My Top 10 Fiction books for the year range from 19th century sensation fiction to 20th century adventure & romance. There’s no crime in there & I haven’t read many crime novels at all this year. I haven’t read much contemporary fiction at all &, as a result, there’s very little that’s new or modern in my Top 10. I also read most of these books on my e-reader but I don’t think that means much except that my e-reader has allowed me to get hold of titles that were previously unavailable. Again, the titles are in no particular order & you can read my original reviews by clicking on the links.
The First Violin by Jessie Fothergill was a book I downloaded from Girlebooks after reading about the author in one of my Top 10 Non Fiction books of the year, Notable Women Authors of the Day. This is the story of a young woman who goes to Germany to study music & falls in love with a mysterious man who plays first violin in the orchestra. It also has a very sympathetic portrayal of a married woman in love with another man.
Another treat from Girlebooks was The War Workers by E M Delafield. The story of a group of women working in a supply depot in England during WWI. It was based on the author’s own experiences & is very different to her popular Provincial Lady books.
I’m going to pop a whole series in here even though I’ve only read the first three books. The Julia Probyn series by Ann Bridge has been my find of the year. Thanks to blog reviews & the wonderful Bloomsbury Reader, I’ve been able to get hold of the whole series & will be working my way through them all. I’ve read A Lighthearted Quest, The Portuguese Escape & The Numbered Account so far. Adventure in exotic locations sums up the series. Julia is a delightful character – attractive, clever & determined, she gets to the bottom of any mystery.
Still Missing by Beth Gutcheon was another unputdownable book. I almost stopped breathing at one point. If I hadn’t had to get up for work, I think I would have read this in one sitting. The story of an abducted child & his mother’s determination to find him, this seemed an unlikely choice for Persephone. But, the experiences of Susan Selky, her reactions to the investigation & her friends & family are universal so it doesn’t really matter when the book was written.
Linda Gillard’s foray into self-published e-books has been one of my favourite success stories of the year. House of Silence & Untying the Knot are both compelling reads but I think House of Silence was my favourite of the two. As Linda describes it, Cold Comfort Farm meets Rebecca. Family secrets, a beautiful house in the country & a passionate love story, what more could you want?
Anne Hereford by Mrs Henry Wood was my sensation novel of the year. I read it with my 19th century book group & was supposed to stick to seven chapters a week. Well, that was never going to happen once I started! An orphan forced to earn her own living, a mysterious house & its occupants, a vengeful man & a mysterious wing of the house where Anne is excluded, all the ingredients of classic sensation.
Cousin Bette by Honore de Balzac was a novel of revenge, greed & lust & I loved every minute of it. A downtrodden poor relation gets her revenge on her family when she loses the only man she cares about. The downfall of the Hulots is inevitable but even Bette doesn’t have it all her own way.
Parnassus on Wheels by Christopher Morley is a book-lover’s delight. The story of a travelling bookshop & the man who owns it shows what can happen when a passion for books takes over your life.
Garthowen by Allen Raine was another 19th century book group choice & it was a delightful surprise. The story of a farming family in Wales, of two brothers in love with the same woman & the different paths they take in life was absorbing & there was an element of the supernatural that made the story different to anything else I’ve read.
O Douglas was the pseudonym of the sister of John Buchan & I’ve read several of her novels since discovering her through Greyladies. Penny Plain is the story of a family & the efforts of the eldest sister to keep the family together. Jean Jardine, her family & friends in Priorsford show what life was like in a small Scottish town just after WWI. I called the book charmingly comfortable & it is, perfect comfort reading with humour & romance.
Tomorrow, for something completely different, a list of books that I’m sure would have made my Top 10 – if I’d had time to read them.