Share We the People: 10 Novels Featuring a Greek Chorus

We the People: 10 Novels Featuring a Greek Chorus

Tolani Osan joined Simon & Schuster’s Associate’s Program in 2015 where she spent her first rotation in S&S publicity. She recently earned a Master’s in Publishing & Writing from Emerson College. A daughter of Nigerian immigrants, Tolani enjoys literary fiction about the tensions between cultures and classes. Her favorite book is Khaled Hosseini’s “A Thousand Splendid Suns,” which she’s made a pact with herself to revisit every three years. She also founded and runs women’s interest blog, MyDresscapades.com, and writes on topics such as fashion, food, perpetual “singledom”, and feminism. You can enjoy her musings about pop culture, fashion, and literature on twitter @dresscapades  

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.


The Virgin Suicides
by Jeffrey Eugenides
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.

We the Animals
by Justin Torres

Written in magical language with visceral images, WE THE ANIMALS uses the collective narrator to portray the chaotic heart of one family and the lives of three close brothers tearing their way through childhood.


The Buddha in the Attic
by Julie Otsuka

In this spellbinding novel of identity and loyalty, a collective narrator traces the extraordinary lives of young women brought from Japan to San Francisco as “picture brides”—from their arduous journeys by boat to their tremulous first nights as wives.


Then We Came to the End
by Joshua Ferris

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.


The Ladies Auxiliary
by Tova Mirvis

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.


Even the Dogs
by Jon McGregor

The ghostly victims of a bad batch of heroin pay homage to their friend whose body is found in an abandoned apartment. A chorus keeping vigil, they watch as his body is taken away, examined, investigated, and cremated.


Our Kind
by Kate Walbert
This witty and incisive novel is about the lives and attitudes of a group of women—once country-club housewives; today divorced, independent, and breaking the rules. Kate Walbert’s novel is quick-witted and wry but also, in its cumulative effect, a book that will move you.

A Reunion of Ghosts
by Judith Claire Mitchell
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.

On Such a Full Sea
by Chang-rae Lee

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.


Anthem
by Ayn Rand

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.


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