Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Books of 2017

This is in no way as analytical a post as Kezzie's overview, but I find that I want to have a record of months passing wildly. I have always needed to be able to prove to myself that I have something to show for my life, but recently it all seems more contrived! So, last year, I read:

Mary Wesley: The Vacillations of Poppy Carew
Edna O'Brien: The Little Red Chairs

And these were two wholly awful books with which to start the year. Sandra most kindly left me the Wesley, but that Poppy Carew was not my type of girl! The O'Brien was distressing and disturbing, and based on too true war crime events. I'm not sure what she wanted me to be able to do about them. I do wonder about some gritty novels. Do the authors consider why they are wringing out their audience?

Jonathan Franzen: Purity

I had asked for this for Christmas. From standing sitting amazed and enthralled years ago at The Corrections, which I may need to reread soon, and then wanting to be just as impressed though less so with Freedom, I really found Purity too specific to its themes less relevant than my own domestic ones, which at least featured highly in the earlier novels.

Flann O'Brien: The Third Policeman

Recommended and lent by a friend, this is a favourites contender. So bizarre, so very Irish. Must get my own copy! 

A S Byatt: The Children's Book

Distressing, disturbing, but so much more challenging and stimulating than the Red Chairs. Byatt remains possibly my nearly favourite author. 

Sebastian Barry: A Temporary Gentleman

No. On Canaan's Side does all the same, but much, much better. Maybe I'll read Secret Scripture this year.

Enid Blyton: Five Go Parenting

A fun, short read. Not really a read at all! But I was very sunburnt and it kept me distracted for an afternoon!
Sarah Perry: The Essex Serpent

I meant to blog about this one- I did have concerns. I loved the story and the style, but still- there were definitely places where I wanted to have Perry to myself for a while- or even be one of the question-asking audience if she was ever on Radio 4's Book Club. Great holiday book.
Harper Lee: Go Set A Watchman

Now, this was strange, I thought. Could it be read without having first read Mocking Bird? I thought not. I found there to be no real events in the whole narrative, bar that one key scene/overseen. An intense exploration of one woman's mind. Maybe I have too much intense exploration of one woman's mind any day of any week!
A S Byatt: Possession

Back to Byatt. I hadn't read this in too long. I was alarmed at how, after this long gap of boy-rearing, I found it nearly too erudite entirely!
Antoine de Saint Exupery: Le Petit Prince

I had never read this! I have been given it as a gift, in French, not once but twice. A revelation. A wonder. Favourites contender.

Stephen Fry: Moab is my Washpot

I rarely read non-fiction, but this I loved. I found it much less God-hating than I had expected from Fry's interview with Gay Byrne. It was funny, moving, humble. I enjoyed it very much. Even the title kept me thinking long after.

Anne Fine: Telling Liddy

More annoying women. Nearly didn't finish. 

Keith Stuart: A Boy Made of Blocks

I struggled with this at the start- maybe because my day's work is mostly in the field of autism. But the characters are beautifully "crafted".  which is a bit of a pun.
Jane Austen: Mansfield Park

More annoying women.

Laura Esquivel: Like Water for Chocolate

Wonderful women. Wonderful recipes. I think about this book every time I cook dinner in a bad mood. Which is often. Thankfully my bad dinners have not yet had quite the same effects.
Elizabeth Gilbert: Eat Pray Love

I had not before wanted to read this, because I assumed it would be vaguely pretending to be a spiritual love story with Julia Roberts in print. I was wrong. This was a beautiful read- honest, humble, seeking, like Fry's book really. But this time with even more God.

Emily Dickinson: Selected Poems

Oh, but this exercised the little grey cells, still feeling hopelessly inadequate after two Byatts. Distressing, disturbing, but thrilling nonetheless to mind and soul. This was my whole autumn.
Ruth Hogan: The Keeper of Lost Things

Do. Not. Read. Tat.

Ali Smith: Autumn

Do read! I loved How to be Both last last year. Here Smith is just as metaphysical, constructing conceits so lightly and cleverly out of really hard and heavy things. I am waiting to read Winter because I think I'd like to have all four seasons in the same paperback edition! I'll probably read Winter as we move into spring, just as I read Autumn when it was really winter!
Kate Atkinson: When Will There Be Good News?

I was astounded when I heard, after reading, that this was on the A-Level English Literature syllabus. I loved it- more an array of fascinating, intertwining, ultimately twisting characters than a proper detective story. But I'm not at all sure what all the poor sixth formers find to write a whole essay on?

Donna Tartt: The Goldfinch

I had not before wanted to read this because the blurb sounded so distressing. I'm sorry I waited so long. Though if there was a way to fast-track the long and detailed descriptions of drugginess and get more quickly to the sublime final discussion of life, the universe, and art, that would have been good too!

Rosamunde Pilcher: Winter Solstice

This was my upstairs, bedtime book for the holidays, and it is a pretty perfect choice for such a time!
Charles Dickens: A Christmas Carol 

Another pretty perfect choice for such a time, though infinitely more wonderfully written!

I don't think I can pick a most outstanding favourite. I'd like to find more soul-grabbing books this year. I always seem to be catching up on all the big contemporary titles, and lamentably behind in knowing my classics. I think I'd just like to get back to my Barbara Pym chronology.

I also have this fine idea that this will be the year when I will start Ulysses for the third time and actually make it to the end...

Happy St Patrick's Day!

  I hope you've had a lovely 17th March! The weather was glorious here today, and legend tells us that this must be because St Patrick h...