As always I am limiting my Top 10 list to novels published during this century. I don’t think these recent novels should have to compete against the classic old novels I choose to read or re-read. After the Top Ten, I will list a few classic novels that I really liked this year.
Click on either the picture or the title and author to read my original review for each book.
‘Mothering Sunday’ by Graham Swift – ‘Mothering Sunday’ captures the sunny ambiance of an unseasonably warm spring day in the Twenties and the sparks of an illicit but romantic love affair. I know this is nostalgia, but it is lovely, moving nostalgia, and I would not change a word.
‘All That Man Is’ by David Szalay – For me it was an exploration of myself, but for you women who want to figure out or understand guys, ‘All That Man Is’ is the fiction for you. It is not always pretty, but it is pretty accurate. Actually men come out looking slightly less atrocious here than in a lot of modern fiction.
‘The Past’ by Tessa Hadley – This is the novel I read early in the year to which I compared all later reads. Most of the later novels came up short against ‘The Past’. The pastoral family scenes here are just incredible.
‘The Sympathizer’ by Viet Thanh Nguyen – Here uis a poignant yet humorous novel that observes the Vietnam War from the viewpoint of the Vietnamese, a perspective most of us people from the United States have not encountered before.
‘Application For Release From the Dream’ by Tony Hoagland – My new favorite poet.
“a human being should have a warning label on the side
that says, Beware: Disorganized Narrative Inside;
prone to frequent sideways bursting
of one feeling through another”
‘Wasp’, Tony Hoagland
‘The Four Books’ by Yan Lianke – This is a powerful bitter political novel about the ridiculous imposing of and the disastrous results of Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward.
‘The Golden Age’ by Joan London – The Golden Age is a makeshift children’s polio hospital in Australia during the height of the polio epidemic in the early 1950s. This is an incredibly moving old-fashioned story of children in the hospital, their families, and the dedicated staff.
‘Signs Preceding the End of the World’ by Yuri Herrera – This is a tough little Western novella written in distinctive heroic prose. You don’t mess with Makina; just ask the young guy who tried to grope her on the bus.
‘The Gustav Sonata’ by Rose Tremain – This is a fine unpredictable European novel about complex moral situations. Rose Tremain has done it once again.
‘A Gentleman in Moscow’ by Amor Towles – Here is a Russian novel written with Old World charm by a literary stylist about the head waiter in the one fine Moscow hotel during the Communist years.
‘Nutshell’ by Ian McEwan – I’m always up for a clever Hamlet parody. In ‘Nutshell’, Hamlet isn’t even born yet. The rutting of his mother and his father’s brother causes Hamlet both mental and physical pain.
As promised, here are three novels from the previous century I really liked this year.
‘Love in a Cold Climate’ by Nancy Mitford – The unforgettable Mitford family
‘Our Spoons Came from Woolworths’ by Barbara Comyns – A wife and mother tries to keep up a good front despite grinding poverty.
‘Loving’ by Henry Green – It is difficult to decide who was more offbeat, Barbara Comyns or Henry Green. In fiction, offbeat is good.