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