Australian-based author Jane Harper made a surprising huge splash with her 2016 debut “The Dry” (see what I did there?) which scooped Crime Book Of The Year awards in Australia and over here. It introduced financial crime expert Aaron Falk, although it took him very much out of his professional comfort zone, as he returned to his small home town and became embroiled in a murder-suicide case involving a close friend. I really appreciated the author’s handling of this whodunnit with the additional tensions of a community in crisis intensified by severe drought. A 2020 film adaptation wasn’t as good as the book, as it was just a little bit, for want of a better word, dry.
The author has gone on to continued acclaim and commercial success with five published novels to date. This is the second of three to feature Aaron Falk. It has a different feel, is more standard thriller fare, and for me does not work as well. A team bonding exercise for a family-run company BaileyTennants in the hostile Giralang Ranges goes wrong when of a group of five women only four return. It just so happens that Aaron Falk is investigating the company for financial wrongdoings and his main contact within the company is the missing woman, so he together with new partner, Carmen, get very involved, although I’m not sure why they needed to be at the site where the woman went missing nor did I fully understand what they were investigating and what they needed from her.
Their narrative and the search is interspersed with the events of the hike that went wrong and I did get a little frustrated with the structure of working up to something exciting and then switching to the other narrative strand. Falk felt a little tacked on in this occasion and I think the book could have worked just as well as a stand-alone. There was also the issue that I did not care that much about the BaileysTennants management and the employees undertaking the team building. Midway through we move away from the intensity of the ranges to allow a sub-plot to develop and it was here I felt myself getting more involved and I took that with me when we returned to the search for the missing woman. I did want to know what happened and there were twists I did not anticipate but after the impact “The Dry” made this felt more like standard genre fiction which was fun to read but unlikely to make that much of a lasting impression.
Force Of Nature was published in 2018 by Little, Brown. I read the Abacus paperback edition.
Sometimes a book completely resonates. It’s often just a matter of timing- it fulfils all you are looking for in a reading experience at that present time, even if you’re not always aware that is what you’re looking for. When this happens, these tend to be the books that stay with you.
I wasn’t aware that I was yearning for an Irish-set family saga which dealt in secrets, infused with a nostalgic glow but hiding a tale of darkness but I obviously was as this book had me right from the start and didn’t let go.
I read Graham Norton’s debut “Holding” pre-publication in 2016 and I certainly did not know what to expect and was most taken aback by his understated slice of small-town Irish life. From the personality on the screen and from his autobiographies I’d made an assumption of what kind of novel he might write. At the time I stated; “It certainly wasn’t the book I was expecting him to write. I was expecting sharp, brittle humour and a much more glitzy affair.” I’ve recommended this book to many readers since then, especially when I wanted to shake up people’s perceptions but I hadn’t got round to reading anything else by him.
Now he is a very much established author of four novels with critical acclaim matching his commercial success, especially in his homeland where he has won the Popular Fiction Book Of The Year twice at the Irish Book Awards (but not with this book, although it was nominated as it was for the UK Book Awards ). I think on the strength of this Graham Norton deserves his place amongst the finest Irish novelists of our time.
We have two interspersing narratives, “Now” and “Then”. This structure can be hit and miss as readers tend to favour one or the other and rush through to get to the strand they are enjoying the most, I don’t really have that much of a problem with this structure although I have heard readers complaining about it. For me, it certainly works well here as the “Then” informs the “Now” throughout. I think the danger comes when you have two seemingly disparate strands and you spend much of the book waiting for them to mesh together.
There’s a prologue “Before” which is a bit enigmatic but just needs to be kept in mind. I found myself turning back at a couple of points in the novel and re-reading this.
New York resident Elizabeth Keane has returned to Ireland to sort out her dead mother’s house. She discovers letters which suggest she does not know her mother’s life at all. “Then” features Patricia’s story behind those letters. Seeing the plot laid out like that it doesn’t sound all that original but I think the author handles the plotline skilfully and weaves a tale which really drew this reader in.
His characterisation is strong. I really enjoyed both “Now” and “Then” and his feel for the Irishness within the world he creates felt spot-on for his debut and even more so here. Some of the minor characters are beautifully realised and this reminded me of Donal Ryan, one of the finest contemporary Irish writers. Norton certainly knows what he is doing within his popular fiction framework to keep the reader involved. Secrets are revealed unexpectedly, there’s humour, darkness, a strong feel of the environment with the 1970s small-town coastal setting coming across so well in the “Then” sections. Also, I slowed down towards the end because I was reluctant to finish the experience- another signifier that this book deserves my highest rating. Once again Graham Norton has surprised me.
A Keeper was first published in the UK by Hodder and Stoughton in 2018.
This is the third novel from a British author I had not read before and what story-telling! I found this tale of a drowned girl who comes back to life in the 1880s and its setting of a stretch of the Thames between Cricklade and Oxford absolutely captivating. I said; “It is beautifully rich, imaginative, involving and operates on the thin line between myth and dark reality. I was spellbound by this book.” Looking forward to reading more by this author in 2023.
I knew I had missed out on something good when I put this book in my “What I Should Have Read in 2021” post. I had felt it calling me from a table of new titles at Waterstones. I liked the look of this book, even though it’s not the kind of book I read regularly. At that time I decided not to merely judge it by its cover but when I saw it in the library in January this year I snapped it up. It’s clever, funny, and so well structured. In my review I said “If we are considering this debut in the “Cosy Crime” genre then this is the best “Cosy Crime” book I have ever read.” Her follow-up “The Twyford Code” appeared this year and was good but did not blow me away like this did. Her new novel “The Mysterious Case Of The Alperton Angels” is out in January.
A re-read but I had left it probably over 40 years. The plot of this novel feels like it has been with me for the whole of my life, both from the book and film adaptations (apart from the ending which I always have trouble remembering). In sections this is the best book I have ever read in my life but then there are sections that fall flat making it an uneven gem, but it is still a gem. Perhaps it is a casualty of the way in which Dickens’ novels first appeared with a certain amount of padding mid-way through to keep the issues coming. I feel that it should be Dickens’ best work- but it isn’t, but it is up there amongst his very best. Pip, Miss Havisham, Estella, Joe, Magwitch – what characters!
Two books with the same title in my Top 10. What are the chances? Luckily, both have subtitles and this one explores “The Birth Of Pop” and it is my non-fiction pick for this year (I think I have to go back to 2010 and Vince Aletti’s “The Disco Files” to find a non-fiction work I have enjoyed as much). This is a real labour of love and involved so much research for music journalist, founding member of Saint Etienne and DJ Bob Stanley. Thousands of books have been published about the music industry post-Beatles (the author published a very thorough, critically acclaimed one “Yeah Yeah Yeah” himself about decade earlier – which I am currently reading) but this charts the development of popular music from its very origins to the point where Beatlemania came in. Pop music is seen as transient and temporary but these developments inform everything that has come afterwards and so is a very important, totally fascinating history. Beginning with Ragtime and Joplin’s “Maple Leaf Rag” the first million selling sheet music from 1899 he explores the major musical shifts and the major players with insight, humour and with love. This book had me seeking out all sorts of artists on Spotify. I felt Bob really knew what he was writing about and was able to convey his views so well and this for me was a real treat. The Telegraph had this book at number 8 in their Books Of The Year list.
Well, this is unprecedented. I’ve never given my Book Of The Year to the same author before and here is Scottish writer Douglas Stuart doing it two years in a row with his first two novels. “Shuggie Bain” – a Booker Prizewinner (and this would be a serious contender for best ever Booker winner ever in my view) blew away all the competition for me last year and I do believe that “Young Mungo” is even better. It’s the best book I have read for 5 years. It wasn’t Booker shortlisted and it didn’t get as much critical approval because some saw it as more of the same, but I really don’t understand that this is a criticism. Some did get it- It is appearing in a healthy selection of Books Of The Year list – The Telegraph had it at number 34. Emily Temple at Literary Hub produces an Ultimate Best Books list which counts the number of times books make the end of year lists in American publications and this makes it onto six lists, which earns it an Ultimate nod (the highest 14 was achieved by two novels Hernan Diaz’s “Trust” and Gabrielle Zevin’s ubiquitous “Tomorrow, And Tomorrow, And Tomorrow”). I said “I never thought I’d feel more sympathy towards a character than Shuggie, but Mungo, with his facial tics, unsuitable attire and devotion to a mother whose actions are consistently poorly-judged tops it.” I also felt “I did finish this feeling emotionally purged finding moments that I did not really want to read on from but ultimately being totally unable to take my eyes off the book.” That for me represents an ultimate reading experience. Congratulations to Picador for publishing my ultimate favourite two years in a row. Over at Bookshop.org you can find Douglas Stuart’s list of the books which inspired him during the writing of this novel
So, Douglas Stuart makes it onto my Hall of Fame for the second time. Just for some context here are my other top titles going back to 2008
I used to read this kind of atmospheric, richly told novel imbued with a hint of magic quite regularly but for every gem like “Jonathan Strange And Mr Norrell” by Susanna Clarke, “The Mermaid And Mrs Hancock” by Imogen Hermes Gower and “Things In Jars” by Jess Kidd there were many others that fell so short that they switched me off and stopped me selecting books of this type as often.
I think this is why I have not read any of Diane Setterfield’s novels up to now, if this, her third novel, is anything to go by I have really missed out.
There is outstanding story-telling here. The novel is set on a stretch of the River Thames between Cricklade and Oxford in the 1880’s centering on The Swan pub at Radcot. It is here that story-tellers meet to regale each other with tales of local folk, events and particularly the mysteries of the river and on a Summer Solstice evening they become part of their own tales when a badly injured man appears with the body of a drowned girl. Nobody knows who they are and things take a momentous turn when the dead girl comes back to life.
The repercussions of this spread along the Thames. The event and the child herself proves a great pull for some residents and this is their tale. It is beautifully rich, imaginative, involving and operates on the thin line between myth and dark reality. I was spellbound by this book. Excellent characterisation of those involved on that night and those who hear about it. This is a confident skilful writer, who, very early on, like the best story-tellers will have readers entranced. A definite five star read and I am looking forward to reading her earlier two novels.
Once Upon a River was published in 2018 by Doubleday and as a 2019 paperback by Black Swan.
I have read one Rupert Thomson novel before, his 2007 publication, the Costa nominated “Death Of A Murderer”, a novelised account featuring an unnamed central character who is Moors Murderer Myra Hindley which to be honest did not do a great deal for me. This is a much better novel which once again has true life characters as the central protagonists.
He is helped here by his subject matter. Two extraordinary women Lucy Schwob and Suzanne Malherbe who are true soul mates and adopt the names Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore and in the inter-war years become notable in the literary and artistic worlds of Paris aligning themselves perhaps most closely to the Surrealist movement. Before war is declared they move to their favourite holiday destination Jersey where, once occupied by Nazis, they begin their own acts of resistance not dissimilar to that in Hans Fallada’s marvellous novel “Alone In Berlin.”
The plot really does come alive in the war years with the continual threat of discovery adding much to the tension but the real strength here is the depiction of the relationship between the two women. Suzanne narrates a tale which starts off in 1940 where a German attack disrupts her evening swim and then moves back to chronologically depict their lives together in a manner not too far off from established facts about the pair.
Their relationship is beautifully written. Claude is not always easy to love and has a self-destructive streak which dismays her lover. Throughout all the drama the tone is one of calm which works extremely well.
I was seduced by on-cover recommendations from Sarah Waters “…an astonishing accomplishment” and Philip Pullman “..It’s a long time since I read a love story quite as convincing or truthful”, both writers I much admire but it was Thomson’s weaving of the tale and vibrant assured prose which really drew me in.
Never Anyone But You was published in 2018 by Corsair.
Now this is a tricky one. Many parents flicking through this after finding it on a young teen’s bookshelf would be horrified by its so casual attitude to sex in its many forms. It may indeed reach a new level of frankness in the YA fiction market because it’s not really about anything else. The sex is not integral to the plot the sex is the plot and I can imagine some parents of teens not wanting their offspring to read this. I think if I had read it as an adolescent it might have scared the living daylights out of me- so forthright are the main characters, but, let’s face it, times have moved on enough for Penguin to recognise this American work as worth publishing over here. It cannot hide its American origins and some may be consoled into considering that it’s not like this over here but it does deal with issues that all teens will face at some point.
Whereas a quick flick through may leave some horrified a close read reveals something much more significant between these covers – a work which certainly does not dumb down a myriad of issues and presents them in a very balanced, thoughtful way, which is surely just how we would like our teenagers to be.
Jack is a 17 year old pupil in a NY private school. As a flamboyant gay youth he finds himself at the centre of gossip and rumour amongst a set of children who already seem extremely liberal to British eyes. This encourages his friend Jenna to get him to write a sex advice column for her blog. That puts him into some conflict with the school administration and also results in him being a target for an infatuated schoolmate who begins to leave pink origami love letters in his locker. Jack’s range of experience seems extraordinary for one so young, the advice he gives in his column is reasoned and occasionally balanced by other characters (an ex of Jack’s berates him as he feels his promiscuity is pandering to those who wish to stereotype the gay students in the school) but I think they can strain on plausibility (are teenage high school children concerned about S&M?). This element of the narrative may rankle more if the over-riding message wasn’t that we should all be the type of person that we want to be or as Jack puts it in typical fashion; “It’s about making sure everyone around me sparkles with their own shade of glitter, that they feel as amazing as I do.”
The author also had initial concerns about his material as he explains the genesis of this work in the Acknowledgements written in “a loud authentic voice that a lot of people don’t want young adult readers to hear.” That voice is Jack’s.
I have no issue with the voice nor characterisation and I’m sure everyone reading this (even the YA market it is meant for) will be occasionally shocked and feeling a tad uncomfortable but I think it’s a shame that the actual narrative drive- who is sending the love notes- feels a little trivial in the company of these characters. What makes me slightly uncomfortable is that Jack, who seems superficially at ease with himself, is at such a loss with this, showing a gulf between his physical and emotional maturity which makes me wonder if he should be giving it all away as freely as he does. If the author is meaning to convey this I wish it was made a little more explicit. It’s also annoying how long the characters take to choose their outfits!
This is a next level up from another YA novel I read not too long ago published 10 years ago “Will Grayson, Will Grayson” by John Green & David Levithan and there are similarities between Jack and the character of Tiny Cooper in that novel, both are positive, unapologetic, larger than life representations but with Jack we certainly feel we have moved on a decade. I personally think I would feel more at home in Tiny Cooper’s world from that novel than I would do in Jack’s. If anyone offers me a chance to relive my teenage years in a present day NY high school I would turn them down flat but it was fascinating spending time in this company. I have L C Rosen’s latest novel “Camp” lined up for a read. I wonder if in his second YA novel he will get a stronger balance between plot and issues. He certainly has the potential and writing skills to do so.
Jack Of Hearts (And Other Parts) was published by Penguin in the UK in October 2018.
I’ve got round to another of the books I highlighted in my 2019 What I Should Have Read Post. This is a major prize-winner picking up the Carnegie Medal for Outstanding Adult Fiction, also the Stonewall Prize and gained prestigious shortlist nods for the Pulitzer Prize and US National Book Award. In the UK it has remained fairly under the radar, the paperback (which I read) was published in 2019 but that still didn’t lift this book to the commercial recognition it deserves. (Amazon currently has it as #2727 in Literary Fiction with a 4.4 rating from 509 reviews).
Two parallel narratives with one set in mid/late 1980’s Chicago and the other in Paris in 2015 with a handful of characters who feature in both. In the Chicago section the Boystown area is being decimated by the AIDS virus and Fiona is losing those she loved. The novel begins with the memorial for her brother Nico whose lifestyle was rejected by his family causing an irreparable rift between Fiona and her parents as she cannot cope with his lover and friends being excluded from saying goodbye.
In 2015, Fiona, now a mother herself, is searching for her missing daughter last known to be a member of a religious cult in the US before a sighting of her is flagged up in Paris. The Fiona in the later narrative is still clinging to the events of thirty years before which has affected her ability to parent. She is a flawed yet very real character.
In the eighties narrative it is her friend Yale who is central. In a relationship with activist and magazine publisher Charlie. Yale is far more conservative, working in funding for art and following a tip off from Fiona regarding her great-aunt’s collection seeks the acquisition which would make both Yale and the gallery he works for names.
I really enjoyed both plot lines (with a preference for the earlier narrative) which are superbly handled but the strength is really the relationships between the characters. The AIDS crisis is pushing them together as much as it is tearing them apart and the repercussions of this are ever-present in the later narrative and that is why this is such an excellent work.
You will find yourself invested in these characters, you will laugh with them, be totally frustrated by their actions as well as egging them on and will cry with them and for them and for all that to happen convincingly as far as I am concerned everything needs to be top-notch and here it is. Expect me to be recalling this book in my end of the year round-ups. I thoroughly recommend it.
Rebecca Makkai is a straight woman and there could have been potential criticism in this current climate of her immersing herself in a story which is not hers to tell, which should be the province of a gay male writer, especially with so much talk about appropriation but the fact that this has won a major LGBTQ literary award with The Stonewall Prize shows that this is not an issue. This is a novel for everyone, for those whose lives were touched by the events of the time where they will be brought back with chilling clarity, for those aware of them in some degree and perhaps even more importantly for those who were not even born then. It wasn’t easy reading about a killer virus whilst in lockdown due to another killer virus and I really did feel quite purged by the end but with the sense that I had received a tremendous reading experience. Rebecca Makkai has published three novels before this. I would certainly imagine this to be her masterwork to date but I will definitely be looking out for her other titles.
The Great Believers was published in the UK by Fleet in 2018. I read the 2019 paperback edition.
I’d missed out on this debut 2018 publication until I saw it recommended in a LGBTQ+ Book List. I looked for it in my local Waterstones, couldn’t find it, and then five minutes later spotted a pristine copy in an Oxfam bookshop. If I was still wavering, not sure if it was my kind of thing, I was propelled towards the till by on-cover recommendations by Jill Mansell and Adam Kay, author of “This Is Going To Hurt” (my most visited review of 2019) who describes it as “Funny, clever and warm.”
It spent a short time on my bookshelves and hadn’t even featured on my up and coming reads list until after reading the powerful “Another Country” in the first week of Coronavirus lockdown I decided the reads I had lined up might be too demanding for my current state of mind and anxiety levels and what I actually needed was something “funny, clever and warm”. This book virtually leapt into my arms off the bookshelf.
This was a perfect read in troubled times where most of the world is unable to go out of their houses at present. In those now far-off seeming pre-Corona days I might have just been a tad scathing on what is a gay male slant on Chick-Lit (Dick-Lit? is than an actual term? It certainly came into my mind whilst reading this) but its heart is certainly in the right place and it fulfilled my reading needs perfectly.
After a break-up from a six year relationship with a controlling partner, 34 year old James decides to plunge back into single life and record his dates on a blog in which he anonymously rates and reviews hook-ups until he finds true love again – his “last Romeo”. James works on a gossip magazine and tries to keep his work and blog separate but soon finds the blog begins to overshadow his work, his life and relationships with others. James is a typical hero for this kind of novel, flawed and prone to jumping in feet first and with a blinkered tendency to see the world primarily from his point of view. He’s very much a modern metropolitan man and Justin Myers works a bit of magic in making him likeable and relatable. Without this, the book will fail. James certainly does try the readers’ patience with his inability to empathise with others but it does set up amusing situations. The narrative switches from first person to examples of James’ blog posts in which this unreliable narrator becomes further unreliable.
Journalist Justin Myers set up his own anonymous dating blog in a career trajectory not too unlike his main character which led to this first novel so he does know what he is talking about when he sets James up into various predicaments. It can only work from a gay male perspective, transferring this into chick-lit with a female character would resonate in a very different way, but with a list of questions for reading groups at the back of the paperback publishers Piatkus are pushing for a wider audience. It felt like a breath of fresh air in my reading schedule and I now feel I can go back to my planned list of less fun fare with my anxiety levels lowered. Just what the doctor would have ordered if it was possible to get an appointment!
I have an uneasy relationship with the true crime genre. I’ve mentioned this before and I think it all boils down to one book which so disturbed me – the account of Muswell Hill killer Dennis Nilsen in Brian Masters’ “Killing For Company” (1985). However, a couple of times in the last week I have held a copy of this in my hands and contemplated buying it and re-reading it. (I lent my copy to someone years ago and it never came back). So far I’ve held back the temptation but the reason for Masters’ book shifting back into my focus is this 2018 true crime publication.
I’ve also been thinking about true crime in relation to author Carol Ann Lee whose five star account of the Bamber killings “Murder At White House Farm” has deservedly ascended the best seller lists since the impressive recent ITV reconstruction of the case. When this book came out nearly five years ago I reviewed it and Carol Ann became an early interviewee in my Author Strikes Back Thread. I asked her for recommendations and I was convinced that reading-wise I would begin a true crime spree but this hasn’t happened. However, the on-paper bizarre mash-up of an arson case and a love letter to the public library system Susan Orlean’s “The Library Book” made it into my current Books Of The Year Top 10 but that’s been about it. I only read “I’ll Be Gone In The Dark” because friend Louise whose book opinions I very much value (she put both “Count Of Monte Cristo” and “Sanditon” my way) told me this was her Book Of The Year and I highlighted it in my “Looking Around….” Post.
Michelle McNamara’s obsession (and it was an obsession) was an individual who committed around 50 sexual assaults and at least 10 murders in California in a decade long frenzy (mid 1970’s -mid 80’s). Michelle dubbed him “The Golden State Killer” and he featured heavily in her true crime blog before she began to put this work together. She sadly died aged 46 in 2016 before completing the work.
This, unavoidably, does give the book a haphazard sketchy structure which did mean I kept having to refer back to the list of known victims and crime locations. The sheer number of offences and the lengthy period of time the killer was active also made for at times a stilted and repetitive read and affects the flow but I really can’t just judge this on how I feel it read as a book (I was also very aware of a surprising number of linguistic differences with many terms I was unfamiliar with) but the motives behind the work is what makes this extraordinary.
Michelle McNamara over the years became an expert on the case, came to have access to evidence even investigators did not have and pooled much of this vast amount of material for the first time. The thing I just cannot get out of my head as a British reader in 2020 is how was this man not apprehended at the time? There were a wealth of traits and characteristics that led nowhere. It’s hard I suppose for us looking back to what were largely pre-DNA days to appreciate how much luck was needed to solve cases and luck was certainly not with the many investigators. They could not seem to tap into the extraordinary level of planning that must have foreshadowed many of these crimes and the structure of US state policing at the time means evidence was not shared nor links made. If this was fiction we would deem it unbelievable.
Through her determination to unmask the Golden State Killer it is Michelle McNamara herself who shines through this work and it is this which will see it as an important and perhaps ultimately game-changing addition in the realm of true crime writing.
I’ll Be Gone In The Dark was published in 2018 in the UK by Faber & Faber.
Amazingly the only book I re-read this year, just a couple of years ago I had read enough re-reads to give them their own separate Top 10 but I cannot ignore this book and so my Book Of The Year from 2007 makes it into the Top 5 for this year. It is a strange one, I read it and totally love it but after I finished it the events in the novel seem to rapidly fade from my memory and I struggle to remember what it was about even when I can remember books I enjoyed much less in greater detail. This has happened twice which makes me think there is some kind of ethereal quality to this which causes it to dissipate once finished. It’s a great Victorian revenge novel and I said of it “On completion the feeling was of total satisfaction for a high quality reading experience. This novel does seem to have faded from public consciousness but I can’t help feeling that a sensitive tv or film adaptation could bring it back to the top of bestsellers lists.” Maybe that will happen in 2020.
4. Shadowplay – Joseph O’Connor (Harvill Secker 2019) (Read in December not yet reviewed)
I highlighted this in my earlier 2019- What I Should Have Read post and managed to squeeze it in before the end of the year. A full review of this will follow but this is a splendid historical novel, shortlisted for Best Novel at the Costas, with Bram Stoker, the creator of Dracula the main character and here part of a long-lasting love triangle with actress Ellen Terry and actor and theatre impresario Sir Henry Irving.
I can’t say I’ve ever been tempted to read a novel which has been finished by someone else after the original author had died before completion, particularly one that was completed 150 years later. This was all changed by the ITV adaptation which was one of this year’s television highlights as far as I was concerned and a recommendation from my friend and colleague Louise who felt I should read how it should have ended (well how “another lady” wanted it to end anyway). I always thought the joins between the two authors would be obvious but I thought this was done seamlessly and ended up enjoying this more than when I re-read “Pride And Prejudice” a couple of years back.
Another splendid historical novel with that added bit of quirkiness which I so often find appealing. This is a fictionalised account of the early life of Madame Tussaud. Punctuated throughout with little pencil drawings which adds much to the experience. I said of this “Through a first-person narrative Carey has created an enthralling character I will probably remember forever. Written with gusto and an eccentric energy “Little” will not be beaten down however bad circumstances get. There’s a naivety and optimism which fuels this novel- she is certainly no “Little Nell” yet the skill of storytelling here will suggest comparisons to Charles Dickens.”
This sublime account of the later years of Truman Capote and an act of literary betrayal towards his friends was always going to be in with a strong shot of being at the summit this year. Debut author Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott’s position was further cemented when I went to see her talk about this book at this year’s Isle Of Wight Literary Festival following its publication in paperback. I said of it “I was hooked from the moment I saw printed on the back cover; “They told him everything. He told everybody else.” It is a novel fuelled by gossip which makes it sound tacky but it is so beautifully written and every word seems considered and measured.” I can’t remember ever falling for a book written in the third person (by a chorus of the betrayed women) but here it worked just brilliantly.
So Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott joins my Hall Of Fame for producing the book which has given me the most pleasure this year. She becomes the first American author to do since 2014. Here is my list of my favourite books going back to 2008.