This post was written by Friday guest blogger Emma Garman.
If you’re a novelist looking for a literary bandwagon to leap aboard, you could do worse than flag down the one labeled Child Narrator. Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, published in 2003, is enjoying its 32nd week on the New York Times bestseller list, and two novels we’re all going to be sick of hearing about come May (I did my bit in the film post below) both feature youthful first-person perspectives: Nicole Krauss’ The History of Love is narrated (partly) by a fourteen-year-old girl, and husband Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by a nine-year-old boy. Both authors send their young protagonists on an investigative quest, as did Haddon.
Any novel about children has the chance to achieve a universality that a novel about adults will struggle to attain. The lives of ten-year-olds have far more in common than the lives of forty-year-olds. Everyone has once been a child, and many of us relive a second childhood by becoming parents. The core of our personalities is formed when we are very young, so when we read about a child in some kind of peril, the stakes in the story are immediately very high. It is therefore perhaps easier to grip an audience when your protagonist is a child, because we are quicker to empathise with the plight of a child than an adult.