Right, let’s crack on with this. Here is the rest of the countdown.
5. The Meaning Of Night – Michael Cox (2006) (Read and reviewed in July)
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.
3. Sanditon – Jane Austen and Another Lady (Corgi 1975) (Read and reviewed in December)
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.
2. Little – Edward Carey (Gallic 2018) (Read and Reviewed in June)
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.”
1.Swan Song – Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott (Hutchinson 2018) (Read and reviewed in April)
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.
2019 – Swan Song – Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott (2018) (USA)
2018- The Count Of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas (1845) (France)
2017 – The Heart’s Invisible Furies – John Boyne (2017) (Ireland)
2016- Joe Speedboat – Tommy Wieringa (2016) (Netherlands)
2015- Alone In Berlin- Hans Fallada (2009 translation of a 1947 novel) (Germany)
2014- The Wanderers – Richard Price (1974) (USA)
2013- The Secrets Of The Chess Machine – Robert Lohr (2007) (Germany)
2012 – The Book Of Human Skin – Michelle Lovric (2010) (UK)
2011 – The Help- Kathryn Stockett (2009) (USA)
2010- The Disco Files 1973-78 – Vince Aletti (1998) (USA)
2009- Tokyo – Mo Hayder (2004) (UK)
2008- The Book Thief – Markus Zusak (2007) (Australia)
Happy New Year and let’s hope there’s lots of great reading in 2020!