I have started this novel with multiple first person narrators, then tried it—to follow a suggestion from someone—with third person omniscient and hated it. I have nothing against third; I use it all the time. It’s just that for this book which I’m writing, these three women really want to say “I.” Separately. In their own tones and in their own voices. Well, I hope in their own voices. They sound completely different from each other to me.
I’ve read a few multiple first person or first person/third person mixed novels, and those that I’ve read are written in bold.
Beloved by Toni Morrison. Sadly, I don’t remember it being from more than one p.o.v., but I really loved the book. I remember the scene where Paul D. Garner escapes prison, the chain gang, during a rain storm that produced a flash flood. It is one of the most beautiful scenes of literature I have ever read. I believe Morrison’s Paradise is from more than one p.o.v., but I don’t care. That book was painful to read. I just didn’t like it.
The Sweet Hereafter by Russell Banks. I love this book! I think Banks did a good job differentiating characters, though my students did not agree with me. I love the idea of looking at one tragic event from different perspectives, though my book does not do that (exactly). I know that Banks published parts of this novel as short stories, which says something about the ease of separating sections by character, or p.o.v. I’ve tried (and am trying; some are being considered) to publish parts of my novel in journals.
This Charming Man by Marian Keyes.
The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger.
My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult. I found this interview clip with Picoult regarding multiple first person narrators, and I found her to be a little arrogant. I didn’t understand her downplaying of Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club, but I must say that her comment made me want to revisit that book (when did I read that book? Was it really over twenty ten years ago?) But here’s that video clip:
I have never read anything she’s written, so maybe there’s some validity to what she’s saying. Still, it’s how she’s saying it!
The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan. I don’t care if she’s pop or nonliterary. I effin’ love her!
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver.
The Help by Kathryn Stockett.
Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh.
The Grass Dancer by Susan Power. This is one of my favorite books ever. It’s not a novel, per se, but I wouldn’t call it a short story collection or a collection of connected short stories. I don’t think all sections are in first person, either. But it’s a beautiful book with a story line that just kind of dances along.
The Beet Queen by Louise Erdrich. I think this is one of my favorite books by Erdrich. I like it better than Love Medicine, which is also in multiple voices, I believe.
As I Lay Dying and The Sound and the Fury by Faulkner. He’s a master of experimental prose, a founding father, really. I love the density and ambiguity of The Sound and the Fury.
Dracula by Bram Stoker. Epistolary and diary, beautiful, surprisingly haunting for that age. Gee, even I was afraid sometimes, and I only read it last year!
Tigana by Guy Gavial Kay.
Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin.
Some of these were suggested to me by friends, and they admit that they don’t remember if the books were multiple first person, or many perspectives, or neither. For the rest of this summer and part of the fall, I’ll revisit some of these books, read some of the yet-to-be-read ones. I’m looking for precedents. I’m looking for people who solved problems I may have that I didn’t know I have. This is one of the many reasons writers must read! And, they must read a lot!