My Top Ten Books of 2014 are:
A book by an author who appeared on my top ten new to me list, The Son tells the story of one family across 7 generations in Texas from the wild frontier to the oil rush. I read it for one bookclub, then recommended it to another. It’s not the type of book I would normally pick up but it was thoroughly engaging.
Atwood’s dystopian classic, set in a world which is eerily familiar left me with a “book hangover” for days afterwards. I recommended it to one of my bookclub’s, and most seemed to share this view.
I love both Jane Austen and Jane Bronte, so someone suggested I might enjoy Elizabeth Gaskell. I read a number of her books over the course of the year but without a doubt my favourite was North and South. I’ve yet to post a review of it here but I’d rate it 5/5.
Another entry from my top ten new to me authors, The Martian has been receiving a lot of deserved praise as one of the best debut novels of the year. When Mark Watney gets left behind by his team on Mars he must use all his wits to survive. Officially sci-fi but it will appeal to everyone. Rating: 5/5.
Dublin’s One City One Book for 2013, I only got around to reading it this year. Set between 1911 and 1914, it follows the lives of the people living Dublin’s tenements during the 1913 Lockout, when workers went out on strike for their right to belong to trade unions. Plunkett creates some of the most lovable characters in Irish literature.
Dublin’s One City One Book for 2015, The Barrytown Trilogy follows the Rabbit family through their various trials and tribulations. The books deal with a number of serious topics from the heroin epidemic that ravaged Dublin in the 80’s and early 90’s, to an unplanned pregnancy, and unemployment, but all with typical Dublin humour.
Based on the true story of the remarkable Sarah Grimke and her sister Angelina, female abolitionist and suffragettes from a Southern slave owning family, and the slave Handful Sara is given on her 11 birthday, it sheds light on these amazing women who have largely been forgotten by history.
The story of Agnes Magnúsdóttir, the last person to be executed in Iceland in 1828 for murder. For years vitriolically condemned for her crime, it attempts to present a fictionalized version of events told from Agnes’s perspective. Was she really guilty? Was she just a ‘nuiscence’ women who didn’t know her place and the patriarchal system of the period wished to be rid off? It leaves you questioning until the final moment. Rating: 4/5
I love Jane Austen, but I’m not a purist. I enjoy a well executed adapation, so I’ve been loving the Austen Project which takes Austen’s books and brings them into the 21st century. Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid is the second in the series and is set during the Edinburgh Fringe and Book Festival. The characters may now have phones and Facebook, but they remain the same characters we love, or in the case of Isabella Thorpe hate. A very well executed and respectful adaption. I’m looking forward to the next installment Emma by Alexander McCall Smith.
Finally a non-fiction work, and probably the first non-fiction work I’ve read in a number of years. Tomalin attempts to shine a light on Nelly Ternan, Dickens mistress, a woman history and the Dickens estate attempted to whitewash out of existence. She is the stain on Dickens reputation as the paragon of Victorian paterfamilias. Tomalin stitches together from the little evidence which escaped Dickens and his estates bonfires to give us as accurate an image we will probably ever get of this mysterious woman.