Savidge Reads Books of 2012 – Part One…

I was going to try and be really brave and break the habit of this blogs and just do a single top ten books of the year. I tried and tried and tried, and I failed. I simply couldn’t only have ten, in fact I actually had a top thirty roughly, but then I have read 167 books (Green Carnation submissions always bump this figure up, what will next year be like without them) this year so maybe that will make it slightly more understandable. So what I have done once again is have two top tens, one of the books published for the first time in the UK in 2012 and another with all the other books published before that – it is the latter we are focusing on today. For the full review click on the link, I have chosen a highlighting paragraph to tempt you for this post.

10. The Claude Glass by Tom Bullough

I really liked the fact Bullough creates this sense of place and people and wants you to work with him on building the bigger picture and using all the things unsaid along with tiny tensions to create the full narrative tale.  I think by now you will have probably guessed that I thought ‘The Claude Glass’ was an unusual and incredibly accomplished piece of writing, silently impressive and one that rewards you in many ways.

9. You’ll Be Sorry When I’m Dead by Marieke Hardy

‘You’ll Be Sorry When I Am Dead’ is one of those books which manages to make you laugh out loud, feel ever so uncomfortable at its honesty, possibly makes you want to cry and then makes you laugh all over again. When someone writes their memoirs it isn’t necessarily that the full truth doesn’t come out, just that the author tends to look at things in a rose tinted way, highlighting their best bits – not so in the case of Marieke.

8. Days of Grace by Catherine Hall

What I also really admired and loved about the book is that even though we have one narrator we have two stories. These are told in alternating chapters throughout the book. This device is one that is used often and normally I have to admit one story will overtake my interest as I read on. Not in the case of ‘Days of Grace’. I was desperate to know what was going to happen with Nora and Grace as the war went on both in idyllic Kent and the roughness and danger of London but I also wanted to know, just as much, what was going to happen with Nora in the present, her health and the relationship with Rose and her baby. Both stories had me intrigued and I think that was because Catherine Hall very cleverly has the stories mystery foreboding the past tense narrative and shadowing the present without us knowing what it is until the last minute.

7. The World That Was Ours – Hilda Bernstein

‘The World That Was Ours’ shows the power of books, writing, journalism and memoir. When it was published back in 1967 it was a dangerous book to release and there were many people who would have liked to see it destroyed. Thank goodness it found a publisher back then and thank goodness Persephone have chosen it as a book to reprint for us to discover because it is just the sort of book that everyone should read. I will be re-reading this again for definite.

6. Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan

You can feel the sense of unease on almost every page, both in a combination of the mystery of Hiero unraveling and war drawing nearer does give the book a slight thriller twist. If you think that is a negative thing it is not I promise you because Edugyan merges the literary elements of the novel with the tension and pace perfectly… and it stays with you long after you read it.

5. The Bottle Factory Outing by Beryl Bainbridge

There were so many things that I loved about Beryl Bainbridge’s writing that it might be hard to encompass them all, I will endeavour to try though. First of all is how much is in such a small book. At a mere 200 pages, and in fairly big print which could be devoured in a few hours, so much happens that when you have finished you find yourself recapping it all and thinking ‘did that all just happen in this book?’ There are funerals, hilarious seductions in cellars, hilarious seductions in a shared bedroom and a shared bathroom, a mother in law with a grudge to bear and a gun in her handbag, a fight in Windsor Castle, horse riding with the Queen’s funereal regiment, something awful on an outing which leads to a strange trip to a safari park, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

4. Never Mind by Edward St Aubyn

I always admire an author who can write beautifully and simply, an author who can create the most understated of melodramas will win me over. I also always admire an author who can write a passage that chills you before one that makes you laugh out loud and then another which horrifies you all over again. All these things are encompassed in Edward St Aubyn’s first Patrick Melrose novel ‘Never Mind’.

3. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

I don’t think I have yet read a piece of fiction which seems to encapsulate the entire breadth in which cancer can affect people and not just those in the eye of the storm it creates. Ness looks at the full spectrum of emotions for all those involved, from Conor, his mother and grandmother to those on the periphery such as Conor’s teachers. He takes these feeling and reactions, condenses them and then makes them readable, effecting, emotional and compelling in just over 200 pages. The monster itself is also an incredible character being utterly evil in many ways and yet having hints of goodness amongst the chaos he creates so that you are never quite sure if he is friend or foe.

2. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

I wouldn’t normally say that I was a reader who subscribes to adventure stories or love stories and yet Madeline Miller’s debut novel ‘The Song of Achilles’ is easily my favourite read of the year so far. The reason for this is simple, she’s a bloody good storyteller, a great writer and I think the enthusiasm she has for classics becomes contagious somewhere in the way she writes. Madeline Miller has made me want to run out and read more books with this book, what more can you ask from an author than that?

1.  Kiss Kiss by Roald Dahl

I think ‘Kiss Kiss’ will undoubtedly remain one of my favourite short story collections, and one that I will happily dip in and out of again and again in the future. It has that delightfully dark, yet awfully darkly funny, essence to it that I just really enjoy. It has made me want to go out and read all of Dahl’s other adult work (especially with the covers in this new series by Penguin) and also dig out my old childhood favourites which I am sure I will now see in a whole new light. I would definitely recommend that you read this collection if you haven’t, they are mini macabre masterpieces.

So that is my first top ten of 2012 and all the books I really, really loved published before this year that I read this year. Make sense? I do also want to mention ‘Now You See Me’ by S.J. Bolton, ‘Packing For Mars’ by Mary Roach (both of which I read for The Readers Summer Book Club and adored), ‘Persuasion’ by Jane Austen and ‘Great Expectations’ by Charles Dickens (both have been part of Classically Challenged and the latter of which I will be talking about tomorrow), all highly recommended.

So what about your what are your post-2012 books of 2012? Which of these have you read and what did you think? Any other books you would recommend you think I might like having loved the above? Do pop back for Part Two on Monday!

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24 Comments

Filed under Book Thoughts, Books of 2012

24 responses to “Savidge Reads Books of 2012 – Part One…

  1. A Monster Calls made my best of list for last year and Song of Achilles will be on my list for this…I’m thinking about doing a top 12 (for 2012) it’s so hard to pick just 10!

  2. Jayme

    A Monster Calls also made my top list along with Song of Achilles. Days of Grace also looks interesting. Happy Reading in the New Year.

  3. Ditto for Ness, and I’m glad you included Beryl too! I was very taken with Bullough’s ‘Konstantin’ this year and have ‘The Claude Glass’ in my TBR, and really *must* read The Song of Achilles very soon!

  4. David

    Now there’s a cracking idea – I tried to come up with a top 10 the other day and like you struggled to narrow it down. I may have a go at splitting it up into 2012 and pre-2012 myself :)

    I really liked ‘The Claude Glass’ too and it was my favourite ‘old’ book of last year. So I was really looking forward to ‘Konstantin’ this year and was massively disappointed. Lovely writing and I really got a feeling for the Russian setting, but it didn’t seem to know if it wanted to be fiction or straight biography and for me ended up failing as both. Have you read it yet? Be interesting to know if you had a different perspective on it.

    That ‘Half Blood Blues’ has made your top 10 interests me. I think last year I had one of those reactions you often have to books: there was so much good press about it and it was on so many prize lists that I was perversely put off. But maybe now is the time to actually read it and see if all the fuss was deserved.

    I’ll confess that when I read Beryl Bainbridge’s ‘Every Man for Himself’ back in 1996 I didn’t like it. At all. And I’ve – probably very unfairly – carried this idea with me that I dislike her books. But I know how much my tastes have evolved since then and I really should give her another look – ‘The Bottle Factory Outing’ sounds like a fun read.

    Anyway, its an interesting list, and I’m very much looking forward to Part Two, Simon. Thanks for another year of great reviews. I may not always agree with you (‘The Forrests’ for instance!) but you’ve pointed me towards several great books I wouldn’t otherwise have looked at. And apologies for writing another really long comment! (Resolution for 2013: I must stop waffling on other people’s blogs!)

    PS: I’ve had a think. I THINK my top ten pre-2012 reads of the past year have been:

    Journey to the Stone Country (2002) – Alex Miller
    Conditions of Faith (2000) – Alex Miller
    The Catastrophist (1998) – Ronan Bennett
    The Merry-go-round in the Sea (1965) – Randolph Stow
    This is Not Your City (2011) – Caitlin Horrocks
    Pleased to Meet You (2006) – Caroline Adderson
    Great Dream of Heaven (2002) – Sam Shepard
    The White Earth (2006) – Andrew McGahan
    The Trout Opera (2007) – Matthew Condon
    and, although I haven’t quite finished it yet:
    The Shiralee (1955) – D’Arcy Niland

    (strewth, mate, just realised six of those are Australian!)

    • Hahahaha, fair dinkum to those books there David. As usual my response will be short which always makes me feel bad as your comments are so brilliant however… I will try the new Bullough though interestingly when I got it from the library I wasn’t that fussed about reading it when it was in the house. Not sure why!

      Give Beryl another whirl… or else. Ha!

  5. I posted my own top ten list earlier. 167 books! I’m impressed. It’s been years, but I did love Kiss Kiss. I think I even still have my copy somewhere.

  6. Still work on my own year in books, but I’d like to thank you in advance for The Song of Achilles and Half Blood Blues as i doubt I would have read either without The Readers podcast. Looking forward to finally trying Beryl Bainbridge in the new year.

  7. These lists are so hard to put together I am currently still editing mine. Like you I couldn’t stick to 10. Glad to see three books I loved (although only 2 of them this year) on your list. The World that was ours, Half Blood Blues and The Bottle Factory Outing – they won’t be making it on to my list but I enjoyed them a lot.
    I don’t read so many books published now – but go for more older books, Woud recommend any Dorothy Whipple, or Elizabeth Taylor for older books. But one book which was published this year which was unforgettable and will be on my list was The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng.

    • I look forward to your lists when I play blog catch up later this week Ali. I love getting even more recommendations at this time of year for the books I should read in the next. I have the Tan Twan Eng on my shelves.

  8. Pingback: Savidge Reads Books of 2012 – Part Two… | Savidge Reads

  9. Pingback: I love me some lists | The Ludic Reader

  10. 167 is a great total ,half blood blues was a book I loved as well ,all the best stu

  11. novelinsights

    Intriguing list! I’ve been in reading catch-up mode so haven’t had the chance to really lust after new titles. A Monster Calls sounds like a must-read, and I the Catherine Hall one too. She sounds like she could easily become a favourite of yours after you enjoyed Proof of Love so much.

    • I think she could become a favourite too, we will have to see with her third book. Its a bit odd now though as I know her (she is bloody lovely like her books) so the blur between her writing and her is harder to define, if that makes any sense at all then well done.

  12. great list, I need to read The Song of Achilles.
    you will find my list in this post:
    http://wordsandpeace.com/2013/01/03/year-of-reading-2012/

  13. Pingback: Novel Insights on Savidge Reads #1 | Savidge Reads

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