Thank you, Cleo, for making me spend far too long on this – but hey, it’s my day off and if I choose to spend it reviewing my year’s reading, then so be it!
More than 500 pages
Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu (transl. Royall Tyler)
Masterpiece of Japanese literature, world literature, medieval literature and anything else you can think of. Poetry, romance, heartbreak and sumptuous description of clothes, festivals and the Imperial Court. I did struggle with this far too literal translation (and footnotes), though, and it took me about 6 weeks to read its 1000+ pages.
Jean-Patrick Manchette: Fatale (transl. Donald Nicholson-Smith)
Violent, twisted, hardcore, with a compassionate streak. Not for fans of poetic descriptions or deep psychological insights – it’s all very dark and externalised.
Became a Movie
Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith
Read the book, met the author and saw the movie within a few weeks of each other. I liked all three: the book had far more filmworthy scenes which never made it to the screen; the film did not have the preposterous coincidence at the end. And the author ain’t bad-looking either! (He’s also written the screenplay for the current TV mystery series ‘London Spy’).
Published This Year
Girl at War by Sara Novic
Quite a bit of jostling in this category, although less than last year. I’ve stuck to my plan for reading beyond the obvious latest releases. This is a touching, if somewhat uneven description of life during and after the Yugoslav war.
Number in Title
De zece ori pe buze (10 Times on the Lips) by Adina Rosetti
Since Child 44 was already taken for another category, this was all I could come up with – a collection of stories about life in Romania before and after the fall of Communism.
Paris la Nuit by Jeremie Guez
At first I thought I wouldn’t be able to find anything in this category, but then I realised that Jeremie (who has written 5 novels by now) is still only 27 years old. This, his debut novel, was published in 2010, when he was just 22.
Solaris by Stanislaw Lem
Again, a difficult category, but I think this counts: a sentient sea on a strange planet, who makes all the characters revisit all the things they fear most or feel most guilty about counts as a very unusual.
Wendy Cope (editor): The Funny Side
Poems that challenge our perception of poetry as far too serious, elitist and abstract. A delight – and it’s not just limericks!
The Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante
And a topic that goes straight to the heart of women’s suffering – just so powerful and emotionally draining. I’ve read a lot by female authors this year, but this is the one that I automatically think of when I hear ‘women’s writing’, whatever that might mean.
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
I read so many crime novels, yet I was really stumped for this category, as I felt I wanted to include a writer that wouldn’t fit in any of the other categories. In the end, I will dispense with originality and go with a classic that has been so influential in film and writing since its publication.
Silences by Tillie Olsen
A book that has been so influential on me as a woman and a writer – talking about all the artists who have been silenced by history, circumstances, gender or jobs, written by one of the first generation of American feminists.
Meisternovellen by Stefan Zweig
I haven’t read many short stories this year, but Zweig’s novellas and short stories are always worth a reread- thank you German Literature Month for making me revisit them.
Joker – Poetry
When I Grow Up I Want to Be Mary Beard by Megan Beech
Outspoken, hopeful and charmingly humorous as only young people can be: my first volume of spoken word poetry (if that isn’t a contradiction in terms).
Ru by Kim Thuy
Not just one, but two different continents: Vietnam, Malaysia and Canada.
100 Essays I Don’t Have Time to Write by Sarah Ruhl
For anyone who has ever been overwhelmed by motherhood and artistic impulse, To Do lists and reality, and whose creativity has to take the back seat on occasion.
First Book by Favourite Author
Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O’Neill
Or is it too much to claim a favourite author if this is the only book I have read by her? I have just bought her latest book, though, The Girl Who Was Saturday Night, and hope to read it over the holidays.
Heard About Online
Faces in the Crowd by Valeria Luiselli
This one had so many lovely reviews from bloggers whose opinion I trust, such as Stu, Jacqui, Bibliobio, Tony, Naomi Frisby, Poppy Peacock, that I just had to try it for myself.
Snowblind by Ragnar Jonasson
I’m pretty sure it’s a bestseller, as it’s been No. 1 on Amazon for ages and Orenda are busy doing a second print run. Well deserved, an intriguing blend of Icelandic chill and Agatha Christie puzzle.
L’Adversaire by Emmanuel Carrere
Made all the more chilling because it involves the death of children and took place 500 metres down my road.
Bottom of TBR
Morgue Drawer Four by Jutta Profijt
Free download when I first bought my husband a Kindle 4 years ago. I was clearing out the books I had on his Kindle and it fitted in well with German Literature Month. Let’s put it this way: I wouldn’t have died if I’d forgotten about it.
Loved by a Friend
People in Glass Houses by Shirley Hazzard
Not sure I can claim Petina Gappah as a friend, but we do know each other from the Geneva Writers’ Group and she recommended this book when she spoke on a panel in Morges, saying it was the best portrayal of the UN and ‘organisation man’ that she’d ever come across.
The Woman Who Fed the Dogs by Kristien Hemmerechts
Blood-chilling portrayal of the accomplice of a serial killer of young girls – it gave me nightmares.
After Leaving Mr Mackenzie by Jean Rhys
Still one of my favourite authors and books – this will break your heart, but oh, how well written.
2nd Book in a Series
The Defenceless by Kati Hiekkapelto
This Finnish police procedural with a touch of immigrant blues about it is getting better and better – so looking forward to the next.
Barracuda by Christos Tsiolkas
Actually, a lot of the books I read have blue covers – either it’s a publishing trend at the moment, or else I am subconsciously drawn to my favourite colour.