Top 10 Seismic Twists in Contemporary Fiction
By: Will Dean
Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane
Atmospheric, poignant, claustrophobic. Lehane develops his characters so beautifully they feel real. And then he hits you with one of the most satisfying twists ever created.
Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
A humdinger of a twist (in a novel that would still be sublime without it). Fingersmith is a Victorian-era heist story set in and around a London slum. I love all of Sarah Waters’ novels, but the twist in this book is a work of genius.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Like so many others, I remember exactly where I was when I read the famous half-way twist in Gone Girl. There are so many layers to this novel that is stands up well to a re-read.
Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk
Much of this transgressive novel has made its way into common parlance (‘The first rule of Fight Club is: you don’t talk about Fight Club’). It’s a divisive book in many ways, and not to everyone’s taste, but the twist is genuinely staggering.
Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
Possibly my favourite twist of all time. The book – told from the perspective of journalist Camille Preaker – oozes with heat, pain, and intrigue. By the end of the novel I felt like I’d lived in the small Missouri town of Windgap. The final ice-cold twist is delivered perfectly.
The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
This Pulitzer Prize winning novel is set in Jim Crow-era Florida. Heart-breaking, fast-paced and powerful, the book forces us to look into a dark period of American history. I’m not sure the seismic moment qualifies as a twist per se, but it took the breath from my lungs.
In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware
Ruth Ware’s debut has an intoxicating set-up: a bachelorette party in an isolated woodland cabin, complex friendships, plenty of suspense. The story is creepy (in its tone, and because it’s believable) and delivers a knockout twist.
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
A hugely captivating YA novel centred around Madeline Whitter, a young girl with SID (she is allergic to the outside world). A beautifully-told story full of hope. The twist will blow your mind.
Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough
Sarah Pinborough hops between (and merges) genres like no one else. Dark themes, mind games, and tension. Like many novels with epic twists, the ending of Behind Her Eyes is controversial but I’m glad she went there. Life’s too short not to push the boundaries.
Atonement by Ian McEwan
A unique story that opens in an English country house on the hottest day of 1935, and takes the reader on a rollercoaster of a journey. A fascinating exploration of shame, class, innocence, and anger. Some of the twists are subtle, all are satisfying.
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
A mind-bending novel that I found brilliant and disturbing. Beautifully-written (in that underplayed style Ishiguro masters) and thought-provoking. The twists weaving through Never Let Me Go are truly devastating.