Top Ten Tuesday: Books With Your Favourite Trope/Theme

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

Previous Top Ten Tuesday Topics

Oh my, with so many books queued up to review – The Leviathan, Treasure Island, Mrs Caliban – and so so many more that I want to read, I am struggling to find the time to catch up… but at least I am keeping up with my TTT posts! And, confession time, after last week’s trip down memory lane, I have collected together most of the books cited there and am very tempted to see how they have stood the test of time!

But before we embark on that mammoth re-read, let’s look at this week’s topic: favourite tropes. But, my dear better half asks, what is a trope? Whilst it can, at a word level, refer to simile, metaphor, irony, juxtaposition or other literary device, we are looking here at a text level. Familiar, well used conventions and plot devices and character dynamics – familiar and on occasion overrused like perhaps the tired old Chosen One, and at times problematic like Enemies to Lovers. But, of course, this is not to say that a great writer cannot deploy those tropes meaningfully, well and effectively.

Anyway, onto the list

Found Family

SO much love for this one, from Becky Chambers’ Wayfarers series, to T. J. Klune’s The House in the Cerulean Sea. One of the best quotes about it was from Elif Shafak in her 10 Minutes and 38 Seconds in This Strange World:

there were two kinds of families in this world: relatives formed the blood family; and friends, the water family. If your blood family happened to be nice and caring, you could count your lucky stars and make the most of it; and if not, there was still hope; things could take a turn for the better once you were old enough to leave your home sour home.

As for the water family, this was formed much later in life, and was, to a large extent, of your own making. While it was true that nothing could take the place of a loving, happy blood family, in the absence of one, a good water family could wash away the hurt and pain collected inside like black soot. It was therefore possible for your friends to have a treasured place in your heart, and occupy a bigger space than all your kin combined.

Good Dads

There are not many of these – dads often turn out to be archnemeses, absent or comic buffoons! – so I’m not sure whether I can include it as a trope as such… but this is my blog so I am!

But, of course, Atticus Finch from Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird is the sublime example: humane, liberal, intelligent, kind… As a dad myself, if only I could be half the father that Atticus is!

Unreliable Narrators

The darling of English teachers everywhere from The Tell Tale Heart to The Yellow Wallpaper, from The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time to Room

The mad and the naif, the liars and those who misinterpret their world.

Magic Realism

The ‘literary’ face of fantasy!

I love magic realism from Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children to Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things to Angela Carter’s Wise Children.

Byronic heroes

Something of a guilty pleasure – the dark brooding loner. The Heathcliff character from Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre’s Mr Rochester, Captain Ahab from Moby Dick….

Trapped situations

The iconic example for me is Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None – trapped on a small island, your fellow castaways being picked off one-by-one, no way to tell who to trust… That is sublime!


Hamlet’s wonderful play to “trap the conscience of the King” is a fantastic stating point here, but there are so many examples.

More recently, you might look at Anthony Horowitz Magpie Murders and Moonflower Murders which starts in the ‘real’ world and then enters a fictional book world within that.

Magnificent bastards

There is something absolutely compelling about those characters who are uncompromisingly, magnificently bastards!

Again, with a mind on Shakespeare, Edmund in King Lear who, illegitimate son as he is, soliloquises

Thou, Nature, art my goddess; to thy law
My services are bound. Wherefore should I
Stand in the plague of custom, and permit
The curiosity of nations to deprive me,
For that I am some twelve or fourteen moonshines
Lag of a brother? Why bastard? wherefore base?
When my dimensions are as well compact,
My mind as generous, and my shape as true,
As honest madam’s issue? Why brand they us
With base? with baseness? bastardy? base, base?
Who, in the lusty stealth of nature, take
More composition and fierce quality
Than doth, within a dull, stale, tired bed,
Go to th’ creating a whole tribe of fops
Got ‘tween asleep and wake? Well then,
Legitimate Edgar, I must have your land.
Our father’s love is to the bastard Edmund
As to th’ legitimate. Fine word- ‘legitimate’!
Well, my legitimate, if this letter speed,
And my invention thrive, Edmund the base
Shall top th’ legitimate. I grow; I prosper.
Now, gods, stand up for bastards!

Sentient houses and space ships

I did love the House in Leigh Bardugo’s Ninth House

Misunderstood prophecies

I am so over prophecies in general, but – again with a view to Shakespeare’s Macbeth this time – the prophecy which appears to make someone secure, but which is deeply misunderstood to the point where is becomes their weakness and downfall.

Bring me no more reports; let them fly all:
Till Birnam wood remove to Dunsinane,
I cannot taint with fear. What's the boy Malcolm?
Was he not born of woman? The spirits that know
All mortal consequences have pronounced me thus:
'Fear not, Macbeth; no man that's born of woman
Shall e'er have power upon thee.' 
Then fly,false thanes,
And mingle with the English epicures:
The mind I sway by and the heart I bear
Shall never sag with doubt nor shake with fear.

Upcoming Top Ten Tuesday Themes

March 8: Books With Your Favorite Trope/Theme (Submitted by
March 15: Books On My Spring 2022 TBR
March 22: Books With an Adjective In the Title (Submitted by Nicole @ How to Train a Book Dragon)
March 29: 21st Century Books I Think Will Become Classics (Submitted by Lisa of Hopewell)

16 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday: Books With Your Favourite Trope/Theme”

  1. I love that you surveyed your favorite tropes, rather than books within a trope. These are all good ones and it would be lots of fun to make a list for each. Thanks for the inspiration.

    Liked by 1 person

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