Proust knew it.
Memory and the passage of time are among the most significant fields to be sowed in a novel.
And, not only mainstream literary novelists understand the overarching importance of time and memory to the telling of a great and psychologically satisfying novel.
What one might call “genre” novelists know that memory and time are key to creating depth in their stories and the lives of their characters.
I am a big fan of crime fiction. It’s what I read, generally, and it is what I write, generally. That and narrative non-fiction geared to the past.
I love to read a story in which time itself and the past of the characters take on a primary role in the story.
I just finished reading Tana French’s “Faithful Place” today. It was really, really good.
One reason I enjoyed it so much was the author’s treatment of time–lost love, lost years, lost chances, all the sad things that time does to us over a lifetime, missed opportunities, etc., etc.
Given a choice, I will always pick a book that tackles the lives of the characters over a broad span of time as opposed to a purely plot-driven story in which the past plays little part.
One of my all-time favorite novels is “Breakheart Hill” by Thomas H. Cook. The past is fundamental to the story, and the depth of the story is amazing. In fact, if you’re looking for writers who know how to blend the past with the present (and, believe me, that makes for the best sort of writing), then you should look no further than Thomas H. Cook and Tana French.
Read everything these two wonderful writers have written. It won’t be time wasted.