This was our latest book at my lovely book club. It's a sequel, by Barry Unsworth, to his Booker prizewinner 'Sacred Hunger'. It's obvious that there is history behind it, but the story stands in its own right. That wasn't a problem.
What interested me was how many of the 'rules' of writing Unsworth breaks. There are several characters with very similar names - Stanton/Spenton, for example - and great big 'information dumps' from time to time, not embedded in dialogue or used to move the story on, but just lodged like boulders in a stream, interrupting the flow. And when there is dialogue, he has the disconcerting habit of 'head-hopping' each time someone speaks, telling us their thoughts or a bit of back-story as well as what they say.
Some things, like the long descriptions of landscape or people's appearance, are in keeping with the period he's writing about, although in general you wouldn't get away with it nowadays. But established writers of literary fiction, it seems, can do all sorts of things that are not allowed when you're starting out, or if your writing is more commercial. And clearly, it doesn't disqualify them from being seen as the very best in the world.
And another thing. Nobody in the book club except me noticed any of the issues above. We all enjoyed it, but they enjoyed it more because they weren't worried about the rules. So who's to judge what's right and wrong? In the end, surely it's the readers. Isn't that who we're writing for?