What You Have Been Reading – The Top 10 posts of 2016

Christmas and New Year plays odd tricks with you.  First day back at work yesterday and on journey home it seemed as if the festive season was ages ago.  I was surprised to still see the twinkling lights from the bus and even more so when I got home to see the Christmas tree and decorations all up.  It only takes a couple of days of the New Year to get us all moving on………..

But before I crack on fully with 2017 I want to take just one more retrospective look at 2016.  Personally it was pretty momentous.  At the start of the year I was getting myself prepared for a 10th season at my guest house on the Isle of Wight.  Well, since then, books have taken over.  Following months of uncertainty the guest house has been sold and I have moved to a new house in the same town and have begun working with books (as well as being surrounded by them at home) working within the Isle Of Wight Library Service.  The reviews, interviews and magazine assignments have kept coming and at the times of upheaval, of not knowing where I would be living, of winding the business up, of dealing with the loss of close family members reading has very much kept me sane.  If insanity was threatened it was due to BT Open Reach and EE my internet providers who took forever between them to get me a phone line and internet access – but that’s all sorted now and after a few years of feeling life was on a bit of a plateau 2017 feels a very positive change of year.

I’m delighted with the way reviewsrevues.com has gone from strength to strength (despite erratic postings towards the end of the year- thanks again for making this so difficult, BT).  In fact compared to last year there has been an astonishing 76% rise in traffic on the site.  That’s thanks to you all reading this.  Let’s finish 2016 off with a countdown of your ten most read of the 158 posts I published during the year. Just click on the links to revisit the full reviews.

10. The Author Strikes Back- Benita Jayne – Author of “Sacred Crystal Pyramid”and old school chum makes it into the Top 10 with our interview held back in July

9. The Author Strikes Back – Chris Whitaker – The most read of the author interviews I’ve published on here this year.  Chris had to put up with me interviewing him twice, once for here and once for the Nudge site.  He was charming both times.

8. Tall Oaks – Chris Whitaker Showing that the author interviews drive traffic to the original review.  Chris’ crime debut was also a hit on Nudge which has led to a nomination for the Book Noir book of the year.  If you enjoyed his book you can register your appreciation here.

7. The Evenings – Gerard Reve– I had quite a lot of reservations about this book which I reviewed in October but the review of this Dutch translation has attracted a lot of attention.

6. The Rovers – Sky 1 football themed comedy with Craig Cash and Sue Johnston.  This was funny and attracted enough reads on here to suggest a second series is a serious proposition.

5. Giles Coren: My Failed Novel – Sky Arts one-off programme on the perils for a first-time novelist.  A real eye-opener.

4. Make! Craft Britain – Another one-off programme, this time on BBC4.  There’s a lot of crafters out there (and yes I did finish making my Clanger)

3. Lets Groove- The Best Of Earth Wind & Fire– I actually posted this in October 2015 but the lasting legacy of this group and the sad passing of Maurice White (one of the seemingly vast number of celebrities who were imporant to me who died in 2016) has ensured that this has had high readership figures throughout the year.

2. Scott and Bailey – ITV series.  People seemed to be facing up to the disappointment of there being apparently no more by reading about it.  I’ll say it again…  I love Scott and Bailey.



1.The Level – ITV.  My review of this appeared after the first episode at the start of October.  I moved not long after and lost track of reviewsrevues for a time.  I was astonished to see that views for this had gone through the roof whilst I was doing other things and it is the most read review  on here by a clear mile.  Over 1300 views ahead of the number 2 read.  The series started promisingly but lost its way a little at times but the readers keep coming.  There’s certainly a lot of interest in this series, ITV, if you are thinking of recommissioning or looking towards overseas sales.


Right. that’s enough 2016.  Let’s get on with 2017!

The Evenings – Gerard Reve (Pushkin 2016)



I was really looking forward to this book.  The Society Of Dutch Literature voted it the greatest Dutch novel of all time and some 59 years after its first appearance it is making its debut in its first English translation.

I have recently discovered Dutch author Tommy Wieringa and after reading the excellent “Joe Speedboat” was keen to read more from a country whose literature I had pretty much ignored.  I was even more thrilled to discover that the translation was by Sam Garrett, who was  responsible for bringing “Joe Speedboat”, a book which is going to be battling it out amongst the front runners for my Best Read of The Year, to a new audience.

Reading the blurb it reminded me of my last year’s best read “Alone In Berlin” by Hans Fallada, a novel which took 62 years to arrive in English and which has since been acknowledged as a modern classic.  “The Evenings” is also published by the rather marvelous Pushkin Press.  All of these positives made me eagerly await my review copy.  It seemed like the perfect match for me.

It is set in Amsterdam in the last couple of weeks of 1946.  The main character is 23 year old Frits Van Egters and it starts very much in a simple, unfussy style which can be quite common in European literature and is really quite appealing.  I settled down and prepared to enjoy.

However, it soon became clear that it was not going to match my expectations.  It didn’t seem to be going anywhere.  Basically, Frits leaves the home he shares with his parents most evenings, visits friends, says things without thinking, worries about anyone’s impending baldness and goes to bed where he dreams and that’s about it.  There’s no plot development and the characters did not come alive particularly and the whole thing comes across as sadly, for this reader, insignificant.  It was at this point that I realised that I was not quite so attuned to Dutch literature as my limited experience of it had hoped.  Compared to “Joe Speedboat” this is a damp squib.  It might end with the odd firework on New Year’s Eve, but it was without any explosive writing.

Frits, an anxious outsider, becomes annoying.  He describes himself, fittingly, as a small time neurotic; believes everyone over sixty should be done away with, that male baldness is one of the worst things that could happen to a man, that’s there is little point in women and who has a need to fill in gaps in conversation with observations that are often idiotic.  At times he comes across as a young Dutch Alf Garnett! Johnny Speight’s creation was ironic but I’m not sure if we should view Reve’s Frits as an example of Dutch humour.  I don’t know if we should latch on to what are some underlying mental issues.  I really don’t know what I am supposed to feel for him, other than irritated.

I needed to find out more about the author.  “The Evenings” was Reve’s first novel in a long career, originally written under a pseudonym.  A film has been made of it as has a graphic novel.  Reve’s work, I discovered, is credited with making homosexualiy acceptable to his Dutch readership, largely through humour and irony.  I don’t know how much this statement applies to this particular work but reading the book I didn’t pick this up.  Frits displays misogyny ( probably) and narcissism (definitely) but I didn’t pick up on any coded references to his sexuality.  True, he did seem to like going to the toilet together with male friends but I put that down to the amount of alcohol consumed!

Is this a novel, which on its first British publication, is now too dated?  Are the concerns I’ve raised the reason why it has taken so long to arrive over here?  It’s certainly enigmatic  and I haven’t cracked the puzzle.  It is a book I thought would be ideal for me and as it didn’t grab me it makes it seem an even bigger disappointment than perhaps it deserves to be.  I’m certainly going to be on the lookout for other reviewers to see just what they made of it.  I don’t want to be the one sat by the wall if a party is in the offing.


The Evenings is published by Pushkin Press on 3rd November 2016 .  Many thanks for the publishers and Netgalley for the advance  review copy.