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Mumsnet's Marmite modern classics

Some books will always divide opinion no matter how many prizes they've been nominated for. These modern classics are much disputed over in What We're Reading. So, do you love 'em or loathe 'em? Cast your vote.

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

Hanya Yanagihara's tome is the devastating story of Jude whose shockingly sorrowful life you wouldn't wish upon your worst enemies. Heralded by some as the most touching, affecting, and moving book they've ever read, but by others as several hundred pages of 'misery lit', there really is only one way to find out for yourself.


“It is the most rewarding book, totally absorbing and stayed with me for ages.”

“I still feel profoundly affected by the story and the characters and, six months on, it's still with me strongly.”

“Harrowing but spectacular.”


“I thought it was ghastly, high-grade misery porn.”

“I really don't get the hype for this book. I hated it with a passion. It's unrealistic and depressing right until the last page – to me it reminded me of a slightly better written Danielle Steele novel! "

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We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

Spoiler: there's a twist. That fact alone might be enough to make up some people's mind about Karen Joy Fowler's Booker-shortlisted novel. If you haven't read it yet, and have somehow managed to avoid spoilers which reviewers frustratingly didn't hasten to hide, then dive in and decide for yourself whether it's boring or beautiful.


“I'm 50% in and adoring it. Best book I've read in ages.”

“God, I loved it. Just finished it and got that empty feeling when you realise it's all gone. Think the characters will stay with me for a while. Beautiful.”

“I thought it was beautiful; one of my favourites this year!”


“Awful. Other than the (rather predictable) twist half way through, it has no other redeemable qualities.”

“Crap. Couldn't finish it and I hardly ever leave books unfinished.”

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All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Winner of both the Pulitzer Prize and the Carnegie Prize for Fiction, you'd be forgiven for thinking that Anthony Doerr's third novel, which took 10 years to write, would be a book cherished by all. Not so, not so…


“I LOVED it. Thought it was fab. Gripping. Great writing.”

“The writing is so lovely and descriptive. One of the best books I have read in ages!”


“I'm glad others enjoyed it, but it annoyed the hell out of me.”

“It's just so bloody SLOW.”

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Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Life of Pi even divides opinion to whether or not it classes as magical realism, and the entire book seems to be open to interpretation – which has sparked some great discussions amongst readers.


“Oh, I loved it! It wasn't at all what I was expecting. I found it much lighter reading than I anticipated, spectacular narrative, and stunning ending.”

“I thought it was a fantastic story on many levels and very thought-provoking.”

“I found it to be very accessible, but extremely clever at the same time. Definitely a book I will want to read again several times in the future.”


“I've read it and wished I'd given up.”

“I don't think I really got it. Found it a struggle to read and not especially enjoyable.”

“I just didn't like the character! He was such an unbearable know-it-all.”

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The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Whether you're a fan or not of Tartt's signature in-depth description, take note: it features heavily in this hefty tome of a novel about two boys and a stolen painting.


“Oh, Donna Tartt – you very talented and accomplished writer, you! Utter poetry, all 800 pages or so.”

“It's been a long time since I read a book which has made me so sad to get to the end.”

“I loved it. A wonderfully rich, complex, multi-layered book. I was completely absorbed in its world – not many books can do that.”


“I hated it and thought it was highly overrated. A load of pretentious drivel IMHO.”

“Bored, bored, bored and very irritated by it. My goodness that is a book in need of an editor and some realistic characters.”

“I really disliked it. I struggled with it for about a week and finished it, but I'm sorry I didn't give up half way through. I was really disappointed, I wanted to love it.”

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Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Whichever camp you're in, don't pass up the chance to read CoteDAzur's incredible analysis of this web of a novel – it made defectors of the Haters and re-readers of the Lovers.


“Mitchell is, in my opinion, probably one of the all-time greats and Cloud Atlas is breathtakingly clever.”

“Thought it was fantastic and couldn't put it down. Ignore the naysayers!”


“It's the only book I've ever given up on.”

“The worst book I have ever read.”

“Reading shouldn't be so joyless and bloody exhausting!”

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