Saturday, August 8, 2015

First-Person Intrigue

By Jean Kavich Bloom

Over the last couple of weeks I finally, for the first time, read To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I didn’t read it only because of all the hoopla around the recent release of Go Set a Watchman written by Lee; I read it for two other reasons as well: first, because I was fascinated by reports of how the author's editor helped her shape the original manuscript into what became this Pulitzer Prize–winning novel, and second, because the book is written in first person, in the voice of Scout aka Jean Louise Finch.

The first-person point of view has always been a favorite of mine in literature. It puts me deep into the leading character's thoughts and feelings about his or her world, about his or her perceived place as one pebble in God's vast sands of life. Where not everything is known but every happening and circumstance is observed and experienced, creating happiness or sadness, success or struggle. In other words, the book is written like any of us would write a memoir, though perhaps fictional characters reveal much more of their inner life than any of us would dare.

To Kill a Mockingbird did not disappoint; it is worthy of all its accolades. Reading it also prompted me to think about other intriguing first-person novels I have read, often in coming-of-age novels. Here is a sampling:

  •  Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
  • Rebecca (Daphne Du Maurier)
  • The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)
  • The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins)
  • The Help (Kathryn Stockett, multiple first-person POVs)
  • Into the Free (Julie Cantrell)
The next first-person novel I plan to read is The Maltese Falcon, at the recommendation of my son. He tells me this Dashiell Hammett work is a quintessential mystery. Even though it is not written by Agatha Christie, my all-time favorite mystery writer, I am going to give it a try. The prospect of relishing another first-person classic calls me to my reading chair.

So I am wondering, do any of you particularly like first-person novels as well, and if so, what are some of your favorites? Do you write fiction in first person? If so, why did you make that choice? Last, can you recommend any good Christian novels written in first personeven your own? After reading The Maltese Falcon, I'm going to need another first-person gem!

After twenty-four years with publishing house Zondervan in Grand Rapids, Michigan, most recently as an executive managing editor, Jean Bloom returned to Central Indiana to be near family and take her freelance editorial business full-time (Bloom in Words Editorial Services). Her personal blog is Bloom in Words too, where she often posts articles about the writing life. She and her husband, Cal, have three children and five grandchildren.


  1. Hi Jean! I loved this post! I love reading first person in classic literature! I've also written three books from first person POV which were published last year by Whitaker House. The first of the series, The Hesitant Heiress, is also an ACFW Carol Award Finalist this year! ❤️ If you love classic-sounding first person POV, you should check it out. :)

  2. Postscript: Something I read online led me astray. The Maltese Falcon is not written in first person. Here is an interesting YouTube account of what the POV is, or is not.

  3. Sophie Kinsella is a British author who writes non-fiction most notably and fun are The Shopaholic series, however you have to be able to forgive the occasional foul word. The heroine, Becky Bloomwood tells the story of her love of fashion and making a statement which frequently get her into financial trouble, which she somehow manages to rebound from. As first person novels - these really stand out. Of the ones you listed, I'd read the middle three and did indeed find them compelling and memorable. I write in 3rd person, but still use only what that person would know, sense, observe or feel.

  4. Always glad for a recommendation, Mary. Thanks!