It’s been a strange year.
I reread many novels, burned my way through Garnier, abandoned Proust because he gave me sleepless nights, and didn’t read as much Balzac as I’d intended. Anyway here’s the best books I read this year; I make these categories up as I go along.
Best Russian novel:
Anna Karenina. I loved this novel the first time I read it but for this rereading I appreciated its cinematic qualities.
Best South American Novel:
Severina by Rodrigo Rey Rosa. Someone… please make a film out of this.
Best British fiction:
Incredible, brilliant–a state of the declining nation book: Jonathan Coe’s The Winshaw Legacy.
Rogue Male by Geoffrey Household. Incredible. Thanks to New York Review Books for republishing this.
Pascal Garnier (he gets a category all of his own).
Moon in a Dead Eye . A look at the hellish life of a bunch of retirees in a ‘safe’ gated community
Most Surprising novel:
Tony Hogan Bought Me an Ice-cream Float Before He Stole Me Ma by Kerry Hudson. A horrible title but the book was wonderful–this is a tale of a nomadic life of extreme poverty seen through a child born to a woman who makes terrible taste in men.
Best Short Story Collection:
Funny Once by Antonya Nelson. Not a loser in the bunch
Best American fiction:
During the Reign of the Queen of Sheba by Joan Chase. This is one of those books you read and marvel that you never heard of before. An American classic of mythic proportions. Don’t miss this.
Ten North Frederick by John O’Hara. A quintessential American novel of small town life: hypocrisy, power, money and the ruling class as seen through the staidly predictable life of a man who never did anything wrong but neither did he do anything right.
Best Crime Novel:
The Mad and the Bad by Jean-Patrick Manchette. No contest.
Best Irish Fiction:
Time Past and Present by Deirdre Madden. Time and memory in the lives of Irish siblings.
Best Non Fiction:
The Impossible Exile: Stefan Zweig at the End of the World by George Prochnik. I always wondered why on earth Zweig killed himself after successfully escaping the Nazis. Now I understand.
Best WWI Novel:
Fear by Gabriel Chevallier. Always tough to read about WWI, but I loved the anger in this.
Best Psychological Study:
The Unknown Bridesmaid by Margaret Forster. I’ve passed over this author numerous times as I had the impression that I wasn’t the right reader for her books. This is the story of a strange little girl, shaped by childhood events, who grows up to be a strange woman. The sort of book to gather many interpretations of its main character.
Writing is Easy by Gert Loveday. Through a colourful cast of characters, Gert Loveday shows that writing isn’t easy, and while it’s hard to keep a novel consistently funny, Gert Loveday creates a laugh on every page.
Best Australian novel:
This was the hardest category as I read so many great Australian books this year. While there are several titles I won’t forget, two stick out:
Amy’s Children by Olga Masters. This is the story of a young woman who abandons her children and seeks employment in the city. The reader may forgive Amy, but her eldest daughter doesn’t.
Julia Paradise by Rod Jones. Initially hard to read due to the subject matter of incest, I ended up loving this morally complex book which is not at all what it first appears to be.
Roll on 2015….