We the People: 10 Novels Featuring a Greek Chorus
Novels featuring a Greek chorus have recently taken center stage on my reading list. If you’ll recall from your Lit 101 course, the Greek chorus is rooted in the traditions of early Greek drama where a group of masked players commented in unison on the events taking place on the main stage. Characterized by an often unnamed “we” narrator and recognized in contemporary literature as the “collective voice,” the Greek chorus provides a bewitching disembodied voice that, when layered with dramatic action, makes for a truly absorbing read. These ten novels inspired by the tradition do just that.
1The Virgin Suicides
In this memorable coming-of-age story, the unnamed “neighborhood boys” of a quiet Detroit suburb observe from afar as the Lisbon sisters commit suicide one by one. Told with haunting sensitivity and dark humor, the boys’ narration evokes the emotions of youth and mythologizes suburban middle-American life.
4Then We Came to the End
If you’re a fan of the “mockumentary” TV hit “The Office,” you’re going to love this wickedly funny read. The Greek chorus in this novel about office life copes with a business downturn through gossip, secret romance, elaborate pranks, and increasingly frequent coffee breaks.
5The Ladies Auxiliary
When free-spirited Batsheva moves into a close-knit Orthodox community in Memphis, she shakes the already precarious relationship between the Ladies Auxiliary—the “we” in this novel—and their teenage daughters to the core. A profound, insightful look into the struggle between mothers and daughters—there’s no better way for this story to be told.
8A Reunion of Ghosts
The three damaged but wisecracking Alter sisters decide it’s time to close the circle of the family curse by taking their own lives. A REUNION OF GHOSTS is their suicide note and the final chapter of a saga of lifetimes in the making. A darkly humorous novel steeped in nostalgia and perfect for a rainy day.
9On Such a Full Sea
Against a vividly imagined future, ON SUCH A FULL SEA tells the stunning and surprising story of a long-declining American society strictly stratified by class. Using a deeply ethereal voice, Chang-Rae Lee tells the story of Fan, a fish-tank diver, who leaves her home in the B-Mor settlement (once known as Baltimore) when the man she loves mysteriously disappears.
Can you imagine a world where the use of the word “I” is punishable by death? In perhaps a more literal use of the “we” narrator, Ayn Rand imagines a world characterized by irrationality, collectivism, and socialistic thinking and economics. “Twilight Zone” fans, conspiracy theorists, and everyone in between: make this classic your next read.