Novels About Betrayal or Loyalty

These novels will have characters whose loyalty to people or principles is tested.

All the novels could be analyzed from either perspective, but I’ve divided them into the category I think they fit best.

Betrayal

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie | Muriel Spark

Miss Brodie is a teacher at a school for girls in Scotland. She has a strong personality and influences her students, especially “the Brodie set”, a group of six girls she hand-picked to groom. She talks to them about fascism, men, art, her vacations, and tries to direct them down certain paths. Some of the faculty want her removed. The story traces the development of her pupils.

Read “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie”

The Hunchback of Notre Dame | Victor Hugo

A beautiful woman, La Esmerelda, is the victim of an attempted kidnapping by Quasimodo, a disfigured hunchback. Pierre Gringoire, a playwright, intervenes and is knocked out. Quasimodo is arrested by Phoebus, captain of the king’s army. La Esmerelda is attracted to him. Meanwhile, Frollo, a priest and Quasimodo’s adopted guardian, has been manoeuvering behind the scenes. La Esmerelda is desired by four men—Quasimodo, Gringoire, Frollo, and Phoebus—and deals with their machinations.

“I waited for you under porches, I stood on the lookout for you at the street corners, I watched for you from the summit of my tower. Every evening I returned to myself more charmed, more despairing, more bewitched, more lost!”

Read “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”

Lord Jim | Joseph Conrad

Jim is standing trial for his dishonorable actions aboard the Patna, an endangered ship with eight hundred passengers. He eventually ends up on Patusan, an island. Jim gets involved in the local hostilities, and becomes important to the natives.

Read “Lord Jim”

Democracy | Joan Didion

Inez Christian marries Harry Victor, a prominent politician, and supports his career to the detriment of her own goals. At seventeen, she meets Jack Lovett, a CIA operative, and begins a love affair with him.

American Pastoral | Philip Roth

Swede Levov is a Jewish man, successful in business and a former athlete, who wants to live a peaceful life. His plans are thrown into chaos when his daughter Merry, sixteen, plants a bomb at the local post office in protest of the Vietnam War.

The Pigman | Paul Zindel

John and Lorraine are high school students who don’t like school and aren’t close to their parents. While engaging in a telephone prank, they come to know Mr. Pignati, a lonely, hospitable man whom they start visiting regularly. When he has a heart attack, John and Lorraine are allowed to spend time at his house.

The House of Mirth | Edith Wharton

Lily Bart is a New York society woman, unmarried and in her late twenties. She lives off of her wealthy aunt, and knows that she will have to marry well to maintain the life she’s accustomed to. She is paid attention from men – some honorable and some unsavory.

“She had no tolerance for scenes which were not of her own making…”

Read “The House of Mirth”

The Hound of the Baskervilles | Arthur Conan Doyle

Holmes is visited by Dr. Mortimer, who explains that his friend Charles Baskerville was found dead of a heart attack on his property near the moor with gigantic hound footprints nearby. The legend of the Baskerville curse continues, as several generations of its men have died suddenly. The current owner of Baskerville Hall, Sir Henry, receives a note warning him to stay away from the moor.

Read “The Hound of the Baskervilles”

Loyalty

Rebecca | Daphne du Maurier

Maxim de Winter, recently widowed, is at an expensive resort when he meets a poor woman, the companion to a rich woman, and marries her. After the honeymoon, they go to his estate, Manderley. While she is now mistress of the house, she is inexperienced with such things and allows the servants much latitude in the daily routine. She finds that the memory of the previous Mrs. de Winter still exerts a powerful influence over everyone.

“I am glad it cannot happen twice, the fever of first love. For it is a fever, and a burden, too, whatever the poets may say.”

The Outsiders | S. E. Hinton

Ponyboy Curtis is fourteen and an orphan. He’s a member of the “Greasers”, a gang made up of poor people from the East Side. They have confrontations with the “Socs”, a rival gang with upper-class members.

The Caine Mutiny | Herman Wouk

Willie Keith joins the U. S. Navy and is assigned to the Caine, a rusted out, dilapidated vessel with a reputation for being undisciplined. Captain Queeg takes over the vessel, but his men don’t respond well to his unusual behavior and obsessive discipline.

The Godfather | Mario Puzo

Vito Corleone is the head of America’s most powerful crime family. After he refuses to get involved with drugs, an assassination attempt is made on him. This prompts his youngest son, Michael, who has heretofore stayed out of the family business, to seek revenge.

“I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse.”

Charming Billy | Alice McDermott

It is 1982 in the Bronx, and many people have gathered for the funeral party of Billy Lynch. Billy was an alcoholic who drained the people close to him. The narrative covers his relationship with Eva, a girl he loved; his wife Maeve, a patient, loyal woman; and the reason for his progression to full-fledged alcoholism. The multiple narrators who attend the funeral combine to give a picture of Billy.

Paradise of the Blind | Duong Thu Huong

Hang, a young Vietnamese woman, remembers her family’s history. It begins with her mother Que marrying Ton, a teacher. Que’s brother Chinh comes home after fighting for the communists, who now rule Vietnam. He is loyal to the government, and divides his sister’s family, making trouble for Ton, whose family are landlords and thus enemies of the common people. Hang grows up without knowing her father. She has to decide whether to live a traditional life or pursue a more independent course.

The Scarlet Pimpernel | Emmuska Orczy

It is Paris in 1792 during the French Revolution. Many aristocrats are being executed. A hero, known as the Scarlet Pimpernel, has been rescuing aristocrats. In England, members of The Scarlet Pimpernel’s League make plans to assist in another rescue. Chauvelin, an agent of the French government, is investigating the Scarlet Pimpernel, trying to turn any of his associates against him.

Read “The Scarlet Pimpernel”


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