Tag Archives: Unreliable Narrator

Sweet Lamb of Heaven, Girls and Sex, Wink Poppy Midnight

Lydia Millet’s Sweet Lamb of Heaven sounded like it had everything I could want from a book. Anna’s in a bad marriage and has a baby her husband doesn’t want. Now, several years later, her husband is running for public office and Anna is on the run, desperate to keep him from finding her and Lena and using them as pawns. What’s more, she constantly hears a voice running a largely incoherent and incomprehensible monologue in a mix of English and other (possibly unknown) languages.…

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Opening Belle, Hidden Bodies, Ann Patchett, Norse Myths, and Ellen Raskin!

When I started listing the titles for this post I thought, “wow, I’ve been on a hot streak!” But then I remembered that I’ve had to give up on a bunch of books recently, too. The life of a reader! I grabbed Opening Belle at the library based on the cover and title, and the description sounded too good to pass up. Set (like Everybody Rise) on the eve of the financial crisis, the story follows Belle, a mom of three with a high pressure…

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Day for Night by Frederick Reiken

Synopsis: A multiplicity of narrators weave together a story that spans WWII and the present day (1984), including a fugitive from justice and a troubled high school senior dubbed “Bored Girl Genius” by her chaotically evil ex-best friend. Review: Try as I might, I just couldn’t get into Day for Night. I greatly admire Frederick Reiken’s deft prose and complex characterization, but for me, I just couldn’t get engaged with any of the story lines. I felt that the dazzling prose hid some contrivances in…

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Madapple by Christina Meldrum

Synopsis: Accused of murder, a troubled young woman tries to piece together the odd facets of her life, starting with her supposed immaculate conception. Review: The chapters in Madapple alternate between a teasingly opaque courtroom case, and defendant Aslaug’s reminiscences about life with her disturbed mother and eventual reunion with her long lost aunt and cousins. Nothing about Aslaug’s life has been ordinary. Her mother claimed that Aslaug had no father because she had never had a lover. She raised Aslaug in the woods, among…

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Angelica by Arthur Phillips

Synopsis: Fearful of her husband’s sexual advances, a young mother falls into a spectacular case of hysteria–that might not be all in her head. Review: Angelica is yet another neo-Gothic tale, set in a Victorian England conjured more from literature than from history. It has all of the elements you’d want: repressed sexuality, midnight visions, hysteria and a spiritualist, all rendered in gorgeous, sumptuous prose from four different points of view. Share on Facebook

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World of Wonders by Robertson Davies

Synopsis: The premature baby of Fifth Business was kidnapped by roustabouts, grew up a circus performer, and has grown into the greatest magician in the world. His life story offers the final piece to the question posed in The Manticore: “Who killed Boy Staunton?” Review: Robertson Davies’s masterful Deptford Trilogy deserves to be on more must-read lists. I discovered it thanks to Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose, and can say that Davies’s writing not only warrants Prose’s close reading, it actually provokes it…

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The Uses of Enchantment by Heidi Julavits

Synopsis: When Mary was 16, she may or may not have been abducted and raped by an older man, whose life was ruined by her accusations. Share on Facebook

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Contemplating Structure, Time and the First-Person

In another incarnation I spent some time teaching screenwriting, which, as you may know, is all about structure. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that there is no screenwriting without structure. Typically, that means three acts highlighting a tightly causal chain of events with linear narration. In films that utilize flashback structure, these flashbacks are usually ordered so that they unfold in a linear fashion. Even Memento, to provide a notable example of a film that plays with time, employs linear temporality…

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Winterwood by Patrick McCabe

Synopsis: Entranced by the folk tales of an old mountain man, and repulsed by the same man’s grisly crimes, Redmond Hatch struggles to narrate the events which led him to bring his beloved wife and daughter to winterwood. Review: I was upset by the way Winterwood seduced me. I did not want to be reeled in by Redmond and his elliptical storytelling because I knew that, between the lines, he was telling me stories I didn’t want him to be able to tell. I wanted…

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