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Topic: Recent literary trend

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Subject: Recent literary trend
Date Posted: 5/17/2008 10:17 AM ET
Member Since: 10/6/2005
Posts: 10,757
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Has anyone else noticed that lately there has been a growing trend toward what one of my college lit professors called the "untrustworthy" 1st person narrator? I really noticed it in Bojhalian's Double Bind, and I'm noticing it again now as I read The Sisters Mortland by Sally Beaumain. You think throughout the entire book that you know what's going on, and then find out at the very end (usually from another character taking over the narration) that the primary narrator has completely misled you. It's a strange technique and I'm not sure yet whether or not I like it.

Date Posted: 5/17/2008 6:07 PM ET
Member Since: 6/19/2007
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I remember first encountering this trait with Holden Caulfield when reading Catcher in the Rye in high school.  It's certainly an intriguing technique and not bad as long as you still have a rough idea of what's going on.  I haven't seen it in too many of the recent books I've read, and I haven't read either of the books you mentioned, but I'll keep my eyes open for it now.

Date Posted: 5/17/2008 6:15 PM ET
Member Since: 2/2/2006
Posts: 2,246
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Yes, I was going to say Catcher in the Rye, also, and The Murder of Roger Ackroyd - that classic by Agatha Christie that broke the rules, and how about creepy old Humbert Humbert in Lolita.

I haven't been aware of it, either, and I don't read much fiction any more, but I'll sure be aware of it now. Thanks!

Date Posted: 5/17/2008 9:06 PM ET
Member Since: 6/1/2005
Posts: 295
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The House at Riverton, by Kate Morton, is a new book with this characteristic:


Date Posted: 5/17/2008 10:56 PM ET
Member Since: 4/11/2006
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Has anyone else read Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane?  I'm still in shock about the ending and the change in plot and narration.  I convinced my son to read it  so I could pick someone else's brain. He was so mad when he got finished, he refused to discuss it with me.  Anyone else read this one?

Date Posted: 5/18/2008 11:08 AM ET
Member Since: 2/19/2005
Posts: 64
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I had to re-read Shutter Island because I was shocked at the ending.  I kind of liked that I did not know it all - the incredible twist.  I will look for some of the books others are listing as I enjoy it.

Date Posted: 5/18/2008 5:10 PM ET
Member Since: 6/1/2005
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I read it, but was not bothered, just surprised by the ending.

Date Posted: 5/18/2008 6:46 PM ET
Member Since: 5/23/2005
Posts: 6,075
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I read it, but it was one of those that was getting tedious for me as it droned on and on.  Then came that twist.  And I didn't take it as a legitimate twist.  It was an old fashioned, author's gimmick, a trick.  I hated it.

Remember Kathy Bates in Misery, how angry she got when she talked about those Saturday at the movies Cliff-Hangers?  The hand of God gimmick of saving the day....

I read that book and understood exactly how she felt.  I would never recommend it to anyone.

Date Posted: 5/19/2008 12:10 PM ET
Member Since: 1/8/2006
Posts: 296
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I'd rather be misled in a fiction book than outright lied to by someone claiming to be writing a "memoir." There seems to be a abnormal number of those lately, too.

Date Posted: 5/19/2008 12:15 PM ET
Member Since: 6/20/2007
Posts: 5,055
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The Kitchen Boy by Robert Alexander was also written in this vein.  It didn't bother me, but I had heard that there was a twist at the end, so I wasn't surprised that the narrator wasn't who he said he was.

Date Posted: 5/19/2008 4:26 PM ET
Member Since: 8/30/2007
Posts: 3,237
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I immediately thought of The Murder  of Roger Ackroyd, too. :-)

Another book I've read recently that had an untrustworthy narrator was Gentlemen and Players by Joanne Harris. I didn't mind the twist at the end, but my DH was really irritated by it, and felt that the author was being disingenuous.

Date Posted: 5/21/2008 11:15 AM ET
Member Since: 8/16/2005
Posts: 1,563
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I had a mixed reaction to Shutter Island. Initially I was starting to get somewhat annoyed with it like Bonnie, but once the twist kicked in and I finished I had to give it another read through like tashajean. Overall I liked that book, though as a "rule" I'm not a big fan of the untrustworthy narrator approach.

BTW, it is currently in production with Leonardo DiCaprio in the lead role and a 2009 scheduled release date. Ben Kingsley and Max von Sydow are also supposed to be in it.

Last Edited on: 5/21/08 11:19 AM ET - Total times edited: 1