Life · Writing

First-Person Narrative

I normally avoid books with a first-person narrative. I don’t know why, but they annoy me. Perhaps it’s because the ones I often pick up, and then put down again, are narrated by young or young-ish people (my age or younger). Adult narrators seem harder to come by.

My favourite novels – the Fanny Logan trilogy by Nancy Mitford (I don’t know if those books have a trilogy title: Fanny is the narrator) – are all in first-person. Perhaps it’s because the first two, The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate, aren’t really about Fanny. The heroines, respectively, are her cousins Linda and Polly. The third, Don’t Tell Alfred, is about Fanny. I’m less keen on it, but I think that has more to do with it being set some twenty years later when her husband is unexpectedly appointed Ambassador to France and my favourite characters are less prominent.

But these last few weeks have had me reconsidering my position on first-person narrative, having overcome my reservations to enjoy Dying in the Wool, and discovered a few characters of my own who wish to narrate their stories themselves.

I’ve reviewed my list of adored novels and realised there’s a few more first-person narratives I enjoy. To Kill a Mockingbird, for one. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. Other Hercule Poirot stories. The Sherlock Holmes stories. Brideshead Revisited. And I’m currently reading my way through a collection of W.S.Gilbert short-stories, he of Gilbert and Sullivan fame, most of which are first-person.

So while I’ve come to the conclusion that I shouldn’t dismiss books because of first-person narration, I doubt I’m going to read those with youngish narrators. Generally speaking, I find them too, too silly. I just don’t like how they talk. The ones I like have a more, er, mature tone.

I suppose, as with reading any books, it’s simply a matter of finding the right ones. I don’t like all Golden Age detective fiction, after all.

What about you? Are there any red-flags for you when it comes to reading which make you put the book down straight away?


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