Thursday, August 10, 2017

Unreliable Narrators

Used with permission of Powell's Books, Inc.
If you follow Powell's Books, a Portland, OR independent bookseller since 1971 (their flagship store is called Powell's City of Books), on Facebook, you will often find them posting pictures of in-house displays and asking you what you're reading this weekend. We were particularly intrigued by their "Unreliable Narrator" display.

We're not going to tell you in what way each of these narrators are unreliable, but don't read this post if you don't like spoilers, because all of these narrators are misleading you in one way or another - they may be the guilty party; they may be insane; they may just have personal bias. But none of these books will end up exactly where you thought they might.

Why are we writing about them, you might add, if it's  a possible spoiler situation? Well, as the web site TV Tropes attests, "As an author, this is a difficult trick to pull off. It is a lot easier to tell a straight story than it is to deliberately mislead the audience." They also list a couple of techniques - "Framing Device, ""Literary Agent Hypothesis," and "Rashomon-style," to give you specific examples. Let's give the authors credit for coming up with such inventive plots that turned their stories upside-down!

We don't really think about it normally, but when you pick up a book, "there's an element of trust that the person telling you the story is telling the truth, at least as far as they know it." That's why Agatha Christie's The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, one of our favorite unreliable narrator titles, was so startling and mystery-convention-breaking back in 1926. The reader expects to have to figure out whodunnit, but also expects to be given the facts, the truth, to work with.

So, here's our list of some unreliable narrators you might not have heard of (we're going to assume you all know about Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train) or may have forgotten about (we hope you haven't forgotten Rebecca, another of our favorites). But, if you're interested in twisting your brain around more titles like these, Goodreads has a pretty comprehensive list. Just know, someone in the book is probably lying to you... 😲

The Three by Sarah Lotz

The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson

The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks

What Was She Thinking?: Notes on a Scandal by Zoë Heller

Fall by Colin McAdam

Atonement by Ian McEwan

How To Be a Good Wife by Emma Chapman

John Dies at the End by David Wong

Where the Moon Isn't by Nathan Filer

No comments: