Must-read classic books set in prison

Close confines, claustrophobia and cramped spaces: there's nowhere to hide in a prison story. Here are 10 of the best. 

Henry Eliot
A flatlay of books about prison books
Image: Vicky Ibbetson/Penguin

The prison cell is the perfect microcosm for a psychological novel. It raises issues of power and liberty, shame and repentance, memory and hope. Its claustrophobic walls can represent narrow-mindedness, social restrictions, the womb, the grave or the confined cubic centimetres of the human skull. No wonder, then, that so many great works of literature have been set inside prisons.

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