The beauty of multi-perspective fiction

Afterthoughts: Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo

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A sub-genre of fiction that I find myself loving more and more every minute are books that jumps from perspective to perspective. There is always a loose thread tying all the characters together, but story of each are for the most part self-contained.

The first of these sorts of books I discover was Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. When I reflected on why I found it a compelling read when before I had a hard time getting through books of a (seemingly) similar genre, I realised it was this multiple perspective element.

In our own lives, it is very easy to get caught up in our own affairs. Our attention is pre-occupied with the next thing on the to-do list, putting out fires, or generally surviving. It is of course, a very natural attitude to have. What we miss, however, are the “trivial” interactions we have with others. Whether it is the server at the local café, someone you see running in the mornings on occasion, or your fellow commuters on the bus or train. It is difficult to appreciate that every person has lives as difficult, satisfying, and complex as our own.

We see the small innocuous expressions of life in others, whether it is evidence of stress, small smiles, or open and relaxed body language. Contained in each of those expressions is the vast ocean of human experience. That’s pretty damn cool if you think about it, or at least I think it’s pretty cool. As much as I try though, it is difficult to maintain this perspective when the pressures of my own affairs takes my attention away. I think this is the reason why I love books which with multiple perspectives, they allow me to get into this way of thinking.

Reading stories taking this form never fails to re-kindle my sense of humanity and equanimity. It just is so satisfying, so much so that if I were to ever write a book, it would be one that would take this form and explore this idea to its’ ends.

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