Halfway through 2012 already and so far, no one has had to be institutionalised, I haven’t moved house/city/country (and nor am I intending to do so – I bought gardening tools, y’all!) and I have imminent job longevity. It’s as though I’ve been parachuted into someone else’s life, but let’s keep it quiet in case the Fates suddenly sit up and take notice. *Whistles nonchalantly.* Actually, it’s ok, I am getting divorced, so that should serve up this year’s portion of unpleasant necessity.
Meanwhile, I’m reading at pretty much the usual rate, 8-10 books a month, comfortably on track for 12o for the year. It’s not a real target, but my reading rate is an emotional barometer. If I don’t hit around 120, I’m either studying or in the midst of emotional crisis or other anxiety. So, hurrah!
I’ve read a lot of books that I really enjoyed, so this was a tough pick and there are some omissions that surprise me. No Angelmaker? No Bring up the Bodies? But the list would just keep going, and these are the books that stayed with me and are first to come to mind for recommendations.
Highlights of the year so far, in no particular order
1. The Snow Child, Eowyn Ivey. For being a compellingly real re-telling of a fairy story, with such a strong and evocative sense of place. Love, longing, belonging and acceptance all deftly handled.
2. Every Contact Leaves a Trace – Elanor Dymott. For pace, voice and a beguiling non-linear structure that remained admirably well controlled, and for playing effortlessly with the traditional ‘wife gets killed and husband investigates’ trope. A whole lot of paddling going on beneath the surface there.
3. Riddley Walker – Russell Hoban. A post-apocalyptic setting, in which England has returned to an oral culture, all written in phonetic spelling. I struggled until I started to read it aloud to myself, when the rhythms really helped. Beyond that, I direct you to what Anna Lawrence-Pietroni has to say, because she’s spot on.
4. Pilcrow – Adam Mars-Jones. The least exciting blurb since The Warden (Go! Read The Warden!) because the child protagonist is on bed-rest for the first few years of his life and this is a first person narrative… And yet, it’s so richly detailed and John’s engagement with whatever provides food for his mind is so well done, that it’s fascinating.
5. Sword of Honour trilogy – Evelyn Waugh. Which I had bought, tried, put down, left. Then picked up again and galloped through, absolutely revelling in it. This is Waugh’s war, dealing with the madness of military bureaucracy into which decent, well-meaning Guy Crouchback throws himself, with irony and satire.
The second half of the year has a lot to live up to, but my TBR list is looking promising. Gillian Flynn’s Gone, Girl is waiting for me at the weekend, when I’ll have concentrated reading time; there’s a new Tana French, Broken Harbour, due out any day now; and I picked up The Old Ways by Robert MacFarlane. There’s even a new Rebus to come later in the year, Standing in Another Man’s Grave. Throw in a bit of Comyns, more Sylvia Townsend-Warner, and that’s a lot of happy reading time ahead!