My second favourite thing to do after travelling is reading ! Last year I compiled a short list of my favourite reads and it proved quite popular so I’m doing it again. I escaped into 33 books through the course of the year and these 8 were the best books of 2017 to me.
Following on from her 2016 hit The Eye of the Sheep, Sophie Laguna has again written a powerful and really compelling novel set in rural Australia, this time on the Murray River.
A raw and often harrowing coming-of-age story about a young girl called Justine who is raised by her troubled but well-intentioned Pop, I defy any reader not to recognise elements from their own childhood at times, albeit dark ones. incredible story telling set in a fascinating landscape.
SPECIAL MENTION : Force of Nature, Jane Harper ( follow-up to 2016’s excellent The Dry) & Saltwater by Cathy McLennan
BEST HISTORICAL FICTION
Set in 1922 during the Bolshevik revolution in Moscow this richly detailed and utterly delightful book will make you want to book a trip to Russia immediately ! And more specifically The Metropole Hotel where the protagonist in this story is under house arrest ( yes, its a real hotel !)
I adored Rules of Civility by the same author a number of years ago and whilst this book is a lot longer it is equally full of wonderful characters and one beautifully rendered scene after another. Complete escapism.
This was such a delightful surprise.
Who knew that so much work and effort went into running a sheep farm in England’s Lake district. A profound treatise on the relationship between the land, the people and animals who inhabit it and the seasons that rule it. Rebanks is a third generation sheep farmer and despite the miserable weather and the punishing hours you can tell he wouldn’t trade places for anything.
I particularly loved the insights to the role of the dogs.
BEST MODERN CLASSIC
Published in 2009 I’m a bit late to the party on this one and it was the first book I picked up in 2017. And what a book !
Twin brothers are born of a secret union between a beautiful Indian nun and a brash British surgeon at a mission hospital in Addis Ababa. The book follows one brothers remarkable life and is an epic story (668 wonderful pages) about the power and beauty of healing others.
While some of it seems a little implausible at times the characters are so rich and likeable and the research and detail is so vivid by the end of the book you would believe anything, and many of the stories and characters are based on real people and events. And it’s not all unicorns and rainbows and happy endings so you’ll need a big box of tissues!
I would describe this as Silence of the Lambs meets CSI SUV so it’s not for the faint hearted.
There’s a great character in Detective Sam Porter ( who of course is dealing with his own demons) and lots of clever twists and turns which makes it better than the average thriller. It’s also ended in a way that will no doubt lead to a follow-up and I’ll be keeping an eye out for it !
SPECIAL MENTION : Sweet Little Lies, Caz Frear
Soon to be released as a movie starring Robert Redford and Jane Fonda this sweet novel isn’t really about much at all. Just two lonely people trying to find some small comforts in their twilight years.
There is also a fascinating back story to this with the author dying before the book was published. Seems he was only really discovered late in his quite fascinating life.
BEST CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT
By the very gifted author of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas this is one of those great sweeping epics that follows one gay man’s birth in Ireland right through the 80’s and AIDS to modern-day Manhattan. Cyril is a fabulous main character as are so many of the ‘cast’, and this book grips you from the very first page where a pregnant teenager is thrown out of her parish church.
Its funny and heartbreaking and overall just magical. Should be made into a mini series.
BEST BEACH/PLANE READ
Soon to be a movie I’m already reading the follow-up novel, Rich People’s Problems.
This a light, humorous look into the mega-wealthy families of Asia, particularly Singapore ( not to be confused with “Mainland China” or “ABC’s” – American Born Chinese!) and their various rules, relationships and rivalries. These families are so wealthy they don’t even appear on the Top 50 Rich list ( tacky) nor their houses on Google Maps !
Easy to read and you’ll be shaking your head and rolling your eyes until the end.