When trying to decide on my top ten reads of the past year, I realised there were only seven I felt strongly about – I couldn’t make my mind up about the final three. Well, top tens are getting a little passé anyway, so here you are: alongside the seven wonders of the world, the seven dwarves, and the Secret Seven to name a few, I bring you my top seven favourite books of the past year!
1. ‘The Woodlanders’ by Thomas Hardy
I bought this book at a second-hand sale for the impressive sum of 1p and picked it up during my GCSEs, thinking it would be heavy going and therefore not too distracting from revision. How wrong I was! Though not one of Hardy’s better-known works, it is still beautifully written, romantic and evocative of an English country lifestyle that is no more, following the tangled lives and loves of four very different residents in the village of Little Hintock. And any book containing the phrase ‘frolicsome scrimmage‘ is worth reading for that reason alone.
2. ‘Body Double’ by Tess Gerritsen
I love a good thriller and the premise of this one was irresistible: a seasoned pathologist comes face-to-face with an identical copy of her own body in the lab. The plot was a bit far-fetched but full of surprises and kept me turning pages right the way through. Gerritsen is great at building believable characters and I loved the fact that the book followed the stories of various people: detective Jane Rizzoli, pathologist Maura Isles and kidnap victim Mattie Purvis, all of whom had their own demons to face.
3. ‘Us’ by David Nicholls
This book was both moving and laugh-out-loud funny as it chronicled biochemist Douglas Petersen’s disastrous attempts to win back the affections of his wife and son with a ‘Grand Tour’ around Europe. If you want to find out more about why I liked it so much, read my review here.
4. ‘Elizabeth is Missing’ by Emma Healey
This book contained not one but two intriguing and beautifully interlinked mysteries: the whereabouts of the main character Maud’s friend Elizabeth and the disappearance of her sister over fifty years ago. In addition to this, the whole thing is narrated by Maud, who has dementia: a difficult subject, but one that was pulled off with tact and authenticity. It was sad, but thought-provoking, poignant and original: well worth a read.
5. ‘The God of Small Things’ by Arundhati Roy
A deserving Booker winner, this is a very moving book which tells the tragic story of a family in India who ‘tampered with the laws that lay down who should be loved, and how‘. The exotic setting was almost tangible and it was fascinating to immerse myself in a culture different from my own. I adored the quirky writing style and loved almost all of the characters.
6. ‘The Demons of Ghent’ by Helen Grant
This book is actually the second in the ‘Forbidden Spaces’ series, but works well as a standalone novel too. It continues the story of Veerle, who has escaped death once but now finds herself facing it again as a vicious killer stalks the rooftops of Ghent. ‘Demons’ contains everything I love about Helen Grant’s books: family drama, a compelling romance, a page-turning murder mystery and a beautiful and atmospheric setting. Her best so far!
7. ‘Death in Holy Orders’ by P.D. James
When the body of a student at St Anselm’s theological college is found, his father rejects the verdict of accidental death and asks Commander Adam Dalgliesh to investigate. This is a classic detective novel with a cocktail of interesting and well-drawn characters, in an atmospheric and deliciously creepy setting. Most of the characters had their dirty secrets and there were several surprising revelations. I couldn’t put it down!