Five Novels Resolved in 24 Hours or Less
About 2,000 years before federal agent Jack Bauer began saving the free world on "24," Aristotle described the classic drama as taking place during a single revolution of the sun. Novels generally don't abide by that "unity of time," of course, but some of the most striking and curious ones do. James Joyce's "Ulysses" famously -- and voluminously -- describes Leopold Bloom's experiences on June 14, 1904. Virginia Woolf's "Mrs. Dalloway" takes us through a very different day about 20 years later. Reading about such a compressed period of time and the memories that inform it sometimes gives me a sharper awareness of my own hectic life.
Here's a list of more recent novels that take place in 24 hours or less. If you've got a moment -- or even an hour -- let me know your own favorites.
1. Remembering the Bones, By Frances Itani (2007).
On her way to the airport to attend a special celebration of Queen Elizabeth II's 80th birthday (and her own), an Ontario housewife runs off the road into a ravine. As she waits for help to arrive, she considers the extraordinary course of her ordinary life over the 20th century.
2. Tomorrow, By Graham Swift (2007).
In this clammy, overwrought story by a Booker Prize-winner, a mother lies in bed one night rehearsing the shocking news she and her husband will deliver to their children in the morning.
3. On Chesil Beach, By Ian McEwan (2007). Another Booker Prize-winner gives us an anxious night of revelation, but this time it's a cringingly awkward honeymoon in 1962.
4. The Almost Moon, By Alice Sebold (2007).
When caring for her decrepit mother pushes Helen too far, she smothers the old woman with a towel and then wonders what to do with the body.
5. Death of a River Guide, By Richard Flanagan (2001).
This Australian is my favorite author you've never heard of. His spectacular first novel -- a sprawling, hypnotic history of Tasmania -- takes place during the few minutes it takes a man to drown in a river. For more than one reason, it'll make you hold your breath.
-- Ron Charles
By Christian Pelusi |
April 3, 2008; 6:27 AM ET
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