Flights of Fancy

– the coming of age of romance novels and wonder books

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Pretty girl dreaming peacefully like in the best romance novels

Don’t we all treasure romance novels? Those romantic fantasies we create in the world of our imagination? For some, it’s making love scandalously in the surf like Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr. For others seduced by, or seducing, a handsome rogue while Charleston burns down around you. Or, you may be the type who clings to memories as you’re torn away from your lover at a foggy airport in wartime Casablanca. Closer to home, who doesn’t like a trip down memory lane. Perhaps to that B&B where you fell in love once upon a time…

I wonder if our world is drowning in the imagery of a thirty second grab at the expense of wonder. A plan designed to support the purchase of things we don’t need by sponsors who don’t care, whether they be major news outlets or “influencers” on social media platforms. I’m not promoting another conspiracy theory, just making an observation. And a plea not to lose sight of that true wonder, a book. A private world filled with images that didn’t exist before and a writer created uniquely for each reader’s mind. Like a coming of age after senses are dulled by the senseless.

The good news is that many share the same pleasure as me. Real books, the ones we can pick up and thumb through to find a turned down page with a favourite paragraph, are doing well. Their death has been greatly exaggerated. There is a sense of wonder in the physical presence of a book, new or old. Freshly printed, bookshop books smell of ink and paper and newness. But older books, now there’s a joy. Anyone who has lost themselves in a second-hand bookshop know that sweet, musky smell that wafts into a book-lover’s nose and lingers. Someone told me once it reminded them of chocolate. They’re wrong, and right. Like the images created in our mind by the writer, even old bookshops are unique to the browser. If you’ve never had the experience, your life has missed a wonder and you should make your way there immediately.

Books are all about wonder. Even hackneyed old plots about the unlikely hero who saves the world and marries the girl become best sellers with a fresh coat of wonder applied to them. Readers of books come to their favourite genre, or author, for those reasons. They only stay, and return time and time again, because they fall victim to the lure of wonder on the next page.

Wonder literature is the world’s most popular literature, and the truth is most of us don’t even know. We search for the books we enjoy under artificial categories of horror, romance, science-fiction and so on. However, there isn’t even a genre called “wonder”. And there should be, it outsells all the others combined as it exists in each of them.

I’ll leave you with one last thought. Next time you pick up one of those romance novels, or any book for that matter, ask yourself, why do I want to read it? The biggest hits of all time have almost always been “wonder” literature. And starts with that best-seller, the Bible, even if we’re not believers.

R. A. Barclay


Robert Barclay is an Australian author of some of the best Australian crime/mystery novels. His Australian romance novels and stories follow the lives of Katy Yehonala and her daughter, Clara, his strong female protagonists as they confront the evils of society.

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