Amazon — discerning my interest in historical fiction — offered me a list of recent and upcoming titles it thought I might want to take a look at. Notice a pattern?
The Women: A Novel
Drood: A Novel
Agincourt: A Novel
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet: A Novel
The Fall of the Templars
The Book of Unholy Mischief: A Novel
Roanoke: A Novel of Elizabethan Intrigue
Dear Publishers: for the love of all that’s holy, PLEASE STOP IT WITH THE “A NOVEL” THING. Seriously, what is up with that? It isn’t just a historical fiction practice, where you can try (and fail) to justify it by saying you don’t want readers to confuse it with nonfiction on the same subject; it’s like this is supposed to flag books as being somehow more highbrow than their non-novel-labeled brethren on the shelf. Guess what? It doesn’t work. It just annoys me.
I am moderately willing to let it pass if you make use of the preposition “of,” in which case “novel” is simply the anchor for an actual descriptive phrase. But when five of Amazon’s eight recommendations feel they must notify me that they are Novels (and nothing more), any value the word might have had — scant to begin with — is long since gone.