Reading list

7 books about wronged characters and wicked revenge

These scintillating stories will get your heart racing as they explore revenge and its often calamitous consequences.

 

Nutshell by Ian McEwan

Hamlet is of the greatest revenge stories of all time and in this brilliantly daring novel, one of our greatest living writers gives us an updated version of Shakespeare’s classic. The foetus narrating this short novel overhears his mother’s affair with his father’s brother and their plot to kill his father for his valuable estate. Being a silent witness to the crimes happening around him, the narrator becomes determined to take revenge – just as soon as he’s born! This is one of the most outrageously original and talked about novels of the year.

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Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Is there a more irresistibly bitter character in all of literature than Miss Havisham? The wealthy spinster at the heart of Dickens’ classic novel was abandoned by her fiancé decades ago on their wedding day. She lives in her stately home, never changes out of her steadily disintegrating wedding gown and raises her adopted daughter Estella. At first Miss Havisham seeks to protect Estella from the cruelty of men, but then sharpens her into a weapon of revenge to be used against them. It’s hapless narrator Pip’s misfortune that he falls in love with this chillingly beautiful girl… This dark story of broken hearts produces some of Dickens’ most vivid and memorable characters.

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The Lauras by Sara Taylor

During a tumultuous fight a mother leaves her husband with her thirteen-year-old child Alex. They embark on a US road trip which lasts for years during which time Alex’s Ma revisits people from her past including a sleazy man who did her wrong. She takes her revenge upon him in a brilliantly shocking and funny scene. As Ma puts the past to rest, Alex explores possibilities for the future as someone who refuses to identify as male or female. This utterly compelling novel will take you on the ride of your life. 

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The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

This French nineteenth-century classic of high adventure tells the most gripping tale of vengeance and mercy. Edmond Dantès suddenly loses his wife to be and his promising future after being wrongfully imprisoned. After many years he seizes a fortune allowing him to return as a powerful count with a fiendish plan for taking revenge upon the men who tried to destroy his future. This immersive story contains the most surprising, inventive and thrilling ways of settling old scores.  

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Different Class by Joanne Harris

Aging form-master Roy Straitley has seen many boys come and go at the old-fashioned private boys’ school he’s taught at for decades. He can have no idea which former pupil has spent years quietly plotting to take his wicked revenge upon this aged institution, after being slighted when he was younger. This is a delicately plotted thriller filled equally with humour about stuffy old-timers dragged into the twenty-first century, and tense, fast-paced twists to hold you in suspense. 

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The Little Sister by Raymond Chandler

In this novel centred on Chandler’s classic private investigator Philip Marlowe, people in Tinseltown are not quite what they seem. He takes on a case – to track down the missing brother of a sweet country girl – which leads him into a tangled world of organised crime, Hollywood starlets and murder. Who is really pulling the strings and who is out for cold-blooded vengeance? Chandler’s irresistibly snappy writing style is as fresh and original as when it first appeared over sixty years ago. 

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A Slanting of the Sun by Donal Ryan

In this collection, acclaimed author Donal Ryan’s exquisite short stories explore a range of Irish themes and characters. But ‘The Squad’ has one of the most moving and haunting portrayals of the long term consequences of revenge you’ll ever encounter. Many years ago a group of friends took the law into their own hands after one of their sons was wronged. Now these men must live every day with the consequences and guilt, making their continued existence a special kind of hell. This is the perfect book to keep by your bedside to read before you sleep…

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