Great books about families

Blood, so the saying goes, is thicker than water. This theme is often at the heart of a satisfying family saga, regardless of class, race, country or century. But with that unifying factor comes plenty of strife – secrets, lies, jealously and deception. Inter-generational relationships creak and strain – sometimes to the point of collapse. This is what makes the family saga such a gripping genre – that sense of intrigue and conflict amongst people who should love each other unconditionally. We are fascinated by what has happened to cause parent to turn against child, siblings to vie for attention and squabble into adult years, heirs to be disinherited, dynasties to crumble. And then there are the outsiders – the in-laws, sneaking into the fold. Not blood relations but invited into family home and hearth nevertheless, for better and for worse.

Families are at the centre of this collection of novels and poetry with all their individual quirks and traditions. As Leo Tolstoy wrote in Anna Karenina – ‘each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way’ – and that’s what we think makes a great story.

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The Orchardist

Amanda Coplin


Sergios Gakas

The Summer of Dead Toys

Antonio Hill

Twisted Truths: Stories from the Irish

Brian Ó Conchubhair (ed)

The Girl in the Flammable Skirt

Aimee Bender

The Devil All the Time

Donald Ray Pollock

No Sale

Patrick Conrad

Hotel Bosphorus

Esmahan Aykol

A Room Full of Bones

Elly Griffiths


Jonathan Lee

When Captain Flint Was Still a Good Man

Nick Dybek

The Beauty of Murder

A K Benedict

Sombrero Fallout

Richard Brautigan

Miss Smilla's Feeling For Snow

Peter Hoeg

The House of Rumour

Jake Arnott

Blue Murder at the Pink Parrot

Ruth Ramsden

The Thief

Fuminori Nakamura

The Daughters of Mars

Thomas Keneally

Baghdad Fixer

Ilene Prusher


Laurent Binet

The English Monster

Lloyd Shepherd

The Confidant

Helene Gremillon


Cathi Unsworth

Bed of Nails

Antonin Varenne

Come to the Edge

Joanna Kavenna

The Teleportation Accident

Ned Beauman

The Beach

Alex Garland


Tom Campbell


Ed O'Loughlin

Happiness is Possible

Oleg Zaionchkovsky

Heavy Duty People

Iain Parke and Martin Robertson

The Light Between Oceans

M L Stedman


Adam Thorpe


Caroline Brothers


Nick Harkaway

The Orphan Master's Son

Adam Johnson

The Golden Scales

Parker Bilal

Easy Money

Jens Lapidus

Death and the Olive Grove

Marco Vichi


R J Palacio

Mountains of the Moon

I J Kay

The Barbarian Nurseries

Hector Tobar

I Hear the Sirens in the Street

Adrian McKinty

The Drowning

Camilla Lackberg


Judith Hermann

Slaughter's Hound

Declan Burke

Foreign Parts

Sarah Grazebrook

Life Knocks

Craig Stone

Unexpected Lessons in Love

Bernadine Bishop

The Uninvited Guests

Sadie Jones