A Year of Reading
Even by my extreme standards 2020 will go down as the year I binge read in the bath, and later in bed, more than ever before. I became addicted to a daily habit of drawing a bubble bath at around 4.30pm and never lifting my wrinkled body from it before 7.30pm. Here are some of the books I discovered in 2020. They are not recently published. They may already be familiar to you but these are the books I read in 2020 that will stay with me. Certain books are like friends, I read the cherished ones over and over, especially when I’m awake at 2am. A familiar and loved book is just what I need to read myself back to sleep.
The Cazalet Chronicles, Elizabeth Jane Howard
Five novels spanning 1937 to 1956 in the UK and published between 1990 and 1995. I never wanted this gripping family story to end. Living through World War II in London made the pandemic look quite tolerable especially from this end of the world. Beautifully written. A writer who is up there with Hilary Mantel and Anita Brookner but never got their recognition in her life time.
The Motion of the Body Through Space, Lionel Shriver
It’s about so many things – obsession, searching for relevance, jealousy, parenting, marriage, cultural appropriation, body image, manipulation and so much more. If you’re in a relationship with someone recently obsessed with CrossFit or similar then you’ll get a real kick out of it.
The Great Believers, Rebecca Makkai
This is an absolute page-turner (no pun intended). Set in Chicago just as AIDS is taking off and gay rights is only just gaining traction. So many wonderful characters, so much love, jealousy, insecurity, twists and turns – even accusations of art forgery and skulduggery. It’s got the lot and you can feel the bitter cold and fierce winds off Lake Michigan seep into your bones too as you read it.
The Best of Us, Joyce Maynard
I don’t care if Joyce is accused of being the queen of over-sharing because what she’s sharing is utterly fascinating and the woman can write. Most over sharers can’t. This story broke my heart for her. I don’t know where the memoir stops and the novel starts and I don’t care.
Late in the Day, Tessa Hadley
Ageing and adultery. Does it get any better than this?
The Neapolitan Novels, Elena Ferrante
Yeah, yeah they’ve been out for years but I’m a late adaptor. This Italian family saga could not be more different to the Cazalet’s but equally fascinating. I felt like a voyeur consuming all four of these books. What a bizarre bunch of people but then what bunch of people isn’t?