For about twenty years now, my goal has been to read a book a week. It is not such a difficult thing to do, but something I seem to be incapable of achieving. I usually manage to read forty-eight books, give or take a couple, each year. In 2017 I reached fifty books but this year past only a measly forty. I have my excuses – the early part of the year was taken up with preparing my own book for publication, then I was stumbling around trying to promote it and when I finally had the hang of that, I went of on a jaunt overseas and only managed two books in six weeks. My report card would, no doubt, read ‘Must try harder in 2019’.
Once again, most of my reading has been historical fiction. It has been very hard to choose my absolute favourites over the year because it was a year of excellent reading. But forcing myself to choose, my top reads for 2018 are
The Trick to Time by Kit de Waal
A poignant and deceptively simple story written in unobtrusive prose with moments of genuine everyday humour.
The Women in Black by Madeleine St John
This sharply observed and lightly humourous novel captures perfectly Australia on the brink of the changes that the 1960s brought. (See the film if you can – it is nostalgic fun.)
Traitor’s Knot by Cryssa Bazos
Cryssa Bazos vividly brings the mid-17th century to life in both its beauty and its squalor. Her characters are well-rounded and believable, people of their time, yet driven by dreams and hopes understandable to the modern reader.
The King’s Witch by Tracy Borman
‘From superstitious monarchs to grisly tortures and the cruelest of love stories; this book was an unexpected whirlwind which brought this period of history so vibrantly to life!’
The Good People by Hannah Kent
Beautifully written in lyrical prose replete with Irishness, this novel is a great read that totally immerses the reader in another time and place.
The Way of All Flesh by Ambrose Parry
‘Parry creates a great feel of the Edinburgh of the time, including the upper class New Town and shady Old Town …[exploring]… the development of the medical profession as it transitioned from glorified butchery to something more respectable … and a fun and interesting exploration of attitudes and beliefs of the time.’
All allow the reader to slip effortlessly into the world created by the author.
I would recommend any of the other books I read in 2019. In no particular order, they are
Shell by Kristina Olsson
The Ghost Tree by Barbara Erskine
Graveyard Clay (Cré na Cille) by Máirtín Ó Cadhain.
The Cry by Helen Fitzgerald
The Watchers. A Secret History of the Reign of Elizabeth I by Stephen Alford
The Leopard by The Lady of the Tower by Elizabeth St John
The Heart has its Reasons by Bronwyn Houldsworth
The Beaufort Bride by Judith Arnopp
Blood and Beauty by Sarah Dunant
Owen by Tony Riches
The King and the Catholics : the fight for rights 1829 by Antonia Fraser
Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson.
Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan
The Woman in the Shadows by Carol McGrath
The Shadow of the Pomegranate by Jean Plaidy
Little Big Boy by Max Power
Herald of Joy by Pamela Belle
The Last Painting of Sara de Vos by Dominic Smith
The Coffin Path by Katherine Clements
Girolamo Savonarola: The Renaissance Preacher by Samantha Morris
The Architect’s Apprentice by Elif Shafak
The Story of English in 100 Words by David Crystal
Little Boy Lost by Marghanita Laski
Mrs Osmond by John Banville
The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell
The Shepherd’s Hut by Tim Winton
A Dangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys
Pleasing Mr Pepys by Deborah Swift
Fortune’s Wheel by Carolyn Hughes
Fools and Mortals by Bernard Cornwell
Black + White: Race Politics and Changing Australia by Nyunggai Warren Mundine
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
and, finally, the book I read because I got the title wrong The Man from Moscow by Philip McCutchan. I intend to read A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles in 2019.
I am already well-stocked for 2019 – on my bedside table (physical and virtual) I have
Holy Spy by Rory Clements
Call of the Curlew by Elizabeth Brooks
The Corset by Laura Purcell
God’s Traitors: Terror and Faith in Elizabethan England by Jessie Childs which, I am ashamed to say, was on my table at the start of 2018. I have started it but I do read non-fiction far more slowly than fiction.
The Beaufort Bride by Judith Arnopp
The Heir’s Tale by April Munday
Sisters of Arden by Judith Arnopp
Hag–Seed by Margaret Atwood
So. Plenty to keep me going.