Enid Bagnold - National Velvet I loved rereading this (gift from blog reader Julia, who has been my pony book provider on several occasions) so so so much. I was surprised how much I remembered and how much of an impact it had made on me. The paper horses, Donald’s spit bottle, the amazing mother… All of it, really. I think it was my platonic ideal book as a ten-year-old.
David Sedaris - Theft by Finding Of course this is wonderful. You would expect nothing less. I especially like just how long his life remains shit in this volume, ie. he is still hopelessly broke and aimless and until he is quite old. Ok, not as old as me, but it’s still deeply comforting. Also hilarious.
Sarah Schmidt See What I Have Done ARGH this really freaked me out. I thing I have a pretty much cast-iron stomach for gore and grossness but there were scenes in this (retelling of the Lizzie Borden murders) that made me feel genuinely queasy. Don’t get me wrong, that isn’t a criticism as much as a testament to how excellent the writing is. it’s GREAT, eerie, compelling, atmospheric, but also, beurk.
Louis Pierard - On a volé l’agneau mystique I don’t recommend anyone reads this, it was a very specific bit of research for a thing I want to write (and probably never will). Weird, anti-semitic, there are way better books on the mystic lamb, if you're into that (Noah Charney's is good).
Rachel Khong - Goodbye Vitamin Bittersweet, funny, sad, slight. About a slightly lost woman moving back home to help with her dad who has Alzheimers. Nice on families, rituals, the frustrations at the heart of love (or vice versa?)
EM Delafield - Diary of a Provincial Lady I had never read this! It was delightful! Of course!
Gail Honeyman - Eleanor Elephant is Completely Fine - You’ve probably heard about this. A really nice, easy, touching, funny read.
AS Byatt - Possession My friend F has been on at me to reread the glorious literary detective story Possession for ages and I am very glad I finally ceded to her nagging because it was even better than in my memory. Though JESUS there is a lot of poetry in it.
Fred Vargas - Quand Sort La Recluse New Vargas! Source of celebration! Great happiness! In this one Inspector Adamsberg becomes obsessed with a mysterious wave of fatal spider bites from a type of spider that isn’t fatally poisonous. Also features: Zerg’s cigarettes. A recurring cabbage based dish (la garbure). Danglard conflict. A possible romantic interest for Retancourt. Not my favourite, but delightful nevertheless.
Sarah Stovell - Exquisite This is a somewhat daft psychological thriller but EXTREMELY gripping. Romantic obsession gone wrong, that kind of thing.
Susie Steiner - Persons Unknown Did you read Missing Presumed (and if not why not)?? THIS IS THE SECOND MANON BRADSHAW and it is as brilliant as the first. Manon is my new favourite detective by a mile. Also, it is a proper story, not just some middle class angsting about whether someone's husband is everything he seems. Wholly approved.
Patricia Lockwood - Priestdaddy I cannot rave about this book - memoir about her dad, a priest - enough. I laughed until I was nearly sick and copied parts out, but it’s also a thing of strange beauty (Lockwood is also a poet and it shows), moments of real sadness, love, anger, everything. I’ll probably give it to ten people this year. At LEAST. Also pro tip: Nina Stibbe says that the audiobook - read by Lockwood herself - is amazing.
Paula Hawkins - Into The Water (audio) I found this pretty absorbing - some strands work better than others, but it was a perfectly decent listen.
Noah Charney - Stealing the Mystic Lamb The story of the many thefts, intrigues, farcical interludes surrounding Van Eyck’s mystic lamb (I’m having a Flemish Primitives moment). I REALLY enjoyed this.
Noah Charney - The Art of Forgery See above. I didn’t think this was great, compared to something like Rick Gekoski’s Lost, Stolen or Shredded, though I still love the topic.
Sarah Pinborough - Behind Her Eyes I’m on a full Twitter DM thread rant about this domestic thriller and its, hmm, how can I put it, unexpected ending/disregard for conventions of fiction (nb: it does have its defenders on this thread). How are your rage levels? Do you have strong ideas about what is and is not allowed in fiction? Consider this before embarking.
Jami Attenberg - All Grown Up Oh, this is simply lovely, clever and funny and humane, about a single woman approaching 40 in NYC and the people around her. Very cleverly constructed too, with different perspectives on the same moment or set of events.
Erin Kelly - He Said/She Said Eclipses, sexual assault, unreliable narrators… Super gripping. And NO cheating. Sarah Pinborough I am staring hard at you as I say this.
Naomi Alderman - The Liars’ Gospel Read this - retelling of the gospels from different perspectives - at Easter which was appropriate but even without that I would have LOVED, she’s so brilliant, with that almost medium-like quality Hilary Mantel has with historical characters and situations.
Helen Dunmore - Birdcage Walk (audio) I was sort of hoping for more of the modern prelude in this, which turned out to be a total red herring. It’s good though - the French Revolution through the prism of Bristol radicals, a no-good husband, some wonderful vivid characters, and a nice thread of tension. Note: there is a Chicken Women in this book towards the end and she represents my life goals entirely.
Alice Feeney - Sometimes I Lie (audio) Utterly daft tale of suspense and badness and secrets, with a spectacularly unreliable narrator, but I quite enjoyed for dog walking purposes.
Elena Ferrante - My Brilliant Friend No one needs to hear my opinion on this, clearly. However, I would say the first vol very much reminded me of Simone de Beauvoir’s Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter - intense, and intensely analysed, female friendship, focus on school grades.
Ariel Levy - The Rules Do Not Apply A gulp of brilliantly written terribleness. If you read her Thanksgiving in Mongolia, this is at the heart of it.
Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich - The Fact of a Body I really don’t know what I think about this. I was expecting good quality true crime, but it’s something quite different, memoir, quite literary, very gripping. It will consume you but it is STRANGE and quite disturbing.
B A Paris - Behind Closed Doors I remember nothing whatsoever about this. Oppressed wife? Bad husband? They might be lying? Dunno.
Ellie Griffiths - The Chalk Pit I adore everything about Ruth Galloway and her just-cosy-enough archaeology murder intrigues and this ticked every box.
Peter Swanson - Her Every Fear A flat swap between cousins goes HORRIBLY WRONG. Decent.
Jami Attenberg - The Middlesteins A sharp, tender family saga with, at its heart, a morbidly obese mother. Very good.
Denise Mina - The Long Drop Not at all classic Mina - it’s based on a true story and is historical and I slightly missed the Glasgow noir bits - but fascinating.
Yaa Gyasi - Homegoing (audio) - Downloaded somewhat dutifully because of hearing how important and vital this multi-narrator, moving through history, story of slavery and oppression was, but actually it wasn’t a chore at all, it was rather gripping and very moving. Some parts work better than others, but what CAN’T you say that of?
Francis Spufford - Golden Hill Oh gosh, I loved this. Historical, funny, perfectly evoked.
JP Delaney - The Girl Before Psychological thriller in a minimalist modernist palace. Good on property lust, twisty.
Jane Harper - The Dry Parched, atmospheric outback murder. This will so be made into a film. Russell Crowe will probably play the local bloke who got out and made good coming back to confront his childhood demons.
Helen Callaghan - Dear Amy Agony aunt gets a letter from missing teenager, things get murky. Enjoyed.
Joseph Knox - Sirens It took me a while to warm to this Manchester-based noir (rule breaking cop, yawn, loads of young women who may or may not be prostitutes), but the writing is GOOD and in parts it’s genuinely very surprising.
Laura Lippman - Another Thing To Fall A film crew comes to Baltimore and murder ensues.
Laura Lippman - In Big Trouble This is a really old Tess Monaghan but I realised I had never read. Texas, Crow is in trouble.
Sarah Waters - Fingersmith I had never read this. Now I have. It was excellent. Like anyone needs my confirmation of what the whole world knows already.
Keggie Carew - Dadland An amazing, funny, raw, portrait of dementia, intercut with her father’s rather extraordinary earlier life. I got a bit bogged down in Burma, but everything else was wonderful.
Ian Rankin - Rather Be The Devil - Solid Rebus action.
Everything I read in 2015
Everything I read in 2014