Ah, 2017 is waning, so I best take a break from my reading and share my stand out books from the year. This is always a little difficult as I have read quite a few very good and varied books and how to choose just a few that I really loved!
I think my top three books were all very special reading experiences. I have linked to my reviews in case you are curious to know more about them.
We'll Always Have Paris by Emma Beddington -- A life I will never be able to experience in quite the same way, at least living abroad, which I have always dreamed of doing, but I can still completely empathize with Beddington. I know some of those feelings she had so well and she expresses them all honestly, amusingly and eloquently.
Quartet in Autumn by Barbara Pym -- Gosh Barbara Pym is a marvel. Why have I not yet read all her work? Maybe that is a good thing? Barbara Pym has such a knack for telling a story of seemingly misfits and eccentrics with a deftness and lightness of touch that you just can't help smiling to yourself. Maybe modern novelists don't write about people of a certain age who are solitary souls, but lucky for us Barbara Pym does.
The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham -- This not only is a remarkable science fiction tale but asks all sorts of questions on what is means to be human--what makes us human, what separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom, about our laws and culpability and responsibilities and how our morals shape us and guide us, and the collective as opposed to individuality. It can be read on more than one level--simply as a story of dread verging on horror or if you are willing to dig just a little bit deeper it offers so very much more.
A few more really spectacular reads, listed alphabetically by author (as I don't think I can rank them).
The Living Infinite by Chantel Acevedo -- For the reader who isn't sure they like historical fiction, or isn't convinced that it can be done really well, I give you Chantel Acevedo's excellent story of the real life Spanish Princess who lived an extraordinary life.
Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo -- reads almost like a thriller with its twists and turns which is a little unexpected in a story of domestic drama and discord. It works, though; it works really well. This is the story of a marriage between two who on the surface seem eminently suited but the pressures of family and culture weigh heavily on them.
The Strays by Emily Bitto -- It's a perfectly told story in quite a slender volume so there is nothing extraneous and nothing wasted. I love novels like this-a really interesting story encapsulated in pristine prose that lingers in your mind long after you've finished reading.
In Fairleigh Field by Rhys Bowen -- Pure and unadulterated entertainment in the form of a WWII mystery/thriller with an added touch of romance. There is just enough drama and suspense to keep the pages turning, but I never got the feeling that things would end badly.
Leaving Home by Anita Brookner -- In Leaving Home, Emma is an only daughter living with a widowed mother who fears her own life will turn out much the same. She wants more. She studies landscape gardening, from an academic standpoint and ends up in Paris where she meets a vibrant, very French woman who works in the library Emma frequents. And there has her inspiration, bumps into real life, if you will. For me a Brookner novel is always a gem of a read.
A Touch of Mistletoe by Barbara Comyns -- Comyns does "eccentric" so very, very well. The novel follows two sisters, who after the death of their father, have 'come down' in the world, though it is the elder sister narrating events. They embark on rather bohemian lives both in England and abroad, one sister a bit more conventional than the other.
Bilgewater by Jane Gardam -- This is a story of growing up and falling in love, being thwarted in love and maybe finding yourself. It's the sort of book I want to flip back to the first page and start reading all over again now that I know what has happened and have read for the 'story'.
And a few interesting notable mentions!
Most creative use of fiction in nonfiction: Family Lexicon by Natalia Ginzburg
Oddest read/Most unusual backstory/Author bio: My Holidays by Stevie Smith
Book most likely to raise the hairs on the back of your neck: Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin
Most exotic locale: Finding Nouf by Zoe Ferrarris
Best debut: The Dry by Jane Harper
Upward battle to finish (and book I am most happy to have finally gotten through): Golden Age by Jane Smiley
Best new author finds: Ayobami Adebayo, Emma Flint!
Onward to 2018 and hopefully yet more wonderful discoveries.