#AMonthofFaves: Five on a Theme – Unreliable Narrators!

amonthoffavesThis month Estella’s Revenge, Girlxoxo, and Traveling with T are hosting a month of bookish – and sometimes not – favorites. Check out this intro post to learn more. Today it is five on a theme and I’ve chosen to talk about my favorite books with unreliable narrators.

The Ripley novels by Patricia Highsmith

Talk about a mindbender! The reader is completely aware that Tom Ripley is a sociopathic serial killer but the way it is written makes the reader sympathize with Ripley. I found myself thinking, “oh you need to brutally murder that person who annoyed you.” Ripley’s self-absorbed, narcissistic narrative voice is so strong that even gnarly murders seem okay. This certainly the character that is not only unreliable, but he makes you not care that he is unreliable.

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

This one isn’t quite about an unreliable narrator, rather the reader can see how Esther Greenwood narrates her half-truths to others while she is battling mental illness. We’re all kinda “in” on her unreliable narrating of her life.

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

Oh Em Gee what a ride. I really cannot say much with out completely spoiling the plot, but TRUST NO ONE.

Pretty much anything written by Shirley Jackson

I was going to go with my favorite, We Have Always Lived in the Castle, but truly almost any book or story by Jackson is narrated by an unreliable narrator. Some times it is a criminal (Castle), some times it is madness (Hangsaman) and some times it is paranormal influence (Haunting of Hill House).

Villette by Charlotte Bronte

Not all books with unreliable narrators are filled with nefarious plots. Lucy Snowe’s keeps her self closed off from the people in her life (a paltry few people) but she also keeps her secrets from the reader. She withholds information only informing the reader of what she told people and this heroine certainly guards her heart. The reader is left wandering who the real Lucy is and if anyone can really get to know her. I feel like this description doesn’t do her justice, think of her as a Jane Eyre who is a bit more cynical and private with her emotions.

 

I would love some unreliable narrator book recommendations. Throw ’em at me!

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19 comments

  1. Drood by Dan Simmons. Excellent book. You may have read this one, I think. Also, one of my faves, Gentlemen and Players by Joanne Harris.

    1. Gentlemen and Players is on my TBR. I read Drood several years ago. It was weird, I didn’t really like Drood while I was reading it, but I was compelled to keep reading. It chilled me, really stuck to me, and I gave poor Wilkie Collins’s novels the stink eye for at least a year!

  2. I love that you chose unreliable narrators for your five. It’s been ages since I read an unreliable narrator, but I tend to like them. The narrator of The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine by Alina Bronsky is so comically self-deceived that she’s pretty unreliable. It’s a weird book, but I definitely recommend it!

  3. Oh my gosh I love this list! I was looking for recommendations for books with unreliable narrators because I am so taken by them. I love that feeling of not knowing what the hell is going on – or even better, knowing that we’re not getting the full story. I haven’t read any on your list,so I’m adding most of them to my pile of books to be read.

  4. I must say I’m fed up with unreliable narrators since I’ve read The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell but after reading your post I want Villette right now! (so thank you)

    I’m going to reread The Bell Jar in December and for what I remember of my first read, I agree with you: she’s not really an unreliable narrator but her specific state put the reader in a strange situation. We can have doubts concerning her sayings.

  5. Great topic! I’ve somehow been reading a lot of unreliable narrators lately. My recommendations: The Other Typist (this goes to the extreme and some people hated it), The Headmaster’s Wife, How to be a Good Wife, and Belzhar.

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