Books with Unreliable Narrators

Who can you believe? Not the narrator.
1

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2

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3

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5

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4.22 avg rating — 105,590 ratings
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6

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3.90 avg rating — 3,137,961 ratings
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7

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3.82 avg rating — 196,651 ratings
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8

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3.84 avg rating — 1,119,358 ratings
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9

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4.02 avg rating — 73,212 ratings
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10

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3.86 avg rating — 1,008,512 ratings
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11

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3.89 avg rating — 391,003 ratings
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12

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3.89 avg rating — 1,150,233 ratings
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13

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3.99 avg rating — 508,288 ratings
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14

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3.90 avg rating — 1,578,681 ratings
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15

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3.44 avg rating — 76,331 ratings
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16

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4.16 avg rating — 200,687 ratings
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17

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4.11 avg rating — 156,702 ratings
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18

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4.19 avg rating — 542,400 ratings
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19

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4.26 avg rating — 3,739,767 ratings
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20

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3.81 avg rating — 378,299 ratings
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21

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4.09 avg rating — 224,504 ratings
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22

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4.03 avg rating — 71,263 ratings
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23

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4.09 avg rating — 135,973 ratings
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24

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3.84 avg rating — 361,193 ratings
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25

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3.84 avg rating — 58,414 ratings
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26

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3.86 avg rating — 142,633 ratings
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27

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3.99 avg rating — 43,056 ratings
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28

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4.19 avg rating — 33,908 ratings
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29

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4.21 avg rating — 271,429 ratings
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30

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4.20 avg rating — 507,013 ratings
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31

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3.81 avg rating — 1,057,855 ratings
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32

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4.06 avg rating — 78,124 ratings
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33

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4.09 avg rating — 390,868 ratings
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34

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3.82 avg rating — 5,670 ratings
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35

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4.01 avg rating — 84,619 ratings
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36

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3.76 avg rating — 561,825 ratings
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37

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4.04 avg rating — 616,707 ratings
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38

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3.90 avg rating — 64,690 ratings
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39

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4.08 avg rating — 139,304 ratings
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40

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3.42 avg rating — 343,939 ratings
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41

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4.08 avg rating — 131,969 ratings
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42

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3.53 avg rating — 35,059 ratings
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43

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3.71 avg rating — 127,649 ratings
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44

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3.96 avg rating — 121,009 ratings
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45

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3.88 avg rating — 241,699 ratings
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46

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3.72 avg rating — 119,903 ratings
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47

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3.89 avg rating — 52,920 ratings
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48

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3.93 avg rating — 44,497 ratings
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49

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3.96 avg rating — 34,435 ratings
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50

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4.08 avg rating — 263,788 ratings
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51

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3.90 avg rating — 52,797 ratings
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52

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4.25 avg rating — 14,428 ratings
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53

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3.94 avg rating — 19,867 ratings
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54

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3.86 avg rating — 42,052 ratings
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55

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4.17 avg rating — 50,828 ratings
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56

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3.76 avg rating — 14,881 ratings
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57

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3.72 avg rating — 19,869 ratings
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58

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3.30 avg rating — 8,245 ratings
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59

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3.70 avg rating — 16,642 ratings
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60

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3.80 avg rating — 300,876 ratings
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61

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3.75 avg rating — 52,900 ratings
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62

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3.73 avg rating — 17,678 ratings
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63

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4.07 avg rating — 61,266 ratings
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64

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4.19 avg rating — 45,913 ratings
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65

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4.03 avg rating — 71,316 ratings
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66

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4.27 avg rating — 46,500 ratings
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67

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4.08 avg rating — 278,946 ratings
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68

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4.08 avg rating — 18,633 ratings
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69

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4.03 avg rating — 205,645 ratings
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70

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3.22 avg rating — 112,108 ratings
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71

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4.37 avg rating — 169,876 ratings
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72

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3.99 avg rating — 91,855 ratings
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73

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3.86 avg rating — 131,354 ratings
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73

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3.96 avg rating — 38,687 ratings
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75

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4.12 avg rating — 100,800 ratings
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76

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4.10 avg rating — 98,617 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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4.24 avg rating — 47,048 ratings
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79

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3.77 avg rating — 2,157 ratings
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80

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3.93 avg rating — 49,412 ratings
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81

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3.48 avg rating — 13,108 ratings
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82

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4.09 avg rating — 2,854 ratings
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83

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3.88 avg rating — 15,715 ratings
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84

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3.85 avg rating — 6,578 ratings
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85

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3.66 avg rating — 9,416 ratings
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85

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2.70 avg rating — 627 ratings
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87

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3.68 avg rating — 111 ratings
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88

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3.98 avg rating — 224,977 ratings
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89

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4.12 avg rating — 15,898 ratings
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90

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4.06 avg rating — 159,637 ratings
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91

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3.91 avg rating — 51,668 ratings
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92

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4.32 avg rating — 76,025 ratings
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93

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3.33 avg rating — 6,967 ratings
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94

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3.27 avg rating — 3,402 ratings
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94

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4.30 avg rating — 152,681 ratings
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96

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3.77 avg rating — 1,625 ratings
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96

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4.22 avg rating — 368,347 ratings
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98

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4.07 avg rating — 10,321 ratings
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98

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3.71 avg rating — 8,352 ratings
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100

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3.72 avg rating — 6,943 ratings
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362 books · 380 voters · list created August 7th, 2010 by Vicki (votes) .
115 likes · 
Lists are re-scored approximately every 5 minutes.


Vicki 632 books
3 friends
Themis-Athena (Lioness at Large) 546 books
456 friends
Bettie☯ 14853 books
106 friends
James 3698 books
34 friends
Shreyas 491 books
37 friends
Susanna - Censored by GoodReads 3056 books
785 friends
Jorge Richard 1105 books
305 friends
Thom 6023 books
316 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 [deleted user] (new)

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

Good point.


message 16: 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 17: 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 18: 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 19: 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 20: 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 21: 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 22: 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 23: 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.


message 24: by Chris (new)

Chris Gager I thought for sure I'd have to add "Pale Fire," but there it was at #30. Restores my faith in Goodreaders.


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