Although my reading has fallen away with a busy end to the year with my etsy and madeit stores (and thanks to all my supporters and customers!) I did begin quite strong as always and looked set to reach my goodreads goal of 50 books read this year. Now I haven’t made it to 50 but here are my favourite books read for the first time in 2011.
A Spot of Bother is a comedic look at modern family life that will appeal to readers and fans of Nick Hornby, Mark Barrowcliffe and others in that vein. I have a penchant for brutal honesty, and this book reveals things many of us think privately, perhaps even when we are unaware of it, and gives us a decent laugh while relieving any stresses we may have about our own lives. This is the kind of novel that glorifies our mundane little concerns and helps us to love our lives even for the mountains of molehills of complaints and crises we have erected unwittingly.
Ideal Companion Book: anything by Nick Hornby.
This is the first Wally Lamb novel I have read and I loved it from beginning to end. I can remember the specific moment I loved the main character… when, he was being informed via telephone of his wife’s affair, by an unsympathetic friend of the wife of the man involved in it… and he said, on the attack to the woman “you’re fat, aren’t you?”. Laughed my ass off! Every laugh in this book is to be treasured, because it is an emotional read, being set around the aftermath of the Columbine school shooting and it has been incredibly skilfully, beautifully, and sensitively handled. Yes, I mean it, even if you didn’t find the “you’re fat” conversation hilarious, you will still most likely admire and enjoy this wonderful book.
Ideal Companion Book: She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb (which is the book I read straight afterwards).
Another first… my first John Irving novel (but will not be the last!), warning, you are entering manly territory, this is a male oriented book, a world of logging, violence, and fugitivism. I loved it. I have heard many book club members on goodreads thought the pages of descriptions of food were boring. Hohum, nothing bores me once I got through Herman Melville’s freakishly long and detailed descriptions of whales and whaling! This is the story of a man and his son, forced into life on the run after the tragic and accidental shooting of a woman by the young son in a rural logging camp. However don’t expect it to be a fast paced thriller… the father and son spend little time physically running and set down roots along their journey and the novel spans decades in this manner… I still loved it!
Ideal Companion Book: maybe another John Irving novel.
The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer is a beautiful family saga set before and during the holocaust in France and Hungary. While reading this book I was continually amazed at the degree of poise and control in the writing. The Invisible Bridge is intelligent and sensitive, not sensationalised, but mature and steady. The exploration of love and hope within this tale is food for thought and really distinguish the epic family saga from other works that come out more like a bad soap opera. This is the kind of book, and writing that I will be thinking of for a long time to come, definitely a benchmark for me as a writer.
A very simply told story that reads like a wonderful fable. Both my mother and I read this avidly. It is far more easily digested then the book I read after it, The Pavilion of Women also by Pearl S Buck.
Ideal Companion Book: more Pearl S Buck, or perhaps something by Amy Tan.
From impoverished ‘orange girl’ to stage darling, to King’s Mistress… what a journey! ‘Nell’ Gwyn dodged the family business of whoring, and determined to earn her own way in the world found a career on the stage that enriched and elevated her, yet eventually became England’s most famous mistress while never appearing a hypocrite, or losing her innocence and inner sweetness. Nell was brought so vividly to life that I laughed, I cried, I jumped for joy, I loved her with all of my light. Was Nell adopted by the author only to be dropped into a vague and distant historic setting? No, her world was as fresh and lively and fascinating as we could desire.
Ideal Companion Book: something by Philippa Gregory, especially the Tudors series or The Cousin’s War series.
If you are interested in following more of my book choices and reviews, here is my goodreads profile link