2022 – A Year of Reading

This year I came nowhere near my long term goal of reading a book a week with this year’s tally of 34 books read for the whole year. I do have a genuine excuse as the first four months was spent preparing my latest novel for publication. Despite the best of intentions my reviewing was poorer than ever with only six books reviewed. I do have two achievements to my credit this year: I have almost cleared the pile of books on my bedside table and I have caught up with some classics I somehow missed or had a teenaged memory of.

Slightly less than half my reading has been historical novels this year and almost quarter, while set in the past, were contemporary novels when they were written. Non-fiction aside, the rest are modern and many of them involve crime of some sort. My favourite reads of the year were those that took me fartherest from the here and now and sometimes took my breath away with the beauty of the prose, or the depth of insight into character, or simply the sheer humour seen in the human condition.

These six books (along with their opening lines) are listed in order of my preference for them. All are brilliant reads in some way and I would recommend them to anyone.

An Independent Heart by Elizabeth Grant
Snow melted on the horses’ necks and tangled their manes with glistening icicles.
This is my favourite read of 2022. A beautiful story of family, duty and love set in England in 1814/15. It is written in elegant prose with not a word out of place.

The Shiralee by D’Arcy Niland
There was a man who had a cross and his name was Macauley.
This is an Australian classic published in 1955 but appears to be set during the Great Depression. Macauley is an itinerant worker ‘burdened’ with his very young daughter Buster as he travels from job to job in rural New South Wales. While Macauley’s attitudes are of his time, the novel shows the reality of life on the road and one man’s response to fatherhood and life’s betrayals.

The Quare Fellow by Brendan Behan
A prisoner sings: he is in one of the punishment cells.
A hungry feeling came o’er me stealing,
And the mice were squealing in my prison cell,
And that old triangle,
Went jingle jangle,
All along the banks of the Royal Canal.

This powerfully moving play is set in Mountjoy Prison, Dublin in 1954 over the 24 hours leading up to the execution of ‘the quare fellow’ who had murdered his brother with a meat chopper and cut up the body. Behan shows the effect of the capital punishment on all those involved, including the public who call for it. A radio dramatization from the late 1950s can be found here.

Evil in Emerald by A M Stuart
As the last strains of a waltz died away, Harriet Gordon looked up into Simon Hume’s handsome face.
The Harriet Gordon mysteries are set in Singapore in 1910. Harriet, a typist at the Straits Settlements Police Force, is drawn into the mystery surrounding the death of a member of her a local musical theatre group. This is a book
you can sink into with well-rounded, believable characters and colonial Singapore brought vividly to life.

Red Horse by M.J. Logue
It was a raw night and there was a stiff wind coming up off the sea, bringing a driving rain and a tavern full of sea-captains and merchants with their pockets full.
The first of M.J. Logue’s An Uncivil War series following the fortunes of ‘the scruffiest, most disreputable troop of cavalry in the Army of Parliament’. Written with a wonderful dry humour and deep insight into human nature.

Holding by Graham Norton
It was widely accepted by the residents of Duneen that, should a crime be committed and Sergeant Collins managed to apprehend the culprit, it would be very unlikely that the arrest had involved a pursuit on foot.
When a body in unearthed on a farm in rural Ireland, simmering resentments and long held secrets are brought to the surface too. Darkly humourous and sad at times but well worth reading. It has been made into a thoroughly enjoyable TV series but the book is far better – more nuanced with far greater depth of characterization.

The rest of my reading is listed in no particular order. I enjoyed every book and they are all are well worth reading.

Fiction

My Brother Jack by George Johnson
My brother Jack does not come into the story straight away. Nobody ever does, of course, because a person doesn’t begin to exist without parents and an environment and legendary tales told about ancestors and dark dusty vines growing over outhouses where remarkable insects might always drop out of hidden crevices.

The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne
Long ago before we had discovered that he had fathered two children by two different women, one in Drimoleague and one in Clonakilty, Father James Monroe stood on the altar of the Church of Our Lady, Star of the Sea, in the parish of Goleen, West Cork, and denounced my mother as a whore.

The Bookseller’s Ghost by Sharon Bradshaw
On a crisp morning when old Father Winter was nipping noses and fingertips until they ached, a shadow flitted across the narrow passage between the buildings.

The Boys in the Island by Christopher Koch
The little boy stood looking at the Soons. Soon! Soon! Soon! they hummed; and it was not words the way people spoke words, it was a long humming song, going on and on.

When Night Comes by Favel Perrett
There was a time when Vikings filled our house and there were people and parties and Mum was happy then.

A Shape on the Air by Julia Ibbotson
Vivianne is trembling, afraid. She holds her breath. She hates this.

Escape the Choice by Ellie Yarde
I replayed the scene in my head as I twirled my pen absentmindedly around my fingers. We had been talking about Oliver, disagreeing about him.

End of the Bay by Kate Vane
He was holding a shovel by the neck. Like a hatchet.

Lessons by Ian McEwan
This was an insomniac memory, not a dream. It was the piano lesson again – an orange tiled floor, one high window, a new upright in a bare room close to the sickbay.

Father by Allan Hudson
One hundred years ago the Hill brothers came to the shores of Canada to the east coast of New Brunswick. They rowed ashore to Rose Harbour and parted company where the Little River split.

Souvenirs of Kyiv by Chrystyna Lucyk-Berger
The Herr Oberst came to me on a sunny afternoon just a week ago.

Forever Home by Graham Norton
The Back Quay of Ballytoor was where things used to be.

The Double by Fyodor Dostoevsky
It was a little before eight o’clock in the morning when Titular Councillor Yakov Petrovich Golyadkin came to after a long sleep, yawned, stretched and in the end opened his eyes.

Pride and Prejudiceby Jane Austen
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

The Murder Rule by Dervla McTiernan
The night before she left for law school, Hannah Rokeby didn’t sleep.

Oh William! by Elizabeth Strout
I would like to say a few things about my first husband, William.

The Survivors by Jane Harper
She could – almost – have been one of The Survivors. Standing there, outlined by the weak light, her back turned and the salt water lapping at her feet.

Force of Nature by Jane Harper
Later, the four remaining women could fully agree on only two things.

From the Drop of Heaven by Juliette Godot
‘Heretic! Sorcerer!’
The shouts came from the valley.

The King’s Inquisitor by Tonya Ulynn Brown
The business of witchcraft is a foul trade and only a scrupulous man is fitted for the task.

Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan
In October there were yellow trees. Then the clocks went back the hour and the long November winds came in and blew, and stripped the trees bare.

Angel of Goliad by Jean M Roberts
The sun was high in the brilliant summer sky. It was a rare day of sunshine during the rainy season.

Playing Beattie Bow by Ruth Park
In the first place Abigail Kirk was not Abigail at all.

These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer
A gentleman was strolling down a side street in Paris, on his way back from the house of one Madame de Verchoureux. He walked mincingly, for the red heels of his shoes were very high.

Saturdee by Norman Lindsay
‘Pet-er!’ called a voice, in that rising inflection which commands and also threatens. Ma’s voice.

All the Green Year by Don Charlwood
The year I remember best from those days is 1929. This was the year I turned fourteen and went into the eighth grade; the year too that Grandfather McDonald became peculiar and we moved to live with him in his house on the cliffs.

Non-Fiction

Vandemonians, the repressed history of colonial Victoria by Janet McCalman
‘Me name’s Miles; Ellen Miles,’ remarked an old woman at the City Court yesterday.

Spinning Tops and Gumdrops, a portrait of colonial childhood by Edwin Barnard
This book tells the story of the six generations of children, the offspring and descendants of convicts and settlers who grew up in Australia in the years between 1788 and about 1900.

Mission: Essays, Speeches & Ideas by Noel Pearson
I blame my father. Or at least I try to.

I am currently reading Act of Oblivion by Robert Harris. It has taken precedence over Of Human Bondage by Somerset Maugham which I started last month as Act of Oblivion it is due back at the Library in a week and there are several people waiting on it. All that remains on my bedside table is Paradise Lost and My Love Must Wait by Ernestine Hill which I intend to read next. Paradise Lost is now my designated handbag book as it is quite compact and will be read whenever I travel on public transport. Then I am free to pick and choose as I please. I will read a few more classics and some independently published books as well. No defined goals this year except to take my time and enjoy what I read.

3 thoughts on “2022 – A Year of Reading

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