Happy New Year everyone.
I've read 120 books in 2011, and looking back over my list, it was interesting to see which books have lingered on in my memory, and which I had completely forgotten about. Others I read, enjoyed (or not) but promptly forgot about.
So here are my top new discoveries of 2011, as seen from today:
Never Let Me Go - Kazuo Ishiguro
A haunting, atmospheric tale of friendship and love among three people who have been brought up to know that they were not quite the same as everyone else. The story is told cleverly, so that the reader experiences alongside Kathy, Tommy and Ruth the gradual realisation that they already know what's going on. A melancholy but extraordinary tale.
Affinity and Fingersmith - Sarah Waters.
Ms Waters excels in writing historical page-turners, twisty mysteries and world-building. These two novels explore dark undersides to the respectable society that we think of as Victorian. Her prose is beautiful, atmospheric and believably written as by someone you might find in a Dickens novel. These novels draw you in and are difficult to escape from.
When God Was A Rabbit - Sarah Winman
The first novel by Sarah Winman was selected as part of Richard and Judy's book club, and it was one of my favourite books of the selection that I've read in many years. A tale of family, friendship and growing up, When God Was A Rabbit is a quirky, funny and heartrending novel with eccentric but loveable characters. An enjoyable read.
My Sister Lives on the Mantlepiece - Annabel Pitcher
I experienced this book as an audiobook, read by David Tennant. The story is of a small boy whose family is falling apart. His sister has been killed in a terrorist attack, his mum has left and he, his dad and surviving sister have had to move to a new home. A simple view of a complicated world as seen through the eyes of a child.
The Distant Hours - Kate Morton
Kate Morton's third novel is full of her signature ingredients: two stories from different times entwined together, a mystery from the past, a big old house. The Distant Hours is a modern gothic novel of an old castle with a moat, three elderly sisters, a favourite fairy tale whose origins are shrouded in mystery.
Dark Matter - Michelle Paver
This ghost story set in the arctic circle in winter is eerie and chilling, capturing well the unnatural sense of being alone and in the dark for a long stretch of time.
The Night Circus - Erin Morganstern
I unpacked this book at work and it jumped out, grabbed me by the collar and shouted "Buy me! Read me! Love me!" A romantic dark fairy tale, of two magicians competing in a contest without knowing what they are competing for nor how they can possibly win. Written in beautiful, vivid prose, with a wonderful supporting cast, The Night Circus is full of magic, possibility and improbability. It will grab you and not let go.