The topic this week is My Favourite Books of 2020. This is difficult as I’ve read so many good books this year. So these are just 10 of them that came to mind when I was deciding which ones are my favourites. I’ve listed them in a-z author order:
A Thousand Moons by Sebastian Barry – his second book continuing the story of Thomas McNulty and John Cole, and Winona, the young Indian girl they had adopted. This is beautifully written, poetically and lyrically describing the landscape and with convincing characters from the American West of the 1870s. They are living and working on a farm in Tennessee, but then things go disastrously wrong. First racism rears its ugly head and then Winona is brutally attacked.
Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens his second novel, published in three volumes in November 1839. It’s full of terrific descriptions of the state of society at the time – the grim conditions that the poor suffered, the shocking revelations of what went on in the workhouse, and the depiction of the criminal underworld – the contrast of good and evil.
The Searcher by Tana French, a novel full of suspense and tension. After twenty five years in the Chicago police force, Cal has recently moved to a village in Ireland, wanting to build a new life after his divorce. He wants a quiet life in which nothing much happens. But he gets involved in the search for Brendan, a missing 19 year-old.
The Year Without a Summer: One Event, Six Lives, a World Changed by Guinevere Glasford – a novel about how the volcanic eruption of Mount Tambora on Sumbawa Island in Indonesia in 1815 had a profound and far reaching impact on the world. It led to sudden cooling across the northern hemisphere, crop failures, famine and social unrest in the following year.
The Lady of the Ravens by Joanna Hickson, historical fiction about the early years of Henry VII’s reign as seen through the eyes of Joan Vaux She was a lady in waiting to Elizabeth of York, whose marriage in 1486 to Henry united the Houses of Lancaster and York after the end of the Wars of the Roses. The fictional element is in the story of Joan’s fascination for and care of the ravens of the Tower of London firmly believing in the legend that should the ravens leave the Tower for good then the crown will fall and ruin will return to the nation.
The Sleepwalker by Joseph Knox, the third Detective Aidan Waits novel, crime fiction that is dark, violent and absolutely brilliant. Waits is a disturbed and complex character, other police officers don’t trust him or want to work with him. He plays very close to the edge and has little regard for his own safety.
Saving Missy by Beth Morey – a novel about love and loss, family relationships, friendship, loneliness, and guilt but also about the power of kindness. It moved me to tears (not many books do that) but it is not in the least sentimental. Missy (Millicent) Carmichael is seventy nine, living on her own in a large house, left with sad memories of what her life used to be, a wife, mother and grandmother, but now she is alone. Her husband, Leo is no longer with her, her son and his family are in Australia and she and her daughter are estranged after a big row. And there is something else too, for Missy has a guilty secret that is gnawing away at her.
The Last Day by Andrew Hunter Murray – dystopian fiction. I was gripped by the story of a world coming to an end and the effects that had on the planet and the population. Set in 2059, thirty years after the earth had finally stopped spinning The Last Day presents a totalitarian world, and gives such a vivid picture of what life has become for the people who live on the burning sun side of the planet. There is, of course, no night, but there is a curfew during the ‘night’ hours.
Fresh Water for Flowers by by Valérie Perrin, translated from the French by Hildegarde Serle. An emotional and moving story about the caretaker at a cemetery in a small town in Bourgogne, Violette, her estranged husband, Phillippe, his miserable parents and their young daughter, Leonine. What happened to Leonine is especially tragic. This is a story of love and loss – and hope.
The Birdwatcher by William Shaw – a character-driven murder mystery, with a dramatic climax. Sergeant William South is a birdwatcher, a methodical and quiet man. A loner, South is not a detective and has always avoided being involved in investigating murder. But he is assigned to investigate the murder of a fellow birdwatcher. Alternating with the present day story is the story of Billy, a thirteen year old living in Northern Ireland during the ‘Troubles’.