The “Novel of Recollections” – Narration as a Means of Coming to Terms with the Past

Petr Chalupský


Among the large body of contemporary British novels dealing with the past, one specific genre can be identified, and called, the “novel of recollections” as it revolves around its first person narrator’s coming to terms with the often traumatic memories of his or her past life. This article focuses on this genre and its characteristic features, both formal and concerning the content, in John Banville’s The Sea (2005), Anne Enright’s The Gathering (2007) and Julian Barnes’s The Sense of an Ending (2011). Using the example of Graham Swift’s Tomorrow (2007), this article also shows that these features alone may not necessarily guarantee the text’s positive reception, suggests the main reasons why Swift’s novel failed with most readers and critics, and contemplates the novel of recollections’ future course and development.  



Novel of recollections; memory; unreliable narrator; traumatic experience; added value

Full Text:



Banville, J. (2005). The Sea. London: Picador.

Barnes, J. (2011). The Sense of an Ending. London: Jonathan Cape.

Bracken, C., Cahill, S. (Eds.). (2011). Anne Enright. Dublin: Irish Academic Press.

Bradford, R. (2007). The Novel Now: Contemporary British Fiction. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing. doi:10.5860/choice.45-1312 .

Caruth, C. (1996). Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative, and History. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Enright, A. (2007a). The Gathering. London: The Vintage Books.

Enright, A. (2007b). “Mothers and fathers”. The Guardian (April 21, 2007) [Online]. Retrieved from (July 13, 2015).

Groes, S.  Childs, P. (Eds.). (2011). Julian Barnes: Contemporary Critical Perspectives. London: Continuum. doi:10.5040/9781472542557

Guignery, V. (Ed.). (2006). The Fiction of Julian Barnes. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Head, D. (2002). The Cambridge Introduction to Modern British Fiction, 1950-2000. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/cbo9780511606199

Keen, S. (2006). The Historical Turn in British Fiction. In J. F. English (Ed.), A Concise Companion to Contemporary British Fiction (pp. 167-187). Oxford: Blackwell Publishing. doi:10.1002/9780470757673.ch8

Kenny, J. (2009). John Banville. Dublin: Irish Academic Press.

Kermode, F. (2000). The Sense of an Ending. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Stendhal. (1857). De l’amour [Online]. Retrieved from (July 25, 2015).

Swift, G. (2007). Tomorrow. London: Picador.

Whitehead, A. (2004). Trauma Fiction. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.


Widdowson, P. (2006). Graham Swift. Hordon, Tavistock: Northcote House Publishers.



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

2012-2023 (CC-BY) Australian International Academic Centre PTY.LTD

International Journal of Applied Linguistics and English Literature

To make sure that you can receive messages from us, please add the journal emails into your e-mail 'safe list'. If you do not receive e-mail in your 'inbox', check your 'bulk mail' or 'junk mail' folders.