It is the time of year when everyone (well, lots of people) post their list of the best books read in the year. I have no intention of being an exception to this rule.
What follows are my ten favourite novels I read this year, or at least the first five with the rest to be posted tomorrow. They were all new to me but few, if any, were first published in 2021 because I am trying to get through my to-be-read pile. Where I have reviewed them on my site I will link to the longer review.
I think that these are an interesting mixture of genres and definitely recommend them. They are listed here in no particular order – I hope that you enjoy one or more of them.
The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman. I confess that I was put off this book by the hype as I am probably a bit snobby about popular books. I read it eventually because I found a hardback edition in mint condition going for one pound in my local charity shop and I thought that I had better back up my opinion with some facts. Well, I was blown away by how clever and amusing this book is and by how the author doesn’t hide the realities of growing old among the fun. It’s a crime story with a simple enough plot where the real interest is in the characters who are all older people. It reminded me a bit of The Postscript Murders by Elly Griffiths which I also recommend.
Scrublands by Chris Hammer is a crime book set in Australia which I review here. It’s beautifully written and very atmospheric. I really enjoyed it and am delighted to see that there are other novels with the same characters which I will hunt down and read in the future. It is set in the same environment as The Dry by Jane Harper which I review here and also recommend.
The Call by Peadar O’Guillan is a fantasy/dystopian novel which might be intended for young adults but which totally engaged me. It’s set in an Ireland which is now cut off from the rest of the world by the faerie kingdom who believe that the Irish have reneged on a deal entered into centuries ago. Every young teenager will disappear for three minutes and four seconds from this world into the faery world where they have to fight for their life – only one in ten will return alive and most of those will be horribly changed. Nessa attends a school for young people to prepare them for what will happen – no one knows when and there is no warning. Unfortunately she has had polio and her walking is impaired. Everyone knows that Nessa will not survive her call but she is determined to prove them wrong. This is a book about the unknown, friendship, making assumptions and survival and I was totally hooked when I read it. So much so that I am frightened to try the sequel in case it isn’t as good and spoils the experience for me. There are certain similarities to The Hunger Games but I think that this is the better book.
The Greengage Summer by Rummer Godden is reviewed here. It’s a classic coming of age story of a family stranded in a hotel in France when their mother is taken ill between the world wars. The sexual tension is brilliantly written but there’s love and passion here too of all sorts. Well worth a read from this author who is probably best known for Black Narcissus (another book of high sexual tension).
Redshirts by John Scalzi is a truly enjoyable book for those who like science fiction of the Star Trek variety. I review it at length here. It’s a very clever book about the crew of a starship who discover that they are actually the characters in a TV series and what happens to them is determined by writers trying to improve the viewing figures – this is especially worrying if you happen to wear a red shirt ! I loved this.
Part two to follow tomorrow….