Having read 50 books in 2020, I started 2021 with the intention of reaching my long term goal of reading a book a week. I even signed up for the GoodReads Challenge nominating 52 books as my goal. I reached 42 books but that includes several Kindle items that are essentially short stories. I have given up on the idea of numerical goals whether it be a book a week or a reading challenge as I found that it was affecting the way I was reading and selecting books. Reading should be a pleasure not a race. I am not a slow reader but, when I am enjoying a book, I like to take my time and savour the language, the world and the characters created by the author and, most of all, to think about the story – to have the characters and the plot alive in my mind when I am not reading. Taking time allows me to see elements and connections in the story that were implied rather than expressly stated, to fully enjoy the wonder of the author’s creation. I have discovered that, for me, the mad rush to read a set number of books in a finite time gets in the way.
I had also intended to write one book review a month in 2021. I did quite well up until July, completing seven reviews, but since then have only reviewed one book. My excuse? I have been consumed with revision of my next novel and the situation won’t be improving until the end of April when the novel is finally released, fingers crossed.
So. My reading this year. Over half the fiction read is historical. And, at the encouragement of my sister, I have even ventured into contemporary women’s fiction. It is always difficult to choose favourites but the next six books are those that took me furthest from the here and now and had moments of clear insight into the human condition and, best of all, were written in beautiful faultless prose.
The Playmaker by Thomas Keneally
He began hearing for the parts in the play early in April, the day after the hanging of private Handy Baker and the five other Marines.
Set in 1789 in the newly established convict settlement of New South Wales, this novel follows the progress of those involved in the first theatrical performance in Australia, The Recruiting Officer. Thomas Keneally is without doubt the absolute master of language, characterization and storytelling.
The Course of All Treasons by Suzanne M Wolfe
Simon Winchelsea cursed as he sank ankle-deep in the revolting effluent running like a river down the center of the street.
Another gripping Elizabethan Spy Mystery with Nick Holt, reluctant spy for Francis Walsingham, and his wonderful Irish wolfhound, Hector. Beautifully written, suspenseful, humourous and compassionate.
The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey
On the morning Perveen saw the stranger, they’d almost collided.
The first book in the Perveen Mistry series. Set in Bombay in 1921, Perveen Mistry is a solicitor working in her father’s legal firm. As a women she is able to assist the widows of a wealthy Muslim businessman whom she suspects may be being taken advantage of. As she slowly uncovers the truth, the mysteries of her own past are slowly revealed. Fascinating and increasingly compelling as the story progresses.
Beware the Lizard Lurking by Vivienne Brereton
Snow-laden clouds lay low on the evening sky, threatening to release their heavy burden at any moment.
The second book in the House of the Red Duke series which follows the fortunes of the House of Howard in the early 16th century through a large cast of characters. I found the younger characters, especially the fictional, particularly appealing. An immersive reading experience written in fluid and unobtrusive prose.
A Woman’s Lot by Carolyn Hughes
Luke blasphemed and Arthur whimpered as they tripped and stumbled over jutting roots and fallen branches, or lost their footing in the dips and hollows of the woodland floor.
The second of the Meonbridge Chronicles, this novel continues the story of Meonbridge and its inhabitants. The complexities of the lives of women in a 14th century rural village are shown and the strands of each individual story is expertly threaded into a literary tapestry. Beautifully written and absolutely gripping in the latter sections when the villagers come face to face with the 14th century legal system.
Revenge in Rubies by AM Stuart
“…Beneath the floor of a cellar in…Hilldrop crescent, Camden-road the mutilated and battered body of a woman which had been buried in quicklime was found.”
The second Harriet Gordon Mystery. Colonial Singapore, 1910, is vividly brought to life, even down to the smells, with Harriet Gordon showing quiet determination and compassion as she helps uncover the murderer of the young wife of a military officer. Satisfyingly complex.
The remaining books, listed in no particular order, are all excellent, all well worth reading. The titles are all linked to reviews. Now take your pick!
The Imitator by Rebecca Starford
The Shape of Darkness by Laura Purcell
The Fall of the House of Thomas Weir by Andrew Neil Macleod
The Crow Trap by Ann Cleeves
The Master of Measham Hall by Anna Abney
Deep South: Stories from Tasmania edited by by Ralph Crane and Danielle Wood
Ross Poldark by Winston Graham
The Burning Girls by CJ Tudor
The Dry by Jane Harper
Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart
Taking the Waters by Lesley Sainty
The Right Sort of Man by Alison Montclair
A Royal Affair by Alison Montclair
The Brightest Star in the Sky by Marian Keyes
Lucy Sullivan is Getting Married by Marian Keyes
The Piper by Charles Todd
Best Seller by Terry Tyler
The Crooked Ash: A Derbyshire Legend by J P Reedman
Dearly: New Poems by Margaret Atwood
Private Prosecution by Lisa Ellery
The Satapur Moonstone by Sujata Massey
The House on Boundary Street by Tea Cooper
The House on Willow Street by Cathy Kelly
A Just Equinox by James McQueen
The Work of Art by Mimi Matthews
Workhouse Waif by Elizabeth Keysian
A Keeper by Graham Norton
The Shortest Day by Colm Tóibín
The Flight of the Heron by DK Broster
Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood
The Dream Weavers by Barbara Erskine
Rooted : an Australian History of Bad Language by Amanda Laugesen
Black Snake: The Real Story of Ned Kelly by Leo Kennedy and Mic Looby
Thomas Cromwell: A Life by Diarmaid MacCulloch
Hell Ship: The True Story of the Plague Ship Triconderoga, One of the Most Calamitous Voyages in Australia’s History by Michael Veitch
Black Kettle and Full Moon: Daily Life in a Vanished Australia by Geoffrey Blainey
Of the eleven books I had sitting on my bedside table at the beginning of last year, virtual and otherwise, I have managed to read four. The rest are still sitting there. (I refuse to talk about Ulysses.) To them I have to add the third Harriet Gordon Mystery, Evil in Emerald by AM Stuart and An Independent Heart by Elizabeth Grant. I am currently reading Mission: Essays, Speeches & Ideas by Noel Pearson and the third in the Sparks & Bainbridge Mystery series (and I claim not to read series!), A Rogue’s Company.
The first few months of 2022 will be busy so my reading will, no doubt, be slow. Who knows how many books I will read this year but however many I will enjoy them thoroughly.