Literary fiction for me is when books are about the writing as well as the plot. Genre fiction can be absolutely fantastic, but it's all about the story and what is going to happen next. Literary fiction is more than that, to me it can come from any genre but it has to impress with beautiful writing in addition to a good story. Sometimes in literary fiction the story can take a back-seat and you get more introspective, character driven novels.
I enjoy literary fiction, and read a fair amount of it. Lots of my favourite literary fiction books come from the Women's Prize for Fiction (formerly known as the Orange Prize). I don't tend to get along with Booker prize winning books, but I've yet to be let down by an Orange winner. Here are some literary fiction books that I would most definitely recommend:
1. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller - This could be classified as historical fiction, but the beautiful writing of this retelling of the Trojan War from the point of view of Achilles' companion, Patroclus, make this definitely literary.
2. On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan - This is a short and simple book about two newlyweds, Florence and Edward, on their wedding night in 1962. It's packed full of emotion.
3. Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie - Regular readers will know that I love Adichie, and this was the first book of hers I read. It's about the Nigerian civil war, in which the fledgling state of Biafra was created. If you've not read it, you must!
4. A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth - Yes, I know, this is a long book. But it's completely wonderful - through the story of four families in post-Independence India, Seth manages to write completely about what it means to be a human being.
5. Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan - Yes, I know, there's a lot of historical fiction set in WW2 out there, but Half Blood Blues is different. It's told from the perspective of a black jazz player in France and completely immerses you into his character.
6. Purge by Sofi Oksanen - This is one creepy book! An old woman in Estonia, Aliide Truu, is disturbed one morning by the discovery of a badly beaten woman, Zara, in her garden. Nothing is quite what it seems.
It appears that I like my literary fiction in the same way I like my genre fiction - set in a different time or place! Have you read any of these titles?