If, as displeased reviewers and readers sometimes complain, coincidences mar good plots, why do so many novels turn on them? From Charlotte Brontë and George Eliot, to Sebastian Barry and David Nicholls, novelists have relied on coincidences.
While these can reveal the weaknesses of a novel’s design, they can also be put to creative use: as we will see, novelists, like Charles Dickens, Evelyn Waugh and Muriel Spark, choose to emphasise coincidences, making them entertaining and revealing.
A lecture by John Mullan
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