Ethics and Moral issues/unreliable narration in British fiction

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Ethics and Moral issues/unreliable narration in British fiction

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sep 22, 2009, 7:15pm

Hi Guys,

My summer reading was Zoe Heller's Notes on a scandal and A.L. Kennedy's Paradise which I can highly recommend.
What is so fascinating about them is that throughout the novel the reader has to realise that the narrative is highly unreliable and it becomes hard to know what is, or isn't true... and it becomes even harder when you sympathise with the characters who have acted immorally. This is particularly the case in Heller's novel, where you stop caring about the act that the main character has done, and start to hate the narrator.
I find it fascinating that contemporary British fiction can work in this way, and "convince" the reader that the things we read in the paper's (such as sexual affairs with minors) are not so bad, and that we can, through the narration, end up sympathising with the character.
I would love to read more books like this, which address moral issues, or ethics, and where we, the readers, end up feeling sympathy for the wrong character through the narration.
Does anyone have any recommedations?

sep 23, 2009, 5:27pm

You might like something like The Murder of My Aunt by Richard Hull, a humorous book about a blowhard nephew's efforts to kill his domineering aunt.
There is also the American book, The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson. A very tense and original book.

sep 25, 2009, 12:07pm

A.N. Wilson's Dream Children is not a first-person narrative, but it does have a similar technique of first drawing you in to identify with a character then revealing that he isn't what he appears.

One I read recently - although the effect there is comic rather than forcing you to take a moral stand, is Alan Isler's Clerical errors, where the narrator is a priest who turns out to have taken his vows rather flexibly.

Going back quite a bit, there's always Agatha Christie's The murder of Roger Ackroyd. I suppose the most famous version of this sort of narrative would be Lolita, though (which is not British, of course).