Number 2. Jonathan Franzen – Freedom.
This came as a total surprise as I have attempted to read Freedom a couple of times and had difficulty going beyond a couple of pages but this year it seems that everything was perfect and I ploughed through it in less than a week.
Dare I say that Freedom is better than Franzen’s previous novel, The Corrections? The book focuses on the disintegration of a typical suburban family post 9/11. As one can expect there’s break ups, break downs and tons of drama but just in case one thinks that Franzen is a cold hearted cynic there’s a big beating heart in this novel. oh there’s a sub plot about the Cerulean Warbler too! This is an epic novel with fully realised characters and many memorable moments.
Number 1. Ali Smith Autumn & Winter.
Those who know me probably would have guessed that these two novels would take the top spot. I am a huge fan of Ali Smith and with both Autumn and Winter she has outdone herself.
These volumes are the first parts of a four book cycle, all focusing on a season. However the main plot is about post Brexit Britain. As always Smith crams loads of themes in her work so these two novels are about art,feminism,politics, racism,media and more. Since this is Ali Smith, there’s a lot of playful prose, puns and surreal moments. Saying that, these novels display Smith’s more angry side and the reader can feel her displeasure at current events, especially in Winter. Smith does not leave it there though as she compares current events with past ones and finds similarities, the main conclusion being that history repeats itself. One little note, both these volumes are intricately linked even though it doesn’t seem so at first but I’ll let you figure out how Smith does it.
With these two volumes Ali Smith has proved that an author can be experimental and accessible at the same time and it also proves that she is still a unique voice in literature today and I’m glad that there are authors like her who are making readers aware of what is happening to the world and not in a preachy way.
Number 4. John Boyne – The Heart’s Invisible Furies.
I only knew about John Boyne through The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas and I was totally surprised to find out that he wrote for adults as well. I have heard some things about the Heart’s Invisible Furies and, at times, I wanted to buy a copy. However my girlfriend bought a copy for my birthday so I pushed everything aside and read it.
This book is EPIC. It spans over 70 years of world history through the eyes of a gay man. Most of the book takes place in post war Ireland, where tolerance to homosexuality was low and the main focus of this book is Cyril’s constant battle between finding himself and trying to ‘conform’. Boyne stuffs the novel with red herrings, tender moments and uplifting ones. A panoramic novel if there ever was one. Review here.
Number 3. Emma Donoghue – Room.
I love it when a book absorbs me completely and Room did that to me. To put it simple Room is about a boy who grows up in a solitary room. The book is told from his own point of view, including the language he makes up. Suddenly an event happens that changes his outlook of his confined world.
Room is one of those books that can be interpreted in different ways but no matter how you look at it it’s poignancy sticks out. A special reading experience. Goodreads review here.
Number 6. Isabel Greenberg – The One Hundred Nights of Hero.
When I was young, I was a HUGE mythology fan, probably my favourite aspect was how one action has its consequences on other mythological characters in the future. It’s nice to know that there are some authors who believe in the power of the myth. Isabel Greenberg’s The Hundred Nights of Hero fulfills that.
This graphic novel is a companion to Greenberg’s previous work, The Encyclopedia of Early Earth. There are some of the same characters but this time the details in the first novel are expanded upon. Once again Greenberg deftly creates multiple layers of plotlines and ties them up cleverly. With such a distinctive world being constructed, I can’t wait to see what her next move will be. Full review here.
Number 5. George Saunders – Lincoln in the Bardo.
George Saunders first novel is brilliant: Abraham Lincoln’s son dies and the soul is trapped in the Bardo and has to wait til his dad accepts his death til he can move on to heaven.
This is a story that encapsulates a plethora of emotions from grief to laughter, told as a series of conversational snippets between the lost souls of the Bardo interspersed with chunks of trivia about Abraham Lincoln, this novel is the ultimate unique reading experience. Review here.
Number 8. Daphne du Maurier – Rebecca.
Rebecca is THE perfect novel. It’s got tons of plot twists, amazing characters. Symbolism, moments that will make you clench your teeth and moments that will raise your eyebrows. Each page is a joy to read. It is also the few times where a house is one of the main protagonists.
An Unnamed narrator decides to marry the rich Maxim DeWinter and move to his mansion , Manderley. The problem is that the influence of DeWinter’s previous wife Rebecca is dominant and so of Manderley’s Domestic Staff refuse to accept this. All I can say is makes sure you leave some free time while reading this novel cause you’ll just want to finish it in one sitting. My Goodreads review here.
Number 7. Gail Honeyman – Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine.
I admit, I first thought this novel would be along the lines of Bridget Jones’ Diary but I was 100% wrong! Instead I got a clever tale. Can I talk about the plot? better not. All I can say is that it deals with a woman who lives a super routinely life until an event helps her understand what she is. That’s all I can say really. There has been quite a bit of criticism about the ending but I think it’s great and emphasises the book’s main message.
Reading-wise 2017 was an ok year but not a fantastic one. I started off badly which led into a massive slump in which fourteen books were rejected. Incidentally the book that helped was Jessie Burton’s The Muse. Anyway I managed to read a few great novels, which segues in my top 10 of the year.
Number 10. Margaret Atwood – Hag-Seed.
The premise behind The Hogarth Shakespeare series are quite interesting: get a contemporary author to reinterpret a Shakespeare play. So far the results have been consistent but my favourite is definitely Margaret Atwood’s re-telling of the Tempest. In this version a shamed theatre director who is teaching drama to prisoners, decides to hold The Tempest as his next production. In reality though this play is part of an elaborate revenge plot. Funny and Clever, Hag-Seed ( a pejorative term from someone born from a witch i.e Caliban) shows that Margaret Atwood still is an unstoppable force.
Read my Goodreads review here.
Number 9. Naomi Alderman – The Power.
What would happen if women managed to shoot electric sparks from their hands via a skein on their necks? Naomi Alderman asks this question and the results are umm electrifying?
Alderman presents a society where women overthrow gender struggle and keep all aggressive men at a distance (or dead). Eventually things do not go as planned which leads to the notion that maybe women in positions of power are just as brutal as men in power. Alderman’s take on gender equality is unique and The Power is open to many interpretations. Definitely a must read. Review here.