Top Ten Books of 2011 – Fiction

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.

15 thoughts on “Top Ten Books of 2011 – Fiction

  1. Thanks for including HOUSE OF SILENCE, Lyn. What an honour! 🙂

    I've been acquiring secondhand Ann Bridge novels on your recommendation and I'm currently reading ILLYRIAN SPRING. I'm loving it.

    Happy New Year to you.


  2. Love Cousin Bette! I also love that cover, will get this edition just for that (and I assume there's a good critical introduction).

    Also love the Provincial Lady series, but have never read anything by Delafield.

    I'd like to see more Ellen wood in annotated editions. Glad it's getting out there's something bedsides East Lynne. Roland Yorke and Within the Maze sound interesting too. Anne Hereford sounds like a (much!) longer version of Braddon's “Fernwood.”


  3. Lyn what interesting picks…you've highlighted so many books I'd never have heard of before and now I am itching to get my hands on them, especially the Mrs Henry Wood and Garthowen. Your 19th century book group sounds marvellous – I'd love to join one of those myself! I'm also thrilled to see how much you've been enjoying Ann Bridge. I'm almost tempted to buy an e reader so I can download all the Julia Probyns! Have you read Illyrian Spring?

    Hope you had a lovely Christmas and Happy New Year!


  4. Guess what Santa brought me thanks to a certain Miss Lyn? You got it — five new Persephones. As a result of your great reviews two of them were Miss Buncle Married and High Wages — both read in this post-Christmas week and Consequences by E M Delafield started.

    Happy New Year to you and the girls Lyn!


  5. Happy New Year everyone! Linda, I can't wait to read your next book, hint hint! I'm glad you're enjoying Ann Bridge. I haven't read IS although that's the book everyone raves about. I hope Bloomsbury can release it as an e-book. Passing Tramp, the PL is one of my favourite books but nothing else she wrote (that I've read so far) is anything like that. Same with Stella Gibbons, I think. I've been loving the Balzac & Zola I've read in the last few years & there's lots more to be read. Ellen Wood, too. I hope more of her work is reprinted. Bookssnob, the Julia Probyns are wonderful although I haven't read IS yet. If you;re interested in the 19th century group, you can join here,
    Rose, how lovely to have new Persephones. I hope you enjoyed Miss Buncle & High Wages, they're perfect for this time of year. Consequences is a tough read but fascinating. Vintage Reading, I know what you mean. Cousin Bette was addictive reading, wasn't it?


  6. Lyn,that's a really interesting list. Parnassus on Wheels sounded wonderful so, having acquired a Kindle for Christmas, I downloaded it, and it was every bit as wonderful as you made it sound. I wrote a bit on my blog, but did a link to you. I hope you don't mind – I'd hate you to think I was copying!


  7. I've actually read one of the books on your list!!! Needless to say, I've added several of your titles to my own TBR list and maybe this year I'll do better. 🙂

    PARNASSUS ON WHEELS is one of my all time favorite reads. Have you read THE HAUNTED BOOKSHOP? It's sort of the sequel.


  8. Chris, I don't mind at all. Isn't it wonderful to be able to download books for free? Thanks for linking back to the blog & I've added your blog to my list. Yvette, I've read Haunted Bookshop but didn't think it was as good as Parnassus. The spy plot got in the way of the book talk.


  9. Thanks for adding me to your list.That is very kind of you. Reading The Haunted Bookshop now(alongside Castle Rackrent). Initial reaction is that it is not nearly as good as Parnassus on Wheels – too much theorising. But I'm reserving judgement until the end.


  10. ChrisCross, I agree with you about Haunted Bookshop but I'm glad I read Parnassus. I read The Absentee this year so I'll be interested to see what you think of Castle Rackrent.


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