My Ten Favourite Novels of 2021 – Part 2 – the second five (actually six)

Here is part two of my ten favourite novels I read this year – see here for part one. Actually, I’m cheating a bit because there are six books here but you’ll see why if you scroll down.

These 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 Birdwatcher by William Shaw. This is a crime novel which I review here. It’s a book about a police officer who finds his past coming back to haunt him. Set on the Kent coast which is beautifully described it also harks back to The Troubles in Northern Ireland. It’s haunting and clever and the start of a series featuring one character which I will look out for in the future.

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir is science fiction. I listened to this on audio and was completely hooked. I loved his first book The Martian which I review here and this one has a lot of similarities. Ryland Grace wakes up on a space ship on his way to Outer Space but he can’t remember who he is or why he is there. He knows it’s a one way trip and his colleagues are dead but the rest is fuzzy. It transpires that his role is to save the earth, but how ? Clever and funny and touching in places this is as much about a man finding himself as anything else. I loved it.

Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho is set in an alternative Regency England where magic is real and Zacharias Wythe is the first ever African to be appointed as the adviser to the crown about magical matters. This is a book about discrimination as much as anything as magic is restricted to men and women are not allowed to practise. In the end, of course, it is Zacharias and a young woman who will save the world as they investigate the gradual disappearance of magic. I really enjoyed this book. I thought it was clever and showed up lots of issues around discrimination and imperialism in a very readable way. I have read the sequel which I didn’t enjoy nearly as much but this first book stands well on its own.

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney is a book about the history of advertising in New York seen through the eyes of one older woman. You can read my full review here. Lillian is walking through New York on New Year’s Eve and she recounts her life as the best paid woman in advertising as she passes places relevant to her story. She also meets people on her travels and interacts with them too. This is a touch whimsical but wholly delightful novel.

Blackout and All Clear by Connie Willis are two novels but one story. The second book starts exactly where the first finishes and the author doesn’t bother with any recaps. Normally I would completely disapprove of this but the two books were so enjoyable that I am excusing the author in this instance only (although I still think it could have been one very long book – I have read some monsters in my time – see my blog here). These two books are set in the same world as the author’s Doomsday Book which is rightly a science fiction classic but you don’t have to have read it first to enjoy these, although I do recommend it). In a world which is mostly like ours, but with some differences, time travel has been invented but is reserved for historians. In Blackout a number of historians travel to the time of WW2 to research a number of topics but something goes wrong and they can’t return. They are now stuck in London at the time of the Blitz trying not to affect the course of the war and failing in every attempt to return. In All Clear they begin to realise why they can’t return and the author ties together a number of sub plots very cleverly. This is a joy to read and I read both books straight through in a matter of a few days because I couldn’t wait to see what had happened. The author gives us a full and detailed description of life in England during this period observed by the time travellers who try desperately to fit in and survive which is tricky despite being armed by knowledge of what happens. There are lots of minor characters and events which seem only to be adding texture to the story until the author weaves them into the overall narrative. I cannot recommend these books enough to people who like an historical novel or a bit of science fiction or both – together they are my book of the year.

It’s on to non –fiction next but you will have to wait until tomorrow for that post ….

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