Tuesday, 31 December 2019

Books of the Year

My annual review of what I've read in the last twelve months.

Lady Susan/Sanditon/The Watsons by Jane Austen

Sanditon, Austen's last, and unfinished, novel, was filmed by ITV this year in an adaptation that I unexpectedly enjoyed. As it's quite a short book, the volume also includes the epistolary novel Lady Susan and an early, also unfinished, work, The Watsons, and thus I completed my reading of her entire oeuvre.

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky

The archetypal Dostoevsky, and indeed Russian, novel, dealing with religious themes through the framework of a murder mystery within the network of an extended family made up of contrasting characters, including the titular brothers.

The Manchester Man by G.L. Banks

This rags to riches story of the main character, Jabez Clegg, might be a bit corny, but is also full of descriptions of early nineteenth century Manchester, from the River Irk at Smedley, into which he is swept as an infant, to the area around the Cathedral and Chethams School, which he later attends as a foundling scholar.

The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie

I was prompted to read this by the thirtieth anniversary of the furore around its publication (I'd already read pretty much every other Rushdie novel).

The Third Man/The Basement Room by Graham Greene

I read Greene's classic novel about post-war Vienna after watching the film, together with one of his short stories included in the same volume which he also wrote a screenplay for and Carol Reed directed, The Fallen Idol.

A Prayer For Owen Meany by John Irving

I read The World According To Garp a few years ago, and have also seen the film Simon Birch, which is loosely based on the diminutive title character of this book, that you could call Irving's Vietnam novel.

Swann's Way by Marcel Proust

The first of seven volumes in Proust's multi-million word work Remembrance of Things Past. Some people seem to struggle with the first section, about his childhood in Normandy, but I thought it was the best, that the middle section, about his love affair with the courtesan Odette as a young man in Paris, dragged a bit, before picking up with a return to the countryside of his youthful memory in the final section.

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

This novel about bored rich Americans wandering around post-World War II Europe drinking and falling in love reminded me a bit of one of my favourites, F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. Being Hemingway, there's also lots about bullfighting and fishing.

Two On A Tower by Thomas Hardy

We're back in Hardy's familiar Wessex territory here with a story about two star-crossed lovers (literally: the young astronomer in it meets his future wife atop the tower which the older, richer woman lets him use for his observations of the night sky).

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