Friday, October 07, 2022

Ten great novels with unreliable narrators

Elizabeth Brooks is the author of The Orphan of Salt Winds, The Whispering House, and The House in the Orchard.

At CrimeReads she tagged ten great novels with "unreliable narrators [who] range from guardians of moral virtue, to enchanting spinners-of-yarns, to out-and-out psychopaths." One title on the list:
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (2005).

This is an almost unbearably intriguing novel, which reveals the true nature of its narrator, and the horror of her story, very gradually. Kathy is a Carer, whose job is to look after organ donors, and she spends much of the book reminiscing about her childhood and the nice-but-peculiar English boarding school that she attended with her friends, Tommy and Ruth. So far, so benign, and yet … the words Kathy uses to describe her situation (the teachers at her school are known as ‘guardians’, for example, and the patients who die in her care are referred to as having ‘completed’) don’t feel quite right. It becomes increasingly clear to the reader that Kathy is employing euphemisms, and the effect is deeply sinister. Never Let Me Go is a journey of self-discovery in the most heart-breaking sense, and Kathy is an unreliable narrator because the world in which she lives is doing its utmost to blind her to her own identity.
Read about another entry on the list.

Never Let Me Go is on Lincoln Michel's top ten list of strange sci-fi dystopias, Amelia Morris's lits of ten of the most captivating fictional frenemies, Edward Ashton's eight titles about what it means to be human, Bethany Ball's list of the seven weirdest high schools in literature, Zak Salih's eight books about childhood pals—and the adults they become, Rachel Donohue's list of seven coming-of-age novels with elements of mystery or the supernatural, Chris Mooney's list of six top intelligent, page-turning, genre-bending classics, James Scudamore's top ten list of books about boarding school, Caroline Zancan's list of eight novels about students and teachers behaving badly, LitHub's list of the ten books that defined the 2000s, Meg Wolitzer's ten favorite books list, Jeff Somers's lists of nine science fiction novels that imagine the future of healthcare and "five pairs of books that have nothing to do with each other—and yet have everything to do with each other" and eight tales of technology run amok and top seven speculative works for those who think they hate speculative fiction, a list of five books that shaped Jason Gurley's Eleanor, Anne Charnock's list of five favorite books with fictitious works of art, Esther Inglis-Arkell's list of nine great science fiction books for people who don't like science fiction, Sabrina Rojas Weiss's list of ten favorite boarding school novels, Allegra Frazier's top four list of great dystopian novels that made it to the big screen, James Browning's top ten list of boarding school books, Jason Allen Ashlock and Mink Choi's top ten list of tragic love stories, Allegra Frazier's list of seven characters whose jobs are worse than yours, Shani Boianjiu's list of five top novels about coming of age, Karen Thompson Walker's list of five top "What If?" books, Lloyd Shepherd's top ten list of weird histories, and John Mullan's lists of ten of the best men writing as women in literature and ten of the best sentences as titles.

--Marshal Zeringue