Looking at my bookshelves, I'm struck by the fact that most of the novels I read are by European or American authors. I don't set out to ignore British writing, but there is something about it that turns me off. Out of the six novels I've read this year (yes, only six, but I'm reading more non-fiction this year), three of them were written by authors born in Barcelona, two were written by Americans and one was by a Frenchman.
There are several reasons why this might be the case. First, I may have some innate prejudice against a lot of British writers because they write about a middle-class world that is alien to me. That statement would seem laughable to anyone who knew me as I seem the epitome of bourgeois values, but I grew up in a working class environment and still feel detached from people like Julian Barnes and William Boyd. Second, I think that there is a reluctance in British fiction to tackle big ideas and with the exception of David Mitchell, most attempts usually fall flat on their face. Third, it may simply be a case of feeling empathy with the 'otherness' of non-British writers.
Of course it could be argued that there is no such thing as British writing (and I'm sure that many in Scotland would assert this view) but all I can say is that as a bookseller, when I look at the piles of novels by British authors, very few of them excite me. British fiction seems to aspire to capture the zeitgeist, but I want a novel that questions it and makes me look at the world in a different way, giving a voice to something I've felt but have been unable to articulate. And most of all, I want to finish the novel thinking 'Wow'. The last time an English writer did that to me was when I read Cloud Atlas.