As the year draws to a close, it’s traditional for me to consider the books I’ve most enjoyed in the past twelve months. I don’t like using ‘best’, because this is a personal list and my preferred reading tends to reflect my emotional state as much as, if not more than, anything.
2017 has been a tough year, both personally and professionally – it’s been pretty shitty politically and economically, too, in my opinion. On the home front, to name but one challenge, there was a horrendous run-in with Southern Rail and Ginger1, my eldest boy. Professionally, while Skin Deep has been incredibly well-received (reviews were beyond my wildest hopes and dreams – thank you, dear readers) sales are, to coin a publishing cliché, disappointing.
So, perhaps it shouldn’t surprise me – or you – that the majority of the books I’ve enjoyed the most this year are dark in tone and subject matter. The up-lit star might have been rising across the publishing landscape, but not in my house! Here’s my list of the novels (yes, they’re all novels this year) that have impressed me the most:
Our Kind of Cruelty by Araminta Hall – this isn’t out till Spring 2018 but I was fortunate enough to receive an advance copy. A stunning exploration of obsessive love which delves deep into the twisted heart of a secretive, sexually charged relationship and the aftermath of its breakdown. One of the most compelling and psychologically complex thrillers I’ve read in a very long time – and its commentary on our current world is perceptive and terrifying in equal measure. I have no doubt this will be one of the most talked about psych thrillers of 2018. Breathtaking.
The Night Visitor by Lucy Atkins – a celebrated academic and TV presenter – a woman who ‘has it all’ writes a memoir about a long-lost heroine, reluctantly enlisting the aid of a socially inept housekeeper. It’s a novel about ambition, privilege, morality and dung beetles. Fabulous.
The Muse by Jessie Burton – I adored The Miniaturist and I’m fascinated by the Spanish civil war and art so this was near enough a sure thing. That said, I preferred Burton’s debut, but her second offering is wonderful story, set across two time-frames, about hidden treasures, faking it, love and identity.
Ivy and Abe by Elizabeth Enfield – another one not released until 2018 (February) which I read this year. A story of love and quantum physics, it’s beautiful, sad and clever. We meet the eponymous protagonists over the course of 70 years in 11 different realities, or universes. Fans of The Versions of Us (like me) and Life After Life should enjoy it. Gorgeous.
Lie with Me by Sabine Durrant – with a lying, narcissistic literary novelist at its heart and a supporting cast of unlikable metropolitan-elite types, this is a gripping and clever psychological thriller about a missing child and the dangers of little lies. Durrant’s brilliance lies in her ability to evoke sympathy for her male lead, Paul.
The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel – it’s not a spoiler to reveal that this is a tale of incest (we know within the first 20 pages, if not earlier) set in the American mid-West. It’s a subject matter many will find distasteful, but Engel writes beautifully and sensitively. This incredible work has shades of Rebecca and reminded me in tone and in the portrayal of small town America and its inhabitants of Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects – a much stronger book than her more successful Gone Girl, in my humble opinion.
That’s it. My to-read tower remains in danger of toppling and with lots of wonderful books scheduled for 2018 – including one by my good friend, Kate Helm (I can’t wait!) – I only hope I have enough time to write!
Merry Christmas one and all – here’s to the New Year!