This is a book I've read, re-read, and re-re-read. I go back to it frequently, whenever I've finished one of the titles from its bibliography, or just to revisit Wood's various topics. Deceptively simple and quickly read. If allowed, HFW will inform any novel you read. It is not comprehensive in its scope; it omits topics like plot, structure, etc. and limits itself to Wood's own intersts (an issue some reviewers take exception to).
There was a time when I'd read a passage from a novel and wonder 'whose word IS that?' Thanks to Wood, I realize many of those passages were written in free indirect style
. Now that I can identify it, I see its use more frequently and have an appreciation for its utility.
Whatever else this book is, it is NOT a how-to manual for new authors. Although, they would likely benefit from reading it. Wood's simple presentation considers an abundance of novels, many quite well-known or classics, and he adds insight to every title mentioned. This book is nothing like his books of essays, but it is informed by the same sensibility. For those who might be theory- or criticism-averse.