It’s a Wrap: 2019

Three novels

Time for my best-of-year round up. For some reason, this year the choices seemed easier.

Three Novels: The Resurrection of Mozart, The Waiter and the Slut, Astashev in Paris: Nina Berberova. 

Berberova never disappoints. 3 novellas here–all quite different from each other, yet they each weave in the theme of  Russian displacement. Berberova deserves far more recognition than she gets.

A Severed Head: Iris Murdoch

My first Murdoch novel and I hit a winner. This is the nastily funny tale of bored privileged people who create drama in their lives by unpleasant, selfish self-focused behaviour. I love reading books about nasty people, so it’s no surprise that I loved this.

Olive Kitteridge: Elizabeth Strout

Ahh… Olive Kitteridge. What a woman. Of course, we wouldn’t want her as a mother or a wife but she’s great to read about. Olive seems the epitome of a person possessing good and bad characteristics. Someone may make a great teacher or neighbour but a lousy relative. It’s no wonder that Olive elicts strong reactions from people. Olive Again is also highly recommended.

The Children: Edith Wharton

It’s been too long since I read Edith Wharton. The Children isn’t considered one of her greats, but it’s wonderful–a study in subconscious human behaviour and how we get what we want without quite confronting our own negative drives.

The Travels Of Maudie Tipstaff: Margaret Forster

Narrow-minded, inflexible, pious Maudie finally leaves Glasgow to visit each of her three children. Her first visit is awful but it goes downhill from there–until finally Maudie finds herself in a surreal situation, living in a primitive hut (without plumbing) on an isolated island.

A Very Scotch Affair: Robin Jenkins

A married man decides to ditch his wife and family in Glasgow and run off to Barcelona with his mistress. The book focuses not so much on his escape but the fallout of his actions.

Artists’ Wives: Alphonse Daudet

I’m glad that a short story collection makes my list this year. The range, the wit, the understanding of human nature–all these things make for marvellous reading.

The Hotel: Elizabeth Bowen

My first Elizabeth Bowen wasn’t that great but The Hotel is a treasure. I like books set in hotels anyway but this story is subtle, rich and entertaining.  Post WWI, a hodge-podge of guests, mainly British, socialise with varying results.

Three Obscurities from the Borderlands: Werner Bergengruen, Adalbert Stifter, Maria von Eschenbach.

A fluke find for German Literature month. One story is outstanding, another is excellent and the third has redeeming characteristics. In spite of the fact that I liked these three stories to varying degrees, it still makes my best of year list.

So Evil My Love: Joseph Shearing

I didn’t expect to like this book as much as I did. It’s not my typical read but this gaslight noir is very well done indeed. The main character is a missionary’s widow. She’s always led a pious religious life but it was never a choice. When the widow gets choices, her real nature emerges.

Dodsworth: Sinclair Lewis

Certainly not an exciting book, but nonetheless still relevant 90 years later… This is an American Abroad book. It addresses American materialism and subsequent lack of quality of life. Get off the hamster wheel in retirement and boom… what are you left with?….



Filed under Berberova, Nina, Bergengruen Werner, Daudet Alphonse, Fiction, Forster Margaret, Jenkins, Robin, Lewis Sinclair, Murdoch Iris, Shearing Joseph, Stifter Adalbert, Strout Elizabeth, von Eschenbach Marie, Wharton, Edith

20 responses to “It’s a Wrap: 2019

  1. I included a Berberova in my books of the year, but I haven’t read these three – great to know there’s more still to enjoy. I’ve also been an admirer of Robin Jenkins for a long time – I’ve now read all of his novels bar his debut.

  2. Some new names her for the new year, and an Edith Wharton that sounds intriguing. I’ve just read Olive, Again and I really loved it, much more that I’ve loved Olive books before. I can also recommend Hannelore Cayre’s The Godmother, which I think you’d like.
    Happy New Year, Guy.

  3. I haven’t read any of the books on your list but I’ll keep some in mind. (especially Olive Kitteridge)
    There’s not a lot of crime fiction on the list this year. Did you read less of them?

    I’ll secont Gert, you’ll like The Godmother by Hannelore Cayre. (billet on my blog) It’s the kind of crime fiction you usually enjoy.

  4. I haven’t read any of the books on your list, but I love Wharton and do plan to read Strout on day.

    And, what Emma asks!!

  5. Lovely to see Olive Kitteridge on your list, probably one of contemporary literature’s greatest characters. I was a little worried that Olive, Again wouldn’t live up to the promise of the original, but if anything I think it’s even better. Strout’s insights into the challenges of ageing and loneliness are so affecting, especially when it comes to the inevitable regrets these developments bring.

    Great to see Berberova here too. Like Grant, I’ve reads others by her, but not the novellas you’ve highlighted here. I’ll definitely look out for them in the year ahead. Oh, and Margaret Forster. Thank you for your recommendations on her books – she’s also on my list for the future.

    Wishing you all the very best for 2020, Guy. I hope it’s a good one.

  6. Scott W

    What Gert said above – some great new names for the new year. You remind me that I really need to read Iris Murdoch, whom people have been recommending to me for decades now. I know nothing about Olive Kitteridge except that it seems to have gone viral on the blogs, so I should have a look. And while I can’t recommend Hannelore Cayre because I haven’t read her yet, I impulsively grabbed one of her novels while boarding a plane in Paris. Novels don’t often call out to be in airport shops; I must have subconsciously registered Emma’s enthusiasm about her.

  7. Happy new year!

    Berberova indeed never disappoints. I think it was you that introduced me to her, so thank you for that.

    Sinclair Lewis generally doesn’t seem to go much out of date, which is fairly depressing really.

    And, a reminder to bump The Hotel up my TBR queue! Long overdue clearly.

  8. A very belated Happy New Year to you. I wasn’t around much last year but hopefully can make a return this year.
    A wonderful list with many favourites. Love Nina Berberova. The Murdoch sounds great, so does your crime novel. I’m I the mood for some French short stories. They rarely disappoint. I hope to have my list up in a day or two.

  9. I’m glad you mentioned Maudie Tipstaff… I really like Margaret Forster and this title rang a bell. I wasn’t sure whether I’d read it or not, only to discover when I consulted Goodreads that #Gasp! I hadn’t even catalogued it.
    I have been neglecting the ‘F’ shelf of the TBR but since I now can’t fit any more books into it, I shall happily make a start on it before long…

      • Not yet. But at least now that it’s catalogued I’ll get round to it.
        I have such a lot of books on the TBR that I have to double shelve them, so I can’t see the ones at the back. So I rely on GR where they are all not just catalogued but tagged in various ways and GR can be made to sort them by criteria such as date published as well. So if, for example, there were a 1967 Club, now Maudie would show up in my GR list of books published in 1967 and it would tell me that it’s only 224 pages and I would almost certainly choose it.

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