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KATE FORSYTH'S BEST BOOKS OF 2017

Friday, January 12, 2018


BEST BOOKS OF 2017 - chosen by Kate Forsyth 

With great difficulty, I’ve chosen the best books I’ve read this year. I have to say it was a challenge as I have read so many utterly brilliant books this year. 

I chose ten novels, five non-fiction books, and three debuts to look out for next year. The books are listed in the order in which I read them, not in order of preference. 


Interestingly, all but one of the books was written by a woman. They are all extraordinary. 

If you have not read them, I’d really urge you to give them a try. They will bring you to tears, give you chills, and keep you up reading through the dark hours of the night.


MY TOP 10 FICTION BOOKS


An Isolated Incident – Emily Maguire

A contemporary psychological suspense novel set in a small Australian town, which examines the terrible cost of sexual violence in our society. Intense, powerful and raw, An Isolated Incident was justly shortlisted for the Stella award.



The Bright Edge of the World – Eowyn Ivey

A magic realist historical novel that tells the story of an attempt to explore the Alaskan wilderness in the mid-1880s, The Bright Edge of the World is as astonishing tour-de-force of ventriloquism that brings the icy, dangerous and mysterious world of Alaska vividly to life. 




The Muse – Jessie Burton

A historical novel which entwines the story of two women in different times around the story of a mysterious painting. Moving between London in the 1960s to Spain at the time of the civil war, this is a story of love, art and deception that kept twisting in unexpected ways.



The Bear and the Nightingale - Katherine Arden 

A wonderful, magical novel set in a snow-bound village in medieval Muscovy and drawing upon old Russian fairy tales, The Bear & the Nightingale is a brilliant debut.



The Traitor’s Girl – Christine Wells

The Traitor’s Girl moves between contemporary times and war-torn London in the 30s, and tells the story of a young woman recruited to spy for MI5 during the Second World War, only to be betrayed and imprisoned.


Stars Across the Ocean - Kimberley Freeman

Agnes Resolute, an orphan named for a ship, sets out on a quest to find her real mother in the late 1870s, travelling from London, to Paris, then across the ocean to Ceylon. A beautiful novel about mothers and daughters and finding one’s place in the world.



The Alice Network – Kate Quinn

An utterly enthralling tale of love, courage, resistance and redemption, The Alice Network weaves together the story of Charlie St Clair’s quest to find her cousin, Rose, who went missing in Nazi-occupied France during the Second World War; and Eva Gardiner, who is recruited as a spy for the British and sent into Occupied France during the First World War. Just brilliant.



The Shadow Land – Elizabeth Kostova

A young American woman, newly arrived in Bulgaria, accidentally picks up someone else’s bag. Inside is an urn filled with human ashes. Trying to find the owner, she stumbles upon the story of Stoyan Lazarov, a musician who sees something he should not have seen during the years of the communist regime. Evocative and suspenseful.



Sixty Seconds – Jesse Blackadder

A contemporary family drama set in Australia which articulates what must be every parent’s greatest dread – the tragic loss of a child. Inspired by the author’s own life experience, this haunting and heart-rending story is as much about the redemptive power of love as it is about the terrible power of grief.



The Night Watch – Sarah Waters
A historical novel for adults which tells the entwined stories of four people during the dreadful days of the London Blitz, moving backwards in time from the end to the beginning. Astonishing and brilliant.


MY BEST FIVE NON-FICTION BOOKS


I read a great deal of non-fiction, both for research and for pleasure. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, my favourite non-fiction books are about books, stories, myths and fairy-tales, history, gardens, nature, food, and travel. Here are my best five of the year:  



The Magician’s Book: A Skeptic’s Adventures in Narnia – Laura Miller

A “utterly engrossing and utterly enchanting” bibliomemoir which explores the author’s personal engagement with C.S. Lewis’s Narnia book.s



The Wild Places – Robert Macfarlane

Beautiful, poetic writing that twines together landscape, nature, history, literature, and memoir in a journey to discover the wild places of Britain.



If Women Rose Rooted: The Journey to Authenticity and Belonging – Sharon Blackie

A breathtakingly honest memoir about one woman’s journey towards wisdom, combined with tales drawn from Celtic mythology and folklore, and interviews with inspiring women all working to live in harmony with the earth.




Mozart’s Starling - Lyanda Lynn Haupt

In 1784, Mozart encountered a playful little starling in a Viennese shop who sang the theme from his Piano Concerto no. 17 in G major. Charmed, he brought the bird home to be his pet. A combination of natural history, biography and memoir, Mozart’s Starling investigates this story, combined with the author’s own experiment with raising a baby starling.



The Rose: A True History – Jennifer Potter

This gorgeously produced and illustrated book by Jennifer Potter is the perfect gift for a rose-fancier, telling the history, mythology and romance of the rose from its very earliest days to now.

MY MOST ANTICIPATED DEBUTS OF 2018

I am very lucky in that I get sent a lot of advance reading copies of unreleased books, so I get to read some wonderful books ahead of the rest of the world.  Here are the three best I’ve read:


The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart – Holly Ringland
A coming-of-age story with a vividly evocative setting of the sparkling Australian seashore and hot, red sand of the outback, this novel follows the story of Alice Hart who must learn to escape the shadows of an abusive father in order to build a life for herself. Released April 2018.


The Lace Weaver - Lauren Chater
A heart-wrenching novel of love, war and resistance set in Estonia in the 1940s, The Lace Weaver tells the story of two very different young women and their struggle to survive in a country caught between to of the greatest evils of the 20th century: Stalin’s Red Army and Hitler’s Third Reich. Released April 2018.


The Beast's Heart  - Leife Shallcross
A compelling and surprising retelling of ‘The Beauty & the Beast’, this debut offering from an Australian author is filled with peril, darkness, romance and beauty. Utterly enchanting!


You might like to read My Best Books for previous years - if so, click here.  


What were your best reads of the year? Anything I should read?

Comments
Jay commented on 13-Jan-2018 08:48 AM
I am fairly bursting to introduce you to The Lost Words - A Spell Book, by Robert Macfarlane. It is a MUST look at (as is anything by him I now suspect). I stumbled across this beautiful piece of word art through getting a stack of botanical books for novel research. It’s stunning and I just know you will love it! You can get it through any of the Swift libraries around Victoria but I suspect you would want this on your own shelves.
I love your list. Thank you Kate. X

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