Keeping Up With The Penguins

Reviews For The Would-Be Booklover

The One And Only Dolly Jamieson – Lisa Ireland

If you love “where are they now?”-type articles, or find yourself wondering whatever became of your favourite screen stars as a child, you need to read The One And Only Dolly Jamieson – the latest novel by Australian author Lisa Ireland. I’ve not read any of her books before, but I was excited to start with this one when Penguin Australia sent me a copy for review.

The story is told in two timelines. The first, in present-ish day London, follows a 78-year-old unhoused woman who used to be a Broadway star. She meets a younger woman, in considerable distress, at the local library (a “sanctuary for the lonely”) and they get to talking. This stranger, Jane, sparks an idea in Dolly – that she might write and publish her memoirs.

The second timeline, told in alternate chapters, follows Dolly’s past – beginning with her birth in 1940s regional Australia. It details how she came from humble (in fact, tragic) beginnings to find her voice and make it to the Big Time, starring in shows on Broadway and the West End.

The historical fiction aspect of The One And Only Dolly Jamieson is nice and gives important context, but I found myself most looking forward to the present-ish day chapters. I’m partial to older women characters, first of all. I also found the practicalities of being unhoused, and the sub-plot of Jane’s dark past, truly fascinating.

(And on that note, don’t skip the wonderful Author’s Note at the end of The One And Only Dolly Jamieson about the shocking increase in homelessness for older women over the past decade. It’s a wonderful place to start if it’s a cause that concerns you – and it should.)

I will also note that there are a few tiny inconsistencies in The One And Only Dolly Jamieson that might bug eagle-eyed readers, but in my view they’re forgiveable given the full-hearted story and characters. Good on Lisa Ireland for bringing this story to the world.

Buy The One And Only Dolly Jamieson on Booktopia here. (affiliate link)

20 Books About Female Friendship

A very important holiday is coming up. No, not that one. Galentine’s Day! It’s a very-unofficial day that a few of us set aside to celebrate the ladies in our lives, our best friends and confidants. In the spirit of this almost-no-one’s-even-ever-heard-of-it holiday, I’ve put together a list of twenty amazing books about female friendship, testaments one and all to the kindred spirits who are there for each other through thick and thin.

20 Books About Female Friendship - Book List - Keeping Up With The Penguins
You and I will be great friends – female or otherwise! – if you use an affiliate link on this page to make a purchase. You’ll be sending a small commission my way, friend!

Sula by Toni Morrison

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Toni Morrison wrote some of the most beautiful and complex books about female friendships in all of American literature. Sula is one of the stand-outs, a story about two childhood friends whose lives veer in very different directions. They are attached at the hip in childhood, despite their differences, and their bond grows only closer when they experience a significant trauma. When one of them decides to marry, their bond is nearly broken. The titular character decides to live a life of fierce independence, refusing social conventions and formalities, to the chagrin of their neighbours in The Bottom. This intricate and intimate story of female friendship has become one of the Black feminist classics of the 20th century.

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

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I went back-and-forth about whether to include The Color Purple in this list of books about female friendship, because of the romantic nature of Celie and Shug’s relationship. Too many fabulous queer relationships have been written out of history under the guise of “close friendship”. But it felt wrong not to include it, too. This book is chock-full of strong female friendships that fuel women to overcome the constraints of their race, class, and gender to pursue true happiness. The women in Celie’s life are a salve to the wounds inflicted by men and their violence, as Celie herself is a salve to the wounds inflicted on the women she loves. So, despite its traumatic content, it’s actually quite an uplifting read. Read my full review of The Color Purple here.

Conversations With Friends by Sally Rooney

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All of Sally Rooney’s books (so far) deal with human relationships – especially female friendships. Maybe Beautiful World, Where Are You? would be better suited to a list of books about female friendships, but I can’t attest to that because I haven’t read it (and, honestly, I don’t really intend to). Conversations With Friends, however, portrays a uniquely fascinating type of female friendship, that between ex-girlfriends who live and work together. Frances and Bobbi find themselves entangled in another relationship, that of married couple Melissa and Nick, and the bonds of their friendship are tested by the power dynamics of their respective lustful intrigues. Read my full review of Conversations With Friends here.

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo

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Bernardine Evaristo’s Booker Prize-winning novel Girl, Woman, Other features all kinds of relationships – including many female friendships. Through a series of “episodes” focusing on each of the characters in turn, the value and power of these friendships is revealed over the course of the novel. Of course, the web of connections is a little complex: Dominique is friends with Amma, who is friends with Shirley, who is friends with Penelope, and so on. Still, a reader paying close attention shouldn’t have much trouble following this story of women across age, race, class, and social divides. Read my full review of Girl, Woman, Other here.

Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Everyone comes to Jane Eyre for the love affair between the titular character and the dastardly Mr Rochester. That’s understandable, but it shouldn’t be overlooked as one of the classic books about female friendship. Jane’s best friend in the first volume, Helen Burns, is a fellow student at the awful Lowood School. They are each other’s closest confidants, and Helen inspires and uplifts Jane despite their terrible circumstances. But here’s the real clanger: their relationship is nipped in the bud by Helen’s tragic young death – which, according to Elizabeth Gaskell, was an exact rendition of what happened to Charlotte Brontë’s elder sister, Maria. Charlotte wrote this sub-plot into her most famous novel to draw attention to the atrocious practices of such “schools”. Read my full review of Jane Eyre here.

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

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One of the most iconic books about female friendship is actually a series, a quartet, beginning with My Brilliant Friend. Elena Ferrante crafted a multi-volume epic around a friendship between two disadvantaged girls from Naples (no small feat given the historical bias in literary publishing against “women’s stories”, and that Ferrante is a pseudonym for an author who refuses to do any publicity for her work). Following Elena and Lila’s lifelong friendship allows Ferrante to explore burgeoning womanhood, the politics of small communities, the ramifications of war, poverty, domestic violence, sexual violence, literacy, betrayal, revenge, maternity, familial obligation… and, believe it or not, even more. Read my full review of My Brilliant Friend here.

Notes On A Scandal by Zoe Heller

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If you’re looking for books about female friendship that are slightly twisted and pretty dark, you need to read Notes On A Scandal. This is a criminally underrated book, despite having been made into a fantastic film staring Cate Blanchett and Judi Dench. The story is narrated by Barbara, a veteran teacher at a London comprehensive school, and a lonely spinster in her spare time. She has trouble making friends, so she’s delighted by the arrival of the new art teacher, Sheba Hart. She thinks they’re going to be BFFs, even though Sheba barely seems to notice Barbara exists. Then Sheba makes some questionable choices (to say the least), and her quasi-stalker Barbara might end up being the only person in her corner. Read my full review of Notes On A Scandal here.

The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

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Miss Jean Brodie – who is, indeed, in her prime, and doesn’t waste a chance to remind you of that fact – is a teacher at a school for girls. She has selected for herself six ten-year-old students, her special favourites, the “Brodie set”. Under Miss Brodie’s mentorship, these six girls learn all about world travels, love, and fascism. Over the course of The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie, they develop a close bond, with their teacher as well as with each other. But as they grow older and their lives become more complicated, one of them will betray their leader – and, in so doing, betray them all. Will Miss Jean Brodie, passing her prime, find the Judas in her disciples? Read my full review of The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie here.

She Came To Stay by Simone de Beauvoir

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She Came To Stay was renowned feminist Simone de Beauvoir’s first novel, published in 1943. It’s a fictional account of her and Jean-Paul Sartre’s relationship with Olga Kosakievicz (to whom the book is dedicated). This will hardly come as a shock, but it turns out de Beauvoir had some hard feelings about the 17-year-old who “came between” her and Sartre, the love of her life, and in many ways this novel is her act of revenge. The ‘romance’ between Francoise and Xaviere is barely more than a thinly disguised frenemieship, which is why I’ve chosen to include it in this list of books about female friendship – because what could be more emblematic of these relationships and their complexity? Read my full review of She Came To Stay here.

The Swans Of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin

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Even though The Swans Of Fifth Avenue is “about” Truman Capote, the real stars of the show are his “Swans”, the ladies-who-lunch in New York’s upper-upper echelons. In Melanie Benjamin’s telling, Capote infiltrates their friendship group, reveling in being the center of attention and a nexus for gossip and spite. Then, as in real life, he betrays the women who have befriended him by using their real lives as fodder for his “fiction”. It’s an act of desperation for a self-conscious writer aging out of relevance, and it has terrible ramifications for the women who look like they “have it all”. This is one of the best books about female friendship for people who like their novels heavy on the sparkle and scandal. Read my full review of The Swans Of Fifth Avenue here.

The Competition by Katherine Collette

The Competition - Katherine Collette - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Not all books about female friendship are heartwarming tales of bonds stretching back to childhood. In The Competition, the female “friendship” driving the main character is one that dissolved years ago, due to her own wrongdoing. Lacking any real direction in life, Frances is drawn into SpeechMakers (an organisation very clearly based on the real-life Toastmakers), and hopes to win the $40,000 cash prize on offer for their annual convention competition. When she arrives, however, she spots this former-friend-now-foe from her past, and her nerves of steel are tested. Read my full review of The Competition here.

From Where I Fell by Susan Johnson

From Where I Fell - Susan Johnson - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Have you ever accidentally sent an email to the wrong address? Surely it’s happened to us all at one time or another. Most of us receive an automatic reply indicating that the misspelled address doesn’t exist… but what if our missive actually landed in a stranger’s inbox? What if they replied? That’s the premise of Susan Johnson’s modern twist on the epistolary novel, From Where I Fell (based on her real-life experience of the same!). It makes for a fascinating take on female friendship, the voyeuristic thrill of reading email exchanges paired with the strange circumstances and the masterfully drawn characters (heart-on-her-sleeve Pamela, and no-bullshit Chris). Read my full review of From Where I Fell here.

The Weekend by Charlotte Wood

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The Weekend isn’t just one of the best books about female friendship I’ve had the pleasure of reading: it’s one of the best books about older female friendship. Too often in literature, older women are depicted as creatures of pity, caricatures that live lonely lives filled with little more than cats and embroidery – maybe a grandchild, if they’re lucky. That’s not the case in Charlotte Wood’s story of old friends who must gather at a beach house, to clear the estate of a dear departed friend. While they’re at it, secrets make their way to the surface, and old wounds are broken open. Read my full review of The Weekend here.

You Have To Make Your Own Fun Around Here by Frances Macken

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You know that old saying, “you can’t choose your family”? Well, sometimes you don’t get to choose your friends, either. You Have To Make Your Own Fun Around Here explores the intricacies and intimacies of intense female friendship against the backdrop of the Emerald Isle in the ’90s. Macken nails the traditional Irish blend of humour and horror, in short, sharp chapters that keep the story moving quickly. As a narrator, Katie is intriguing, and full of astute insights. If you’re looking for a shorter version of My Brilliant Friend that’s closer to the Netflix series Derry Girls, I can’t imagine any books about female friendship more perfect than this one. Read my full review of You Have To Make Your Own Fun Around Here here.

The Animators by Kayla Rae Whittaker

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Mel Vaught and Sharon Kisses are a dynamic duo. They’ve worked together and lived together for most of their twenties, and they’re taking the male-dominated field of animation by storm. They’re on the cusp of making it big with their first full-length feature, a film about Mel’s difficult childhood, but their friendship starts to crack under the pressure. When Sharon visits her home state of Kentucky, a former friend comes out of the woodwork, and everything that holds Mel and Sharon together is torn apart. The Animators is one of the most insightful books about female friendship for millennial women out there.

Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood

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There are no friendships more intense or more chilling than those shared between teenage girls. The main character in Cat’s Eye has left those days behind, but when she returns to her home city of Toronto she finds herself reliving all the petty politics and torment of her youth. Elaine had an unusual childhood, travelling extensively with her entomologist father, which made her exotic and cool in the eyes of Carol and Grace when they finally settled down. But the introduction of Cordelia into the friendship group changed the dynamic, and Elaine found herself no longer fitting in as well as she once did with her “best friends”. Be warned: this is one of the books about female friendship that will have you reliving your own adolescent relationships, too.

The Southern Book Club’s Guide To Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

The Southern Book Club's Guide To Slaying Vampires - Grady Hendrix - Keeping Up With The Penguins

It’s unusual to see books about female friendship written accurately – let alone well – by men, but Grady Hendrix is uniquely talented. In The Southern Book Club’s Guide To Slaying Vampires, he absolutely nails it. This best-selling horror-comedy novel is billed as “Steel Magnolias meets Dracula”. The story revolves around a women’s book club in a small Southern town, and their quest to protect their families from a mysterious newcomer they believe to be a vampire. You’ll devour this book in a single sitting, even if you’re usually a horror-novel wimp.

The Girls by Emma Cline

The Girls - Emma Cline - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Picture 1960s California: is it all hippie haircuts, free love, and beautiful beaches? The Girls paints a different picture, one based on the real life and crimes of the Manson Family. But rather than focusing on the diabolical leader, Emma Cline zooms in on the female friendships that were forged under his spell. 14-year-old Evie was easy fodder for a cult family, isolated and naive. She found the group of teenage girls at Edgewater Road intoxicating, and she was quickly drawn in to their circle. Sure, she had to worship their leader along with the rest of them, but it was her relationships with the girls that changed her life forever.

This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki

This One Summer - Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki - Keeping Up With The Penguins

The gap between childhood in adolescence is particularly pronounced for girls. An age difference of just a year or two can feel like a gaping chasm separating interests and perspective. One of the few books about female friendships that addresses this strange time for young women is This One Summer, a graphic novel written and illustrated by cousins Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki. This is “a story of renewal and revelation”, set at a summer beach-house on a family vacation. Rose and Windy seek to escape problems at home by immersing themselves in the lives of local teens, but what they find could be more disturbing and dangerous than they realise.

The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler

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One of the great chroniclers of the lives of women, Jane Austen, is brought into the contemporary world in Karen Joy Fowler’s novel The Jane Austen Book Club. Over the course of six months, six people get together to discuss each of Austen’s major works, and how her themes and motifs echo throughout their own lives. It’s a beautiful way of examining the timeless quality of Austen’s writing, and how beautifully her accounts of relationships and turmoil parallel our own lived experiences of the same. Plus, what better setting for books about female friendship than a book club? Bookworms are sure to delight in this witty, insightful novel from Fowler.

Growing Up Aboriginal In Australia – Anita Heiss (ed.)

Growing Up Aboriginal In Australia is a 2018 autobiographical anthology, with 52 short essays by Aboriginal people about coming into their own identities. It’s the second in Black Inc’s Growing Up series, a collection that aims to ‘enlighten, inspire, and educate’ (see also: Growing Up Asian In Australia, Growing Up Queer In Australia, and so on). The tagline promises “childhood stories of family, country, and belonging”.

The anthology is edited by Anita Heiss, an Aboriginal Australian author, poet, cultural activist and social commentator. She’s done an excellent job of collating diverse stories from a broad cross-section of Aboriginal people. Contributors to Growing Up Aboriginal In Australia include a handful of writers you might recognise – like Tony Birch, Evelyn Araluen, Tara June Winch – but they are mostly non-writers. For many, it’s the first time they’ve published anything they’ve written. The only requirement Heiss laid out for them is that their stories be true, non-fiction accounts about (as the title suggests) growing up Aboriginal in Australia.

Mostly, the stories are told in a straightforward essay format, though some of the contributors mixed it up, offering conversation transcripts, open letters, and poetry. On the whole, they’re not particularly arty or Literary(TM). That’s good in the sense that it makes these accounts widely accessible. You don’t need to be a “reader” to appreciate and learn from them, nor do you have to be an adult (I’d say Growing Up Aboriginal In Australia is appropriate and accessible to just about any age group with an interest in reading it).

However, if you’re looking for literary masterpieces about First Nations people, this isn’t the collection you’re looking for. You should try reading Melissa Lucashenko, or Alexis Wright. That’s not to say that their Literary(TM) writing is any better than that in Growing Up Aboriginal In Australia, or vice versa – simply that different styles will appeal to and resonate for different readers.

It’s also not a particularly graphic or explicit collection, if anyone’s worried about that. Of course, traumatic events and racism are frequently mentioned throughout Growing Up Aboriginal In Australia, but they’re never exploited or discussed in gratuitous detail.

The feeling of not being “black enough” or “Aboriginal enough”, and lamenting loss of connection to ancestry and culture, is present in almost all of these stories. That’s the most heartbreaking aspect of Growing Up Aboriginal In Australia for me – the impact that colonisation has had, and the damage it has done, in deciding what a “real” Aboriginal person “should” look like, or how they should live.

Each account reveals, to some degree, the impact of invasion and colonisation – on language, on country, on ways of life…

Growing Up Aboriginal In Australia (Anita Heiss, Introduction)

My personal favourites from Growing Up Aboriginal In Australia include Finding ways home (Evelyn Araluen), White bread dreaming (Shannon Foster), A story from my life (William Russell), It’s too hot (Alexis West), and Aboriginemo (Alison Whittaker). Most of the contributions I particularly enjoyed were ones that focused on a single incident, or period in the person’s life – but that’s a purely personal preference. Some of the stories do that, others offer a more sweeping overview of the contributor’s childhood. It seems like Heiss gave them pretty free rein to tell their own stories as they saw fit.

Whichever approach they take, each contributor clearly speaks from the heart in their stories, with a strong desire to humanise their identities and reject the stereotypes they have been subjected to throughout their lives. Growing Up Aboriginal In Australia encourages empathy and demands respect, a wonderful contribution to the canon of First Nations literature in this country.

Idol, Burning – Rin Usami

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Buy Idol, Burning here.
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Idol, Burning (originally published as Oshi, moyu in Japan in 2020) is an intense psychological novella about the curious psychology of “unhealthy” parasocial relationships. This edition was translated into English by Asa Yoneda, beautifully illustrated by Leslie Hung, and sent to me for review by the wonderful folks at Canongate (via Allen & Unwin).

Teenager Akari is obsessed with pop-star Masaki Ueno, one-fifth of the Japanese boy band Maza Maza. He is her idol, her hero and her totem. In Idol, Burning, her world falls apart when Masaki is publicly accused of assaulting a fan.

Her blog is flooded with comments, social media lights up with conspiracy theories, and Akari is forced to reckon with reconciling her “real” life with the man on the screen who feels more real to her.

Idol, Burning is a very interior novella – the dialogue is sparse and infrequent, and the ‘action’ mostly takes place in Akari’s mind and online. It makes for a fascinating coming-of-age story about obsession, and a vivid insight into otaku culture.

I couldn’t help but wish it had been longer, though, and/or evolved further. While it was an interesting glimpse at the life of “stans”, and made some great points about the benefits of this kind of obsession (especially for kids who struggle with their mental health), it didn’t seem to really go anywhere. I was left impressed, but wanting more.

Buy Idol, Burning on Booktopia here. (affiliate link)

10 Books With Unnamed Narrators

If you’re not great with names, getting to the end of a book and realising that you don’t remember the narrator’s name might not be a big deal. But for the rest of us, it can be unsettling to realise you don’t know the most basic fact about the character you’ve spent 300+ pages with. Writers have many reasons for leaving their narrators unnamed, some of them good and some of them silly. Here are ten books with unnamed narrators.

10 Books With Unnamed Narrators - Book List - Keeping Up With The Penguins
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Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

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Rebecca is one of the classic books with unnamed narrators. People who haven’t read it usually – quite reasonably – assume that the titular character is the main one, the one telling the story, but du Maurier has a surprise in store. The narrator is, in fact, the woman who marries Rebecca’s widower. She moves into Rebecca’s house, becomes mistress of Rebecca’s staff, and despite her best efforts, can’t escape the looming specter of Rebecca everywhere she turns. The fact that du Maurier never tells us her name has been interpreted many ways, but most readers accept that it symbolises the narrator’s submission both in the narrative and in the broader social context of women’s limited roles. Read my full review of Rebecca here.

My Year Of Rest And Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh

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The narrator of My Year Of Rest And Relaxation is one of the most repellent yet fascinating characters in all of contemporary fiction. The fact that she’s an unnamed narrator is almost beside the point. This young woman is, by her own admission, laughably privileged, incredibly hot, and unbelievably self-absorbed. She decides to use her wealth and security to live the clinomaniac dream of sleeping for an entire year. She hoodwinks an eccentric psychiatrist into prescribing massive doses of sleeping pills, and takes to her bed. Ottessa Moshfegh is the master of crafting compelling characters who are simultaneously revolting, and this unnamed narrator is one of her finest.

I’m Thinking Of Ending Things by Iain Reid

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It won’t take you long to realise that something’s hinky in I’m Thinking Of Ending Things, and the fact that the narrator doesn’t have a name is your first clue. She’s in a car with her boyfriend (who is named, why?), driving to his parent’s place to meet them for the first time, and all the while she’s thinking about ending things. When they reach the farmhouse, things just get weirder. I’m not ashamed to admit that this book terrified the pants off me, and I read it all in one night to avoid having nightmares by putting it down and going to bed half-way through. So, if you like unnamed narrators and nightmare fuel, this is the book for you! Read my full review of I’m Thinking Of Ending Things here.

Milkman by Anna Burns

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The narrator of Anna Burns’s Booker Prize-winning novel, Milkman, is technically unnamed… but also kind of not? She’s also not special, in the narrative world Burns has created. The city in which she lives isn’t named (even though it’s pretty obviously Belfast), and neither are her family members, her “maybe-boyfriend”, nor her stalker. She refers to herself as “maybe-girlfriend” and “middle sister”, so she has monikers of sorts, but as far as Official “Real” Names go? Nada! This is a heavy-handed but effective allusion to the culture of silence that surrounded the Troubles. Read my full review of Milkman here.

The Sellout by Paul Beatty

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What is it with Booker Prize winners and unnamed narrators? Here’s another one: The Sellout. It’s a “biting satire” about a young man at the heart of a race trial that goes all the way to the Supreme Court… but it’s not what you think. After his controversial sociologist father dies, leaving not a penny and no trace of his promised “memoir” that would solve the family’s financial woes, our “hero” takes the questionable path of seeking to reinstate slavery and segregation in his small Californian town. This audacious novel will have your jaw dropping and your sides splitting, from start to finish.

Apex Hides The Hurt by Colson Whitehead

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What would you expect from a “comic tour de force about identity, history, and the adhesive bandage industry”? Pretty much everything you get in Apex Hides The Hurt, one of Colson Whitehead’s lesser-known but no-less-wonderful novels. It gets the gong for the best use of irony when it comes to unnamed narrators, because in this case, the anonymous protagonist is a nomenclature consultant. That’s right, you’ve got an unnamed narrator who is an expert on names – how funny is that? This is a fun read with a twist, perfect to power through on a quiet weekend.

The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa

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The Memory Police is a Kafkaesque novel that clearly owes a huge debt to Nineteen Eighty-Four. The unnamed narrator in this one is a novelist, living on an unnamed island which is under the control of the titular authoritarian force. Through an unexplained and seemingly random mechanism, everyone who lives on the island is forced to “forget” objects or concepts. Uniformed enforcement officers patrol the island, making sure the “forgotten” items are truly gone and anyone who gives the appearance of remembering them is disappeared. I suppose unnamed narrators are par for the course when anything could lose its name at any time? Read my full review of The Memory Police here.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood - Book Laid on Wooden Table - Keeping Up With The Penguins

One of the most iconic unnamed narrators of the fifty years is undoubtedly Offred, the pseudonymous protagonist of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. Well, if you’re a purist, anyway. If you read the original text as a standalone, the woman drafted into reproducing for infertile couples under the Gilead regime is forced to shed her name, so the reader never learns it – she is called “Offred”, as in “of” the man who “owns” her. If you’ve read or watched any of the accompanying stories – the sequel The Testaments, or the HBO adaptation – you’ll know that Offred’s true name (well, more than one of them, actually) was revealed. But the fact remains that stripping her of her name was an important symbol in Atwood’s feminist dystopia. Read my full review of The Handmaid’s Tale here.

Pizza Girl by Jean Kyoung Frazier

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Okay, technically – technically – the titular character in Pizza Girl does, eventually, get a name. But she’s unnamed for so much of the novel, I’ve decided she belongs in the hall of unnamed narrators. Besides, her name is mentioned so briefly, skimmers would totally miss it. The eighteen-year-old pizza delivery driver is a lost soul, desperate to drum up some kind of excitement about her pregnancy (the way everyone else in her life seems to) and determined not to grieve the loss of her alcoholic father. Being such a searing insight into depression and loss of direction, it just makes sense that she would be nameless. Read my full review of Pizza Girl here.

If Cats Disappeared From The World by Genki Kawamura

If Cats Disappeared From The World - Genki Kawamura - Keeping Up With The Penguins

In If Cats Disappeared From The World, the cat has the cutest name ever: Cabbage! It’s almost cute enough to make you overlook the fact that the narrator remains unnamed. He has a fascinating story to tell, though. The young postman learns that he has only months to live, and shortly thereafter, the devil shows up to offer him a deal. Our unnamed narrator will be offered an extra day of life, as long as he chooses one thing to disappear from the world forever. “With each object that disappears, the postman reflects on the life he’s lived, his joys and regrets, and the people he’s loved and lost,” (as per the blurb).

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