Classic Novels in Twelve Words

by Mary Reed

Just for the heck of it, the other day I challenged my fellow Poisoned Pen Press authors to summarise famous novels in twelve words.

Hilarity ensued. Srsly.

Readers currently catching up on the classics should be warned that Here There Be Spoilers.

Jane Finnis is the author of the Aurelia Marcella series set in Roman Britain, the latest entry in which is DANGER IN THE WIND.. Jane wins the virtual goldfish for shortest summary: THE MURDER OF ROGER ACKROYD: Whodunit? Me!

She and John McEvoy share a second goldfish for the highest number of summaries, being as she provided two more — THE MOONSTONE, defined as Girl’s Diamond Is Not Forever, And Definitely Not Her Best Friend, not to mention WAR AND PEACE: Russians keep fighting French and falling in love. French lose, love wins.

John McEvoy, author of a series set in the horse-racing world, is currently engaged in writing the next novel, High Stakes. He took time off to suggest THE GREAT GATSBY: Romantic Gangster Dies, Two Proles Too, Rich Go On Their Merry Way. He also summarised Updike’s Rabbit Trilogy thus: Harry Angstrom falls then rises, falls, rises, rises and falls,
falls finally. His third offering is PORTNOY’S COMPLAINT: Bright young man handily discovers self, and discovers self, and discovers self.

Warren Easley writes the Cal Claxton Oregon Mysteries, the latest entry in which, Matters of Doubt, will appear this summer. His summary is THE MALTESE FALCON: The Bird’s A Fake and O’Shaughnessy Killed Archer.

Barbara Leavy, author of The Fiction of Ruth Rendell: Ancient Tragedy and the Modern Family, an analysis of the treatment of these themes in the aforementioned writer’s work, encapsulates the sad story of TESS OF THE D’URBERVILLES: Tess Was Seduced, Her Husband Left, She Killed Seducer, And Was Hanged.

My stab at a twelve-word summary was MOBY DICK: Mariner vs whale. Whale wins, while to my co-writer Eric goes the honour of winding up this blog in fine fettle with THE ODYSSEY: Man Gets Lost On Way Home, Won’t Ask Directions and also METAMORPHOSIS: Man Wakes Up As Insect. Hilarity Does Not Ensue.

So, care to take a stab at summarising a classic novel in twelve words or less?

Mary Reed is the co-author of the John the Lord Chamberlain mysteries set in sixth century Byzantium. The current entry is Nine for the Devil.

You can also follow Mary on Twitter.

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