Sunday, March 25, 2012

Five best novels with complex characters

Jane Harris is the author of the award-winning novel The Observations and, more recently, Gillespie and I.

For the Wall Street Journal, she named a five best list of "tales that invite the reader to puzzle over complex characters," including:
Notes on a Scandal
by Zoƫ Heller (2003)

There is something particularly compelling about novels, like this one, that anatomize loneliness and obsession. When beautiful, bohemian Sheba Hart joins the staff of St. George's school, narrator Barbara hopes that they'll become friends. Barbara is in her late 50s: a single history teacher devoted to her cat. Initially, Sheba brings a touch of glamour and excitement into her life. Barbara relishes her role as her new friend's confidante. How disappointing, therefore, for Barbara to learn that Sheba—without telling her—has embarked on an affair with a 15-year-old schoolboy. Recovering swiftly from this shock, Barbara finds herself trying to protect her friend as Sheba's world begins to disintegrate. But things are more complicated than they seem in this disquieting novel, and the narrator is revealed to be a more complex character than we might have imagined. "This isn't a story about me," she insists, prompting us to wonder whether she might protest too much.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Notes on a Scandal appears on Alice-Azania Jarvis's reading list on scandals.

--Marshal Zeringue