“If I had acted differently, then...” – Most human beings indulge in counterfactual thought experiments at one point or another. For the fictional characters analysed in this book, they are a central preoccupation. The characters obsessively review their past, looking at a road they did not take, pondering on a life they did not live.

Drawing on narratology, theories of counterfactuality and the study of motifs, the book suggests a typology of unlived lives, which is based on more than fifty works from the nineteenth century to the present. In addition, the book offers seven readings. These focus on texts in which the motif of the unlived life features in an especially characteristic or challenging manner: Henry James’s “The Diary of a Man of Fifty” and “The Jolly Corner,” Virginia Woolf’s ‘Mrs Dalloway’, Vita Sackville-West’s ‘All Passion Spent’, Samuel Beckett’s ‘Krapp’s Last Tape’ and Alice Munro’s “Carried Away” and “Dolly.”

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Dorothea de Muijnck in: Anglia, 138.4 (2020), 730-733