This is a pretty short list, because the first half of the year was spent reading A Brief History of Seven Killings, by Marlon James. It won the Man Booker and I read several glowing reviews but considering the number of times those reviews (and its cover) used phrases like ‘dizzyingly complex’ and I was deep in the trenches of newborn sleep deprivation, I decided not to bother. Until the brilliant Andy sent it for my birthday and I had no more excuses to just push past my initial intimidation and have a go. And it was dizzyingly complex, and enormous, which is why it took me six months to read. But also excellent.
Since then, I have also made my way through…
The Dry, by Jane Harper. This was my 2016 birthday present from Andy, and it wasn’t dizzyingly complex but a perfectly readable and satisfying Australian crime thriller set in rural farm country. Thanks Andy! I’ve seen it mentioned on lots of ‘best summer reading’ type lists, and it definitely deserves to be there.
All That I Am, by Anna Funder. This might be my #1 pick of the year. It was amazing. It takes the old “if you could go back in time and kill Hitler, would you?” ethical dilemma and creates a novel out of it. And that makes it sound so much more ordinary than it really is. Highly recommended.
Vivian Rising, by Daniella Brodsky. My friend Daniella has written a bunch of books and when I first met her and asked which one she was most proud of, this was it. (Although that was before she published the Patrons, which I read last year.) It hasn’t been available in Australia before but now it’s on Kindle and I finally got to read it. I can see why she was so proud of it. It’s a love story, not only about the main character and the hot guy next door, but more particularly between the main character and her grandmother who is also her main guardian. Theirs is an amazing relationship – and the grandmother a fantastic character based on Daniella’s own grandmother – that I loved reading about.
The Feel of Steel, by Helen Garner. I’ve never read any Helen Garner but I listen to a lot of Leigh Sales & Annabel Crabb’s podcast and they are always going on about her, so when I found this in my mother in law’s house while we were staying there I stole it. It’s a collection of essays and I loved it. More Helen Garner in 2017 for sure.
Big Little Lies, by Liane Moriarty. I’d also never read any of Liane Moriarty’s books but Annabel Crabb talks about her a lot and then I read an article that called her the “best selling author you’ve never heard of” (cue lots of angry comments from people who of course had heard of her, because otherwise she wouldn’t sell so many books, and there is something kind of sexist about that really, if you know what Liane writes about). Anyway, I really enjoyed this for lots of reasons, on lots of levels. Apparently it’s going to be a movie (or TV series?) with Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon and Shailene Woodley soon? I’ll be adding more Liane Moriarty to my 2017 list along with Helen Garner. I love discovering new-to-me authors that have already published lots of books to devour.
The Birdman’s Wife, by Melissa Ashley. I actually haven’t finished this and I’m not sure I’m going to, so that’s why I’m including it here. Mum and dad gave it to me for my birthday because I had it on my wish list, because I’d read a couple of good reviews and thought it sounded really interesting, but it’s been a big disappointment. I don’t know if it’s because it started life as a PhD or what, but it feels stilted and too self-conscious to me. Which is a shame, because it’s a good idea and a good story.
My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante. So this is the first in the Neapolitan novels that everyone has been talking about the past couple of years, people say they have to call in sick to work because they want to keep reading. Which I…did not. I struggled through this and haven’t bothered even looking at the next two. I can see that the writing is pretty good but maybe it’s a lot better in its native Italian, or maybe the other books are better than this one. I just had very little interest in anything that happened or anyone who was in it. The most interesting part of these books are the fact that the writer is anonymous, or at least was until recently.