Sunday, 12 January 2020
My reading/reviewing took a knock last year, and I haven't read anything like the number of books I usually would. As a result, I haven't gone for a full Top Ten of the year (also, you might note, I'm late posting this). Anyway, here we are, with some of my favourite books of 2019
Stillicide by Cynan Jones. Breath-catching, heart-wrenching, stunning - a series of self-contained but linked short stories set in a bleak, not-too distant, future where providing water to big cities requires military precision and armed guards. Although it's a long step from Jones' previous works set in rural Wales, there's the same precision and attention to detail, his ability to get inside a character's head and create living, breathing people is just the same.
The Sea Within Me by Sarah Dobbs. More dystopian sci-fi, this time in an England threatened by rising sea-levels and terrorists. In grim, beleaguered Newark by the Sea, the government is trialing a scheme to combat crime and fear which erases anything unpleasant from people's minds - a way to keep the population happy, or a form of mind control?
The 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind' vibe continues with Bridget Collins' The Binding. A gripping tale of betrayal and hidden secrets set in a vaguely Victorian setting, unhappy memories are gathered by a form of magic, and bound into books. When Emmett is apprenticed as a bookbinder, he starts to uncover his own hidden memories - and his view of the world changes completely.
And The Wind Sees All by Gudmundur Andri Thorsson Another collection of short stories, this time fitting together like a jigsaw puzzle to paint a portrait of the inhabitants of an Icelandic fishing village. At a cursory view they seem happy, respectable, comfortable in their life and ways, but behind the smiling faces heartache, betrayal and deceit lurk.
My last pick - Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield - is a bit of a cheat as I also included it in last year's 'best of' list; it was only available then as an e-book, now it's in 'proper' book form. It's an astounding piece of storycraft - a tale as much about the stories we tell ourselves to make sense of the frequently puzzling world, as it is about a girl rescued from the river one dark, stormy night.