Monday, 12 December 2016

Books of the year

With another spin round the sun almost complete, it's time to look back at the books I've read this year.

How To Be Both by Ali Smith

I'd not read anything by Ali Smith before a mate bought me this last Christmas. It's a tale of two halves split between a teenage girl in contemporary Cambridge and an artist in Renaissance Italy (apparently in the American edition, the two halves are switched round, which somehow I can't see working as well).

The Last Chronicle of Barset by Anthony Trollope

I'd read a couple of novels in the Barsetshire Chronicles series before I skipped ahead to this the last one which as you'd expect ties up a number of loose ends for the ecclesiastical and small squire characters in Trollope's fictional West of England county.

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

I read this massive page-turner after watching the BBC TV version, and before that listening to a radio adaptation of it.

A Kestrel for a Knave by Barry Hines

I'd seen the film Kes, and even been to a talk by the author many years ago at a Stockport library, but it was his untimely death in March which prompted me to read this, his best-known novel.

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

I bought the BBC edition of this after watching the TV series at Christmas. It's Christie's ultimate whodunnit in which the murderer joins the corpses piling up in a house on a remote island off the southwest coast of England.

The Fortune of the Rougons/Money/Pot-Luck/The Ladies' Paradise by Émile Zola

Having read about half a dozen novels in Zola's Rougon-Macquart series, listening to the BBC Radio 4 serialisation of these four led to me reading these four too.

The Green Man/The Old Devils by Kingsley Amis

I've been on a bit of an Amis binge since watching this Bookmark documentary about him. These are both semi-comic pieces, the first a supernatural novel based in a English country pub, and the second about a boozy group of pensioners in South Wales.

Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon

I somehow accidentally recorded the first half of the film based on this comic novel, starring Michael Douglas and Toby Maguire as a jaded English professor and his aspiring writer student at a Pittsburgh university, and am glad I did as both are equally entertaining, if slightly different in plot and characters.

The Face on the Cutting-Room Floor by Cameron McCabe 

This unorthodox detective novel ticked a number of boxes for me: set in 1930's London, in a film studio and the fog-bound docklands, and interwoven with lines from blues and jazz songs. The author's identity was as much a mystery as that of the murderer's in the decades after it was published in 1937, until in the 1970's it was revealed to be the work of the left-wing German-Jewish refugee and occasional jazz musician and critic Ernst Bornemann.

Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy

One of the few of Hardy's major novels I hadn't read, this cheery tale set in the semi-fictionalised county of Wessex features academic failure, doomed love, poverty, loveless marriages, teenage murder-suicide and inept pig slaughtering.

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