• Thu. May 30th, 2024

The comfort of the small town trope

ByRhona Bowie

Feb 14, 2024
small village surrounded by sea and mountains

The small town setting, familiar to any reader. Usually found in the two opposing genres; romance and thriller, consisting of a handful of core characters and an idyllic village setting. This trope has always been prevalent in literature, but there has been a noticeable spike in small town themed books in the last few years. 

A surge in loneliness, now being referred to as an epidemic, could have more tangible effects on the literature that we consume. With the quality of in-person socialising dwindling, replaced with online interactions, it is no surprise that people turn to books to find comfort. Storylines set in small towns are heavily centred around the idea of community – whether that be coming together to help solve an unjust crime in the neighbourhood or side characters meddling to ensure that the two main love interests have their happy ending – the importance of community is essential to these plots. With so many people feeling like they lack a sense of community in their day to day lives, it is easy to gravitate towards storylines that underline the importance of these community relationships. 

Though the main characters in these books often express their exasperation at the lack of boundaries from side characters, there is a certain charm that comes with over-involvement in these small town settings. Living in a place where people care enough to continually involve themselves in your life can be a blessing and a curse, but for many it is novelty. 

These books embody the opposite of being anonymous in a city full of people who will never know your name, and many readers are desperate to feel a glimpse of that. 

With so many of these small-town trope books being romances, a happy-ever-after ending is almost a guarantee. Life is full of uncertainties, a series of uncontrollable events and unknown futures. Though often seen as trivial, romance books are reliable, providing a small certainty for those who feel none. 

Many popular small town books tackle big themes in these endearing settings. Take for instance, Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty, which centres around a group of volatile women who must stick together in the wake of murder. The book deals with grief, betrayal and the complexities of relationships. 

However, many of these books do heavily romanticise living in small towns, often falling into stereotypes of isolation and idealising connections. Though reading can be used as an escape from reality, for many who live in small towns these settings may seem misplaced. The Rachel Incident by Caroline O’Donoghue strays from this romanticising, encapsulating how entangled, and inescapably  messy relationships in small towns can be. 

Ultimately, the small town trope is popular not only because it provides the reader with an engaging plot and alluring setting, but also because it is filled with the comfort of deep connections between characters – something that for many, is continuously dwindling. 

Small town USA , , ,” by JLS Photography – Alaska is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0