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Bellevue Square
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Bellevue Square > Question #5: Unreliable Narrator

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

Unreliable narration is often used in books, film and theatre to create more intrigue and mystery for the reader or viewer as they have to work harder to discover the true story. How do you feel about Redhill’s use of Jean as an unreliable narrator? Did it add to your interest in the story, or make it too difficult to follow along?


Jaime Grover (jaimborainbow) | 23 comments Mod
I can't deny that I found the Jean's unreliable account of the story to make it overall very confusing. I like a book that makes me think but boy did I feel lost reading Bellevue Square!

This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but I did feel more lost than I usually do and than I tend to prefer when I'm reading. It just doesn't feel conclusive - I don't know what was real and what wasn't. But then maybe that was the point. (I've had a similar feeling when I read Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov - the prose was beautiful but I couldn't stand the story nor any of the characters - but that's kind of the whole point.)

Typically, I enjoy an unreliable narrator. I like being able to find holes in their story and eventually learning what actually happened, or at least most of what actually happened. I just didn't get that with Bellevue Square. I've left the book still not entirely sure what I've even read. Maybe I'll just need to give it another chance sometime.


message 3: by Maureen (new)

Maureen B. | 212 comments Jaime wrote: "I can't deny that I found the Jean's unreliable account of the story to make it overall very confusing. I like a book that makes me think but boy did I feel lost reading Bellevue Square!

This isn'..."


It is confusing, isn't it? Jean starts out seeming like a reasonable sort on page one but by page four , when she's attacked by that customer and shakes it off, I'm like 'what?' Hmm, why didn't she call police or her family?

I don't mind unreliable narrators but don't love them either. For some reason, I always liken them to the characters in The Dinner, a dismal book praised by many but which left me glum and everafter untrusting of narrators who don't or can't tell us the whole story.

On the plus side, Jean seems more optimistic that previous unreliable narrators I've come across even though she's apparently going to be accused of murdering a friend. (Not very far into the book yet!)


Jaime Grover (jaimborainbow) | 23 comments Mod
Maureen wrote: "Jaime wrote: "I can't deny that I found the Jean's unreliable account of the story to make it overall very confusing. I like a book that makes me think but boy did I feel lost reading Bellevue Squa..."

I agree, Maureen! Unreliable narrators are bit of a mixed bag, that's for sure. Maybe I only really enjoy them if I have the opportunity to learn (at some point) the entire story.

I haven't read The Dinner myself, but definitely understand the love-hate relationship with an unreliable narrator!

Recently, I saw a really beautiful play called Here Lies Henry and it is a one-man show. Henry is absolutely an unreliable narrator, but you can empathize with his position throughout the show, and by the end you do learn some of the actual story. (I don't want to spoil it just in case it's something that anyone wants to see or read at any point, but he's essentially dealing with his own mortality throughout the duration of the show). That's the kind of unreliable narration I enjoy - when things are a little bit convoluted but you learn more by the end. Or at least learn why this narrator is as unreliable as they are.

I'm really curious to hear any additional thoughts you have when you're further into the novel, Maureen!


message 5: by Maureen (new)

Maureen B. | 212 comments Jaime wrote: "Maureen wrote: "Jaime wrote: "I can't deny that I found the Jean's unreliable account of the story to make it overall very confusing. I like a book that makes me think but boy did I feel lost readi..."

That play sounds interesting, Jaime! And yes, there's more than a few unreliable but lovable narrators in literature, though I can't think of any lovable ones at this point, heh. (Rebecca, Wuthering Heights, The Dinner). Actually, at least as far as I've read, I'm finding Jean and her antics amusing in a dark sort of way.


Ashley | 116 comments Mod
Perhaps I'm too far away from it now, but I don't remember being too frustrated by the unreliable narration. I thoroughly enjoyed being confused. It's what kept my interest! Not knowing what was real, what would happen next, it was fun and kept me reading. I will say, the end scene when they are walking through the forest, I started to get impatient. But I also knew it was the climax, so I stuck it through. And of course, the ending..... sigh


message 7: by Maureen (new)

Maureen B. | 212 comments Ashley wrote: "Perhaps I'm too far away from it now, but I don't remember being too frustrated by the unreliable narration. I thoroughly enjoyed being confused. It's what kept my interest! Not knowing what was re..."

Ashley, this is off-topic but I admire people like yourself who are comfortable with the uncertainty of where some writers are taking us. I am but a snowflake when it comes to too much suspense of any kind! lol


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