Between this blog and Shiny New Books, I've read and reviewed quite a lot this year. You'd think that might make it harder to choose my best books, but there was no contest. Here then are my best books of 2015 , in the order in which I read them. Links will take you to the original review -- the extracts below them are quotations from the reviews.
I cried a couple of times during this novel, and the ending -- wonderfully apt and beautifully conceived -- left me grieving as if at the loss of an old and dear friend, which indeed Merivel had become. Profound and thought-provoking in so many ways, this is a brilliant novel, and one I'm very glad indeed to have read.
There's so much to talk about and so much to admire in this debut novel. Yes, it's about teenage bullying in small-town America, but it's what Sarah Bannan makes of this theme that sets the book apart.
All this is conveyed in often lush, evocative prose with vivid and telling descriptions of the landscape, its weather and its inhabitants. I learned a great deal about the history and geography of a place I knew little or nothing about, and enjoyed the mysteries and the strange, brooding atmosphere.
This is a moving, thought-provoking, multi-layered novel which will certainly repay re-reading, and I’m very glad I had a chance to read it.
So yes, these are crime novels, and that's a genre I always enjoy. But the real strength of Sansom's books is the extraordinary historical detail. Although I'm not an avid fan of the Tudor period, I would have said I knew a fair amount about it, but my goodness has it been brought to life to me.
This is a novel of great humanity. It’s about survival and endurance, about love and fate and history. Bad things happen, tragedies occur, and yet it’s ultimately suprisingly uplifting and hopeful.
I'd love to tell you more about the intricacies of the plot, but I don't want to spoil your fun. In any case, it is partly the detail that makes this novel so compelling.
The story of their remarkable growing relationship is told with the most beautiful and moving delicacy.
As Eleanor Marx wrote, Lizzie 'was illiterate and could not read or write but she was true, honest and in some ways as fine-souled a woman as you could meet'. And my goodness, Gavin McCrea really brings her to life.
I've had such a passion for the Bloomsbury group, after a brilliant TV series and a visit to Charleston Farm earlier this year, that I wondered if I'd be disappointed in this story of the two Stephens sisters, Vanessa (who narrates via a diary) and Virginia -- better known by their married names, Bell and Woolf. But no -- I was completely swept away and completely convinced.
This is a really funny book, but also on one level a deeply serious one. It's about love, and grief, and bereavement, and how well, or badly, people deal with these things. Despite making you laugh at the foolishnesses and foibles of most of the characters, it's also profoundly humane and understanding of the human condition, and the ending is wonderfully heart-warming. I loved every minute and, if you haven't read it, I suggest you do so forthwith.