I love a good anti-hero; a character we find ourselves rooting for despite their often questionable moral compass. I’ve recommended a few of my favourite books with anti-heroes in them below, and as always, I encourage you to share your own recommendations in return.
Out by Natsuo Kirino
Written by the ‘Japanese Queen of Crime’, Out follows a group of female factory workers who band together to help their colleague quite literally get away with murder, after she kills her good-for-nothing husband. We shouldn’t want them to get away with it, and yet somehow, we do. The book brilliantly documents the different ways the pressure of covering up their secret affects the various women, whilst also exploring the grimy underbelly of Japan’s yakuza, and the divisions in society between rich and poor, and men and women.
All We Shall Know by Donal Ryan
Donal Ryan managed to catch me off guard repeatedly throughout All We Shall Know. With a single line that seemingly comes out of nowhere, he can make you see his protagonist, Melody, in a completely different light time and time again, increasingly exposing her flaws and complexities and thus making us question her very morality, whilst still maintaining our sympathies for her. It’s a book about love, betrayal, forgiveness and the letting go of guilt, lest it cause a poisonous ripple effect throughout the lives of everyone around us, as Melody seeks redemption from her past.
The Butcher’s Hook by Janet Ellis
In this dark and immersive historical fiction novel, Ellis has done incredibly well to create a main character, Anne Jaccob, that is so unforgivable in her actions and yet charismatic and compelling enough that we want to keep reading about her regardless. This book is in essence an exploration of a young woman’s descent into a state completely lacking any sense of humanity, as she becomes increasingly apathetic towards those around her and takes drastic steps to be with the object of her obsessions, and avoid being married off to a man she loathes.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
What’s interesting about Frankenstein is that both the eponymous doctor and his creation can equally be seen as the hero or the villain of the story, ultimately making them both classic examples of an anti-hero. Shelley repeatedly asks us to consider who the true monster really is; Frankenstein, for meddling with science and abandoning his own creation, like a God-gone-wrong; or the fruits of his labour, who channels his repeated rejection into violence and deadly rage. The duality of power and cruelty that man is capable of is, after all, represented in both characters, hence why they come to hate each other despite their inability to cut the ties that bind them.
What books with anti-heroes in them have you enjoyed? Let’s chat about them in the comments.