Books with Unreliable Narrators

Who can you believe? Not the narrator.
1

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2

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3.80 avg rating — 2,288,323 ratings
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3

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4

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5

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4.22 avg rating — 99,366 ratings
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6

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3.90 avg rating — 3,057,417 ratings
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7

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3.82 avg rating — 192,199 ratings
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8

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3.83 avg rating — 1,088,686 ratings
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9

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3.88 avg rating — 384,823 ratings
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10

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4.03 avg rating — 65,705 ratings
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11

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3.86 avg rating — 979,205 ratings
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12

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3.89 avg rating — 1,122,881 ratings
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13

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3.98 avg rating — 494,784 ratings
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14

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3.89 avg rating — 1,488,628 ratings
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15

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3.45 avg rating — 73,495 ratings
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16

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4.15 avg rating — 200,797 ratings
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17

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4.11 avg rating — 149,009 ratings
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18

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3.96 avg rating — 199 ratings
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19

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3.81 avg rating — 364,119 ratings
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20

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4.08 avg rating — 214,506 ratings
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21

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4.26 avg rating — 3,621,721 ratings
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22

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4.03 avg rating — 69,814 ratings
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23

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4.19 avg rating — 537,519 ratings
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24

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3.85 avg rating — 344,942 ratings
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25

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4.08 avg rating — 133,253 ratings
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26

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3.84 avg rating — 56,954 ratings
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26

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4.19 avg rating — 491,359 ratings
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28

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3.86 avg rating — 140,602 ratings
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29

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4.20 avg rating — 33,326 ratings
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30

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3.99 avg rating — 41,264 ratings
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31

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4.21 avg rating — 264,060 ratings
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32

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3.81 avg rating — 1,047,024 ratings
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33

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4.07 avg rating — 74,814 ratings
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34

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4.09 avg rating — 376,122 ratings
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35

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3.83 avg rating — 5,495 ratings
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36

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4.01 avg rating — 78,623 ratings
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37

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3.76 avg rating — 548,801 ratings
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38

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4.04 avg rating — 602,354 ratings
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39

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3.52 avg rating — 31,815 ratings
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40

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3.90 avg rating — 63,072 ratings
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41

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4.08 avg rating — 137,549 ratings
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42

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3.71 avg rating — 124,121 ratings
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43

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3.42 avg rating — 338,139 ratings
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44

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4.07 avg rating — 126,821 ratings
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45

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3.72 avg rating — 118,011 ratings
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46

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3.95 avg rating — 118,654 ratings
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47

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3.86 avg rating — 41,217 ratings
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48

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3.96 avg rating — 33,620 ratings
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49

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4.09 avg rating — 259,065 ratings
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50

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3.90 avg rating — 50,385 ratings
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51

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3.70 avg rating — 16,324 ratings
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52

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4.25 avg rating — 13,816 ratings
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53

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3.88 avg rating — 234,351 ratings
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54

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3.93 avg rating — 43,201 ratings
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55

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4.17 avg rating — 46,122 ratings
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56

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3.89 avg rating — 51,982 ratings
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57

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3.72 avg rating — 19,255 ratings
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58

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3.30 avg rating — 8,178 ratings
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59

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3.93 avg rating — 19,627 ratings
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60

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3.75 avg rating — 51,726 ratings
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61

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4.37 avg rating — 168,071 ratings
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62

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3.72 avg rating — 17,303 ratings
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63

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4.07 avg rating — 59,361 ratings
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64

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4.19 avg rating — 44,237 ratings
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65

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3.76 avg rating — 14,001 ratings
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66

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4.04 avg rating — 68,707 ratings
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67

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4.27 avg rating — 45,305 ratings
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68

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3.80 avg rating — 292,760 ratings
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69

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4.09 avg rating — 17,433 ratings
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70

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4.03 avg rating — 200,451 ratings
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71

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3.21 avg rating — 108,736 ratings
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72

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3.99 avg rating — 90,079 ratings
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73

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3.96 avg rating — 37,369 ratings
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74

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4.13 avg rating — 97,804 ratings
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75

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4.10 avg rating — 97,551 ratings
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76

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3.86 avg rating — 6,462 ratings
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77

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4.77 avg rating — 13 ratings
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78

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4.08 avg rating — 269,696 ratings
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79

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4.24 avg rating — 45,891 ratings
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80

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4.06 avg rating — 157,788 ratings
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81

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3.76 avg rating — 2,122 ratings
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82

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3.93 avg rating — 48,261 ratings
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83

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3.86 avg rating — 128,167 ratings
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84

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3.48 avg rating — 12,929 ratings
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85

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4.21 avg rating — 356,639 ratings
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86

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4.09 avg rating — 2,806 ratings
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87

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3.89 avg rating — 15,331 ratings
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88

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4.09 avg rating — 53,203 ratings
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89

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3.66 avg rating — 9,231 ratings
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89

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2.62 avg rating — 586 ratings
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91

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3.98 avg rating — 218,793 ratings
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92

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4.13 avg rating — 15,175 ratings
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93

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3.91 avg rating — 49,968 ratings
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94

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4.32 avg rating — 75,123 ratings
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95

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3.33 avg rating — 6,785 ratings
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96

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3.27 avg rating — 3,358 ratings
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97

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3.77 avg rating — 1,588 ratings
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98

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4.07 avg rating — 10,028 ratings
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98

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3.71 avg rating — 8,236 ratings
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100

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3.72 avg rating — 6,771 ratings
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346 books · 366 voters · list created August 7th, 2010 by Vicki (votes) .
111 likes · 
Lists are re-scored approximately every 5 minutes.


Vicki 632 books
3 friends
Themis-Athena (Lioness at Large) 546 books
453 friends
Bettie☯ 14539 books
98 friends
James 3659 books
35 friends
Shreyas 491 books
34 friends
Susanna - Censored by GoodReads 3008 books
762 friends
Jorge Richard 1105 books
293 friends
Thom 6023 books
313 friends

More voters…


Comments (showing 1-24 of 24) (24 new)

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Susanna - Censored by GoodReads My mind is not entirely made up about the reliability of the narrator in Wolf Hall. I'm suspicious, though.


message 2: by Bettie☯ (new)

Bettie☯ Susanna wrote: "My mind is not entirely made up about the reliability of the narrator in Wolf Hall. I'm suspicious, though."

Have noticed you say this before. I haven't, and probably will not, read this Mantel because of a horrid brush (hee! look at the cover) with her Beyond Black. Not noticed anyone else take up the dodgy narrator argument on Wolf Hall but I keep watching.


message 3: by Thom (new)

Thom Dunn Bettie wrote: "Susanna wrote: "My mind is not entirely made up about the reliability of the narrator in Wolf Hall. I'm suspicious, though."

Have noticed you say this before. I haven't, and probably will not, ..."


The Narrator is clear and direct ....especially about what S/he doesn't know. Cromwell, the Protagonist, improvises throughout and makes a living of uncertainty.


message 5: by [deleted user] (new)

Some writers (Nabokov and Borges, for instance) should have their complete works included in this list.


message 6: by [deleted user] (last edited May 09, 2011 10:41AM) (new)

This is a very strange concept for me that I never heard until I got on goodreads. If you can't believe the narrator who can you believe?

I guess I understand it better when I think of the Tell-Tale Heart. I guess this list will help me.


message 7: by [deleted user] (new)


message 8: by Thom (new)

Thom Dunn Lady Alice wrote: "This is a very strange concept for me that I never heard until I got on goodreads. If you can believe the narrator who can you believe?

I guess I understand it better when I think of the Tell..."


Dear Lady Alice, Trust me, this whole list is bolluxed: very few of these books have an "unreliable" narrator. The concept itself was taken apart and reshaped by Wayne Booth in his monumental, The Rhetoric of Fiction. The Old School you and I grew up in (I assumed) spoke of three kinds of narrators--way misleading, and Booth asks in addition, "Unreliable HOW ?" Unreliable is his reporting of the facts, his perception of reality, his moral fiber ? ANYtime you have a human first-person Narrator, he/she is bound to be "unreliable" in many ways...... or not human in the first place. Finally, people posting on this list have often mistaken the Narrator for the Central Consciousness and/or the Protagonist. And finally finally, some of these works posted seem to be books with main characters the reader just doesn't like.


message 9: by [deleted user] (new)

Thanks for this explanation Thom. Yes, I graduated high school in 1967 and college in 1973 so I never heard of this stuff. I agree each person has a different perception of reality and the story is made from their view. This whole idea has been quite baffling for me.

Alice


message 10: by [deleted user] (new)

Lady Alice wrote: "Thanks for this explanation Thom. Yes, I graduated high school in 1967 and college in 1973 so I never heard of this stuff. I agree each person has a different perception of reality and the story i..."

Hi, Lady Alice. I don't know if the whole list is bolluxed, like Thom said, but I think some examples of famous unreliable narrator stories may help you to understand the concept.

Invisible Cities
Marco Polo is not the narrator of the whole book, but he tells Kublai Khan about fantastic cities he allegedly visited. He may be just lying to amaze the emperor, so he is unreliable.

Lolita
The 1st person narrator is in prison, writing his story to the jury and trying to justify his fixation for young girls, so he is unreliable.

Dom Casmurro
In Brazil, this book is known as "the novel of doubt". The 1st person narrator tells the story of the love affair between his wife and his best friend, but he may be seen things out of jealousy.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's nest
The narrator suffers from Schizophrenia, and parts of the book are clearly hallucinations, like when he sees people shrinking. Many books have narrators who suffer from some mental disorder and can't be trusted.

Unreliable narrators are usually first-person narrators, but third-person narrators can also be unreliable. You will find many in Borges' work.
I also agree with Thom about how anytime you have a first person narrator he/she is bound to be unreliable, but I think we're just trying to list books in which the author deliberately uses the unreliable narrator as a narrative device.


message 11: by Thom (last edited May 09, 2011 04:12PM) (new)

Thom Dunn Julia wrote: "Lady Alice wrote: "Thanks for this explanation Thom. Yes, I graduated high school in 1967 and college in 1973 so I never heard of this stuff. I agree each person has a different perception of rea..."

I want to restrict the term to the form which is ABOUT the narrator/speaker's unreliability, as in Browning's dramatic monologues, e.g. "My Last Duchess". Here you have a scoundrel who indites himself with every word but who thinks he's hot stuff. Then there are also Ring Lardner's short stories, hopelessly dated but good examples of the form.


message 12: by [deleted user] (new)

Thanks again for these explanations.

Alice


Susanna - Censored by GoodReads Frankly, I cannot imagine how Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare got on this list. It's not even a novel!


message 14: by [deleted user] (last edited May 13, 2011 02:43PM) (new)

Susanna wrote: "Frankly, I cannot imagine how Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare got on this list. It's not even a novel!"

I was very puzzled by that also. Thanks for removing them.



message 15: by Zachary (new)

Zachary Najarian-Najafi Wouldn't any narrator be unreliable because all humans are biased?


message 16: by [deleted user] (new)

Zack wrote: "Wouldn't any narrator be unreliable because all humans are biased?"

Good point.


message 17: by Liz M (new)

Liz M Zack wrote: "Wouldn't any narrator be unreliable because all humans are biased?"

Of course. However, the term has a fairly specific definition:

"An unreliable narrator is a narrator, whether in literature, film, or theatre, whose credibility has been seriously compromised. The term was coined in 1961 by Wayne C. Booth in The Rhetoric of Fiction...."

"Unreliable narrator, a narrator whose account of events appears to be faulty, misleadingly biased, or otherwise distorted, so that it departs from the ‘true’ understanding of events shared between the reader and the implied author. The discrepancy between the unreliable narrator's view of events and the view that readers suspect to be more accurate creates a sense of irony."

"The opposite of a reliable narrator, an unreliable narrator typically displays characteristics or tendencies that indicate a lack of credibility or understanding of the story. Whether due to age, mental disability or personal involvement, an unreliable narrator provides the reader with either incomplete or inaccurate information as a result of these conditions."


message 18: by S. (new)

S. Susanna wrote: "My mind is not entirely made up about the reliability of the narrator in Wolf Hall. I'm suspicious, though."

I agree with you Susanna!


message 19: by Ben (last edited Sep 21, 2012 05:30PM) (new)

Ben I don't think there's any narrator more unreliable than the child in Room. He thinks the world consists of nothing more than the confines of his little room, he, his Ma and "Old Nick."


message 20: by Hasibuddin (new)

Hasibuddin Ahmed Julia wrote: "Some writers (Nabokov and Borges, for instance) should have their complete works included in this list."

yup


message 21: by Lobstergirl (new)

Lobstergirl To be clear: the list is only intended to contain fiction, right? Winter in Majorca is nonfiction and there are probably others.


message 22: by Chloe (new)

Chloe I personally (sometimes) enjoy an unreliable narrator such as in Never Let Me Go, Gatsby, and Fight Club. But that's just me.


message 23: by Inna (last edited Mar 12, 2014 11:09AM) (new)

Inna I wonder how Crime and Punishment got here? It's not a first-person narrator book, it's in third person. Or do we perhaps see the author (Dostoyevsky) as unreliable? Hm
UPD Well, actually many books in this list don't actually belong here, basically because many people confuse Narrator and Protagonist, as is already mentioned somewhere in the comments here.


message 24: by Julia (new)

Julia Boechat Inna wrote: "I wonder how Crime and Punishment got here? It's not a first-person narrator book, it's in third person. Or do we perhaps see the author (Dostoyevsky) as unreliable? Hm
UPD Well, actually many book..."


I came here to say the same thing.


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