These are the books I aimed to read in 2011 and did... the many I didn't get to are on 2012's list.
I read many more that weren't on my list. Once I got going again I really couldn't stop but that's a whole other list....
March by Australian writer Geraldine Brooks. It won a Pulitzer Prize and tells the story of the father in Little Women.
(Brooks is the writer I should have read years ago. Darn it. I should have paid more attention. ****stars)
Hilary Mantel's - Wolf Hall. A Booker Prize winner
(I tried, it was too heavy both to hold in bed and in its writing. Yawn, thump. Book on the floor, asleep. No stars.)
Nightingale Wood by Stella Gibbons - did you know she'd written more than Cold Comfort Farm?
(Unashamedly light with the ending writ large right from chapter one. It was easy and had enough to keep me turning the pages. Not self-improving. **stars)
Kate Grenville's The Secret River and if I like it then her latest novel The Lieutenant.
(If I liked it??? Loved it. Loved them both. One tells the story of a London boatman turned convict transported to Australia, the second a British officer sent to Sydney Cove. Both explore beautifully the incomprehensible world the Brits arrive in and the awful, violent consequences for the aborigines. Have just ordered the third, Sarah Thornhill *****stars)
The Fry Chronicles, A Memoir - Stephen Fry
(I tried and failed. It's suprisingly difficult to get into. And I do so like Stephem Fry, perhaps just not on paper)
The Slap - Christos Tsialkos - the book all anyone talked about two summers ago. I was pregnant and slept instead of reading (that's my excuse)...
(I read this in a rush to finish before the TV series - I think I would have read it in a rush anyway. I fall into the camp of people who like this novel despite the unpleasantness of the people involved!)
Memory Keeper's Daughter - Kim Edwards, it's everywhere so it's on the list!
(I recommend this to women - sexist but true I think. I did enjoy it but rather felt as though I knew where it would end)
Mister Pip - Lloyd Jones. Jones is a Kiwi writer and this book was shortlisted for the Booker.
(I'd quite forgotten that I read this two years ago - clearly sleep deprived... I read it again, skimmed. You should read it at least once - with your eyes closed in some parts. It's set on Bouganville and it's graphic. But it's also very moving and quite beautiful. ****stars)
Frank Moorhouse - Grand Days and Dark Palace.
(Tick - they are not an easy read but I really grew to love Edith - the young Australian civil servant working at the League of Nations... she was silly yet sophisticated, a pedant yet terrible adventurous).
Parrot and Olivier in America - Peter Carey. Have recently enjoyed Carey's My Life as a Fake and have been eyeing this off in bookshops all summer.
(Oh yes, I enjoyed this so so much - it eased the pain of selling our house as only a truly good book can. Carey can really write can't he? And he doesn't write quietly. The pictures he paints are vivid and quite crazy at times. Loved it. *****stars)
I recently bought Guernsey Literary Potato Peel Pie Society (terrible title to remember) as a gift and the girl in the bookshop rated it as in her top five EVER. And she's given away her TV to read more so I respect her recommendation.
(Eeergh - yuck. Sorry. I found this sickeningly sweet. I know so many who loved it - perhaps that girl should get her TV back)
The Bookshop - Penelope Fitzgerald
(I read Fitzgerald's The Blue Flower, and if you love poetry you'll like it. It's simply written, but a dreamy little story about an eighteenth century German poet and his love for a young girl. ***stars)
I love the wit of PG Wodehouse and my husband's just finished Piccadilly Jim so I'm grabbing it next. Also going to track down The Mating Season and re-read Right-Ho Jeeves.
All three - and probably anything he's written - are genius. A page in and I'm laughing. The stories are all interchangeable and much of a muchness but my husband and I fought over them. ****stars)
I read Clouds of Witness and found Dorothy L Sayers was not quite Agatha but I will find
The Nine Tailors, Murder Must Advertise and The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club. Just one perhaps. Or all three, I do like crime and they're a quick read.
(Yep, all three and couldn't now tell you which was which. But that's okay.)
And of course a little more Mitford magic, those women were nutty but I am just so fond of them and they could all write so, so well. I gave Mum Debo's Wait For Me so I'll read that and then buy myself Charlotte Mosley's The Letters of Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh. I read a snippet in a bookshop last week and it's killingly funny (as Nancy would say). Mosley's Letters Between Six Sisters sounds fabulous too. She's Diana's daughter in law - I think if I'd married a Mosley I might keep my maiden name...
(I stopped at Wait For Me but if you like Mitfords get it. Good Lord how one woman can be so well connected. Astounding. And what one can squeeze into one's life with a bit of help. Quite clearly she never had to do any housework ***Stars)
One Day by David Nicholls....
(This is suprisingly good. Three pages in I wondered what on earth I was thinking reading chic lit. Halfway in I couldn't put it down. A clever way to whizz through the years of a simple modern love story and one of the most touching books I've read in a while. ****stars.)
The Girl in the Brick House highly rates Room by Emma Donoghue,
(I couldn't find Room but I hear Obama is reading it but I did read her Sealed Letter. A society divorce in the days when it was a man's world. Clever, characters I cared for and a
nice little twist. ****stars.)
(And then I found Slammerkin - gasp. Great but grim. More great than grim though so don't be put off)