What makes a ‘Great British Novel’?

While the ‘Great American Novel’ is a recognised concept, its UK equivalent lacks definition. BBC Culture asks which elements it might have.

Our poll of the greatest British novels – compiled by 82 critics around the world, except the UK – raises a question. The book that fits the title of ‘Great American Novel’ is often debated, with contenders including Herman Melville’s Moby Dick and Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom. Yet what elements would make up its equivalent across the Atlantic – the ‘Great British Novel’?

This video attempts to answer that question – through the words of a few authors who made the top 25. JRR Tolkien’s imagined worlds and George Orwell’s invented words; George Eliot’s ‘roar which lies on the other side of silence’ and Virginia Woolf’s ‘matches struck unexpectedly in the dark’: together they create a peculiar and beautiful DNA.

More on BBC Culture’s greatest British novels poll:
The 100 greatest British novels – as voted by the rest of the world
Best of the best: The top 25 explained
Why Middlemarch is number one
Why women rule the list

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