Savidge Reads Books of 2012 – Part Two…

As I mentioned on Saturday 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 – today I am listing my favourite books published for the first time in the UK in 2012. For the full review click on the link, I have chosen a highlighting paragraph to tempt you for this post.

10. The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan

I think ‘The Lifeboat’ is one of the most brilliant fictional takes on ‘mental warfare’ and how people change under certain circumstances that I have come across in a very long time, especially from a modern writer. Dare I say there was something rather Daphne Du Maurier-like about the darkness that develops? What I won’t say is anything about the other characters (apart from the fact I was scared of Mrs Grant) because I don’t want to give anything away, but Rogan creates a fascinating psychological game with them all, and with Grace herself Rogan pulls the trump card.

9. The Snow Child – Eowyn Ivey

I was enjoying ‘The Snow Child’ so much from the start that I did something I hardly ever do. Rather than read it in chunks when I could, I simply devoted almost a whole day to it. I could have saved it and made it last, but sometimes you have to think ‘stuff that’ and just get lost in it all. So I did and read the book in pretty much one go just gorging on it. Now that is the sign of a truly magical book, I was completely spellbound… apart from having to pop the heater on and making the occasional hot drink as the snow really does feel like it’s coming off the page. This is a highly, highly recommended read.

8. The Colour of Milk – Nell Leyshon

The book is a story of a girl who leaves an unhappy home, yet we figure that out as we read on because really Mary is quite happy with her life on the whole thank you very much. The fact the story is reminiscent of a Victorian classic also works in the books favour because it feels comfortable and yet different, does that make sense? I have to admit that i did hazard a guess at ending that seems to have shocked other people I know who have read it, which I will not spoil or even hint at, not that it stopped me loving the book because I was being taken along by Mary who I could have read for another few hundred pages or more.

7. Some Kind of Fairy Tale – Graham Joyce

If you are thinking of dipping your reading toes/eyes into fantasy from literary fiction or vice versa, or more importantly if you just want a really good story, then you need to read ‘Some Kind of Fairy Tale’. I am really pleased that I ended up choosing this for one of The Readers Book Groups on a whim because I can promise you that I am going to read everything that he has written so far after reading this. I really like his prose and in a way he is doing with literary fiction and fantasy what I think Kate Atkinson and Susan Hill have done with their crime novels, merging them so they become one genre, a genre I call ‘bloody good books’.

6. The End of Your Life Book Club – Will Schwalbe

There are some books out there that you need at a certain time in your life. They can be therapeutic and upsetting but show you just how important a book can be as an object that emotionally resonates with you. These books may be recommended when you are going through something or they may be found through researching yourself. That said they are not self help books, just books which chime in with you at that moment. Will Schwalbe’s ‘The End of Your Life Book Club’ is one such book, a book that seemed to mirror my life in many ways it was both a comfort and occasionally uncomfortable, overall though just amazing.

5. Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn

I don’t think I have read a book that has taken me to such dark places, it’s not a graphically disturbing novel though get ready to have your mind played with and warped, and have so many twists and turns. I also don’t think I have read a book that so cleverly asks the question ‘how well do you really know your partner’ and answers it in such a shocking, brutal yet also worryingly plausible way. ‘Gone Girl’ is easily one of the best novels I have read this year, I cannot recommend it enough… well, unless you are about to get married, have just got married or have just had a bit of a row with your other half as it might give you second thoughts, or sudden ideas, good and bad.

4. The Age of Miracles – Karen Thompson Walker

I thought that ‘The Age of Miracles’ was a truly marvellous novel, definitely one of the highlights of the year so far for me. Naturally because I loved it so much I am finding it very difficult to do the book justice as I feel I missed so much out. I was so lost in the book that I felt the people’s dread and I felt like I was with Julia along the way; I got very upset several times, and as the book went on worried all the more. I was hooked. It seems almost patronising to say ‘I was also really shocked this was a debut novel’ yet if I am honest I was. Karen Thompson Walkers prose is wonderful in the fact it captures the changing atmosphere of the people and the planet, and I should mention here the brilliant way she creates a divided society with people who keep ‘clock time’ and people who decide to live with the earth’s new unnaturally timed days, and also ever so slowly and skilfully builds up the tensions in relationships, fear and terror as the earth slows down and the book leads to its conclusion.

3. Hawthorn & Child – Keith Ridgway

I think the best way to sum up the wonderfully quirky, exciting and surreal yet real ‘Hawthorn & Child’ comes from one of the many characters who could be a psychopath or sociopath or just mad who says “Knowing things completes them. Kills them. They fade away, decided over and forgotten. Not knowing sustains us.” This is a book where not everything is resolved, stories create stories, some fade and some linger, the only constant is the brilliant writing, compellingly created cast, sense of mystery and dark humour which will sustain you from the start until the end and may just have you turning to the first page again as soon as you have finished the last.

2. Diving Belles – Lucy Wood

‘Diving Belles’ is a collection of stories that it would be easy to describe as fairytales for adults, that very statement may of course put people off, and while it is a book that finds the myths and legends of the Cornish coast seeping into every page of it there is so much more to it than that. Of course writing about a whole collection is always difficult (made doubly so when you loved every single one in the book) as you could end up giving too much away on each story or end up writing something as long as the collection itself.

1.  My Policeman – Bethan Roberts

I adored ‘My Policeman’, despite the fact it made me cry on a few occasions. I found it incredibly difficult to break away from it for any period of time yet I also found that as the book went on I was trying not to read it too fast, in part from the sense of impending doom and also because I didn’t really want it to end. I felt I was there, a bystander watching it all, feeling for Marion then Patrick and vice versa. It is one of the most beautifully written and emotionally engaging novels I have read this year. It is also a book that highlights a bit of our history that we often brush under the carpet, mainly because we think we are more tolerant now, and yet is one that should definitely be acknowledged and learnt from.

There are of course a few other books I must mention, for example both winners of the Green Carnation Prize, ‘Moffie’ by Andre Carl van der Merwe and ‘A Perfectly Good Man’ by Patrick Gale, and also Kerry Hudson’s ‘Tony Hogan Bought Me an Ice Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma’ which was one of the debut highlights of the year for me, I will be reviewing/reporting back on all the long list next year, as they were all rather brilliant. Also ‘The Lighthouse’ by Alison Moore and ‘Swimming Home’ by Deborah Levy which would have been joint tenth with ‘The Lifeboat’ and my final two had I done a Simon’s Booker Dozen type of post. Overall it has been a great year of reading and I am looking forward to the next.

What about you? What have been your highlights of the year published in 2012? Which of these have you read and what did you think?


Filed under Book Thoughts, Books of 2012

19 responses to “Savidge Reads Books of 2012 – Part Two…

  1. David

    I’ve only read two of those, Simon – ‘The Colour of Milk’ and ‘My Policeman’. I liked both, particularly the Leyshon. I really must get around to reading ‘The Age of Miracles’, ‘The Lifeboat’ and ‘The Snow Child’ as I’m sure I’ll like all of three. Your enthusiastic championing of ‘Diving Belles’ has paid off in that I’ve just ordered a cheap copy via Amazon marketplace so I’ll try and get to that in the new year. ‘Gone Girl’ doesn’t immediately appeal to me, but everyone seems to love it so perhaps I should give that a go too.

    Now then, that ‘published for the first time IN THE UK in 2012’ condition has forced me to reassess my list of favourites. Six of the ten I was going to mention were indeed published for the first time in 2012, but only in the US or Canada, so I’ll play fair and take those out of the running. Which would give me this top ten:

    1. The Deadman’s Pedal – Alan Warner
    2. The Street Sweeper – Elliot Perlman
    3. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk – Ben Fountain
    4. The Infinite Tides – Christian Kiefer
    5. Stone Arabia – Dana Spiotta
    6. Bring Up the Bodies – Hilary Mantel
    7. This Isn’t the Sort of Thing that Happens to Someone Like You – Jon McGregor
    8. The Silver Dark Sea – Susan Fletcher
    9. The Forrests – Emily Perkins
    10. Sweet Tooth – Ian McEwan

    And I’ll just quickly mention those six non-UK books that would have made a ‘published in 2012 anywhere’ list, as all are brilliant: ‘Indian Horse’ by Richard Wagamese (Canada), ‘Sleeping Funny’ by Miranda Hill (Canada), ‘The News From Spain’ by Joan Wickersham (US), ‘Stopping for Strangers’ by Daniel Griffin (Canada), ‘The Round House’ by Louise Erdrich (US, due here in 2013), and ‘What Happened to Sophie Wilder’ by Christopher R. Beha (US). Gosh, it has been a fantastic year!

    • I am simply going to reply to this with the following…

      Why on earth are you not blogging?

      … And thank you for some lovely recommendations. Mind you seeing The Forrests on there makes me a little dubious 😉

  2. I’ve read three on your list (The Lifeboat, The Snow Child, Gone Girl) and enjoyed them all. The Snow Child is my favorite of the year, although Gone Girl is right up there. I resisted GG when everyone here seemed to be reading it, but I’m glad I finally took the plunge and look forward to reading some of Flynn’s earlier books (and some of the others on your list, especially #4-6).

  3. I love seeing how varied everyone’s lists are. Diving Belles made my final list and The Snow Child only just missed out (though it would have made it if I limited it to 2012 releases only). Out of the rest, I found The Age of Miracles a little disappointing (seems like non-sci-fi readers like it more) and I want to read The Life Boat and My Policeman.

    • The variety of the lists is something that I love too Ellie. Also nice to get a list of peoples favourite books you have missed this year that you can give a whirl at the start of the next.

      My Policeman is just so brilliant, but I mustn’t over hype it.

  4. I loved reading this post! I saw the end of The Colour of Milk coming too – how else could a book like that end? It was the antithesis of rural nostalgia. I wasn’t hugely keen on it at first, but it really grew in my mind and still feels very sharp. Definitely the sign of a good book.

    That’s the only book I’ve read from your list though. I feel so behind and need to catch up with The Snow Child and Gone Girl and Diving Belles and My Policeman. Oh what the hell, I’m going to order one or two for my kindle…

    • Hahahaha, I hope you enjoy them after having ordered them, they are so lovely. Well Gone Girl is a bit sick and some people hated the ending but I loved it, especially its darkness.

      The Colour of Milk should have got a lot more attention than it did I think!

  5. Sharkell

    I have read five of your top ten and the others are now on my wishlist. My library has just got Diving Belles in so perhaps I will start there.

    My top ten favourites for the year were:

    The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
    Plainsong by Kent Haruf
    The Colour of Milk by Nell Leyshon
    The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt
    A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
    Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes
    A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
    The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry
    Gillespie and I by Jane Harris
    All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

  6. Ooo yes. I received a gift voucher for the website-that-shall-not-be-named for my b’day, TOLD myself I wouldn’t spend it all on books and did – The Snowchild being one of them. Absolutely perfect book for my mood this year, chilly and escapist 🙂 Would love to visit Alaska too.

    Diving Belles sounds very exciting – I’m keen to continue the escapist mood and have quite an affinity with Cornwall. Has been on my Wishlist since I heard you and Gav chat about it so thanks for that one!

    • If you have an affinity with Cornwall then you will definitely love Diving Belles, I promise you Lucy. Its such a wonderful atmospheric book. I cannot wait for her novel. Though I will have to.

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

  8. novelinsights

    Hmm… reading this has made me feel very lucky for such rich recommendation lists. I’ve added My Policeman to my Amazon wishlist. You know what – I would never never pick it up in a bookshop because of the cover and title. Isn’t that terrible!

  9. Delyn

    Yet another of your choices is weaving its magic, Simon. I’m reading “The Snow Child” and loving it, too.
    I’ll be interested in your comments re Shrewsbury. It’s in my neck of the woods… well, I live in Hereford, but Shrewsbury and Ludlow make up an interesting part of the country – and Hay-on-Wye is nearby, too. All those book shops!

  10. The Snow Child and Gone Girl are some of the most mentioned books in book bloggers’ best-of-2012 lists. This last one was certainly the best discussion of my bookclub.

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