FIVE 5-STAR READS
Each month this year, I’ll be looking back over my reviews of the past five years and picking out my favourite from each year. Cleo from Cleopatra Loves Books came up with this brilliant idea and kindly agreed to let me borrow it. I was a bit later in starting reviewing than Cleo, really getting properly underway in about April/May of 2011, so for the first few months I might have to be a bit creative in my 2011 selections.
So here are my favourite February reads…click on the covers to go to the full reviews, though it must be said my early reviews were somewhat basic…
I only reviewed one book in February 2011, but fortunately it was a good one, though not fiction. In fact, it was reading this book that started me reading the occasional popular science book – a thing I hadn’t done in years. The book tells the story of Newton’s time in charge of the Royal Mint, when he became obsessed with trying to trap the most famous counterfeiter of his time, William Chaloner. But the bits that interested me more were the sections relating to Newton’s scientific career, and particularly how he developed the methods of research that became the foundation of how science is still carried out today.
A special 30th Anniversary edition of Adrian Mole was issued in February 2012, and for a while everyone on Amazon Vine seemed to be discussing it and sharing quotes. This fictional diary of an angst-ridden teenager in love was a sensation when it was first issued, and I was delighted to find it had stood up well to the test of time. Written as a satirical look at suburban life in contemporary ’80s Britain under Thatcher, it now reads almost like a historical novel, and whisked me back to those days of flares, pimples and Lady Di. Still one of the funniest books out there!
Set in Japan, this excellent debut novel tells the story of Lucy, who becomes a suspect when her friend Lily is murdered. Damaged by events in her early life, Lucy has moved from her Yorkshire home to Japan to try to put the past and her family behind her.We meet her while she is being questioned by the police and refusing to answer them. Instead she tells us, the readers, her story. Susanna Jones’ writing style is spare and well crafted, shot through with shafts of humour and irony, but gradually creating tension that builds throughout the book. But her greatest strength is in creating compelling, enigmatic central characters and Lucy is a fine example of this.
Since I gave this book the FF Award for Literary Fiction in 2014, it could hardly not be my top pick for February. The story of failed people in a failed marriage living in a failed American Dream, this is one of the finest books I have ever read. The writing is superb, and the brilliant spotlight Yates shines on his characters leaves them no room to hide. There are moments of quiet beauty in the writing, and an integrity in the characterisation that leads the reader to empathise even when we see them stripped down to their worst flaws and insecurities. I described it as masterpiece in my review – not a term I use lightly – and I still hold to that opinion.
Set in contemporary India, this book is about roots, or about what happens to a person, and by extension a society, when it becomes culturally detached from its roots. When Skanda returns to India to attend the funeral rites for his father, it sets him off on a process of remembering and reassessing the recent history of his family, and through them India itself, from the 1970s to the present day. Beautifully written, this is a deeply political and thought-provoking book that manages the difficult feat of also being enjoyable. An exceptional book from an author who is emerging as a major voice in literature.
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If you haven’t already seen Cleo’s selection for February, why not pop on over? Here’s the link…