As you read the reviews on Bookshop Talk, you'll notice that every review is positive. No, we're not a bunch of literary
pushovers who love everything we pick up; we just see no point in telling you about a book if we didn't like it.

January 26, 2012

THE SEVEN BASIC PLOTS, by Christopher Booker, 2004

This book at last provides a comprehensive answer to the age-old riddle of whether there are only a small number of 'basic stories' in the world. Using a wealth of examples, from ancient myths and folk tales, via the plays and novels of great literature to the popular movies and TV soap operas of today, it shows that there are seven archetypal themes which recur throughout every kind of storytelling. But this is only the prelude to an investigation into how and why we are 'programmed' to imagine stories in these ways, and how they relate to the inmost patterns of human psychology. (Goodreads)

Review by Emily, high school student and bibliophile

So I picked this one up randomly off the library shelf one day, and my first thought was, "What a tome!"
Naturally, I brought it home with me. I never can resist big books. They draw me like magnets. And this is one big book, at over 700 pages.
This book is about stories. About why we tell them, and how certain things must happen within those stories to give the reader (or watcher, or listener) satisfaction and closure. The author has obviously thoroughly researched; he cites literally hundreds of stories: plays, operas, epics, books, movies . . . and he shows how each is unique, and yet so very similar to others of its genre.
The seven basic plots are as follows: Overcoming the Monster, Rags to Riches, The Quest, Voyage and Return, Comedy, Tragedy, and Rebirth. He goes through each, and its variations, and shows what has to happen for that story to be fulfilled - or turned on its head. It's fascinating how many very different stories have the very same bones, really. He begins with a striking example: the movie Jaws and the epic Beowulf. When he breaks it down, they're scarily similar. Yet, he insists, it is not because someone decided to copy the story, it is because we all think in terms of stories, and our human nature draws us back to these archetypal plots through the vast reaches of time.
In the end, I loved this book because it's an invaluable resource. It made me think, and although at times difficult to wade through, it really did make for some wonderful reading.

Market: Adult Nonfiction
Language: Mild to none
Sensuality: None
Violence: Mild
Mature themes: dark inversions of stories

Book formats:


Anonymous said...

Sounds interesting! Thanks for the review.

pie said...

That seems really interesting. I want to read it now and see whether or not I agree with him.

Rosebriars said...

Sounds like an awesomely geeky read.