Before I was a writer I was a reader and reading novels and short stories still takes up lot of my time. I read at every chance I get. So as the year nears the end, I thought I’d share some of the books that have really stood out for me this year, although they didn’t all necessarily come out this year it’s just that is when I read them.
1. The Well by Catherine Chanter
This is the story of a marriage and a rural smallholding that has become the only place where it rains in a drought-stricken England. It opens with Ruth, the farm’s owner, having just returned there under house arrest accused of murdering her family. The story weaves backwards and forwards in time to reveal the truth of what happened, driven by the fear, mistrust and jealousy that the community surrounding the farm feel about those that live there and enjoy the rain.
2. My Name is Leon by Kit De Waal
Leon is the child narrator telling his story from the 1980s when his mother can no longer cope after the birth of his baby brother, Jake, and they are taken into care. It’s about depression, racism and identity but mostly it’s about love and the different, and unexpected, places you can find it.
3. The Unseeing by Anna Mazzola
Set in London in 1837, this is the fictionalised story of a true crime focused on Sarah Gale, a seamstress and mother, who was sentenced to hang for her role in the murder of Hannah Brown whose body was chopped up and left in several locations around London. Told mainly from the point of view of Edward, a lawyer Mazzola has invented to investigate the crime after the verdict has been made, it kept me guessing all the way through.
4. The Killing of Bobbi Lomax by Cal Moriarty
This multi-layered tale of religion, forgery and revenge has vivid writing and a cast of characters that although often hard to like keep you reading on. Set in a small American town in the 1980s where a church has a lot of power, it’s one of the most original crime novels I’ve ever read.
5. Everything Love Is by Claire King
As the title says, this really is about all the different types of love we have in our life. It’s the story of Baptiste who keeps his own emotions supressed while helping other people to deal with theirs. Heart breaking and hopeful at the same time it is beautifully written and asks questions about how the past influences the future and whether we’d be better to just let it all go and concentrate on the now instead.
6. The Bird Tribunal by Agnes Ravatn (translated by Rose Hedger)
This short, dark tale is one of the best psychological thrillers I’ve read in a long time. It’s claustrophobic, creepy and I was never quite sure what was really going on. The narrator is Allis who has run away to hide in the country after ruining her marriage and getting sacked from her job. She takes as job as a gardener cum housekeeper for a man who appears to have even more secrets than she does.
7. The Two O’Clock Boy by Mark Hill
I don’t often read detective crime novels but this one completely pushed aside all the assumptions I make about this genre. It had me totally gripped, unable to guess what the outcome would be and waiting impatiently for the next in the series! What’s it about? Friendship, family ties, lies and wanting to be loved is what I got from it.
8. Sitting Ducks by Lisa Blower
Set in 2010 in the run up to the general election, this is about friendship, family and feeling like you have no say in your life and no control over what happens to you. One of the narrators, Tottie, tells the story of so many people in modern Britain whose livelihood and community has been stripped away and they are made to feel like it’s all their fault. It’s funny, scathing and sad.
9. The Last Days of Leda Grey by Essie Fox
The atmosphere in this novel is surreal, confusing, and filled with illusions. It evokes the world of silent movies brilliantly and the main characters, Ed and Leda, are absorbing, flawed and very real. Ed is a journalist thinking he’s found the feature to make his career when he comes across the aged Leda, a former silent movie star, living in self-imposed solitude. But nothing is quite as it seems in this story.
10. Purity by Jonathan Franzen
No-one is more surprised than me to find this on my list. I’ve not been a fan of Franzen’s earlier works that everyone has raved about but the premise of this one made me try him again. So glad I did as I loved this book! Narrator Pip is lost in life, in debt and determined to break free from her suffocating mother so leaves California to go and work as an intern on a controversial WikiLeaks style project in Bolivia. But it’s the secrets from her past she starts to unearth that turn out to be the ones with the most power to hurt.
That’s it for my list of favourite reads for the year. What are yours?
This post is brought to you by Amanda Saint.