The final month of the year is one of my favourite periods. The atmosphere is warm and filled with cheer, every week seems to be crammed with Christmas parties, festive lunches and a season’s worth of mulled wine and hot chocolate. Best of all, the Books of the Year round ups appear across newspapers, magazines, blogs and Instagram feeds. It’s a chance to be inspired, and a chance to reflect on some of the books I’ve loved most, the books I’ll be taking with me into the next year, and the ones I’ll be recommending for years to come. So here is the first part of my books of the year for 2019:
Late in the Day by Tessa Hadley
Alexandr, Christine, Zachary and Lydia are two couples whose friendship has defined all of their adult lives. Moody Alexandr; Christine, the thoughtful artist; Zachary, owner of an art gallery; and spirited Lydia. When Zachary dies unexpectedly, they become untethered, and their understanding of events of the past are challenged. In this novel about aging, creativity, and friendship, Hadley’s skill is to expose the way that the buried fissures in our relationships are unearthed over time. Her intuitive observations unmask the flawed humanity of her characters, and our own.
Three Women by Lisa Taddeo
A gripping, enlightening and moving account of female desire following three women in America over the course of eleven years. Three Women puts female sexuality under the microscope and examines the way that male ideas of femininity and sex have shaped women’s own desires. It’s so tenderly written, and Taddeo’s subjects so well drawn that the reading experience is almost novelistic.
The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
An evocative story about family, class, and the way that time changes our perspective. Danny and Maeve grow up in the ‘Dutch House’, a lavish property in Philadelphia that their working-class father has bought with funds from his successful business. After their altruistic mother leaves and their fairy tale-esque wicked stepmother evicts them from the house, the siblings’ bond is drawn closer still. Simply stunning writing.
Notes to Self by Emily Pine
A collection of essays about what it means to be a woman in the twenty-first century, Emily Pine’s Notes to Self is moving, relatable and interrogative of the female experience. Each essay – on themes from alcoholism to miscarriage – is extremely personal, a gradual unfolding of the author as well as the subject matter, beautifully written.
Confession With Blue Horses by Sophie Hardach
Confession With Blue Horses so deserves its place as a Costa Novel Award Shortlistee. It quite simply blew me away. Set in present day London and Berlin and 1980s East Berlin as the USSR begins to fall, it shows a part of history seldom understood from the perspective of those who lived through it, and the devastating consequences on those alive today. This is a moving story about family and the way that the threads of history run like a current into the present moment. There's also a fascinating plot about the people piecing together the literally shredded documents from the Soviet government, like puzzles, to reveal the traumatic histories of those who lived behind the Iron Curtain.
I'll be following up with Part Two next week.
I'd love to hear what your best books have been in 2019 and what you're looking forward to in 2020. Does anyone have any reading resolutions? Comment below or message me on Instagram to let me know.