Books of the Year (part 2)

Most of the time, I tend to read whatever’s on the bookshelf or whatever’s been recommended by others. Here’s what I’ve enjoyed reading this year. Why not let me know what you’ve enjoyed in the comment thread which follows.

1. ‘Middlemarch’ – George Eliot

It’s difficult to think of a better novel. ‘Anna Karenina’, ‘Great Expectations’ perhaps? The experience of reading ‘Middlemarch’ is one filled with riches. Ostensibly, it is about Dorothea Casaboun, but it is really about so much more. Eliot seems to consider a whole swathe of Victorian society as well as meditating on life, death, love and relationships. It’s a novel which yields more and more each time you read it. A work of genius.

2. ‘Fauverie’ – Pascale Petit

Shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize and surely a strong candidate for the Wales Book of the Year, Petit’s collection is mostly based around her father’s death and Paris. Striking metaphors create new ways of seeing people and the world in which they belong. Birds play a prominent role and ‘How to Hand-Feed Sparrows’ is a breathtaking poem. Like the whole collection, it is a poem of tenderness and maturity.

Here’s an example of what lies within:

Black Jaguar at Twilight

He seems to have sucked
the whole Amazon
into his being, the storm-

clouds of rosettes
through a bronze dusk.
I’ve been there, sheltered

under the buttress
of a giant, felt
the air around me –

its muscles tense,
stalking me
as I stumbled

through dense fur,
my father’s tongue
wet on my neck

as I fell into a gulch,
the blackout of his mouth.
And when I woke

I thought I heard
the jungle cough – this jungle,
the jaguar safe

behind bars. I lean over
and touch his cage – his glance
grazes me like an arrow

3. ‘A Hologram for the King’ – Dave Eggers

In some ways this novel is the complete antithesis of ‘Middlemarch’. The prose is sparse, the ‘action’ monotonous. But that’s the point. Eggers has created an American Everyman and while it reads as a fascinating study of ageing and impotency, it also reads as a parable of America’s place in the world. With echoes of Beckett and ‘Waiting for Godot’, Alan Clay, his surname a suggestion of his bearing, waits with his new technology for the King that he hopes will be impressed and save his stuttering life. Humorous and full of pathos it’s a bold novel from one of the most intriguing voices in contemporary fiction.

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5 Responses to Books of the Year (part 2)

  1. I share your feelings about Middlemarch. It’s my favourite of any of the classics. Have you ever read Eugene Peterson’s reflections about why reading novels is essential for pastors 9and everyone else)? Dave Eggers has never quite grabbed me so far – maybe I need to give this one a go. And I’ll go into 2015, like every year, resolving to read more poetry!

  2. esselis says:

    My two favourite books that I read this year were Home by Marilynne Robinson & ‘to rise again at a decent hour’ by Joshua Ferris – loved it.

  3. esselis says:

    The two books that I really enjoyed reading this year were Home by Marilynne Robinson (got Lila for Christmas – looking forward to that but need a break before reading it. Found Home very emotional!) and ‘to rise again at a decent hour’ by Joshua Ferris. A hologram for the king sounds intriguing – I’ll add it to the list. Thanks for the recommendation.

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