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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.


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


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: The Midnight Watch by David Dyer

Saturday, December 31, 2016

THE BLURB (From GoodReads):

As the Titanic and her passengers sank slowly into the Atlantic Ocean after striking an iceberg late in the evening of April 14, 1912, a nearby ship looked on. Second Officer Herbert Stone, in charge of the midnight watch on the SS Californian sitting idly a few miles north, saw the distress rockets that the Titanic fired. He alerted the captain, Stanley Lord, who was sleeping in the chartroom below, but Lord did not come to the bridge. Eight rockets were fired during the dark hours of the midnight watch, and eight rockets were ignored. 

The next morning, the Titanic was at the bottom of the sea and more than 1,500 people were dead. When they learned of the extent of the tragedy, Lord and Stone did everything they could to hide their role in the disaster, but pursued by newspapermen, lawyers, and political leaders in America and England, their terrible secret was eventually revealed. The Midnight Watch is a fictional telling of what may have occurred that night on the SS Californian, and the resulting desperation of Officer Stone and Captain Lord in the aftermath of their inaction.

Told not only from the perspective of the SS Californian crew, but also through the eyes of a family of third-class passengers who perished in the disaster, the narrative is drawn together by Steadman, a tenacious Boston journalist who does not rest until the truth is found. The Midnight Watch is a powerful and dramatic debut novel--the result of many years of research in Liverpool, London, New York, and Boston, and informed by the author's own experiences as a ship's officer and a lawyer.


Like many people, I have always been interested in the story of the Titanic. But my interest never reached the obsessive proportions of David Dyer, who first wrote a story about it when he was in primary school and used to prop up two of the legs of his bed so that he slept at a tilt, as if he was on board a sinking ship. 

The Midnight Watch is the result of this lifelong fascination, and it illuminates the tragedy in an entirely new and original way. It is not so much the story of the ill-fated Titanic, but of the ship that watched her sink and did nothing to help.

The Titanic hit an iceberg late in the evening of April 14, 1912, and fired eight distress rockets into the starlit sky. Second Officer Herbert Stone, in charge of the midnight watch on the SS Californian sitting only a few miles north, saw the distress rockets and alerted the captain, Stanley Lord, who was asleep in the chartroom below. Lord did not come to the bridge, or give any orders to help the sinking ship, despite several more attempts to inform him of the signals. The next morning, the Titanic had sunk to the bottom of the sea and more than 1,500 people were dead. 

I knew nothing about the SS Californian, despite the many books I have read about the tragedy (and of course, watching the famous movie with Leonardo di Caprio and Kate Winslet countless times). It seems incomprehensible that anyone could have ignored those eight distress signals. However, by the end of David Dyer’s book I felt I understood how such a terrible thing could have happened. The Midnight Watch is powerful, compelling, and utterly illuminating – a must-read for anyone with even the slightest interest in the tragedy of the Titanic. 

Other books about the Titanic which I have read & enjoyed are The Girl Who Came Home by Hazel Raynor and my daughter's favourite book, Kaspar, the King of Cats by Michael Morpurgo.

Have you read any great novels set on the Titanic? Let me know as I'd love to read them. 


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