2018 – What I Should Have Read

I am fairly certain that I am now reading my last book of 2018.  This is because I am just mid-way through the massive “Count Of Monte Cristo” which I have never read before and the Penguin edition amounts to 1276 pages of pretty small print.  If I get through these it will end up being perhaps the longest book I have ever read.  I’ll let you know how I get on but that will unlikely be before the new year.

With newspapers, bloggers, websites coming up with their favourite books of the year I thought I would delay my choices until the very end of 2018 but look at some of the books I have missed out on reading this year.  So here is my Top 10 what I should have reads.

Snap – Belinda Bauer (Bantam Press)

snap

The first popular crime novel to be longlisted for the Man Booker Prize but it seems not even the presence of huge fan Val McDermid on the judging panel could get this onto the shortlist.  I read Bauer’s dark debut “Blacklands” in the year it was published and enjoyed it but have not read any of her others.  Luckily, I found a copy of this on the library shelves and have borrowed it so Alexandre Dumas-willing I will get round to it before hoards start reserving it because of its regular appearances on “best of the year lists”

Chalk Man – C J Tudor (Penguin)

chalkman

Another one I have out from the library.  This debut has been compared to Stephen King and is set in 1980’s Britain. Now out in a paperback edition featuring high praise from writers of the calibre of Lee Child, John Boyne, Celia Aherne, Kimberley Chambers, Julia Heaberlin and King himself.  Can’t wait to read this one.

Seven Deaths Of Evelyn Hardcastle – Stuart Turton (Raven)

sevendeaths

Another much praised debut.  Val McDermid had it as one of her books of the year.  The little I know about it sounds a bit like Kate Atkinson’s “Life After Life” in structure (an all-time favourite) within a classic murder mystery frame.  I saw this going cheap one day as a Kindle Daily Deal so it is sitting there waiting for me.  This has been shortlisted for the first novel Costa Awards, a National Book Award and scooped the independent booksellers Books Are My Bag novel award.  Not sure why there is an extra half of a death in the American title.  Suppose I will have to read it to find out.

Washington Black – Esi Edugyan (Serpent’s Tail)

washington

A Booker shortlisted roller-coaster of a novel and the only one that made me feel sorry I did not read the shortlisted titles before the winner’s announcement this year as I have done the past couple of years.  I do have this Canadian author’s earlier novel “Half Blood Blues” unread on my bookshelves and I may just have to start to this but I am certainly looking forward to discovering her writing in 2019.

Warlight – Michael Ondaatje (Jonathan Cape)

warlight

A book which is certainly popping up on best of the year lists.   It was championed by Kamila Shamsie in “The Guardian’s” look back on the year.  I have never read any of  the Sri-Lankan born Canadian novelist Ondaatje’s 8 novels before, not even “The English Patient” (nor have I seen the film version) but this novel set in London in the aftermath of World War II seems to me to be a tempting place to start.  I had this as one of my 2018 highlights at the start of the year.

From A Low And Quiet Sea – Donal Ryan (Doubleday)

donal

I loved, loved loved this Irish writer’s debut  “The Spinning Heart” and was published in NB magazine citing it as one of the best books of the 21st Century, but since then, amazingly I have not got round to reading any of his three subsequent novels.  This was championed by Jonathan Franzen in The Guardian and is on the shortlist for the Costa novel Award.

Transcription – Kate Atkinson (Doubleday)

transcription

This British author’s “A God In Ruins” is well in the running for being named my best read of 2018.  I wanted to read her Jackson Brodie series of novels next but then I borrowed this as a library e-book.  I’ve not noticed it much on end of year lists and a few people I know who have read it have been a bit lukewarm about it but she is one of our greatest living novelists so I really should find out for myself .

Lethal White – Robert Galbraith (Sphere)

lethal

I’ve read all the others so of course I’m going to get round to this but I’m a little put off by the sheer size of the hardback so may need to wait until it arrives in paperback.  It does seem to be generally getting the thumbs up but most seem to mention that it is too long.

Take Nothing With You – Patrick Gale (Tinder Press)

gale

Admittedly I’ve got the odd Gale gap in my reading history but he is one of my Top 10 most-read authors.  I would imagine that this is a quieter, understated, less showy novel than some on display here so I might need to get myself into the right mood for that.  He can absolutely blow me away as a writer but this does not happen every time.

My Love Story – Tina Turner (Century)

tina

My pick of all the non-fiction I’ve missed this year.  I was a little concerned that this autobiography might have been a little air-brushed but reviews seem to say that this is not the case.  This living legend and performer of one of my 100 Essential CDs got huge publicity for this publication as it was her version of what has been an incredible life.  I haven’t rushed to buy this because I did read “I, Tina” written alongside Kurt Loder and I wondered how much of this was a rehash of that.  But I will get round to it.

Anyone looking for a last minute Christmas present for this reviewer could start here….!

 

 

 

Advertisements

A Place Called Winter – Patrick Gale (2015)

galewinter

This is the ninth Patrick Gale book I have read, taking him up to number 7 on my most read authors list from the twenty years I have been keeping records.  Our relationship has not always been rosy.  I really didn’t like “The Aerodynamics Of Pork” (1986) and it was only from his 1996 “Facts Of Life” (perhaps still my favourite) that he really began to win me over and I could see he had the potential to become one of Britain’s best novelists.  From then on, both “Rough Music” and his last novel “A Perfectly Good Man” confirmed that for me and this makes two in a row for him now as this is well up there amongst his best.

It is a bit of a departure for Gale- set largely in Canada in the years preceding to just after World War I.  Harry Cane is a well-off Englishman who has never had to work but when he suffers financial losses and a scandal threatens his family’s standing he sets off to Canada, seduced by posters suggesting he could make his fortune.  En-route he is befriended by Troels Munck, who with questionable motives finds Harry a way to set up his own homestead in newly allocated land.  In a primitive existence Harry has to battle with both the elements and his own sexuality.

For this novel Gale took as his inspiration his own ancestors finding his grandmother’s handwritten memoir and filling in the gaps about her own father and these gaps have been filled in beautifully.

Harry, thrust into manual work seems to view the world and his place in it with a detachment which leads to mental health issues.  The tensions of setting up his farm, family tragedy and the effects of the war itself have a part to play as does society’s inability to let him be the man he wants to be.  This book will no doubt be compared to “Brokeback Mountain” but plot-wise this is more satisfying.  I might, however, have liked to have got more of the sense of Harry the farmer, attempting to establish himself on such hostile terrain – I found this was a little glossed over in placing the emphasis on his relationships and the threat of Troels Munck who has the tendency to turn up when things are beginning to go well.

The historical setting is a new one for Gale and I think he equips himself admirably.  It is more focused upon one character than most of his other works but the subject matter dictates this.  There is a good balance of main plot and back story.  This book is making quite a few appearances on “Best of 2015” lists and has deservedly been shortlisted for Best Novel by the Costa Awards panel.

My Still to read Patrick Gale list:

  • Kansas In August
  • Facing The Tank
  • Little Bits Of Baby
  • The Cat Sanctuary
  • Caesar’s Wife
  • Tree Surgery For Beginners
  • Friendly Fire
  • The Whole Day Through
  • Gentlemen’s Relish

Any suggestions which should be next?

fourstars

A Place Called Winter was published in the UK in 2015 by Tinder Press