Top ten disturbing novels
Laura Sesana is a writer and DC, Maryland attorney, joining...
WASHINGTON, DC, December 6, 2012 — You know that book that you simply cannot put down? The one that you keep thinking about when you do put it down and way after you’ve finished reading it? The one that makes you just a little bit - or a lot - uncomfortable when you think about it?
Some of us really like to be disturbed or shocked by a novel; some of us don’t. I absolutely love novels that surprise and disturb me. Following is a list of the ten most disturbing novels that I have read. These are just my personal top ten, and I would love to know what other readers recommend. The list is in chronological order by publication date. Also, there are no spoilers in the descriptions.
1. The Lord of the Flies (1954), William Golding
This novel is as disturbing today as it was when it was first published. Following a group of boys marooned on a deserted island, The Lord of the Flies presents a stark and brutal portrayal of human nature. As the reality of having to survive on the island settles on the group, their experience quickly changes from a fun adventure into a nightmare where social rules and constructs give way to a primitive world that reveals the more disturbing side of human nature.
2. Perfume (1985), Patrick Suskind
Perfume is one of my favorite novels. Originally in German, Suskind’s unique novel focuses on the sense of smell and how it is intimately tied to the story of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, murderer/ 18th century perfumer. Said to have committed his first murder only minutes after birth by crying out as his fishmonger mother leaves him to die among the fish guts, Grenouille begins life at the fringe of Paris society, where he will remain until his death.
Possessing the gift of “absolute sense of smell,” Grenouille pursues his obsession with creating the ultimate perfume. This book’s engaging description of smells and the role they play in our lives and how we define ourselves, as well as Grenouille’s gift and obsession, are unforgettable and unlike anything you’ve read before.
3. The Handmaid’s Tale (1985), Margaret Atwood
The Handmaid’s Tale is Margaret Atwood’s creepy classic dystopian novel. Set in the Republic of Gilead in the near future, women in this novel are mainly valued for their reproductive capabilities and have been subjugated under a totalitarian Christian theocracy that strives to strip them of their humanity and individuality. Offred, the protagonist, is a handmaid belonging to a new caste of women destined to serve as reproductive vessels for the ruling class, which has experienced declining birth rates. Even though the world portrayed is horrifying and appalling, the most disturbing part of this novel is that it is almost believable.
4. Geek Love (1989), Katherine Dunn
Geek Love is the story of the Binewiski family, told by Olympia “Oly” Binewiski, a hunchback albino dwarf. The Binewiskis, Al and “Crystal” Lil, run a traveling carnival of freaks and living oddities featuring their own children. The Binewiski children are created through Lil’s deliberate experimentation – under Al’s direction and supervision – with recreational and prescription drugs as well as amphetamines, arsenic, and radioisotopes during her pregnancies.
Al and Lil’s “tinkering” yields Arturo the Aquaboy, a megalomaniac tyrant with flippers instead of limbs; Iphy and Elly, Siamese twins who sing and perform; Oly, the hunchback albino dwarf; and Chick, normal on the surface, but possessing a mysterious power that makes him the family’s most prized asset.
Dunn makes the abnormal “normal,” and creates a dark, sordid world that envelops the reader and is sure to freak you out.
5. Glamorama (1998), Bret Easton Ellis
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