Share Story Time!: 9 Books That Feature a Story Within a Story

Story Time!: 9 Books That Feature a Story Within a Story

Kerry Fiallo is a New York native and copywriter at Simon & Schuster. A lifelong voracious reader, she has a particular fondness for ghost stories, history, and anything to do with Mary Shelley, Ada Lovelace, and the Brontë sisters. The only thing she may love more than books is black tea, but they do often go well together. You can find her as she navigates through literature and history on Twitter @ReadingInNYC and on Tumblr.

The act of storytelling has been used as an engaging plot device throughout literary history. Just think of THE ODYSSEY and THE CANTERBURY TALES. The inventive result is what is known as a framed narrative. Below are some brilliant examples of framed narratives—stories relayed from one character to another within the novel—that are perfect for you to sink your teeth into.


Foe
by J. M. Coetzee

A woman approaches Daniel Foe, a trader and writer, and claims to have been a castaway on a deserted island. She tells her story, and that of her rescuer, Cruso, and his manservant, Friday. This smart retelling of ROBINSON CRUSOE illustrates the power of storytelling and the various ways people can perceive the truth.

Foe
J. M. Coetzee

A woman approaches Daniel Foe, a trader and writer, and claims to have been a castaway on a deserted island. She tells her story, and that of her rescuer, Cruso, and his manservant, Friday. This smart retelling of ROBINSON CRUSOE illustrates the power of storytelling and the various ways people can perceive the truth.

MENTIONED IN:

Story Time!: 9 Books That Feature a Story Within a Story

By Kerry Fiallo | December 28, 2016

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The Princess Bride
by William Goldman
The pop-culture classic that spawned one of the most beloved films of the 1980s was inspired by an equally charming and hilarious book. The novel is presented as an abridged version of a tale by the fictional S. Morgenstern, whose colorful commentary is sprinkled throughout this fantastical romance.
The Princess Bride
William Goldman

If Your Favorite Character is Dustin Henderson

In the mind of “Toothless,” his best friend didn’t almost die. His comrade was captured by a monster, thus his band of merry adventurers went on a quest to rescue him. For more eccentric goofballs in perilous situations, try the book that preceded the classic movie “The Princess Bride.”

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The Name of the Wind
by Patrick Rothfuss

A stunning and vivid fantasy novel, THE NAME OF THE WIND features an infamous and powerful magician recounting his life story to a scribe. The first in a trilogy, this riveting tale features murder, a school of magic, and plenty of danger—perfect for adult readers looking to satisfy that Harry Potter itch.

The Name of the Wind
Patrick Rothfuss

A stunning and vivid fantasy novel, THE NAME OF THE WIND features an infamous and powerful magician recounting his life story to a scribe. The first in a trilogy, this riveting tale features murder, a school of magic, and plenty of danger—perfect for adult readers looking to satisfy that Harry Potter itch.

MENTIONED IN:

Story Time!: 9 Books That Feature a Story Within a Story

By Kerry Fiallo | December 28, 2016

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The Tenant Of Wildfell Hall
by Anne Brontë

The often-overlooked Brontë sister, Anne, crafted the first true feminist novel with this unflinching look at marriage, alcoholism, and lost love. Through letters, a farmer recounts the appearance of a mysterious widow and her young son in a nearby estate. Where did she come from and what is she hiding? More important, what is she hiding from?

The Tenant Of Wildfell Hall
Anne Brontë

The often-overlooked Brontë sister, Anne, crafted the first true feminist novel with this unflinching look at marriage, alcoholism, and lost love. Through letters, a farmer recounts the appearance of a mysterious widow and her young son in a nearby estate. Where did she come from and what is she hiding? More important, what is she hiding from?

MENTIONED IN:

Story Time!: 9 Books That Feature a Story Within a Story

By Kerry Fiallo | December 28, 2016

Close

The House at Riverton
by Kate Morton
An elderly woman tells a filmmaker about her youth spent as a servant for an aristocratic family. Her story focuses on a mysterious death that occurred during a glitzy party—a death she happens to know the truth about. In the same haunting vein of Daphne du Maurier, Kate Morton crafts a passionate, page-turning mystery.
The House at Riverton
Kate Morton

Set in interwar Britain, this gorgeous debut novel is the story of a decades-old suicide at an aristocratic manor home, relived through the eyes of the ninety-eight-year-old former housemaid. In a classic case of the servant knowing all, her memories of that long-ago night are the key to shocking secrets and heartbreaking truths.

MENTIONED IN:

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Charming Billy
by Alice McDermott

In an equally heartwarming and heartbreaking episode, John’s horologist friends share their memories of him with host Brian even though they weren’t invited to his funeral. In a similar fashion, Billy Lynch’s friends and family gather to pay their respects in Alice McDermott’s striking novel. CHARMING BILLY is a study of the lies that bind and the weight of familial love, of the way good intentions can be as destructive as the truth they were meant to hide.

Read a review of CHARMING BILLY here.

Charming Billy
Alice McDermott

In an equally heartwarming and heartbreaking episode, John’s horologist friends share their memories of him with host Brian even though they weren’t invited to his funeral. In a similar fashion, Billy Lynch’s friends and family gather to pay their respects in Alice McDermott’s striking novel. CHARMING BILLY is a study of the lies that bind and the weight of familial love, of the way good intentions can be as destructive as the truth they were meant to hide.

Read a review of CHARMING BILLY here.

MENTIONED IN:

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By Off the Shelf Staff | May 4, 2017

Story Time!: 9 Books That Feature a Story Within a Story

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The Turn of the Screw
by Henry James

One of literature's most gripping ghost stories depicts the sinister transformation of 2 innocent children into flagrant liars and hypocrites. Elegantly told tale of unspoken horror and psychological terror creates what few stories in literature have been able to do -- a complete feeling of dread and uncertainty.

The Turn of the Screw
Henry James

One of literature's most gripping ghost stories depicts the sinister transformation of 2 innocent children into flagrant liars and hypocrites. Elegantly told tale of unspoken horror and psychological terror creates what few stories in literature have been able to do -- a complete feeling of dread and uncertainty.

MENTIONED IN:

Story Time!: 9 Books That Feature a Story Within a Story

By Kerry Fiallo | December 28, 2016

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By Off the Shelf Staff | November 20, 2014

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By Off the Shelf Staff | October 31, 2014

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Mason & Dixon
by Thomas Pynchon

One cold night, a clergyman entertains his family with tales of working with Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon (of the Mason–Dixon line fame). What follows is a complicated and fascinating story with parallel narratives, philosophical arguments, conspiracy theories, and appearances by George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and more.

Mason & Dixon
Thomas Pynchon

One cold night, a clergyman entertains his family with tales of working with Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon (of the Mason–Dixon line fame). What follows is a complicated and fascinating story with parallel narratives, philosophical arguments, conspiracy theories, and appearances by George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and more.

MENTIONED IN:

Story Time!: 9 Books That Feature a Story Within a Story

By Kerry Fiallo | December 28, 2016

Close

Absalom, Absalom!
by William Faulkner

William Faulkner’s epic tale ABSALOM, ABSALOM! was inspired by the Bible and Greek tragedies, and it’s considered one of the greatest Southern novels of all time. Multiple narrators with unique perspectives share their opinions of Thomas Sutpen, a poverty-stricken man with an intense desire to gain wealth and create a dynasty.

Absalom, Absalom!
William Faulkner

William Faulkner’s epic tale ABSALOM, ABSALOM! was inspired by the Bible and Greek tragedies, and it’s considered one of the greatest Southern novels of all time. Multiple narrators with unique perspectives share their opinions of Thomas Sutpen, a poverty-stricken man with an intense desire to gain wealth and create a dynasty.

MENTIONED IN:

Story Time!: 9 Books That Feature a Story Within a Story

By Kerry Fiallo | December 28, 2016

Close

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