Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Top reads of 2008

It's really been an interesting year, book wise, and I think a quite important year too. I've read some things that have really changed my reading tastes, and I started this blog, which introduced me to some really interesting people, not to mention the reads that have been variously recommended.

I was going to do a top ten, but instead I seem to have come up with a baker's dozen ... so in reverse order, here they are!

13. Perfume - Patrick Suskind: A gem of a novel that is quietly twisted. Totally powerful and haunting.

12. March - Geraldine Brookes: I'd never really thought about what happened to Father in Little Women ... this opened my eyes and allowed me to see the dark side of the well known tale. Does the man who went away come back to his family the same? Cleverly worked and well written.

11. Ekaterinberg - Helen Rappaport: Introduced to me by Lynne, I sadly missed Helen's talk at Dartington, but I loved the book. Clever mixing of biography and history, neither being overdone. Haunting reconstruction of the final moments of the Romanovs that stayed with me for days.

10. I am Madame X - Gioia Diliberto: I've always loved the portrait, and the fictionalised account of how it came to be, and who the woman was had me hooked. Loved it - and it was even better to be reading the book at the same time as seeing the actual painting in the Metropolitan museum in New York.

9. The Diary of a Provincial Lady - E.M. Delafield: Combination of Simon raving about the book and Justine raving about the new Virago cover, made me grab this book and I loved every minute of it.

8. The King's General - Daphne du Maurier: I think this might just replace 'Rebecca' as my favourite du Maurier. I adored this other view of Menabilly, and thought the main characters full of the mystery and ability than du Maurier seasons her characters with.

7. England's Mistress - Kate Williams: The little I'd known about Emma Hamilton all came from Vivien Leigh's film, so it was great to put a little more flesh on that illusion. I fell in love with her, and her portraits by George Romney. I think I'd like to have known Emma had I lived when she did.

6. The Behaviour of Moths - Poppy Adams: Another recommendation from Lynne, and it was great to read, if haunting. Well written, and a beautiful cover too!

5. Mrs Miniver - Jan Struther: I was so glad I finally got to read this, and it proved to be just as wonderful as I expected, even if it was nothing like the film. Lots of little gems, and one that can be picked up whenever I need a little common sense.

4. The Spare Room - Helen Garner: I saw this on both Susan Hill's and Lynne's blogs, and rushed out to pick it up in the hopes it would be on the Booker long list. It wasn't, but that didn't stop me reading it in about a day and being moved to tears - which doesn't happen very often when I'm reading! Wonderful writing on a sad and powerful subject.

3. Ferney - James Long: A Lynne/Dartington recommendation. When I heard about the story line I thought that this would be a must read, and I was right. I was enchanted by it.

2. Human Traces - Sebastian Faulks: I read this fairly early on in the year, but it stayed with me, and actually induced a mild case of reader's block, as it was impossible to find anything as awe inspiring as this. Epic in it's nature, yet intensely personal as well - I was simply wowed.

1. Daphne - Justine Picardie: This has to be my top read for so many reasons, but mainly because just the simple act of going to a literary festival event of which I knew nothing made so many other things happen. I adore the triple narrative and the dark places the novel has in it. I love the fact that Justine has turned the missing Honresfeld manuscript into a literary hunt for her readers. Mostly I love how well the genre of biography has been turned into fiction.

So ... there we are, and those last five were quite hard to put into order. I hope that next year brings me some equally stellar reads!

In the meantime, all that remains is to wish a Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!


Danielle said...

I really enjoyed the Poppy Adams book as well! Your list reminds me of several books that are on my pile that I really must get to in 2009--including the EM Delafield! Happy Holidays!

Anna said...

I read March this year too, but it's far from being on my favourite books list--the character drove me crazy, and the writing felt like it was trying too hard to sound 19th century. I was rather sad I didn't like it, as I love Little Women. I haven't read any of the others on your list, although several of them I've been meaning to read.

oxford-reader said...

Danielle -- you'll love E.M. Delafield!
Anna -- I felt the same at first, but I just let the feelings sweep over me, and I fell in love with it!

Cornflower said...

There are several of my favourites on your list, and they include Ferney which I finished just this morning.

oxford-reader said...

Did you enjoy Ferney? The end sent shivers down my spine. I'm really looking forward to the sequel

Becca said...

This is a wonderful list ... thank you.