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BOOK LIST: Kate Forsyth's Best Books of 2016

Sunday, January 08, 2017



In 2016, I read around 90 books (not including research books!) 

That’s an average of seven or eight books a month, and is actually less than I usually read. I had a lot of research to do this year, though!

For my own interest I’ve done two pie-charts to break down the gender of the writers and the genres of the fiction. 

Unsurprisingly, I read a lot more books by women than by men, and my favourite genre was historical fiction. 

I was surprised by how little fantasy and romance I read – it’s not like me. I obviously have some reading to catch up on! 









Here are my lists of the Best Books of the Year. Just click on the links to read my reviews of these amazing books.




Fiction



1. The Observations – Jane Harris



2. Fingersmith – Sarah Waters



3. All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr



4. The Last Painting of Sara de Vos – Dominic Smith  



5. Tower of Thorns – Juliet Marillier 



6. The Marvels – Brian Selznick



7. The Other Daughter – Lauren Willig



8. The Essex Serpent – Sarah Perry 



9. The Midnight Watch – David Dyer



10. The Lie Tree – Frances Hardinge



11. The Signature of All Things – Elizabeth Gilbert



12. The Good People – Hannah Kent



13. The Suspect – Michael Robotham



14. Wolf Winter – Cecilia Ekback 



15. The Wonder – Emma Donoghue


Non-Fiction/Memoir




1. H Is For Hawk – Helen Macdonald 



2. The Bayeux Tapestry: The Life Story of a Masterpiece - Carola Hicks



3. Peacock & Vine – A.S. Byatt



4. A Woman on the Edge of Time: A Son’s Search for his Mother – Jeremy Gavron



5. Rising Ground: A Search for the Spirit of Place – Philip Marsden



6. Victoria the Queen – Julia Baird



Wondering what were my Best Books of the past few years? Click here!

BOOK REVIEW: Gillespie & I by Jane Harris

Monday, December 19, 2016

BLURB:

As she sits in her Bloomsbury home, with her two birds for company, elderly Harriet Baxter sets out to relate the story of her acquaintance, nearly four decades previously, with Ned Gillespie, a talented artist who never achieved the fame she maintains he deserved.

Back in 1888, the young, art-loving, Harriet arrives in Glasgow at the time of the International Exhibition. After a chance encounter she befriends the Gillespie family and soon becomes a fixture in all of their lives. But when tragedy strikes - leading to a notorious criminal trial - the promise and certainties of this world all too rapidly disorientate into mystery and deception.

Featuring a memorable cast of characters, infused with atmosphere and period detail, and shot through with wicked humour, Gillespie and I is a tour de force from one of the emerging names of British fiction. 


MY THOUGHTS:

I loved Jane Harris’s debut novel The Observations, which was told in the tough, humorous voice of a young Irish serving-maid, Bessy. It was a tour-de-force of ventriloquism, and a real page-turner. So I was interested to see what Jane Harris would do next. 

Gillespie & I, her second novel, is very different. The narrator, Harriet Baxter, is a plain and rather nosy spinster who becomes embroiled in the life of a young artist and his family in Glasgow in 1888. Her tone is wry and self-deprecating, and yet there are darker shadows beneath the narrative – hints of mysteries and tragedies and misunderstandings – that slowly build until we no longer know whether or not Harriet’s view of events is can be trusted at all. 


Once again, the voice is utterly compelling and the desire to know the truth of what is happening drives the suspense of the deftly handled plot. In the end, it is a darker more heart-rending book than The Observations, but one that stayed with me for a long time afterwards. 



Interested in Jane Harris's first book, The Observations? You can read my review here.

BOOK REVIEW: The Observations by Jane Harris

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Summer Holidays!  For me, a time to relax and read for pleasure.  This January I took a stack of books away with me to the beach shack and read my way through them in complete and utter happiness.


THE BLURB:

An extraordinary historical novel about a peculiar friendship between the mistress of a Scottish estate and her irresistibly appealing housemaid.


Scotland, 1863. In an attempt to escape her not-so-innocent past in Glasgow, Bessy Buckley, a wide-eyed and feisty young Irish girl, takes a job as a maid in a big house outside Edinburgh working for the beautiful Arabella, the missus. Bessy lacks the necessary scullery skills for her new position, but as she finds out, it is her ability to read and write that makes her such a desirable property. 

Bessy is intrigued by her new employer but puzzled by her increasingly strange requests and her insistence that Bessy keep a journal of her mundane chores and most intimate thoughts. And it seems that the missus has a few secrets of her own, including her near-obsessive affection for Nora, a former maid who died in mysterious circumstances.


Giving in to her curiosity, Bessy makes an infuriating discovery and, out of jealousy, concocts a childish prank that backfires and threatens to jeopardize all that she has come to hold dear. Yet even when caught up in a tangle of madness, ghosts, sex, and lies, she remains devoted to Arabella.

But who is really responsible for what happened to her predecessor Nora? As her past threatens to catch up with her and raise the stakes even further, Bessy begins to realize that she has not quite landed on her feet.


The Observations is a brilliantly original, endlessly intriguing story of one woman's journey from a difficult past into an even more disturbing present, narrated by one of the most vividly imagined heroines in recent fiction.

This powerful story of secrets and suspicions, hidden histories and mysterious disappearances is at once compelling and heart-warming, showing the redemptive power of loyalty and friendship. A hugely assured and darkly funny debut, The Observations is certain to establish Jane Harris as a significant new literary talent.


WHAT I THOUGHT OF THIS BOOK:

The Observations is such a delightful read! It tells the story of a girl named Bessy who takes a job as a maid-of-all-work in a gloomy country house in Scotland in the mid 1860s.

Bessy has a past she would rather forget, and so is grateful for the refuge her mistress Arabella offers her. However, she soon comes to realise that not is all as it seems in the house, and that an earlier maid has died in rather mysterious circumstances. 

With naïve optimism, Bessie sets out to find out what happened, and finds herself getting rather more than she bargained for.

The true pleasure of the book is Bessy’s voice – gutsy, wry, and vulnerable – and the clever way Jane Harris weaves her narrative threads together.


I WOULD LOVE TO KNOW WHAT YOU THOUGHT OF THIS BOOK!


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