Novels About Addiction, Drugs or Alcoholism

These novels will feature characters who are addicted to drugs or are heavy users of alcohol. Usually the narrative will show the effect this has had on the person in question, their family, and friends.

Novels with Drugs or Alcohol

Tender is the Night | F. Scott Fitzgerald

Rosemary Hoyt, a seventeen-year-old actress, is in a French coastal town. She meets Dick Diver, an older married man, and she falls in love with him. Abe North, a friend of Dick’s, gets mixed up in a scheme that leads to violence, prompting a hysterical scene between Dick and his wife, Nicole. The narrative continues with the history of Dick and Nicole’s relationship, including her abusive past.

“When you get drunk you don’t tear anything apart except yourself.”

Read “Tender is the Night”

Brideshead Revisited | Evelyn Waugh

Charles Ryder meets Sebastian Flyte at Oxford. Sebastian’s family home Brideshead, a mansion, and Charles visits him there. Charles starts painting takes art classes at school. Sebastian starts drinking more and more, worrying his family. Charles is an agnostic; Sebastian’s family is Catholic. The Flyte family members have different views of their religion.

That Was Then, This is Now | S. E. Hinton

Bryon Douglas is a sixteen-year-old troublemaker who starts to reconsider the way he lives. His foster brother, Mark, joins him in his reckless behavior, but he has no interest in going straight.

We Were the Mulvaneys | Joyce Carol Oates

The Mulvaneys are a prominent family in rural New York. The parents run successful businesses and care for their property. The kids are popular and good in school. After a Valentine’s dance, their seventeen-year-old daughter Marianne is raped by Zack, a football star. When this becomes known to her family, it has a profound effect on everyone. It precipitates alcoholism, plans of revenge, and the fracturing of the family.

Sophie’s Choice | William Styron

Stingo is an assistant editor at a publishing firm who wants to be a writer. At his boarding house, he meets Sophie and Nathan. Sophie is a gentile, but she ended up at Auschwitz. Nathan is a manic-depressive schizophrenic with drug and alcohol issues, and is abusive to Sophie. They become acquainted as Stingo tries to write a novel.

The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love | Oscar Hijuelos

Cesar Castillo stays at a hotel, drinking and listening to his band’s music. Cesar and his brother, Nestor, formed the Mambo Kings, building slowly until 1955 when they filmed a spot on I Love Lucy as Ricky’s cousins. There was a lot of drama in their relationships and personal lives.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn | Betty Smith

The Nolan family lives in poverty in Brooklyn. The father, Johnny, works inconsistently as a singing waiter. He uses a lot of his earnings for alcohol. The mother, Katie, does janitorial work. The children, Francie and Neely, find metal scraps to sell to the junk dealer. Aunt Sissy is free-spirited and wants to be a mother, but all her babies have died. The narrative covers the life of Francie from childhood until she leaves home.

Read “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn”

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall | Anne Bronte

A young widow, Mrs. Graham, moves into Wildfell Hall. The Markham’s visit, but they don’t find out much about her. She develops a social relationship with Gilbert Markham. When gossip circulates about Mrs. Graham, Gilbert confronts her about it. She says she will explain things to him, but a complication arises, preventing this.

Read “The Tenant of Wildfell Hall”


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