, or the more recent Last Voyage of Somebody the Sailor would all be fine places to start, each of which in their own ways are updated versions of meandering, "pre-novel" classic epic literature (think Candide, The Thousand and One Nights, Piers Plowman...).
posted by drlith at 4:11 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: David Mitchell has has a good "fruitcake" book: Cloud Atlas.
posted by sciencegeek at 4:23 AM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]

Best answer: The Gone-Away World, by Nicholas Harkaway. Excellent read.
posted by smoke at 4:34 AM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Thomas Pynchon's Mason & Dixon
posted by HeroZero at 4:40 AM on March 15, 2011

Best answer: The Count of Monte Cristo.
posted by clearly at 4:48 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Ash by Mary Gentle
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 4:50 AM on March 15, 2011

Best answer: If you liked "Prayer for Owen Meany" you might like other John Irving novels (though Owen Meany's my favorite). I'd go for The Cider House Rules next.

Umberto Eco's another one you may like. I particularly enjoyed Name of the Rose and Baudolino.

American Gods hit a lot of those targets for me, sitting on the border between fantasy and some-other-thing, chewy but also page-turny.
posted by tchemgrrl at 5:53 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: John Fowles: Daniel Martin
posted by Decani at 6:00 AM on March 15, 2011

Best answer: How about Mickelsson's Ghosts by John Gardner? I love a lot of the stuff mentioned so far and Mickelsson is a beloved favorite.
posted by kittyb at 6:02 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth. 2.1lbs in paperback! "Sweeping" in the way that War and Peace is, but not at all depressing; lots of Indian history and charming details like coded love poems. Delicious in a way that fruitcake can only dream of.
posted by apparently at 6:02 AM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Oh, also Anthony Burgess: Earthly Powers.
posted by Decani at 6:03 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The Gormenghast Trilogy by Mervyn Peake
Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey
posted by HandfulOfDust at 6:06 AM on March 15, 2011

Best answer: The Waverley Novels by Sir Walter Scott.
posted by KirkpatrickMac at 6:11 AM on March 15, 2011

Best answer: The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss. I am just finishing up The Wise Man's Fear right now and it has consumed my life for four days.
posted by something something at 6:12 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Life: A User's Manual by Georges Perec. This tells dozens of stories, each beginning with a person, picture or thing within a Paris apartment building.

Also, Iain Pears's longer books are like this (dense and multi-layered).
posted by Francolin at 6:14 AM on March 15, 2011

Best answer: EArthly Powers has the greatest opening line in all of literature
posted by PinkMoose at 6:33 AM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett, which also has a sequel (which I haven't yet read).

I'm currently reading The Far Pavilions by M. M. Kaye (perhaps you're familiar with The Ordinary Princess? LOVE THAT ONE SO MUCH) and it is just so good. In fact, it's currently sitting right on top of my copies of both Wolf Hall AND Jonathan Strange, because I found the latter almost too dense. But The Far Pavilions should keep you occupied for quite a while.

The Historian, by Elizabeth Kostova, will keep you up all night in a good way.

What about the Aubrey/Maturin books by Patrick O'Brian? They're shorter, but I think there are 20 of them overall. One of the reviews says that people sometimes refer to them as one long novel.
posted by Madamina at 7:03 AM on March 15, 2011

Best answer: The Children's Hospital by Chris Adrian.
posted by davidjmcgee at 7:12 AM on March 15, 2011

Best answer: (if you're feeling modern fruitcakey rather than Victorian fruitcakey. fresh fruitcakey!)
posted by davidjmcgee at 7:14 AM on March 15, 2011

Best answer: The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters by G.H Dalquist - it could have probably done with a bit more editing - but it definitely fits your "quirky, complex, Victorian" criteria.
posted by rongorongo at 7:23 AM on March 15, 2011

Best answer: the Anubis Gates by Tim Powers is sorta like Little, Big meets Indiana Jones.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:34 AM on March 15, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks all! Some really unexpected and unknown (to me) books in there, will enjoy getting to know them! As usual it's hard to pick a favourite comment. :-)
posted by low_horrible_immoral at 9:05 AM on March 15, 2011

Best answer: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon - WWII, comic books, escape artists, golems, etc. Probably my favorite book ever.
posted by ChuraChura at 9:26 AM on March 15, 2011 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Twelve - Jasper Kent which blends Russian history (set during Napoleon's 1812 invasion), mystery and fantasy in a very interesting way.

Devil in the White City by Erik Larson, which bounces back and forth between Daniel Burnham's efforts to plan the World's Fair and serial killer H.H. Holmes' related evil deeds.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon, a massive and complicated story that uses the dawn of superheros/comic books as a vehicle to address what it means to become American.

World's Fair or Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow. The latter addresses pre WWI New York and is known for blending historical and fictional personages while the former uses the Depression and the World's Fair as a vehicle for addressing how perceptions of reality and American promise change as we age.
posted by carmicha at 9:33 AM on March 15, 2011

Best answer: I'll third Kavalier and Clay and add The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson.
posted by mikepop at 10:45 AM on March 15, 2011

Best answer: You should go old school! Early novels are full of all sorts of authorial asides and philosophical discussions and twists and such. Henry Fielding's Joseph Andrews or Tom Jones, Tobias Smollett's Humphrey Clinker (they go to Bath!), or, if you really want to dig deep, Lawrence Sterne's Tristram Shandy. I mean, just the full titles of these things are wondrous:
Joseph Andrews, or The History of the Adventures of Joseph Andrews and of his Friend Mr. Abraham Adams, Written in imitation of the manner of Cervantes, the author of Don Quixote
Or be one of the few who've actually read Don Quixote or Gulliver's Travels cover to cover (and see how doing so changes your perception of the story).
posted by MrMoonPie at 10:59 AM on March 15, 2011


You make it sound, well, a little nuts.

The War of Don Emmanuels Nether Parts and the rest of the trilogy.

The Life of Pi.

Seconding the Years of Rice and Salt and anything else by Kim Stanley Robinson.

I can't fully recommend China Mieville yet, but if you're willing to take a chance I'm going to read a second by him soon.

The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon
Salmon Rushdie
Time and Again by Jack Finney which takes place in 1890s New York
Infinite Jest
Peter Hoeg - Smilla's Sense of Snow and others
posted by mearls at 11:05 AM on March 15, 2011

I was going to say the Aubrey/Maturin series, but was beaten to the punch. Don't miss it.
posted by willpie at 11:15 AM on March 15, 2011

Best answer: Pretty much anything by Tom Robbins (Jitterbug Perfume, Still Life With Woodpecker, etc.)
posted by mkultra at 12:32 PM on March 15, 2011

Response by poster: OOH more, thanks so much!

MrMoonPie you've hit a sensitive spot. Nothing so fruity as old, rambly type novels back when then the whole concept was new. Not sure if I could cope with DQ, though, but I did enjoy Joseph Andrews, so if Gulliver's Travels and Tom Jones are in a similar vein...

NB if anyone else is noting these title with interest, I forgot to mention another one I enjoyed in my OP - Darkmans, by Nicola Barker. It's very long, very odd, and very readable.
posted by low_horrible_immoral at 1:57 PM on March 15, 2011

Best answer: I'd recommend Les Miserables. The novel is all over the place. There's an adventure story at the heart and then lots of random expositions on war, justice, society, the works.
posted by vacapinta at 3:10 PM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

Under Heaven, by Guy Gavriel Kay.
posted by krieghund at 7:56 AM on March 16, 2011

Jack Maggs, by Peter Carey. Actually, Peter Carey in general.
posted by willpie at 1:40 PM on March 16, 2011

Don't Mr Disraeli by Caryl Brahms and S.J. Simon. It's set in people's stereotypes and preconceptions about the Victorian age. All of it, at the same time. As they say at the beginning of their other great comic historical novel, No Bed For Bacon: "Note to historians: this book is fundamentally unsound"

Smallcreep's Day

Anything by Flann o'Brien, especially The Third Policeman and At Swim-Two_Birds
posted by Grangousier at 5:27 AM on March 17, 2011

Oh, and if you want to you can see Gurdjieff's Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson as a sort of impenetrable predecessor to Dianetics or something, but it also works as a really, really mad science-fiction novel. A bit like Cosmicomics on really weird drugs and armagnac.

Cosmicomics, come to that.
posted by Grangousier at 5:37 AM on March 17, 2011

One more for you:
Salamander by Thomas Wharton.

It hit some of the same notes as Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, but with a little more dark fancifulness to it. Also, if you've ever been interested in the craft of bookmaking the descriptions will make you drool.
posted by Sweetchrysanthemum at 10:29 PM on March 17, 2011

Maybe some of the following will appeal:

Stefano Benni (Margherita Dolce Vita), Georgi Gospodinov (Natural Novel), Felipe Alfau (Locos), John Hawkes (The Blood Oranges), Yoko Tawada (The Naked Eye), Halldor Laxness (Independent People), Raymond Queneau (The Sunday of Life), Robert Coover (Pinocchio in Venice), Italo Svevo (Zeno's Conscience)
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 4:40 PM on April 25, 2011

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