Focus On: Unlikeable Narrators

Have you ever read a book where you hate all of the characters? How about one where the narrator is so annoying you’re tempted to abandon the book entirely? Over the past two weeks I’ve stumbled across two books that fit this description. They suffer from what I’ll call “the Gone Girl effect.”

Don’t get me wrong, I love Gillian Flynn as much as the next girl. In fact probably more, since Sharp Objects is easily in my Top 5 Books I’ve Ever Read. Love for the author aside, Gone Girl irked me. There was no one to love and by the end I was so frustrated with all of the characters that I didn’t care how the mystery unraveled. However, this type of book seems to be an emerging genre of sorts and I thought I’d share some similar titles.

Antonia Lively Breaks the Silence

Antonia Lively Breaks the Silence by David Samuel Levinson

Antonia Lively waltzes into town with her much older boyfriend and turns everyone’s lives upside down. Rather than contenting herself with her debut novel, Antonia is on the look-out for a story to write. Under the guise of befriending the townsfolk, Antonia explores and exploits their secrets on the page.

As much as I wanted to love this one, especially since it features a small college town and an interesting group of writers, I just couldn’t get behind the idea of Antonia or the novel’s strange narration. However, it’s beautifully written and has so many redeeming qualities I’d recommend it to anyone who loved Gone Girl.

Rating: 3/5
Method Read: e-galley

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Harry Potter, #4)

Every Contact Leaves a Trace

Every Contact Leaves a Trace by Elanor Dymott

I first picked this one up as I was browsing in The Purple Crow. Since I have a rule to never leave an independent bookstore without buying something, I paid the staggering hardcover price. Perhaps not a great idea. I had very high expectations for this book. At first glance, it appeared a lot like The Bellwether Revivals, a book that easily topped my favorites list from last year. Both were set at Oxbridge, both had mysteries that eluded the police. Unfortunately the similarities ended there. Every Contact Leaves a Trace is narrated by Alex, a widower whose wife has died under mysterious circumstances. Alex is fairly likeable but unfortunately isn’t developed enough for the reader to care about his grief, or the ensuing investigation. The book is worth a look if you want a murder mystery with British flair, but pick it up at your library and spare your wallet.

Rating: 3/5
Method Read: Hardback, purchased

Every Contact Leaves a Trace


Alexandra signature

Book Review: The Bellwether Revivals by Benjamin Wood

The Bellwether Revivals by Benjamin Wood

Published July 2, 2012

Summary: The Bellwether Revivals takes place mainly at King’s College, and the surrounding area. (Don’t you love it already?) Oscar Lowe is an outsider who works in a nursing home nearby who falls in love with the privileged medical student. As he dives into her world he realizes that the life on the other side isn’t always as beautiful as it seems.

Bechdel Test?: Unfortunately no. The book is from the perspective of a male character (Oscar) and he primarily interacts with other men. Iris and Jane, the two females who show up the most, don’t really talk to each other with Oscar around.

Rating: 5/5
It has been a long time since I’ve read a novel in which the prose was as beautiful as The Bellwether Revivals. Wood’s words are more than beautiful, they’re enchanting and brought me so deeply into the story that I forgot the time of day. I loved the mix of not knowing whether there was a supernatural element or whether there was just paranoia and delusion. The unreliable narrator of Oscar Lowe, coupled with the psychoanalysis provided by Dr. Herbert Cress, I was on my toes the whole time trying to figure out what would happen next. Honestly, if you only read one book this summer make it this one!

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