What I read in 2015: October – December, from A Brief History Of Seven Killings to Carol

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A very belated end of year reading round up after a busy few weeks… For January – April’s reads head here, then head here for May – September.

A Brief History Of Seven Killings by Marlon James 

This one was certainly challenging to get into, with the sheer volume of narrators combined with the use of Jamaican patois hard to get your head around. It was well worth persevering with though. After getting to grips with the language and the intricate web of characters, A Brief History of Seven Killings was one of the one of the most interesting and engaging books I read in 2015. A worthy Man Booker Prize winner.

The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma 

Another book on the Man Booker shortlist, and another great inclusion. The story of a family gradually torn apart by a madman’s prophecy, this Nigerian Greek tragedy is an absorbing read.

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara 

I’m always wary of a book that friends and critics alike have described as a ‘must-read’, invariably finding it fails to meet my over-hyped expectations. A Little Life was different though. The story of Jude and his friends sucked me in from the start. Despite its length I finished the book in a couple of days, spending every waking minute outside of work with the book plastered to my face. One of those books that leave you bereft when you get to the final page. I could talk about this book for hours, but my thoughts are summed up thus; beautiful, absorbing, devastating.

To Be A Cat by Matt Haig 

Somewhat broken by A Little Life, I was in need of a light-hearted distraction for my next reading choice. Enter To Be A Cat. Yes, it is a children’s book. The tale of a boy who yearns for the simpler life of a cat, when he gets his wish he finds life on four legs isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Funny and sweet, it’s the sort of book I wish had been around when I was younger.

Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill 

Described in various reviews as ‘the YA Handmaid’s Tale’, it is difficult to find a more accurate description of this dystopian tale. Set in a school for young women, from birth girls are raised to prize beauty above everything else, resist thinking too much and do whatever they are told. The culmination of their schooling is a ceremony, whereby the most eligible bachelors of society choose their ‘companions’. Those who aren’t picked are doomed to become concubines. It’s a clever and cutting book which I would recommend, although it struggles under the weight of comparisons to Atwood’s great novel.

prime of miss jean brodie

Us by David Nicholls 

I absolutely adore One Day, so had high hopes for Us. This tale of a man making one last attempt to save his marriage is very David Nicholls, with his classic bittersweet blend of humour, love and sadness. It’s an enjoyable read, but doesn’t quite match up to One Day.

The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark 

Read for London Book Club, The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie was… ok. We all found ourselves slightly baffled by its enduring appeal, with everyone initially reticent to share their lack of love for the book for fear they were missing something.

London: The Autobiography by Jon E. Lewis 

I’m a history book geek and I love learning more about London, so I really thought I’d love this. When I realised how short each chapter was I assumed I would whip through the book, but in the end I found the whole thing a tough slog. The principle is great: the story of London over 2000 years, told through first-person accounts. Unfortunately the execution is somewhat disappointing. The use of old English in some of the accounts makes it rather hard going at times, but the book lacks the depth to give it academic weight. Some accounts are, quite frankly, just dull. Others are fascinating but over within a couple of pages. All in all, this book didn’t quite deliver on its promise.

Carpet Diem: Or…How to Save the World by Accident by Justin Lee Anderson

A sci-fi book club choice. Simon Debovar is a rich recluse forced to step way out of his comfort zone when he discovers his rug is the subject of a bet between God and Satan. One for fans of Jasper Fforde, it’s a fun, silly read.

The Bees by Laline Paull

As its title suggests, this is a story about bees, but it’s also so much more than that. This is a story about an unfair society whose success depends on the exploitation of its workers, part political thriller, part ecological warning. The gripping tale of Flora 717 is well worth a read.

The Price Of Salt (Carol) by Patricia Highsmith

This understated, slow-paced lesbian love story is hard to fully appreciate now. I thought it was beautifully written, but I couldn’t help find it a little slow (and dare I say it, a little dull). Given how groundbreaking this novel was at the time – a lesbian romance which didn’t end in death or abject misery – it seems somewhat unfair to judge it by contemporary standards.

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