Happy New Year all. I couldn't let 2017 pass by without a look back at what I've read and loved this year. It's rather arbitrary, and I may have let much loved books slip thought my fingers, but here are my selections.
2017 started with an amazing novel by an author I'd heard much of and never read - 4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster. The story of the life of a young man from childhood to young adulthood, it's divided into 4 consecutive parts, each showing a different outcome. I reviewed it for Shiny, narrowly beating Annabel who loved it too and reviewed it on her blog - it's one of her books of the year.
I get quite a few books arriving unsolicited and this was one of them - The Sixteen Trees of the Somme by Lars Matting - a translation from Norwegian of a lovely, wide-ranging novel about a man's search for his own personal history. The action flows from Norway to the Shetland Islands to northern France. Captivating.
Jean Hanff Korelitz is a writer of highly intelligent, witty psychological thrillers, and the The Devil and Webster was her latest, a witty and perceptive campus novel. Excellent.
As a great lover of children's literature, I couldn't wait to get my hands on A History of Children's Literature in 100 Books - a sumptuously illustrated and wonderfully informative production from the British Library.
A Forger's Tale by Shaun Greenhalgh - I actually got this one as a present and found it absolutely fascinating. The autobiography of a man with highly developed artistic sensibilities and incredible skill in every branch of the fine arts, Greenhalgh wrote this while serving a prison sentence for forging numerous exquisite artefacts in his father's garden shed.
I've read three of Elizabeth Strout's novels in a twelve month and love them all - but this one, the most recent, is probably my favourite - the great Olive Kitteridge. Wonderfully subtly observed and extremely moving, this is perhaps the best of Strout's explorations of apparently ordinary people in dull suburban towns, showing the intense personal dramas under the surface.
This was actually an audiobook - The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead - wonderfully evocative and frequently tragic novel of slavery in America. The story follows one young woman as she manages to escape plantation life and attempts to make her way to a safe haven.
I'm quite surprised to find so little crime on this list - it's a genre I read a lot of, but apparently haven't been swept away by this year. There are two here, one a reprint and one a new publication. I've always enjoyed PD James, but for some reason had never encountered what I think is her finest novel, Innocent Blood. Published in the 1960s this is a brilliant psychological novel about a mother and daughter attempting to forget a relationship.
The other crime novel is Nine Lessons by Nicola Upson, another addition to her Josephine Tey series. Set mainly in Cambridge, the novel shows Josephine struggling with the conflicting demands of her desire to bring a criminal to justice and her important personal relationships.
Finally, a very recent read, The Book of Forgotten Authors by Christopher Fowler. An exciting list of authors, many unknown to me so lots to look for this year.