It’s that time of year! When we look back over what we did and what we didn’t do and we make the odd list or two. Here’s one of my lists: the best books of 2017. (My list covers books I read in 2017, not necessarily books that were published in 2017).
The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett
I reviewed this one in Book Chat, which I know I haven’t done for over 6 months. (PS – would love to know who, if anyone, misses Book Chat). It’s a book that makes you think about the lives you didn’t lead, based on the choices you made at one point or another. It tells the story of three different versions of the protagonist’s life and it doesn’t glorify one over the other, but instead shows that all lives have their good and their bad, their ups and their downs, and that life really is what you make of it. Read with a large box of tissues.
What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
I was lucky enough to win Liane Moriarty’s entire backlist at a function last year and have made my way through all of them. For me, What Alice Forgot, is the standout (full review here). Big Little Lies will always be my favourite Moriarty but this is now my second favourite. A bit like the above in that it looks at another version of a person’s life. This time, the protagonist is granted a second chance by a knock on the head and subsequent amnesia. Moriarty writes about motherhood and kids and family and domestic life so very well. I always find myself recognising parts of me in her characters.
Les Parisiennes: How the Women of Paris Lived, Loved and Died Under Nazi Occupation by Anne Sebba
Time for some non-fiction. So many women did so many extraordinary things during the German occupation of Paris in WWII. And many women also did some things that are very hard to understand. Anne Sebba covers all the good deeds and bad, and her canvas is broad, following women from all walks of life. I’ve found at least two novel ideas from reading this. She does an excellent job of weaving history into a story and bringing it, and the women, to life.
The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
Gosh, I loved this book. I think I loved it all the more because, for at least the first few chapters, I wondered if it had been vastly overrated and I thought I might even abandon it. I’m so glad I didn’t. It tells the story of a network of female spies during WWI, alongside the parallel narrative of a young women in 1947 who is searching for her French cousin, gone missing during WWII. Be patient with the fact that none of the characters are especially endearing to begin with; they, and their stories, suddenly become unputdownable.
The Secrets She Keeps by Michael Robotham
I love to dip into and out of the psychological thriller/suspense genre from time to time but I am also very selective about the books I will read. This is my first Michael Robotham and I was hooked from the outset. He is especially good at making you empathise with the character who is doing terrible things, and I always think it shows the true skill of a writer when they can make you root for the “villain” of the book.
The Hating Game by Sally Thorne
This was utterly addictive, romantic-comedy at its finest. I fell head over heels in love with this story and its hero. Yes, it takes Lucy a little too long to cotton on to the fact that Josh fancies her and she fancies him but the tension is maintained nevertheless. Funny, fun and sexy, it’s the kind of book that you absolutely want to read in one sitting (larger review here).
Mr Rochester by Sarah Shoemaker
This was not a perfect book but I was comply absorbed by it nonetheless. I loved the way Shoemaker brought Rochester’s early years to life, and traced his boyhood, adolescence and early manhood, shaping him, piece by piece, into the man we know so well from Jane Eyre. I would have liked more of his relationship with Bertha as I think that was sketched in too lightly, and, interestingly, less of the story once Jane enters his life. But the rest was a wonderful and original take on a well-loved literary character.
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
This is one of those books that you can’t really say you enjoyed, because it’s brutal and it makes you despair at the fact that you are human, and human beings are capable of doing such terrible things to one another. It follows Cora, a slave on a plantation in America’s south as she tries to flee slavery and find elusive freedom. I did initially find Whitehead’s rendering of the underground railroad as an actual railway a little distracting, as it made me wonder about which parts of this historical novel were real and which were invented. But I gradually came to like this piece of imagining, and found this book to be one that stays with you for a long time after you finish it.
That’s it from me! Eight stand out books for 2017. Have you read any of these? What did you think? What would be on your list of best books of 2017?