My Books of the Year – 2014

For me, 2014 was a year filled with great books, so much so that I’ve found it difficult to finalise a shortlist for this post. I read 101 books in 2014 – that’s probably too many although it does include several novellas – and very few turned out to be duds. My first pass at a shortlist came out at 24 books, but I’ve cut it down to thirteen, a baker’s dozen of favourites from my year of reading. These are the books I loved, the books that stayed with me, the ones I’m most likely to revisit one day.

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I’ve listed my picks in the order I read and reviewed them. I’ve summarised each one, but you can click on the links should you wish to read the full reviews.

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante (tr. by Ann Goldstein)

2014 was the year of #FerranteFever, and I ended up reading four books by this author: the first three in Ferrante’s series of Neapolitan novels and a standalone novel, The Days of Abandonment. It came down to a choice between the ferocity of Days and the breadth and scope of the Neapolitans. I’ve plumped for the latter and the first book in the series, My Brilliant Friend, which remains my favourite of the three. Set in Naples in the 1950s, it follows the friendship between two girls, Elena and Lila, and the different paths they take to escape the neighbourhood. A compelling story that captures the changing dynamics of the relationship between these two girls.

The Infatuations by Javier Marías (tr. by Margaret Jull Costa)

This was a reread for the 2014 IFFP-shadowing project chaired by Stu, and it’s the book that prompted me to start my own blog. (Stu published my review as a guest post at Winstonsdad’s.)

A man is stabbed to death in the street, but this novel offers much more than a conventional murder mystery. In Marías’s hands, the story becomes a meditation touching on questions of truth, chance, love and mortality. The writing is wonderful – philosophical, reflective, almost hypnotic in style. The Infatuations is my favourite novel from our IFFP-shadow shortlist, with Jón Kalman Stefánsson’s The Sorrow of Angels a close second.

Nada by Carmen Laforet (tr. by Edith Grossman)

Carmen Laforet was twenty-three when Nada, her debut novel, was published. It’s an amazing book, dark and twisted with a distinctive first-person narrative. A portrayal of a family bruised by bitterness and suspicion, struggling to survive in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War. A wonderfully evocative novel, a mood-piece that captures the passion and intensity of its time and setting.

Never Any End to Paris by Enrique Vila-Matas (tr. by Anne McLean)

An account of the two years Vila-Matas spent in Paris as a young and aspiring writer trying to emulate his idol, Ernest Hemingway. This is a smart, playful and utterly engaging piece of meta-fiction, full of self-deprecating humour and charm. Marguerite Duras makes an appearance too as Vila-Matas ends up lodging in a filthy garret at the top of her house. Huge fun and a favourite read from Spanish Lit Month.

Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner

This novel charts a deep friendship between two American couples over forty years. The story explores how these four friends cope with the challenges and setbacks they face during their lives; their struggles are the stuff of our everyday existence, but no less important or significant as a result. It’s an exceptional book – eloquent, graceful, wise and deeply moving. Stegner’s prose is simply wonderful.

The Slaves of Solitude by Patrick Hamilton

I loved this novel of life in a seedy English boarding house set in the grim winter of 1943. A spinster in her late thirties is trapped in a ‘death-in-life’ existence and subjected to petty bullying by the ghastly Mr Thwaites. The characters are pin-sharp, and Hamilton has a brilliant for dialogue. A dark tragicomedy of manners, I can’t recommend this book highly enough.

Cassandra at the Wedding by Dorothy Baker

Cassandra, a graduate student at Berkeley, drives home to her family’s ranch for the wedding of her identical twin sister, Judith, where she seems all set to derail the proceedings. This is a brilliant novel featuring one of my favourite women in literature. If you like complex characters with plenty of light and shade, this is the novel for you. Cassandra is intelligent, precise and at times witty, charming and loving. But she can also be manipulative, reckless, domineering, self-absorbed and cruel.  She’s a bundle of contradictions and behaves abominably at times, and yet she has my sympathies.

Where There’s Love, There’s Hate by Adolfo Bioy Casares and Silvina Ocampo (tr. by Suzanne Jill Levine and Jessica Ernst Powell)

This delightful novella is a playful take on the traditional country-house murder mystery where everyone’s a suspect. There is much to enjoy: the wit and charm of the writing; the eccentricities of the rather pedantic narrator; the playful nature of the narrative; the murder mystery at its heart. This is a book that never takes itself too seriously as it gently pokes fun at the mystery genre. A favourite read for Richard’s celebration of Argentinian lit.

The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

Set in New York in the later 19th Century, this novel features Lily Bart, who at the age of twenty-nine remains unmarried despite her beauty. Lilly knows she must net a wealthy husband to safeguard her place in society and the lifestyle to which she has become accustomed, but she wants to marry for love and money. Lily is a fascinating character: complex, nuanced and fully realised. A great novel, fully deserving of its status as a classic.

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque (tr. by Brian Murdoch)

Narrated by an eighteen-year-old German soldier fighting in WWI, this is a searing portrait of the suffering, desolation and futility of war. There is, however, a sense of universality to this story. The narrator could be any one of the terrified young soldiers sent to the front, desperately trying to get from one day to the next, never knowing what the future might bring. A deeply affecting novel, beautifully written; I wish I had read it many years ago.

Transit by Anna Seghers (tr. by Margot Bettauer Dembo)

A novel inspired by Seghers’ own experience as a refugee fleeing from Europe following the German invasion of France in 1940. Transit gives an insight into the bureaucratic maze and red tape involved in securing a safe passage from Marseille. It’s a haunting and unforgettable story with questions of shifting identity and destiny at its heart. Another standout read from Caroline and Lizzy’s German Literature Month.

H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald

On one level, H is for Hawk is the story of how Macdonald attempts to deal with grief by training a goshawk following the death of her father. On another, it captures a biography of the novelist T.H White and his misguided attempts to train his own hawk. The writing is excellent: vivid and evocative in its description of landscape and nature, informative and engaging on falconry and White. This is an intelligent, multi-layered and humane book. An emotional but thoroughly rewarding read for me, I had to pick the right time for this one.

The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford

A great novel featuring two mismatched couples, the Ashburnhams and the Dowells, The Good Soldier is a story of intrigues, betrayals and duplicity. It tells of the consequences of reigning in desires and of the damage caused when these desires are unleashed. As the narrator, John Dowell, tries to make sense of events, we’re left questioning his reliability. A fascinating book, superbly written. Each of the main characters is flawed or damaged in some way, and my impressions changed as I continued to read. One to revisit at some stage.

Also noteworthy (these are the books I agonised over): Bullfight by Yasushi Inoue; Speedboat by Renata Adler; The Beginning of Spring by Penelope Fitzgerald; Severina by Rodrigo Rey Rosa and Moon in a Dead Eye by Pascal Garnier.

So there we go, my favourite books from a year of reading and eight months of blogging – better late than never. Wishing you all the best for 2015, may it be filled with many wonderful books.

70 thoughts on “My Books of the Year – 2014

  1. susanosborne55

    Definitely worth waiting for! Great list, Jacqui. Delighted to see the Stegner, Wharton and Ford here although we’ll have to agree to disagree about the Hamilton. I remember plodding through it but that was many years ago so perhaps I should try again

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Thanks, Susan. I’m glad the Stegner, Wharton and Ford struck a chord with you. I loved Slaves of Solitude and hope to read another by Hamilton (Hangover Square) later this year. I think we might have to agree to differ on Slaves, but I guess life would be very dull if we all liked the same things!

      Reply
  2. Rebecca

    What a wide-ranging list, geographically and temporally. I’ve only read Days of Abandonment but hope to read My Brilliant Friend soon. I’m also a fan of Stegner as well as the House of Mirth. Thanks for so many interesting suggestions!

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      You’re very welcome, Rebecca! Wallace Stegner’s great, isn’t he? I must read another by him at some stage, possibly Angle of Repose. I hope you enjoy My Brilliant Friend.

      The Sorrow of Angels is definitely worth a look. I don’t know if you’ve read Stefansson’s Heaven and Hell? Sorrows is the second book in the trilogy, and I was a little lost at the beginning as I hadn’t read the first one. Best to read them in order if you’re thinking of diving in.

      Reply
  3. Guy Savage

    I have the Infatuations here unread. The Ferrante books are really hugely popular here which always makes me suspicious. I heard from a friend that she loved the first one but considered the second ‘chick lit’. What do you think?

    I plan to read Crossing to Safety and Cassandra at the Wedding (the latter after reading your review), and I bought Where there’s Love There’s Hate after reading your review.

    The House of Mirth is wonderful–not my favourite Wharton which is The Custom of The Country. Transit made my best of list last year–phenomenal.

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      I’ll be interested to hear what you think of The Infatuations. Have you read Marias before?

      On Ferrante’s Neapolitans, I loved the first one (My Brilliant Friend) and I think it’s the strongest of the three as the spark between the two girls gives the book its energy. I liked book two very much. The opening third is fiery and very compelling, but the middle section is a bit baggy (unlike the first book which feels more consistent throughout). This mid section in the second book focuses on Elena’s love interests and the angst which accompanies this stage in her life. (I wonder if this might be why your friend considered it to be chick lit?) Personally, I think the quality and candour of Ferrante’s writing elevate it, but that’s just my view. I don’t know whether you’ll like the Ferrante novels, it’s difficult to say…

      I think we’re on safer ground with the Bioy Casares/Ocampo novella as I’m fairly sure you’ll enjoy that one. I have high hopes for Cassandra too as she’s such an intriguing and complex character.

      Moving to Wharton, I have Custom of the Country to look forward to and I know Emma loved it as well so that’s a banker.

      Transit is exceptional, and I’m glad you think so too. It deserves to be better known.

      Reply
  4. Alex

    It’s an impressive list, and I envy how many translated books you have there. It’s going to be one of my 2015 goals to read more translated books, as well as read more in the original languages (PT, ES, FR).

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Thank you. I tried to read a broad range of books in 2014 — a decent mix by male and female authors, translations alongside books in the English language, a range of styles — but it can be challenging to juggle everything. Best of luck with your reading aims for 2015, and I hope this list might give you a few ideas.

      Reply
  5. farmlanebooks

    Lovely selection! I’ve only read H is for Hawk from your list, but I really enjoyed it. Many others are lurking in my TBR – especially the Ferrante. I hope I enjoy them as much as you did. Have a wonderful 2015!

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Thanks, Jackie. I’m really glad you enjoyed H is for Hawk – it’s one of those books that seems to have resonated with so many people and it’s great to see it getting the recognition it deserves. Another prize last night!

      I hope you enjoy Ferrante’s novels. Wishing you all the best for 2015, too.

      Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Thanks, Helen. Yes, I have read A Heart So White. It’s the only other Marias I’ve read so far, and I absolutely loved it too. I’d like to reread it and perhaps write about it here but doubt whether I’d be able to do it justice…

      Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      I couldn’t forget Nada – it’s one of the books that has stayed with me during the year. Such a brilliant novel for a debut and to think Laforet was only twenty-three at the time. Amazing. Thanks for your kind words about my Cassandra review.

      Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Thanks, Naomi. That’s good to hear. I know you’re about to start the #TBR20 (with a twist!) so I hope you’ll have a chance to investigate one or two once you return to book buying.

      Reply
  6. litlove

    This is a wonderful list – Stegner is already on my all-time top 10, and I also enjoyed The Good Soldier and Slaves of Solitude but there are several I’ve got lined up to read, including H is for Hawk and Cassandra At the Wedding. Never Any End to Paris is so up my street I’ve put it on my wishlist immediately, and there are many others I’d like to check out too!

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Thanks, Victoria. Wallace Stegner is great, a real discovery for me and I must read more by him (and Patrick Hamilton, too). I might try Angle of Repose as my next Stegner.

      I hope you enjoy H is for Hawk (everyone seems to have loved it!) and Cassandra. Never Any End to Paris is great fun, and I’m sure I missed some of the nuances as I haven’t read Hemmingway’s A Moveable Feast. Another thing to remedy at some stage…

      Reply
  7. Scott W.

    Jacqui – what an enticing list, a handful of which I’ve read, with another few – Nada, Transit and The Good Soldier – already on my list of works to read this year. You were instrumental in providing the final push for me to start Ferrante’s trilogy. I’m nearing the end of the first volume and liking it far more than the brutal, claustrophobic Days of Abandonment. I obviously can’t yet speak for the ensuing volumes, but I’ll address Guy’s concern by noting that while the books have received enormous attention for their treatment of friendship between women, I’m finding My Brilliant Friend equally interesting for its treatment of Naples itself. Ferrante seems in part to be attempting nothing less than an exorcism of all the forces that have kept that astonishing city eating itself. There’s also a fascinating (though somewhat frugal) realism to the novel that has me currently working out on a map the location of Elena and Lila’s neighborhood and tracing their travels around it. Another reader I know (reading the trilogy in the original Italian) has produced a clever and quite beautiful chart of the relationships and intermingling between the families. If I can get his permission, I’ll try to post it should I get around to writing about the books.

    I’m eager to see what you’ll be tackling in 2015.

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Scott, thank you so much for your comments. I’m delighted to learn that Nada, Transit and The Good Soldier have already secured their places on your 2015 reading list, and I can’t wait to hear what you think of them.

      I’m also thrilled (and relieved) to hear that you’re enjoying My Brilliant Friend, the first of Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels – now a tetralogy! I recall our discussion on whether these books stretch their legs and walk the streets of Naples (I think they do), and it sounds as if Ferrante’s evocation of this city had captured your interest too. You’re absolutely right, she does expose the terrifying forces at play in the neighbourhood: the control exerted by key players (Don Achille and the Solara brothers); the sudden eruptions of violence and abuse against women. It’s all there. These forces and tensions do carry through to the second volume, but there’s a section where the action moves to Ischia and the focus shifts to Elena (this is the bit I mentioned in my reply’s to Guy’s concerns). While there’s still much to enjoy here (including two or three key scenes), this mid-section is quite long. Having said that, the narrative arc as a whole is very compelling, and the final quarter of book two pulls things right back on track and moves the story into new territory.

      Your map sounds fascinating, as does your friend’s chart on the relationships between the families. Such intermingling, and there’s more of that to look forward to in book two! I do hope you’ll find some time to write about these books as I for one would love to read your post(s), and I’m sure others would too.

      As for 2015, I’ll definitely be reading Joan Didion (inspired by posts from Emma and Max). I can see Wharton, Penelope Fitzgerald and Patrick Hamilton featuring again, and I must get cracking on Eric Ambler – I have Topkapi, The Light of Day. Oh, and a few Spanish and Italian books too – I can’t seem to get enough of those.

      How about you? Are you planning to do an end-of-year round-up post? I’d love to hear more about the books on your list. Your blog was one of my discoveries of 2014.

      Reply
      1. Bellezza

        In view of your comments, I’m reminded of Longo’s collection, Ten. With his writing, and Ferrante’s, I feel that I am walking the streets of Naples myself. It’s quite glorious. And the map of Scott’s friend? I’d love to see that…

        Reply
        1. JacquiWine Post author

          Gosh, of course – that was Naples as well. There’s just something about that place. I recall spending a night or two in Naples many years ago and never before have I felt such a palpable sense of unease…

          I do hope we might be treated to a peek at Scott’s map and that relationship chart his friend has compiled! Let’s hope so.

          Reply
  8. Gemma

    A great list, Jacqui – I’ve definitely got a few more books to add to my to-read list! I finished reading H is for Hawk yesterday and I completely agree with what you’ve written here. Helen Macdonald’s writing is simply excellent. I was so glad to hear of her Costa award win last night.

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Many thanks, Gemma. ‘H is for Hawk’ is wonderful, isn’t it? Likewise, I was delighted to hear of its win at the Costas. I think the main prize might come down to a choice between the Macdonald and Ali Smith’s How to be Both, which I still need to read. I was hoping to sink into it over Christmas, but that didn’t quite come off!

      Reply
  9. kimbofo

    A wonderful list, Jacqui — I can’t believe you’ve only been blogging for 8 months, it feels like you’ve been here forever! I mean that in a good way — you read such interesting stuff and it’s nice to come to a blog that doesn’t focus on the new, new, new all the time.

    I have Crossing to Safety, The Slaves of Solitude & H is for Hawk on my TBR so your praise for them means I really must read them sooner rather than later.

    Hope 2015 is a wonderful reading year for you!

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Many thanks, Kim. Haha! Yes, it does feel as if I’ve been here for a while, but my first post went up at the beginning of May. I’ve been tweeting and reading blogs for a few years though, and I guess that’s why it feels as if I’ve been around for a bit.

      Oh, I hope you enjoy Crossing, Slaves and H is for Hawk – all three seem to have resonated with other bloggers / tweeters too.

      I hope 2015 brings you lots of wonderful books, and I’m looking forward to reading your reviews. Mary Costello’s Academy Street is definitely on my list for this year.

      Reply
  10. Brian Joseph

    This is a list of books that looks to be very worthy.

    I have only read House of Mirth and I agree that it is worthy of any year end best of list.

    I want to read many of these books myself. I hope to get to All Quite on The Western Front at the very least within the next year.

    Happy reading in 2015!

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      I loved House of Mirth, and it sounds as if I can look forward to a couple of others by Wharton as I still have The Age of Innocence and Custom of County to come.

      I can thoroughly recommend All Quiet on the Western Front, and I hope you get a chance to read it this year. Wishing you all the best for 2015, too!

      Reply
  11. Bellezza

    Jaqui, I’m currently in the second of the Neopolitan novels, and LOVING it/them. I purchased the third on my kindle, absolutely unable to wait for library timing. Without you, I would not have picked My Brilliant Friend up again (why did it not sit with me the first try through? Can’t figure that out!), and so I thank you so much for your stellar reviews and recommendations.

    I’m so happy that you chose to write your own blog in 2014. While it was wonderful to email each other, and to grab a tweet here and there (on my part, you’re excellent at Twitter) it is a joy to visit you here at your own “home”. We share a deep affection for so many things.

    and, of course, I loved The Infatuations as well. xoxo

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Fabulous! I am so glad you took a chance on returning to My Brilliant Friend, and it’s great to hear that you’re loving volume two so far. Now I’m wondering where you are in the second book and how you think it compares with the first. I’d love to know once you’ve reached the end. Perhaps it just wasn’t the right time for you when you picked it up before? I can think of a few books that I’ve started and then put aside after 30 or 40 pages simply because I wasn’t in the right frame of mind or mood at the time. I had two false starts with David Mitchell’s Thousand Autumns only for everything to click into place on the third attempt. Somehow I just knew I’d end up loving it (and that’s what happened).

      Thank you so much for your encouragement and support in helping me to start my own blog, Bellezza – I’ll always remember that. Your recommendations have made their mark on my reading too. I bought The Tunnel off the back of your review, and Barcelona Shadows is in my TBR so I must get around to that this year (the TBR is king at the moment).

      It was wonderful to read The Infatuations with you and I can recall our discussions about Marias’s writing, how those passages spoke to both of us (the ones on Luisa’s grief following the death of her husband). As you say, we share an affection for many things in life and literature. Looking forward to many more conversations in 2015 – wishing you all the best for the year ahead.

      Reply
  12. kaggsysbookishramblings

    What a great selection of books Jacqui – I could happily read the ones on it I haven’t already read! I have a copy of The Infatuations but stalled last time I tried to start – obviously not the right time. Congrats on your first period of blogging – I always enjoy your reviews! :)

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Many thanks, Karen. I hope you’ll be able to find the right moment to try again with The Infatuations. I love Marias’s writing, but his long looping sentences and digressive style may not suit every reader!

      Likewise, I always enjoy reading your reviews and love the diversity of the books you pick. I’m very glad to have discovered your blog last year – wishing you all the best for the year ahead.

      Reply
  13. 1streading

    A great selection. It’s good to see so many older books there – I sometimes worry that book blogging can become all about the latest thing. That’s not so bad for someone of my age who began reading well before the internet and has therefore read a fairly good spread of classics (and still, wants to read more) but will younger generations feel too much pressure to always absorb the new?
    And congratulations on your blog (hard to believe it’s not been around forever) – which is something of a hub for bloggers!

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Thank you, Grant! It does feel as if I’ve been here for a while – my IFFP guest posts started back in March, so if we count those reviews it’s probably closer to ten months.

      I probably ought to read a few more new books although these days I find myself increasingly drawn towards the older ones: classic novels I’ve missed, great authors I’ve yet to try and the like. There are so many gaps in my reading I could happily spend the next few years reading backlist titles alone but then I’d be missing out on some excellent new books. I can understand the attraction and buzz around the latest releases, but I guess each reader/blogger needs to settle into a mix of books that works for them.

      I love the range of stuff you cover on your blog – you read such interesting books, several translations from some of my favourite publishers (Pushkin Press, Peirene et al.). I have the Teffi and Fraile story collections to look forward to and hope to include one in my #TBR20! Looking forward to seeing what you discover in 2015, all the best for the year ahead.

      Reply
  14. Seamus Duggan

    I’ve only read two of these AQOTWF and The Good Soldier) although I hope to remedy that in the coming year/s. I certainly want to read the Marias – I’ve only read a couple of his shorter works to date. Wharton is another writer I have on my shelves waiting for me to find time for them and I also have a book by Patrick Hamilton which I fully intend to read in 2015.
    Looking forward to another year of tracking your reading. May it be a good one!

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Thanks, Seamus. I don’t think I’ll ever forget All Quiet, one of those books that seems to have touched so many people. The Infatuations is great, and I think there’s a good chance you’ll like it as there are parallels with The Sound of Things Falling (I have fond memories of your review of that one). You have a treat in store with Wharton that’s for sure and Hamilton too if The Slaves of Solitude is anything to go by.

      Likewise, I’m looking forward to following your reviews in the year ahead. For starters, I’m very keen to hear what you think of Soseki’s The Gate, which I believe you’re reading for Tony’s January in Japan event. I thought I had a copy of it but can’t find it anywhere – perhaps it’s on a wishlist instead. Either way, I’m eager to hear more. All the best for 2015!

      Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Thanks, Tony. I’m sure it’ll bring many more books in translation. Wishing you all the best for 2015 – I hope to start a Japanese book at the weekend!

      Reply
  15. Claire 'Word by Word'

    A wonderful mix of familiar and unfamiliar Jacqui and so many great recommendations I feel excited for 2015 and all the excellent books there are to read, without even knowing what new titles might be published!

    Loved the Elena Ferrante novels and Nada and H is for Hawk, they all made my list too and would love to read another Edith Wharton this year, having read Ethan Frome and Summer in previous years and loved them.

    I want to read the Heaven and Hell series too, something great about a good book series. :)

    Oh thank goodness I’m not on a book buying ban! But I will be soon at this rate :)

    Can’t wait to see what you read this year, wow 101 is amazing! Bonne Continuation Jacqui and thanks for being such a supportive presence online.

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Many thanks, Claire – I love that we have Ferrante, Nada and H is for Hawk in common, and I hope one or two others might pique your interest. I discovered Nada through your wonderful review so thank you for that!

      Wharton’s great, isn’t she (Ethan Frome is a favourite of mine). I recall you saying that you were aiming to read a few of her other novels before making a start on the society ones. I loved House of Mirth and hope to read The Age of Innocence this year.

      I think there’s a strong chance that you’d love the Stefansson series. His prose is wonderful (lyrical, almost poetic in style) and the story engaging. Definitely worth a look.

      I doubt whether I’ll read 101 books this year (several novellas in that total) but let’s hope the next 12 months brings lots of wonderful books. Looking forward to following your reviews this year as I always enjoy reading your posts!

      Reply
  16. Max Cairnduff

    Great list. Glad the Hamilton made it. I know I still owe my Ford writeup, currently I expect him to make my 2015 list (I finished it a couple of days into January.

    You’ve had a good year variety wise haven’t you? Translated fiction, classic fiction, the Macdonald, there’s real range there.

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Thanks, Max. The Hamilton was a shoo-in. I’ll have to read another this year: Hangover Square, I think. Looking forward to your Good Soldier review; it’s a book I’d like to reread one day.

      It’s been a great reading year for me and I’ve tried to go for diversity (after all, as much as I love Pinot Noir, I wouldn’t want to drink it every day). I have such fond memories of that Macdonald as he rescued me from a reading slump, and it’s good to know that The Way Some People Die is a step up. I’m eager to see your end-of-year list now…

      Reply
    2. JacquiWine Post author

      Just realised that you were talking about Helen Macdonald! I was tuning into the other Macdonald (probably because I associate you with Ross and the Lew Archer series). Even more diverse if we add noir/ hardboiled into the mix..

      Reply
  17. Rise

    From the list I’ve only read Vila-Matas. The rest I would definitely look out for, especially the women writers (Ferrante, Laforet, …) who I’ve not been reading a lot lately.

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Ferrante has been the subject of much attention, but I think her writing holds up to the weight of expectation. She’s definitely worthy of investigation, and I’d be interested to hear your thoughts should you decide to give her a go. I loved Nada – the writing, the mood, the distinctive narrative. It’s a great debut. Thanks for dropping by, Rise – wishing you all the best for the year ahead.

      Reply
      1. yodcha

        Of these I have read, Transit (goes great with the movie Casablanca), All Quiet on the Western Front, and The Good Soldier. If not yet read, you might like Ford’s Parade’s End

        Reply
        1. JacquiWine Post author

          I thought Transit remarkable and can recall our discussion about the link to Casablanca (which I love). Yes, I wondered about Parade’s End although a couple of friends were disappointed by the quality of Ford’s writing in that one (especially in comparison with The Good Soldier). Have you read Parade’s End, and if so, what did you think? Does the prose hold up?

          Reply
  18. Naomi

    What a great mix of books on your list! Some of these are on my tbr list, but some others are new to me. I will have to check them out! I’m happy we discovered each other. :)

    Reply
  19. adevotedreader

    Great list thanks Jacqui, Nada and Where there’s love, there’s hate had passed me by but sound like my cup of tea.

    The House of Mirth and All Quiet are both brilliant books, I’d highly recommend Wharton and Remarque’s other work also. By the later, The Road Back is a fascinating look at compatriots of Paul’s trying to adjust to civilian life.

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      You’re welcome! I can thoroughly recommend both Nada and Where There’s Love, There’s Hate. They’re very different books but excellent in their own way.

      I have another two by Wharton on my shelves and hope to read The Age of Innocence later this year. It’s great to hear that you rate Remarque’s The Road Back as I’d like to read it especially given the link to All Quiet.

      Reply
  20. Vishy

    Wonderful list, Jacqui! I loved ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’. From your list, I want to read ‘Nada’ and ‘The House of Mirth’. I also love your description of the Wallace Stegner book. I will look for that too. It is such an interesting contrast when compared to the Ford Maddox Ford book. Hope you have a wonderful reading year in 2015!

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Thanks, Vishy. I was delighted to see All Quiet on your list, and I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to get around to reading it. Nada is fantastic, I can’t recommend it highly enough. It seems to capture a time, a place, a mood, a unique voice.

      I’m sure you’ll enjoy The House of Mirth – I have The Age of Innocence to look forward to later this year. Do take a look at Wallace Stegner as I think you’d love his prose; it’s beautiful, almost luminous in a way. Wishing you all the best for 2015, too.

      Reply
  21. Richard

    Belated thanks on your great reading year, Jacqui! I might give the Ferrante, that Vila-Matas and a couple of others a whirl later in the year, and of course I love the Laforet and Marías picks. Very nice to make the acquaintance of your blog last year, of course–please keep up the good (and enthusiastic) work!

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Cheers, Richard. It has been a good year for me, and for you too! You’ll be on fairly safe ground with the Vila-Matas, and I’d love to hear what you make of Ferrante,

      Very glad to have met you through your Spanish Lit Month extravaganza and I’ll be back for another fix later this year (and the Argentinian event too). Looking forward to seeing what you’ll be reading in 2015.

      Reply
  22. Pingback: My Books of the Year, 2015 – favourites from a year of reading | JacquiWine's Journal

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