2016 Classics Challenge, March: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

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When I discovered this classic

A long time ago… But for some reason I hadn’t read it.

Why I chose to read it

See above! The 2016 Classics Challenge has provided the perfect opportunity to tackle the classics I’d somehow never managed to read and Jane Eyre was one of the books at the top of the to-read list.

What makes it a classic?

Mr Rochester, mad Mrs Rochester in the attic… It’s such a classic most people know the story even if they haven’t read it.

MORE: January 2016 Classics Challenge – War and Peace

MORE: February 2016 Classics Challenge – High-Rise

What I thought of this classic

This book is so much more than the love story of Jane Eyre and Mr Rochester – although that in itself is pretty brilliant.

I may have come to this a little late, but Jane Eyre has to be one of my favourite protagonists of all the books I’ve ever read. She deals with all the crap that comes her way without feeling sorry for herself, and refuses to allow the men in her life to tell her what to do.

While Jane is brilliant, the story is gripping and the first person narrative is wonderfully engaging.

All in all, I absolutely loved it.

Will it stay a classic?

Undoubtedly.

Who I’d recommend it to

Everyone!
2016 classics challenge, #2016classicschallenge

What I read in January and February: From War and Peace to Still Alice

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2014’s reading challenge was to get through a book a week, which ended up with me reading 100 books. In 2015 I read a total of 42 books and did have the intention of reading War and Peace… but didn’t get on to it until December, so it ended up being my first book of 2015. I haven’t set myself any reading targets as such, but I have decided to take part in the #2016classicschallenge in a bid to get through some of the classics I’ve had stuck on my ‘to-read’ list for years!

JANUARY 

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

The first book of 2015, and the first #2016classicschallenge choice. I had put off reading this for ages, expecting it to be a long, hard slog. However, I was found it surprisingly easy to dip in and out of thanks to the brief chapters. All in all, I really loved War and Peace. Vivid description, involving characters and an epic sense of history pervade the novel, coming together to create a masterpiece deserving of its classic status. The less said about the second epilogue the better though. Read my full run down here.

The Man In The High Castle by Philip K. Dick

I had genuinely been aiming to read this book for years. As a history geek, the idea of a story set in a world where the Allies didn’t win the war had always fascinated me. However, I was slightly disappointed to find the bulk of the novel was built around some counterfeit jewellery. Of course the book is so much more than that, and I did really enjoy it, but I found myself wanting more of the top-level politics all-too-briefly touched upon. The idea of Hitler incapacitated due to syphilis, Bormann as the Reich’s dying leader and Goebbels seen as his preferable successor was fascinating. I watched the Amazon Prime series shortly after finishing the book, and I must confessed its deeper exploration of Philip K. Dick’s world.

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FEBRUARY

The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch

I don’t really know quite what to say about The Sea, The Sea. The whole book was devoid of likeable characters, with our narrator, retired theatre director Charles Arrowby, the worst of the lot. All in all, I found my first foray into Murdoch absorbing but completely ludicrous.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

Since finishing War and Peace I’ve becoming slightly obsessed with getting to all of the classics I’ve somehow never managed to read, so I thought it was high time I got stuck into some Mark Twain. Huck Finn is certainly a vivid and memorable character and his story is certainly a captivating read, but I couldn’t help but feel a little too uncomfortable to fully enjoy it. It’s obviously a book which needs to be viewed in context of the time in which it was written, but I couldn’t quite look beyond its language and treatment of Jim, the runaway slave.

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Persuasion by Jane Austen

I loved both Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, and if pressed I would probably say Emma is my all-time favourite novel. Yet somehow I had failed to get on to the rest of Austen’s works. What a treat I had in store!

I absolutely adored Persuasion. While Austen’s works are so far removed from present day life, this story of a lost love felt somewhat more relatable. I found Anne Elliot absolutely captivating – I think I may have a new favourite literary heroine.

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

After devouring Persuasion, I was keen to embrace more Austen. I must admit I had previously been put off by its status as a satire of gothic novels, as I can’t say it was a genre that particularly interested. While it didn’t quite match up to Persuasion, it was an enjoyable read.

High Rise, JG Ballard

High-Rise by JG Ballard

February’s #2016classicschallenge choice – and London Book Club’s – was certainly an interesting read. I’ve never read a book which has so vividly depicted smells – even a couple of weeks after finishing, the sense of the putrid smelling building has stayed with me. I found Ballard’s depiction of the high-rise as a character in itself fascinating, as all the characters believe their increasingly despicable actions to be both inevitable and a necessary part of survival in the high-rise. Like a kind of Stockholm Syndrome where the building is their captor, nobody actually wishes to leave. However, I struggled to really believe in this dystopian tale. Things descend into chaos a little too quickly and easily to feel believable. Despite its flaws, I’m glad I tackled it. Frustrating, challenging and at times downright disgusting, it certainly gave my book club plenty to talk about.

Me Before You

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

I started this on a pleasant Sunday morning and found I genuinely couldn’t put it down, and by Sunday evening I’d finished it. I won’t say too much to avoid spoiling it, but it’s fair to say it’s an emotional rollercoaster!

Still Alice by Lisa Genova

It seems I am a glutton for punishment. The day after finishing the story of a paraplegic young man, I started a book about a woman with early-onset Alzheimer’s. It was a cheery couple of days.

I thought it would be a tough book to get through, but I found it so engrossing I just couldn’t stop reading. Genova’s scientific background clearly plays an important part in making the book feel realistic, but Alice is also a very authentic, well-written character. Seeing the story through her eyes made the story feel so much more powerful. I’d definitely recommend.

2016 Classics Challenge, February: High-Rise by JG Ballard

High Rise, JG Ballard

After tackling War and Peace in January, where next to go in the #2016classicschallenge? Already I’ve compiled a fairly hefty lists of classics I finally want to get round to reading, and I’ve actually ended up reading a few books this month which could be considered ‘classics’. However, as one of the more modern classics I’d tackled, JG Ballard’s High-Rise felt like an interesting book to consider here.

When I discovered this classic

I’ll be honest, it was vaguely on my radar but I only really properly discovered it when it was chosen as February’s read for London Book Club.

Why I chose to read it

See above! Although I found the concept pretty intriguing, and I imagine if I hadn’t read it for LBC I would probably have read it before seeing the film.

What makes it a classic?

“Later, as he sat on his balcony eating the dog, Dr Robert Laing reflected on the unusual events that had taken place within this huge apartment building during the previous three months.”

That opening line alone makes it a classic.

What I thought of this classic

Did I like it? Well, not really. It’s difficult to like a book filled with violence, murder, rape and consumption of pets. But I didn’t exactly hate it either.

I’ve never read a book which has so vividly depicted smells. I felt genuinely disgusted by the description of rotting bags of rubbish piled up in the corridors, as if the smell was suffocating me as I read. Even a couple of weeks after finishing, the sense of the putrid smelling building has stayed with me.

Ballard’s depiction of the high-rise as a character in itself was fascinating, with the building taking on an almost god-like status. As the residents carry out increasingly despicable acts, they never suffer the burden of guilt. All believe their actions to be both inevitable and a necessary part of survival in the high-rise. Like a kind of Stockholm Syndrome where the building is their captor, nobody actually wishes to leave despite the relative simplicity of just leaving.

However, I struggled to really believe in this dystopian tale. Not because it contains any particularly fanciful notions, but because life in the high-rise degenerated so rapidly. One minute the residents are bickering over children in the swimming pool, the next there is fighting and people drowning dogs. Things descend into chaos a little too quickly and easily to feel believable.

Despite its flaws, I’m glad I tackled it. Frustrating, challenging and at times downright disgusting, it certainly gave my book club plenty to talk about.

 

Will it stay a classic?

It still feels modern 40 years later, so for now I’d say yes.

Who I’d recommend it to

Anyone who enjoys a good dystopian novel about the worst of human nature. And maybe anyone who doesn’t like pets.

2016 classics challenge, #2016classicschallenge

2016 Classics Challenge: Reading Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace

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In 2014 I read 100 books. In 2015 I decided to set myself what I thought was a more modest challenge: reading War and Peace. But while I’ve tackled an array of lengthy books in a fairly short space of time in the past, with various book clubs taking up my reading time last year it wasn’t until December that I actually started reading Leo Tolstoy’s epic classic. With the bulk of my reading coming in January, I felt it fitted the bill for my first book of the #2016ClassicsChallenge. I also had the added challenge of keeping ahead of the BBC adaptation!

I’ll stick to the recommended questions of the challenge

When I discovered this classic

I feel it has been in my consciousness for as long as I can remember – I can’t really remember ‘discovering’ it.

Why I chose to read it

In the past couple of years I’ve rediscovered the joy of reading again, and in that time I’ve tackled quite a few books I’ve always intended to read but never quite managed to get round to. Having read (and enjoyed) Les Misérables, War and Peace was the next epic novel on my to-read list. Having a BBC adaptation looming gave me an extra incentive to get reading.

What makes it a classic?

War, peace, love, death… It’s an epic novel that has everything.

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What I thought of this classic

I had put off reading this for ages, expecting it to be a long, hard slog. I was pleasantly surprised though. The chapters are fairly brief, making it fairly easy to dip in and out of.

However, I can see why people abandon it. While I enjoyed it from the off, for the first 200 pages I struggled to keep track of who was who. Every character is interchangeably referred to by their first name, surname or alternative name, with all three often used in the same paragraph. Once I got my head around all of the names, I loved it.

I’ve read people saying you can just skip the ‘war’ bits of War and Peace. This is nonsense. While the discussion of military tactics won’t appeal to everyone, the depiction of battle is completely absorbing (not to mention pretty important for character development too).

The doomed romance of Natasha and Andrei is both compelling and frustrating – more so than in the BBC adaptation, I felt. A quick ‘six months later’ on screen doesn’t really get across the desperation and frustration of months of separation, which make Natasha’s devastating error of judgment somewhat more understandable. Not to mention the fact that Anatole comes across as infinitely more charismatic in the book, rather than just seeming a little creepy.

And then there’s Pierre. There’s not much to say other than that I do love Pierre, even if the freemasonry is a little trying.

All in all, I really loved War and Peace. Vivid description, involving characters and an epic sense of history pervade the novel, coming together to create a masterpiece deserving of its classic status. The less said about the second epilogue the better though.

Will it stay a classic?

Undoubtedly.

Who I’d recommend it to

Anyone who loves a good classic and has a reasonably long attention span.

2016classicschallenge

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.

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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.

What I read in 2015: May – September, from Outline to Another Day

 

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Here’s part two of my attempt to play catch up with this year’s reading… Part one is here.

MAY

Outline by Rachel Cusk

Shortlisted for the Baileys Prize, this one was discussed by an additional gathering of London Book Club. The title hints at the book’s premise; as the narrator explores the lives of the people she interacts with, her own life and character remains a mere outline. It’s an interesting approach, but there’s nothing really filling in the gaps. Neither plot or character driven, it misses that special something.

All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

The best YA fiction tackles mature subjects while avoiding patronising the reader – and All The Bright Places succeeds on both counts. With two suicidal protagonists it’s hardly a light read, but it manages to entertain while deftly taking on the challenging subject of depression.

My Own Story by Emmeline Pankhurst

With Suffragette now showing at cinemas, there’s bound to be renewed interest in the life of Emmeline Pankhurst and the suffragette movement. I found Pankhurst’s autobiography very accessible and a truly fascinating read, especially as I was reading it not long after the general election. Even if you’re feeling disillusioned about politics at the moment, it’s almost impossible not to read this and be grateful for how far we’ve come in the past 100 years.

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JUNE

The Road Beneath My Feet by Frank Turner

While it goes without saying that this is a must-read for Frank Turner fans, even if you’re not it’s still worth a read as an interesting glimpse into life on the road. Charting Frank’s path to success as a solo artist, his tour diaries begin with his final Million Dead gig to his sold-out solo show at Wembley Arena in 2012. The erudite Frank is just as good a storyteller in print as he is on stage, so I hope there will be a follow up.

Animals by Emma Jane Unsworth

The blurb slightly misleadingly sells this book as the tale of a teetotal fiance coming between his party animal future bride and her best friend. Fundamentally this is about Laura and Tyler’s friendship, their booze and drug-fuelled antics and Laura’s struggle to decide who she really is and what she really wants. While I didn’t love the story, the writing was brilliantly evocative throughout. I felt hungover just reading it.

JULY

Joan Of Arc: A History by Helen Castor

I’m not well versed in the story of Joan Of Arc beyond the basic facts, so found Helen Castor’s take on proceedings particularly interesting. Instead of telling the tale of Joan’s brief life, Castor places the religious warrior into context. Joan is completely absent from the first third of the book, which sets the scene by detailing the turmoil in France in the lead up to Joan’s rise to prominence. It’s a brave approach and won’t please everyone. While I found the context interesting and enjoyed the rounded approach to events, others may find it a bit of a slog to get through. If you’re interested in Joan and the troubles of France during that period it is well worth a read.

The Martian by Andy Weir

A sci-fi book club choice, I found myself whipping my way through this. The Martian’s self-published roots are apparent at times – the language can be clunky, with a few rough edges and occasionally clunky language, but there’s a reason this has made it on to the big screen. While the various obstacles thrown in stranded astronaut Mark Watney’s way start to get ridiculous by the end, this book is still a thoroughly enjoyable read.

The Versions Of Us by Laura Barnett

‘One Day meets Sliding Doors’ is a pretty apt description of The Versions Of Us, which follows a would-be couple through three different scenarios. But while Sliding Doors just followed two different outcomes and had Gwyneth Paltrow’s two hairstyles to keep things simple, the three different narratives are a challenge to follow at times. I’d avoid reading this on an e-reader, as you’ll want to flick back and forth throughout.

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AUGUST

Perilous Question by Antonia Fraser

I did already have some knowledge of the 1832 Reform Act having studied it at school, but my memory was more than a little hazy. Despite the fairly dense subject matter Perilous Question is surprisingly readable, with Fraser bringing to life the major players of this pivotal moment in British political history.

Notes from a Small Island, Bill Bryson

A London Book Club choice, Notes from a Small Island was my first foray into the works of Bill Bryson. I absolutely adored this in parts, particularly when he explores some of the areas so familiar to me, although his observations on Britain and Britons as a knowing outsider do veer into slightly patronising territory at times.

The Invisible Man From Salem by Christoffer Carlsson

This book seems to be working off of the crime novel checklist. Disgraced cop with a dark past? Check. A straightforward case that isn’t quite what it seems? Check. Complicated love interest? Check. Nonetheless compelling narrative? Check. While it may seem a little formulaic at times, The Invisible Man kept me reading far past my bedtime to get to the end.

The Humans by Matt Haig

Another sci-fi book club choice – and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Analysing the eccentricities of the human race from an alien invader’s perspective was often amusing, at times moving.

Courtiers by Lucy Worsley

While I’m a bit of a history geek, I’ll admit I’ve never really bothered to find much out about the Georgians. Lucy Worsley’s depiction of Georgian court life, exploring the reigns of George I and George II through the eyes of their courtiers, is engaging, informative and accessible.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart 

Once a largely invisible geek, Frankie Landau-Banks is back at school with a new knockout figure and a new attitude to boot. When she realises her new boyfriend is part of a male-only secret society, Frankie covertly infiltrates the group and ends up anonymously pulling the strings. A fun read, with a far more intriguing protagonist than most YA novels.

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SEPT

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

This brief novel started life as a short story, which does come across at times – even our narrator feels like a distant character. That said, this book is magical, at times creepy, beautifully written and a joy to read.

Burnt Paper Sky by Gilly Macmillan

This story of a child’s disappearance could easily fallen into tasteless cliches, but manages to be gripping without being exploitative. The clumsy depiction of social media sometimes detracts from what is a great read, delivering twists and turns without becoming ridiculously far-fetched.

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

A story of the impact of the Biafran War told through perspectives of three different characters while jumping back and forth in time could easily have ended up in a jumbled mess, but not in the hands of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. There’s not much to say that hasn’t already been said by others about Half of a Yellow Sun. A wonderful novel fully deserving of all its plaudits.

A Spool Of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

After the Man Booker shortlist was announced I vowed to work my way through every book, and this was the first on the pile. Anne Tyler is obviously a brilliant writer who can capture the intricacies of domestic life, but I wasn’t sure this book was Booker worthy. The relationship between Abby and Red, elderly grandparents at the book’s beginning, forms the centre of novel – but it’s the house they live in that forms the backbone of the book. I loved the character of Abby, and enjoyed the flashbacks to the early stages of her relationship with Red. But as we went further back to Red’s own parents, the story felt distant in more ways than one. I would have liked to have seen more of Abby and more of her son, Denny.
All in all, well written but far too meandering.

One by Sarah Crossan

Written in free verse, I blitzed through this in one sitting. The story of conjoined twins Tippi and Grace is beautiful and heartbreaking in equal measure. A little bit R J Palacio’s Wonder with a dash of John Green.

Another Day by David Levithan 

I absolutely loved David Levithan’s Every Day, the tale of A, a person who wakes up in a different body every day. One day A wakes up in the body of Rhiannon’s boyfriend, enjoying a perfect day with her, before spending the rest of the book trying to find his (or her? A is genderless, despite what Rihannon may think and hope) way back to her. Another Day follows events from Rhiannon’s perspective. Not exactly a necessary follow-up, Another Day doesn’t quite stand up to comparisons to its predecessor but is an enjoyable read nonetheless.

What I read January – April 2015: From The Amber Fury to Etta and Otto and Russell and James

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If I was really well organised, I would have started this blog at the beginning of the year and regularly updated it with my reading as I went along. But I’m not, so I didn’t.
Instead I’ve started this over halfway through the year, so I’ll just whip through the books I read from January to July this year. Separate post on May-August’s reads coming shortly.

JANUARY

The Amber Fury by Natalie Haynes

I read this one for Books On The Underground book club and really enjoyed it, if that’s the right word for a book which is really rather dark in tone. The Guardian described it as a ‘modern thriller about ancient tragedy’,  which I think sums it up quite nicely. If you like thrillers, the classics or reading about Edinburgh, you’ll probably find something to enjoy in The Amber Fury.

Idiopathy by Sam Byers

I probably would have abandoned this if it wasn’t a selection for London Book Club. A story of a selection of pretty horrible people, I found absolutely nothing to care about within this book.

FEBRUARY

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

I had been meaning to read this one for ages, but the arrival of the BBC’s adaptation spurred me to bring it to the top of my TBR pile. I found it a little hard to get into at first, as even with a rudimentary knowledge of the period it was hard to keep track of all the characters, but by the halfway point I was totally hooked. As soon as I finished, I turned straight to Bring Up The Bodies.

Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel

Picking up where Wolf Hall left off, I thoroughly enjoyed Bringing Up The Bodies. The doomed story of Anne Boleyn has been told so many times it’s almost impossible to bring anything new to it, but yet Hilary Mantel manages it.

MARCH

The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins

Read for Books On The Underground book club read. Hailed as ‘the next Gone Girl’, The Girl On The Train follows an alcoholic as she tries to keep up the pretense of having a job while trying to work out her role in a young woman’s disappearance. It’s certainly a captivating read, but loses momentum towards the end.

The Narrow Road To The Deep North by Richard Flanagan

This beautifully-written tale of an Australian doctor left haunted by his wartime past is more than deserving of its Man Brooker Prize. While I thought it was brilliant, I couldn’t help but compare it unfavourably to real-life POW Eric Lomax’s brilliant autobiography, The Railway Man.

The Carhullan Army by Sarah Hall

This dystopian novel takes a while to get going, then seems to end just as things heat up. The general consensus among London Book Club, which I have to agree with, was that this was a poor man’s The Handmaid’s Tale.

A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood

Stunning.

APRIL

We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas

I’d been meaning to read this for a while, but finally got round to it after it was picked for London Book Club. What starts as a seemingly conventional story of a family eventually becomes something quite different. A difficult, powerful, devastating read.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Highly lauded for good reason, I was rather surprised that this didn’t make the Baileys Prize shortlist. Picked by both Books On The Underground and London Book Club, the vast majority (myself included) really enjoyed this intelligent post-apocalyptic novel. Centred around a troupe of travelling actors performing Shakespeare, it sparked some fun conversations about what could end up surviving some form of mass disaster. I liked the fact not everything was fully resolved by the end… Although I was left hoping for a sequel.

Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper

Hard to adequately describe, this beautifully written book explores ageing, love and friendship in a slightly unconventional way. While the story ends with more questions than answers, it is a rather lovely read.