Best of Ten!

Cover for Jamrach's MenagerieThe Best Book of the last ten is Jamrach’s Menagerie by Carol Birch!

Highly recommended: Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann!


Classics Club Spin #20!

Classics Club has announced another spin, in which we post 20 books from our Classics Club lists. On April 22, the club will pick a number, and that will determine the book we read for our spin by May 31. So, with no further ado, here is the list for my spin.

  1. The Wise Virgins by Leonard Woolf
  2. Madame de Treymes by Edith Wharton
  3. The Prince by Machievelli
  4. The Expedition of Humphry Clinker by Tobias Smollett
  5. Aurora Floyd by Mary Elizabeth Braddon
  6. This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  7. The Last of the Wine by Mary Renault
  8. Owls Do Cry by Janet Frame
  9. Mary Lavelle by Kate O’Brien
  10. Titus Andronicus by William Shakespeare
  11. The Viscounte de Bragelonne by Alexandre Dumas
  12. The Sea Hawk by Rafael Sabatini
  13. Edward II by Christopher Marlowe
  14. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
  15. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë
  16. Kenilworth by Sir Walter Scott
  17. Oroonoko by Aphra Behn
  18. The Winged Horse by Pamela Frankau
  19. Memories: From Moscow to the Black Sea by Teffi
  20. August Folly by Angela Thirkell

If I Gave the Award

Cover for Jamrach's MenagerieYesterday, I posted my review of the last of the 2011 shortlisted books for the Man Booker Prize, so it’s time for my feature where I decide whether the judges got it right. The 2011 shortlist offers a lot to like, although I found a bit to dislike in it, too.

It’s easy for me to dismiss one of the books. I did not like Patrick DeWitt’s The Sisters Brothers, an ironic, superviolent Western, at all.

I was a little more interested in Half-Blood Blues, Esi Edugyan’s dual time-frame story about how jealousy affects an American blues band hiding in Nazi-occupied Germany and Paris. However, I didn’t really like most of the characters and I wasn’t in love with the vernacular used to narrate the novel, which I believed was probably not historically accurate.

Snowdrops by A. D. Miller paints a chilling picture of life in post-Cold War Russia. I felt this was an engaging thriller and character study with a narrator made unreliable by his willful ignorance.

I was enchanted by the narrator of Stephen Kelman’s Pigeon English, a naive 11-year-old boy from Ghana, and the novel invoked in me a growing dread. However, I felt that the role of the pigeon didn’t really work.

Cover for The Sense of an EndingJamrach’s Menagerie just plain tells a fascinating story, about a 19th century boy who is rescued from poverty by a menagerie owner and who sails off on a mission to find a dragon. This novel features wonderful storytelling.

The winning novel was Julian Barnes’s The Sense of an Ending. Barnes is a master of the unreliable narrator, and this novel is no exception. Through reading the diary of a friend who committed suicide, the narrator learns that everything he remembers about the key relationships in his life is wrong.

Although this time it was a tough decision, I have to agree with the judges. Barnes’s book is short but psychologically fascinating and complex. I would also pose that it is the novel that is the most literary of the shortlisted books. I strongly recommend some of the other books, however, particularly Jamrach’s Menagerie.


Best of Ten!

Cover for Crow LakeStarting with my 1300th review, I decided to do my Best Book series differently. Because I have gone to three postings a week, the Best of Five post came roughly every other week. Now, I plan to do this post every ten books instead, permitting me to post a few more reviews in the same period of time. So, this post will appear roughly once a month but may mention more books.

The Best Book for this period is Crow Lake by Mary Lawson!

Also recommended: Our Spoons Came from Woolworths by Barbara Comyns and To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf!

Top Ten Books for 2018-19!

Cover for The Forty Days of Musa DaghSince it is my blog anniversary today, I follow my tradition of posting my top ten books that I reviewed during the previous year. This year was a difficult one, because I had three books by Dorothy Whipple appearing in my Best of Five series, and my rule is to select only one book by an author in my year’s top ten.

As usual, this is a mixed bag of books, combining one nonfiction and one short story collection with several classic books and only one contemporary one (if you don’t count multigenerational sagas). Historical novels feature quite heavily this year.

So, with no further ado except a comment that this year I decided to list them in backwards order from when they were posted, here are my top ten books for this year:

Cover for The Weight of Ink

  1. The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish
  2. The Forty Days of Musa Dagh by Franz Werfel
  3. They Were Sisters by Dorothy Whipple
  4. Alas, Poor Lady by Rachel Ferguson
  5. The Last Painting of Sara de Vos by Dominic Smith
  6. In a Strange Room by Damon Galgut
  7. Coming into the Country by John McPhee
  8. The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng
  9. Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien
  10. Atonement by Ian McEwan