Must-read classics about dysfunctional families

Parents at loggerheads, complex cousins and next-level sibling rivalry: plenty of stories have been inspired by families at war. Henry Eliot rounds up 10 of the best.

Henry Eliot
A flatlay of classic books about dysfunctional families
Image: Vicky Ibbetson/Penguin

‘All happy families are alike,’ begins Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina; ‘each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.’ There is something fascinating and horrifying about the details of a domestic disaster, and literature is chock-full of secretive, scheming and utterly dysfunctional families.

Henry Eliot is the author of The Penguin Modern Classics book and The Penguin Classics book, and hosts On the Road with Penguin Classics podcast.

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