2010 wasn't a great reading year for me. I read only 60 books as compared to last year's 64. I had hoped to read more this year but real life got in the way. In fact I had trouble completing my top ten list so I've just listed nine of the best books I've read in 2010. I did reread some fantastic books such as Notes on a Scandal by Zoe Heller, My Cousin Rachel by Daphne Du Maurier and Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood however I only included one reread in my list which is The Sun Also Rises. I included it because I didn't appreciate it at all the first time I read it when I was eighteen. Reading it again has been a wonderful experience and I have a new respect for Hemingway. It's a beautiful novel and one that has made my list of all-time favourites. So here is my final list in no particular order:
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
I think this book is extraordinary not just for its adjective-free writing style, vivid descriptions and its depiction of the lost generation but for all the undercurrents and nuances of unrequited love. It's in essence a love story written by a man and told from a man's point of view and it involves a promiscuous and beautiful woman, Brett Ashley, who falls in love with just about every man she meets. Brett wreaks emotional havoc on the principal characters and most especially on Jake, our storyteller, who loves her with a passion but is ultimately unable to give her what she needs.
One Day by David Nicholls
This is the kind of book where you think you know how it will all end but you don't care. It's the journey that matters. Dex and Em. Em and Dex. They meet on the night of their college graduation in 1988. They're made for each other but they don't know it yet. Life calls them to different places and different things. But their obvious connection to one another stays and for the next twenty years we get a snapshot of their lives on the same day every year, July 15th. A book that will make you laugh out loud and cry too.
The Brooklyn Follies by Paul Auster
I thought this was such a wonderful, wonderful book from start to finish. It had some sad parts but its still a happy novel at heart. A life-affirming book filled with beautiful passages and precious moments. Though it will be difficult to choose one favourite among all the Auster novels I've read, this is certainly one of them. It's brilliant and definitely a keeper.
The House on the Strand by Daphne Du Maurier
This is a strange story but completely engrossing. It's a time travel story about Dick Young, who's staying at the home of his scientist friend, Magnus.However, there's one catch - Dick is only a witness and is unable to be seen, heard or touched by the people he observes which include a steward called Roger and a captivating lady known as Isolda Carminowe. As Dick quickly becomes fascinated by their lives, he starts to withdraw from the modern world and his family and retreats more and more into the past. His time travel visits soon become an addiction that begin to affect not only his sanity but his physical condition.
Brooklyn by Colm Toibin
Brooklyn is elegantly and beautifully written. From page one, I was riveted by Eilis' quite ordinary life and her everyday trials and tribulations. I loved Toibin's writing...so clean, crisp yet also compelling. Not a sentence wasted. It takes a brilliant writer to turn a simple story of a young immigrant where nothing much happens into a suspenseful read.
The Easter Parade by Richard Yates
This novel offers a microscopic view of two average sisters and their search for their little piece of happiness in this world. It's also the story of their own relationship with each other which is one of love, rivalry and jealousy. Each one believes the other to have the more wonderful life. It's ultimately sad to realise that actually neither of them had it. I'm amazed at how quickly I finished the novel. The pages just flew by and before I'd known it, I'd reached the end of this quiet masterpiece. Yates doesn't mince words. His prose is simple, his sentences are basic and uncomplicated. I loved the gritty realism of this story, the descriptions and the dialogue.
To Bed With Grand Music by Marghanita Laski
I found this book compulsively readable but I completely disliked the main character of Deborah. Usually, it's hard for me to read a book with a character that's so unlikable but surprisingly enough I still found the book very engaging and I credit it all to Laski's brilliant writing. I had no idea there was this whole sub-culture of women left behind during the second world war who indulged in wanton philandering. I guess Laski wanted to convey how war affected everyone. War can destroy not just the men who fight the battles but the women left behind.
A new Sarah Waters novel is always something to look forward to. I loved her novel Fingersmith. The Little Stranger is very different. It's not set in the Victorian era nor is it filled with shocking plot twists. It's a book where the build-up of suspense is quite slow but that doesn't make it any less gripping. This made an excellent book club read too.
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
The Help is a great read. It's set in 1962 in Jackson, Mississippi. A young white woman, Skeeter, decides to write a book about the working lives of domestic helpers. Two African-American maids, Aibileen and Minny agree to participate in the risky project. The story is told from the points of view of the three women. Their various accounts are touching, harrowing and also funny. The Help is riveting and compulsively readable.
So there you have it...my final list. Did any of them make your top ten? I'd love to know. I really hope to read more books next year and more wonderful ones. Looking forward to a new year filled with marvelous books. Happy New Year to you all!