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Books Told by Multiple Character Points of View

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Nov 27, 2009, 1:20pm Top

I have realised a style of writing a really enjoy - the story being told by multiple points of view.

Do you have any that you could recommend for me?

Books I have enjoyed that have this style are:

The Testimony, Anita Shreve
The Tomato Girl, Jayne Pupek
My Sisters Keeper, Jodi Picoult
The Weight of Silence

Note - the back and fourth past and present style I do not enjoy. Eg. Time Travelers Wife

Thank you so much,

Edited: Nov 27, 2009, 3:02pm Top

Maynard and Jennica by Rudolph Delson.

It's the story of a relationship told mostly back and forth between the two main characters but there are also regular interjections by friends, family members, coworkers, etc.

Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears

It's a mystery set in 17th century Oxford. There's been a murder and four different people give their version of events but each one contradicts all the others so you have to figure out which one is telling the truth.

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

A contemporary story when it was written in the 1850s. A Hitchcock type thriller like Rebecca or Gaslight.

Nov 27, 2009, 3:09pm Top

I can't stand that style of writing. Although, I must say that I was captivated by My Sister's Keeper which I listened to on CD. It's a good thing, too. Otherwise, I might not have chosen that book at all. :)

Nov 27, 2009, 3:11pm Top

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver tells the story of a missionary family in the Congo in the early 60's from the points of view of the mother and her four daughters.

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is also Africa in the 60's, this time Nigeria, and is also multiple points of view. In this one they do toggle a little between the late 60s and early 60s, but it's same people, flashing forward and backward a couple of times. This is one of most well written novels I've read in ages.

And if you want to go all out, the Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell is the same series of events, more or less, told over four books, and each book is from the point of view of a different character, each revealing a different angle and different set of facts. Durrell's style of writing won't appeal to everyone though - he was an odd bird.


Nov 27, 2009, 4:40pm Top

The Girls by Lori Lansens
'I have never looked into my sister's eyes. I have never bathed alone. I have never stood in the grass at night and raised my arms to a beguiling moon. I've never used an aeroplane bathroom. Or worn a hat. Or been kissed like that...So many things I've never done, but oh, how I've been loved. And, if such things were to be, I'd live a thousand times as me, to be loved so exponentially'

The girls, Rose and Ruby Darlen, were born joined at the head (craniopagus twins) in a rural farming community in 1974. Abandoned by their frightened teenage mother, they are adopted by the eccentric nurse who attended their birth, and her husband, a gentle immigrant butcher. The sisters attempt to lead a normal life, but can't help being extraordinary. Now almost thirty, Rose and Ruby are on the verge of becoming the oldest living craniopagus twins in history. Rose has a passion for writing, and The Girls is her version of life as a conjoined twin. Rose and Ruby are attached at the head, but their struggles and triumphs remind us that connection is central to us all.

The Goldberg Variations by Nancy Huston
"Suppose you invite thirty people to your home, people whom you love or have loved, to listen to you perform Bach's Goldberg Variations. And say that this concert unfolds like a midsummer night's dream, that is, you, Liliane, succeed in vibrating thirty people like so many variations, each at a different tune - you must oscillate between memory and speculation; you must, above all, master your fears - maybe then, all these fragments of music would dance into the same stream, and that you would call The Goldberg Variations, a novel." - Nancy Huston

Beyond Black by Hilary Mantel
“Beyond Black is an hilarious and deeply sinister story of dark secrets and dark forces, set in an England that jumps at its own shadow, a country whose banal self-absorption is shot through by fear of the coming, engulfing blackness.”

Nov 27, 2009, 5:44pm Top

Hmmm... How about The Sound and the Fury or Ulysses. If you like deciphering the narrative from different points of view, these titles will make your head explode.

Edited: Nov 27, 2009, 9:07pm Top

East by Edith Pattou.

A stunning reworking of East of the Sun, West of the Moon with multiple narrators.

Nov 27, 2009, 9:45pm Top

Another Wilkie Collins book, The Moonstone carries on the narration by each character "writing" a portion of the book.

Arg; I know more, but I can't think of them right now. I'll come back if I do...

Nov 28, 2009, 2:17am Top

I love this style of writing too! Lots of books I've enjoyed are written this way:
Election by Tom Perrotta
If You Only Knew by Rachel Vail (and the rest of the Friendship Ring Series)
Sophomore Switch by Abby Mcdonald
The Cheat and The Girls, both by Amy Goldman Koss
Among Friends by Caroline B. Cooney
Crossing California by Adam Langer
Laurie Loved Me Best by Robin Klein
The Rotters' Club by Jonathan Coe

Nov 28, 2009, 3:48am Top


also shows a list of books tagged this way, although it's not always so accurate.

Nov 28, 2009, 1:26pm Top

A quick flip through my library and I came up with these -
The Year of the Flood – Margaret Atwood (dystopian future)
The Robber Bride – Margaret Atwood (modern allegorical/lit)
Seven Types of Ambiguity – Elliot Perlman (modern lit)
The Whiskey Rebels – David Liss (historical fiction)
The Egyptologist – Arthur Phillips (epistolary mystery)
Angelica – Arthur Phillips (gothic mystery)
The Book of Fred – Abby Bardi (modern coming of age)
Beneath the Skin – Nicci French (thriller)

Nov 28, 2009, 1:31pm Top

Quite a few of Jodi Picoult's books are that way.
Nineteen Minutes
The Pact
The Tenth Circle

I loved Nineteen Minutes almost as much as I did My Sister's Keeper. I think it should be required reading for high school students.

Nov 28, 2009, 4:18pm Top

I've recently finished reading "The Boleyn Inheritance", which is told from the three alternating viewpoints of Anne of Cleves, Kathryn Howard & Jane (Boleyn) Rochford).

Nov 28, 2009, 4:27pm Top

A lot of Paul Zindel's young adult books are told from multiple points of view, such as The Undertaker's Gone Bananas.

Nov 28, 2009, 6:03pm Top

Ursula LeGuin's wonderful The Left Hand of Darkness employs alternating narrators to good effect, showing how members of different cultures perceive events.

Nov 29, 2009, 11:59am Top

Wow I didn't expect to get this much response, thank you so much.

I look forward to reading reviews etc and add a few to my TBR list.

Mess 12 - I'm reading The Pact now, think I will try Nineteen Minutes.

Mess 7 - East by Edith Pattou was the only recommendation I got on my blog so this might be my first try.

Thanks again everyone.

Nov 29, 2009, 12:34pm Top

Prodigal Summer - Not first-person narration, but follows several different characters and their POV.

Mudbound - narrated by a lot of different characters (too many, IMO).

Drowning Ruth is narrated largely in 3rd-person, but makes jumps to first-person within that (it's actually a pretty weird format).

Case Histories - Also narrated in 3rd-person, if I remember correctly.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog - narrated by two characters.

Nov 29, 2009, 10:08pm Top

Off the top of my head: Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey

Nov 29, 2009, 11:12pm Top

Nov 30, 2009, 12:54am Top

Soldiers of Salamis: A Novel by Javier Cercas

A Spanish journalist is ask to write an article for the 60 th anniversary of the Spanish Civil War. He writes a story of the last days when 1000's of Republicans were fleeing to France for exile, and a mass execution of Fascist leaders. Several people escape the firing squads and become leaders in Franco's government.

Sanchez Mazas a founding member Franco's Fascist party is one of these people. He tells the story of his escape and how when his hiding place is discovered his life is spared a 2nd time by a soldier that found him and let him go.

The journalist becomes intrigued with the story. One - is the story true? and if it is why did the soldier let Sanchez go.

The book is in three parts. First is about the journalist and what he learns. Second part is told thought the eyes of Sanchez Mazas. And the third part is about the soldier.

What makes this book so interesting is that all the people and events are real. Although concidered a novel it reads more like history. The journalist in the book refers to it as a tale.

Dec 1, 2009, 7:22pm Top

Just thought of another one.

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks

Like the subtitle implies, it's a collection of interviews with people all over the world.

Edited: Dec 1, 2009, 8:25pm Top

Not sure if you have any interest in fantasy but Havemercy was a story I really enjoyed with equal input from four very different characters.

Dec 1, 2009, 8:35pm Top

A bit different: Fingersmith... the change in point of view was very surprising/cool... though the rest of the story might have gone on a bit too long.

Dec 1, 2009, 9:35pm Top

The Well and the Mine by Gin Phillips. I received it as an LTER book over the summer and based on what books you mentioned, you may like it as well.

Dec 1, 2009, 11:15pm Top

The Hyperion Cantos by Dan Simmons -- it's SF and employs a Canterbury-esque style of narration.

Dec 2, 2009, 6:18pm Top

Several of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series are told from various points of view.

Dec 2, 2009, 6:38pm Top

The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Its told by a few different characters and is a really good book too!

Dec 2, 2009, 7:10pm Top

Well, there's the classic short story "In a Grove" by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa, whose touchstone doesn't work for some reason (and famously turned into the movie Rashomon, by Akira Kurosawa). In the wake of a murder, seven individuals -- including the ghost of the murder victim -- give their testimony of what "really" happened.

Amy Tan's books sometimes have the multiple author/perspective, too, as in The Joy Luck Club and The Kitchen God's Wife, although The Joy Luck Club tends to veer back and forth between past and present as the mothers and daughters tell their stories.

In a lighter vein (and geek alert), Tales from Jabba's Palace is an anthology of short, interconnected and often humorous/silly stories woven around the events leading up to Jabba the Hutt's death in Return of the Jedi. :D

Edited: Dec 15, 2009, 1:57pm Top

Almost any epistemological novel. The one that comes immediately to mind is DRACULA.

12/15 Another that comes to mind is "One Hundred Dollar Misunderstanding" (which I note is in some libraries, here), a coming of age story told alternately from the point of view of a callow college student, and a young black girl. I remember reading this during my college years way back when.

Edited: Dec 16, 2009, 10:38am Top

Here is a great book that meets your criteria.

Fault Lines by Nancy Huston.

It tells a family story from the perspective of a 6 year old in each generation starting from present day. Excellent read.

Dec 15, 2009, 4:21pm Top

Also try The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf. It's a mystery/thriller, centered on the disappearance of a mute 7 year old. POV's of the girl, mom, brother, friend's parent, and sheriff.

Dec 15, 2009, 10:11pm Top

For Christmas: How Far to Bethlehem? by Norah Lofts. It begins in the far east with Melchior, and includes Mary, Mary's mother Anne, Joseph, the inn keeper, Balthazaar, the head shepherd, Herrod, John the Baptist's mother Elizabeth, and Gaspar.

Each chapter draws nearer and nearer to Bethlehem, and the separate characters' lives begin to touch, and then to mingle, until everyone is in the right place at the right time. It's almost like a jigsaw puzzle. I love it.

Dec 16, 2009, 10:53pm Top

The Weight of Silence was a favourite for this year, I gave it 5 stars loved it.

Mar 25, 2010, 4:49pm Top

the George RR Martin series A Song of Ice and Fire series, has many multiple POVs. Each chapter is told from one of several characters POV. Game of Thrones is the first of the series.

Mar 25, 2010, 11:49pm Top

I just picked it up from the library today, so I'm not sure yet, but I think The Accidental by Ali Smith might qualify...

Mar 26, 2010, 3:00am Top

The Book of Skulls by Robert Silverberg. It's delicious premise: 4 friends seek out a secret brotherhood that promises its members immortality. The catch? Candidates for membership are accepted four at a time, but in order for two of them to gain membership one of the four must commit suicide, and one of the remaining three must murder one of the others. Two die. Two live forever.

Mar 26, 2010, 1:02pm Top

#38> Good call, bookhobbyjapan! I remember reading The River Midnight when it first came out and enjoying it so well that I gave copies of the book to at least two people as gifts.

Mar 27, 2010, 3:15pm Top

Remembered two more:
Dracula by Bram Stoker
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

Mar 30, 2010, 3:41pm Top

Along w/ MerryMary's recommendation...many of Norah Loft's books had multiple POV. My favorites were Bless This House and Jassy

Mar 30, 2010, 6:48pm Top

I have not read any of those you liked, so am not sure this will be your cup of tea at all but
Chocolat- by Joanne Harris, (and the book is much much better than the film, not at all as sweet if you forgive the pun)
Gentlemen and Players- also Joanne Harris, much darker and a bit thrillery
and possibly The Liar by Stephen Fry, that one does go back and forth in time though, even though not in a Time Traveler´s wife way.

Mar 30, 2010, 7:19pm Top

There seems to be a lot of multiple view-point stories crossing my path these days. It's apparently a popular style. Can't say I like it though. I tend to prefer a singular point of view, because I "connect" with the narrator, in a way that I can't manage to do when the narrator changes from chapter to chapter.

I guess Jodi Picoult likes the multiple viewpoint. She used that technique again in her latest, House Rules, which I just finished reading.

Hillary Jordan uses that tecnique in Mudbound, which, I'll admit, was probably the best book I read last year.

Mar 31, 2010, 8:22am Top

Faulkner's As I Lay Dying, obviously.

May 24, 2011, 5:03pm Top

I'm trying to write a different kind of novel that questions the philosophy of the novel, what a novel should do, what kind of stories should be told and how. Aside from Milan Kundera's The Art of the Novel, please let me know if anyone can recommend any books that discuss the philosophy of the novel in a more experimental context. Elizabeth Strout's book Olive Kitteridge is amazing in its shifting of point of view. I'm thinking also of the poetic voice in Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes were Watching God. I'm aware of House of Leaves but wonder how many people actually make it through the whole book?

My first novel, Maps and Shadows (Aquila Polonica Publishing 2010), is told in the first person from four different characters in alternating chapters (with poetic prose chapter openings and poems by one of the four characters in between chapters). Since there are only 8 chapters and a coda, it is pretty easy to follow the story. In my second novel, The Glass House of Forgetting, I'm writing in the third person. The narrative begins in the omniscient third person for the long first chapter but alternates among several characters in the remaining chapters with moments of the omniscient narrator layered in.

I'm aiming for a postmodern book that foregrounds subjectivity and a multiplicity of perspectives that also weaves in a poetic, philosophical omniscient narration. I think that poetry should rethink and redefine the nature of poetry as should a novel (literary fiction) or a painting. It seems as if all the bestsellers are kind of the same and focused more on plot (and "character development") than the rendition or language of the novel, the presentation of philosophical ideas. Would love others thoughts. Are we nearing the Death of Literature at the beginning of the twenty-first century, I fear? If books become obsolote will Literature with a capital "L" follow suit. . .

Edited: May 24, 2011, 7:19pm Top

Little Bee by Chris Cleave is narrated by two women, one from Nigeria, the other from the UK. What a powerful, thought provoking work. I finished reading it last week and immediately had to order Cleave's other novel Incendiary which arrived today from Amazon.

May 25, 2011, 12:37pm Top


Paul Scott's Raj Quartet has shifting points of view throughout. This was televised (14 parts) in the mid-1980's. The TV version (known as The jewel in the Crown) is reasonably chronological, but each chapter in the book tends to focus on one of the characters in the book. So, obviously, the chapters have overlapping chronology. This a series of four novels, so it isquite lengthy to read, and The Jewel in Crown is volume 1 of the quartet. I think I have this as a boxed set.

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