My books of the year 2016 – favourites from a year of reading

Just like its predecessor, 2016 turned out to be another year of great reading for me. I read around 80 books this year (mostly older/backlisted titles) with only a handful of disappointments. Once again I found it very difficult to finalise a shortlist for this post, but I’ve whittled it down to a final thirteen: a baker’s dozen of favourites, plus a few honourable mentions along the way. These are the books I loved, the books that have stayed with me, the ones I’m most likely to revisit one day. I’ve summarised each winner in this post, but in each case you can read the full review by clicking on the appropriate link.

books-of-the-year

A Game of Hide and Seek by Elizabeth Taylor

It was a close call between this book and the other Taylor I read this year, At Mrs Lippincote’s – both are excellent. A Game of Hide and Seek is a very poignant story of life’s disappointments, compromises and lost loves, all set against the backdrop of the years preceding and following the Second World War. It is perhaps a more subtle novel than Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont (a book that made my 2015 highlights), but every bit as carefully observed. Just thinking about it now leaves me eager to back to this author as soon as possible.

The Widow by Georges Simenon (tr. John Petrie)

Every bit as dark and disturbing as its wonderful cover suggests (I read the NYRB edition), The Widow is a tense and unsettling noir from one of the masters of psychological fiction, Georges Simenon. Right from the start, there is a palpable sense of foreboding as a young drifter just released from prison washes up at a farmhouse in the Bourbonnais region of France. The Widow is one of the few books by Simenon to feature a strong woman at the heart of the narrative, the tough-as-old-boots widow Tati. This would appeal to fans of James M. Cain’s fiction.

Excellent Women by Barbara Pym

I’m glad to say that my first encounter with Barbara Pym did not disappoint. The novel focuses on Mildred Lathbury, a rather sensible, diplomatic and accommodating woman in her early thirties. In short, Mildred is one of those ‘excellent women’ who can be relied on to offer a kind word or a cup of tea whenever others are in need of support. In many ways, she finds herself getting drawn into other people’s business, particularly as it is assumed that her status a spinster automatically means she has few commitments of her own. This is a wonderful novel, much more than just a comedy of manners, full of small but significant reflections on life as an unmarried woman in the 1950s. (On another day, I might have picked Muriel Spark’s Memento Mori or Brigid Brophy’s The King of a Rainy Country for this slot, both are highly recommended.)

Mr Norris Changes Trains by Christopher Isherwood

I really loved Isherwood’s Mr Norris, a warm and engaging story which charts the somewhat peculiar friendship that develops between two men following a chance encounter on a train. Even though it’s abundantly clear that the rather eccentric Mr Norris is something of a swindler, he is hugely likeable with it. I couldn’t help but feel somewhat protective towards him, a little like William Bradshaw does when he meets him on the train. A hugely enjoyable novel and a wonderful evocation of life in Berlin during the early ‘30s.

Voyage in the Dark by Jean Rhys

Voyage is narrated by an eighteen- year-old girl, Anna Morgan, brought to England from her former home in the West Indies by her stepmother, a selfish woman who all but abandons Anna to survive on her own following the death of the girl’s father. What follows is Anna’s unravelling as she drifts around in a state of depression, moving from one down-at-heel room to another, slipping unconsciously into a state of dependency, turning to drink and sleeping with men in the hope of some much-needed comfort and warmth. A brilliant and devastating book.

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

A book that charts Didion’s attempts to make sense of the weeks and months that followed the sudden death of her husband and hospitalisation of her adopted daughter, Quintana – a period that swept away any previous beliefs she had held about illness, death and grief, about probability and luck, about marriage, children and memory, about life itself. It is a deeply personal exploration of these concepts, all written in Didion’s signature style, that of the cool, perceptive, surgically-precise chronicler of our times. She is relentless in her questioning of herself and of others, constantly seeking to understand what was said, what was felt, what might have been. A truly remarkable piece of writing.

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson

Set in London in the 1930s, Watson’s book captures an extraordinary day in the life of Miss Guinevere Pettigrew, a rather timid, down-at-heel spinster who has fallen on hard times. It’s an utterly enchanting take on the Cinderella story as Miss Pettigrew finds herself drawn into a new world, a place of adventure, excitement and new experiences. This is a charming novel, full of warmth, wit and a certain joie de vivre. One to read or revisit if you’re in need of a treat.

The Death of the Heart by Elizabeth Bowen

When both her parents die in fairly quick succession, sixteen-year-old Portia is sent to live with her half-brother Thomas and his wife Anna, neither of whom want her there. Left to her own devices for most of the time, Portia falls in with Eddie is a selfish, uncaring young man with no real sense of integrity or responsibility. What follows is a very subtle exploration of the pain and confusion of adolescence, of how easy it is for an adult to toy with the emotions of a teenager, especially someone as vulnerable and as trusting as Portia. A novel I would love to re-read one day.

The Go-Between by L. P. Hartley

An ideal summer read, The Go-Between is a compelling story of secrets, betrayals and the power of persuasion, all set against the heady backdrop of the English countryside in July. Leo Colston (now in his sixties) recalls a fateful summer he spent at a school friend’s house in Norfolk some fifty years earlier, a trip that marked his life forever. The novel captures the pain of a young boy’s initiation into the workings of the adult world as Leo is caught between the innocence and subservience of childhood and the complexities of life as a grown-up. Fully deserving of its status as a modern classic.

Bonjour Tristesse by Françoise Sagan (tr. Heather Lloyd)

Another quintessential summer read, the Sagan is an irresistible story of love, frivolity and the games a young girl plays with others people’s emotions – only in this case the backdrop is the French Riviera. Seventeen-year-old Cécile is spending the summer on the Cote d’Azur with her father, Raymond, and his latest lover, Elsa. Everything is leisurely and glorious until another player arrives on the scene, the glamorous and sophisticated Anne, whose very presence threatens to disrupt Cécile’s idyllic life with her father. An utterly compelling novel, I’d like to read this again in the Irene Ash translation.

Grand Hotel by Vicki Baum (tr. Basil Creighton)

This engaging novel revolves around the experiences of six central characters as they brush up against one another during their time at a Berlin hotel in the 1920s. There are moments of lightness and significant darkness here as Baum skilfully weaves her story together, moving from one player to another with consummate ease – her sense of characterisation is very strong. At the centre of the novel is the idea that our lives can change direction in surprising ways as a result of our interactions with others. We see fragments of the lives of these people as they come and go from the hotel. Some are on their way up and are altered for the better; others are on their way down and emerge much diminished. A delightful gem.

In a Lonely Place by Dorothy B. Hughes

A superb noir which excels in the creation of atmosphere and mood. As a reader you really feel as though you are walking the streets of the city at night, moving through the fog with only the dim and distant lights of LA to guide you. The focus is on the mindset of the central character, the washed -up ex-pilot Dix Steele, a deeply damaged and vulnerable man who finds himself tormented by events from his past. The storyline is too complex to summarise here, but Hughes maintains the suspense throughout. This novel was a HUGE hit with my book group.

A Girl in Winter by Philip Larkin

Larkin’s second novel, A Girl in Winter, concerns itself with the confusing mix of emotions which characterise a critical period in a young girl’s life: her coming of age. It also captures the deep sense of loneliness and isolation that marks its central character, a woman named Katherine Lind. It’s a quiet, contemplative novel, one that explores the difficulties we face in understanding and interpreting the behaviour of others, especially when we are young and inexperienced and eager to be loved. Larkin’s prose is sublime, equally impressive in its portrayal of the nostalgic atmosphere of an English summer and its evocation of the bitterness of an unforgiving winter. An understated gem. (It was a toss-up between this and Natsume Söseki’s The Gate, another quiet, thoughtful novel I enjoyed this year.)

So there we are. Thank you to everyone who has read, shared or commented on my posts over the last year, I really do appreciate it. Wishing you all the best for the festive season and the year ahead, may they be filled with many wonderful books!

96 thoughts on “My books of the year 2016 – favourites from a year of reading

    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Lovely – I can’t wait to hear what you make of them! I’ve just finished Isherwood’s Goodbye to Berlin and it’s just as evocative as its predecessor. One to hold over for next year’s list, I think.

      Wishing you all the best for the festive season too – may it be filled with lots of wonderful books. :) .

      Reply
  1. naomifrisby

    There are so many on here that I’ve been meaning to read. I’m going to bookmark this and use it as a list – I’m determined to read more from my own shelves in 2017.

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    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Hurrah – that’s great to hear! I think you will love Jean Rhys whenever you get a chance to read her. Barbara Pym and Elizabeth Taylor are well worth exploring too. Hopefully you’ll discover some new favourites from your shelves next year. :)

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        1. JacquiWine Post author

          That’s great – plenty to look forward to there! I’m hoping to read more of Didion next year. And Bowen, too. So many delights to come. I cant wait to hear what you think of Rhys…

          Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      You’re very welcome, Simon. It’s been great to chat to you about books throughout the year – long may it continue. Wishing you all the best for the festive season – let’s hope it’s a good one.

      Reply
  2. Sarah

    I love The Go Between and A Game of Hide & Seek. I’m not familiar with the others; shame on me! Thanks Jacqui for highlighting so many great reads.

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    1. JacquiWine Post author

      You’re very welcome, Sarah. The Go-Between is terrific, isn’t it? A quintessential summer read. Bonjour Tristesse falls into that camp too and might be worth considering if you haven’t read it already. I’m hoping to read Sagan’s A Certain Smile next summer .

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    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Fantastic. Here’s hoping you’ll find some new favourites for the future – I know you enjoyed revisiting Isherwood this year. By the way, I’ve just finished reading his Goodbye to Berlin, which I LOVED – I’m going to hold it over till next year!

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    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Thanks, Susan. Glad to hear you enjoyed The Blackbirder. I’ll have to try it in the future. In a Lonely Place is brilliant – such an atmospheric novel, full of psychological tension and suspense. I hope you get a chance to read it.

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  3. heavenali

    Wow this is a fabulous list. I have read eight of them over the years. A Game of Hide and Seek I re-read just a couple of weeks ago. I also have the Philip Larkin tbr bought following your enthusiasm for it. The only Isherwood I have read to date is Goodbye Berlin, perhaps I need to explore more.
    Merry Christmas to you Jacqui I hope it’s peaceful and book filled.

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Thanks so much, Ali. Elizabeth Taylor is pretty much guaranteed her own slot on my ‘best of’ list these days, so I’m delighted you encouraged me to read her – I definitely owe you for that! The Larkin is beautiful and I feel sure you will enjoy it. Wishing you all the best for the festive season too – I hope you have a restful one.

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    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Thanks, Brian. Likewise, it’s been good to follow your reading choices over the year – you always bring something interesting to your reviews of the classics. Have a great Christmas and New Year. Wishing you all the best for 2017.

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  4. Rosie Canning

    I’ve read two of these – Excellent Women and Miss Pettigrew, I enjoyed them both. They linger on long after they’ve been re-shelved. I’ve been wanting to read Grand Hotel for a while so thank you for the reminder. And I’ve just added Death of the Heart to the list. Thank you for sharing. Have a peaceful Christmas and a literary new year.

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      You’re very welcome. So glad to hear you liked Miss Pettigrew and the Pym. I agree with your thoughts on their staying power – while they might seem quite light and humorous at first, there’s actually quite a bit of depth/insight under the surface (especially in Excellent Women). I thought The Death of the Heart was outstanding, and I really hope you enjoy it too. Have a wonderful Christmas, Rosie – wishing you all the best for the year ahead.

      Reply
  5. Claire 'Word by Word'

    I enjoyed Voyage in the Dark and was lead to it by you and enjoyed reading it during Jean Rhys week! And Bonjour Tristesse I read this year too and delighted in it, a fabulous novella, I would like to read the French version and see how that compares.

    I lved The Year of Magical Thinking when I read it and funnily enough I just started reading a bit of Blue Nights which I plan to finish over Christmas, kind of in a theme of books about mothers, having read Jeanette Winterson’s memoir, Jeremy Gavron’s memoir and now another of Joan Didion’s .

    Looking forward to your reading list and reviews for 2017 Jacqui.

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      I recall your evocative review of Voyage, Claire, and it was interesting to see your take on it especially when viewed alongside some of the other cross-cultural literature you’d read in the past. Bonjour Tristesse was such a treat, the perfect summer read. Fascinating issues surrounding the translations too – I think I’m going to have to try the Irene Ash version at some point next year (I was hoping to squeeze it into 2016, but somehow it doesn’t feel like a winter book!) I’m curious to see what you think of Didion’s Blue Nights – I have a copy here, so it might be one for next year. Very much looking forward to reading your review of that one. Have a lovely Christmas and New Year – all the best for 2017.

      Reply
  6. Melissa Beck

    What a great list! I really enjoyed Grand Hotel too. And Miss Pettigrew lives for a day is sitting on my shelf. Hoping to get to that one in the new year. I hope you enjoy your holidays, Jacqui!

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Thanks, Melissa. I think you will love Miss Pettigrew. It’s a wonderful pick-me-up book – and I mean that in the best possible way. I hope you enjoy the holidays too, Have a great Christmas – lots of lovely books, I trust.

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  7. Séamus Duggan

    Of them all I find myself most intrigued by the Larkin. I’ve read the Bowen, which I loved, and dipped into the Didion, which I must read in toto. Pym and Taylor are two authors I have to get to soon. I have at least one by each somewhere, I think. Great list. Hope you have a great christmas and I look forward to following your reading in 2017..

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    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Thanks, Seamus. I think you would like the Larkin. Certain parts of it reminded me a little of Hamilton’s Slaves of Solitude (which I adored), while the mid-section felt somewhat reminiscent of Hartley’s The Go-Between. Technically it’s not a perfect novel, but I loved the mood and characterisation so much that I’m prepared to overlook its little imperfections. I feel sure that you will enjoy both Taylor and Pym – they’re not a million miles away from Muriel Spark, which can only be a good thing!

      I hope you have a wonderful Christmas, too. Are you planning to do a round-up of your reading highlights for the year? Hope so – I would love to see what you’ve been up to!

      Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      That’s great. Barbara Pym’s novels are an absolute delight, one of my best ‘discoveries’ in recent years. She is so good when it comes to observing human nature in social situations. I do hope you enjoy her work.

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  8. Caroline

    There are only a very few I haven’t read yet but, luckily, I’ve got those I haven’t on my piles. Since I loved all of the books in the list that I’ve read, I know I will not be disappointed when I read the other ones. It’s a lovely list.

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    1. JacquiWine Post author

      That’s really great to hear. Which ones do you have to come? Miss Pettigrew? (Such a delightful book, you’re sure to fall under its spell.) I know you’ve read the Taylor as I recall your fondness for it. In fact that novel made its way onto my tbr list as a direct result of your lovely review!

      Reply
  9. BookerTalk

    So many good sounding books in this list – Ive not read that Elizabeth Taylor one yet but will keep an eye out for it……
    sorry not to have been commenting much on your blog lately – somehow it dropped out of my feed but i’ve got it back now

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Oh, no worries at all. I need to head over to yours to see what you’ve been up to lately. The Elizabeth Taylor is definitely worth considering. As per usual her charcterisation is excellent – even the secondary characters feel fresh in my mind eleven months down the line.

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  10. realthog

    Here’s hoping you have a great Christmas and an even greater Hogmanay, Jacqui — and keep up the good work! As you must know, I always enjoy your reviews.

    mostly older/blacklisted titles

    Ahem. Which are the blacklisted ones?
    :)

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Thank you. And likewise on both fronts – your film reviews are always a joy to read.

      Gah, how on earth did that typo manage to slip through?! Very well spotted – I’ve changed it now. Mind you, Isherwood’s Berlin novels may well have been on some kind of blacklist back in the day…

      Wishing you all the best for the festive season, John. I’m sure I’ll be adding lots more of your recommendations to my watch list in 2017!

      Reply
  11. 1streading

    Voyage in the Dark is the only one of your books of the year I’ve read – and that was very much thanks to your influence. I’ll certainly read A Game of Hide and Seek at some point as Elizabeth Taylor is on my ‘read everything’ list. I think next from your choices would be Isherwood – maybe next year!

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    1. JacquiWine Post author

      So glad to have encouraged you to read Rhys this year, Grant. Hopefully that will continue into 2017 as well with the publication of her Collected Stories – I know La Grosse Fifi has given you a taste for her short fiction! Elizabeth Taylor is on my ‘read everything’ list too – in fact, I’m in the midst of another of her novels right now: The Soul of Kindness. It’s shaping up to be another highlight, so I’m going to hold it over till next year. :)

      PS I can only encourage you to read Isherwood. Recently finished Goodbye to Berlin, which I loved – it’s just as evocative as its predecessor.

      Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Well, you can expect more of the same in 2017. More Taylor, more Isherwood and definitely more Pym – what a delightful discovery she has turned out to be for me!

      Wishing you all the best for the festive season, Gert – let’s hope it’s a good one. :)

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  12. Andy Kelley

    Jacqui,your selections are top notch which is no surprise ,but it reveals you to be a hopeless romantic! I am willing to bet there are days when you listen to old tunes and think about lost love. Have a great Christmas. Regards, andy

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Ha. Well, I’m certainly an incurable romantic, that’s for sure. Would it surprise you to hear that In a Lonely Place, Casablanca and Brief Encounter are three of my all-time favourite films? I suspect not!

      Wishing you a very Merry Christmas, too – all the best for the year ahead.

      Reply
  13. Violet

    I’m glad to see that some of the books and authors I’ve enjoyed made your list for 2016. I love Barbara Pym and Elizabeth Taylor, and I’m currently reading Jean Rhys’ ouevre and letters. Miss Pettigrew is wonderful – did you see the film adaptation? I thought it was pretty good.

    Have you read The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne, by Brian Moore? I re-read it recently and thought of you. It seems like the sort of book you’d enjoy.

    Best Wishes for the festive season, and I hope you have another great reading year in 2017. :)

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      I haven’t seen the film adaptation of Miss Pettigrew, but it’s definitely on my list of things to watch. Frances McDormand is one of my favourite contemporary actors, so I have high hopes. Really glad to hear you enjoyed the movie, that’s a relief to hear.

      Funny you should mention Judith Hearne as I do have a copy, a beautiful NYRB edition with the most gorgeous cover imaginable! It’s sitting on the shelves at home just waiting to be read. I feel sure I’m going to love it too. A spot-on recommendation, thank you.

      Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, Violet. All the very best for the year ahead – lots of wonderful reading, I hope.

      Reply
  14. Karen K.

    Great list! I loved Excellent Women, and Miss Pettigrew is one of my all-time favorites! I also read Grand Hotel this year and really enjoyed it. I’m happy to have discovered your blog, I think we have a lot of books in common.

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      That’s great to hear! Grand Hotel was wonderful, such an entertaining array of characters from different walks of life. And I loved the way Baum used plenty of light and shade to give the story some texture – that really made it for me. So glad you enjoyed it too.

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  15. Scott W

    Such an inspiring list, Jacqui (and more than a few of these have landed on my bookshelves thanks to your reviews). I plan to tackle the Elizabeth Taylor soon, and also have The Go-Betweeen sitting here on the night table. You’ve had quite a great reading year!

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Thanks, Scott! I can’t wait to hear what you think of the Taylor. It’s a quieter (more subtle) novel than Mrs Palfrey, but the tone suits the storyline. The Go-Between is fabulous too, especially if you’re looking for something to transport you to another world. Hartley captures the withering heat of a sultry English summer to perfection. (I read during a rare mini heatwave over here – not quite in the heart of the countryside, but near enough.)

      Are you planning to pull something together on your reading highlights from this year? I know you’ve had other things on your mind these last few months, but it would be great to hear a little more about some of your favourites. Wishing you all the very best for festive season and the year ahead.

      Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      In some respects, it’s hard to compare them as the two storylines are quite different. Either way, Taylor’s a brilliant observer of human nature – the way she captures people in their private moments is really quite remarkable.

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  16. bookbii

    This is a fantastic list Jacqui, so many great reads. Great to see Pym, Didion and Rhys making the grade, true giants of literature (even if not appreciated as such).

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Thanks, Belinda. It’s been a great year for me on the reading front. I read another Pym earlier this month – Crampton Hodnet – and it’s an absolute hoot. One to write up over the holidays, I think.

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  17. Emma

    Great list.
    I’ll read the Didion in 2017
    Thanks to you, I spent a wonderful time with Miss Pettigrew.
    I loved Grand Hotel too.
    Françoise Sagan is a writer like a lot. She was so young when she wrote Bonjour Tristesse.

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Thanks. I’m looking forward to seeing how you find Magical Thinking. It’s all the more powerful for not trying to be (if that makes some kind of sense). Isn’t Miss Pettigrew just wonderful? I think I’ll read it again at some point, just as little treat. It;s good to hear that you rate Sagan – I’m planning to read A Certain Smile next year, probably over the summer.

      Reply
  18. Steerforth

    I agree about the Dorothy Hughes – really evocative of that era and very enjoyable. Sadly, I decided to explore her backlist and came across two of the most absurd books I’ve ever read – avoid ‘The So Blue Marble’ if you can.

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  19. Lisa Hill

    I’ve been reading your blog all year but its lovely to have this reminder of the books that made it onto my TBR or my wishlist because of you!
    All the best for the festive season, Lisa:)

    Reply
  20. Anarchivist

    You’ve given me some great ideas for my own list! and some that I should revisit, since, for example, I loved “In a Lonely Place” and “Voyage in the Dark” so much.I read all of Jean Rhys in my early twenties, and would probably have some different perspectives now.

    Merry Christmas!

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Cool. It’s interesting how our responses to certain books or writers can vary depending on our age and experiences in life. I wonder what I would have made of Elizabeth Taylor’s novels had I read them back in my twenties…their subtleties may have been lost on me at that age!

      Reply
  21. Elena

    The Year of Magical Thinking has been appearing in 2016 in so many forms (videblogs, reviews, this post!) that I’m starting to believe that it is a sign I should read it. Great list, Jacqui. I love how much crime fiction there is :D

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Thanks, Elena. I do love a good vintage noir so the Dorothy B. Hughes fitted the bill perfectly. The Year of Magical Thinking is excellent – hard to capture in just a few sentences, but it’s definitely worth reading. Wishing you all the best for the year ahead.

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      1. Elena

        I’m afraid it’ll make me cry, as it deals with such a difficult situation… Others have told me it’s sad, but there is hope too. What do you think?

        Reply
        1. JacquiWine Post author

          It’s incredibly powerful in a quiet, measured way. In some respects, it’s all the more moving for not trying to be if that makes some kind of sense. I think you have to be in the frame of mind to read this – it’s not one to pick up if you’re feeling a bit low or vulnerable. Overall, I’m very glad I read it, but I had to pick my time. Hope that helps.

          Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Thanks. Oh, I’m glad to hear that. Quite a few of these were on my Classics Club list as well – it’s been a really useful way of encouraging myself to get around to some of these backlisted titles.

      Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      I feel sure you will love Bonjour Tristesse. Save it for the summer as it’s the perfect sunny afternoon read. Happy New Year to you as well – wishing you all the best for 2017!

      Reply
  22. Poppy Peacock

    Great list and so inspiring to remembee to visit my own shelves of patiently waiting classics this year and resist the lure of the new. Loved the focus week on Rhys and would like to do another this year… perhaps Muriel Sparks

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Thanks, Poppy. I found these modern classics so much more rewarding than the handful of contemporary books I read last year (mostly for my book group). Maybe it’s a function of my age or a change in tastes,,,who knows. Glad you enjoyed the Rhys week – it was fun, but lots of work!

      Reply
  23. Bellezza

    I’m glad that you had such a good year reading, Jacqui, as quite the opposite was true for me. I’m still sad that your Jean Rhys week came and went, when I had planned to join in after first hearing about it. I enjoyed Miss Pettigrew Lives for The Day, and Bonjour Tristesse, when I read them years ago, but most of your list is new to me. You always find authors I have not yet read, which opens doors I didn’t even know were closed. Thanks for your great posts, and your faithful comments, in 2016.

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Oh, you’re very welcome, Bellezza. I’m sorry 2016 wasn’t such a good year for you on the reading front – here’s to better times ahead in 2017. No worries at all about the Rhys week. You can always read her some other time. Her books have a certain timeless quality as the emotions she expresses are just as relevant today as they were back in the 1930s. Funnily enough, I was just thinking about you earlier today in relation to your annual Japanese event. I loved Natsume Soseki’s The Gate when I read it towards the end of last year. Is it a book you’ve read by any chance? If not, I think you might like it. My review is here if you’re interested.

      https://jacquiwine.wordpress.com/2016/11/29/the-gate-by-natsume-soseki/

      Reply
  24. Max Cairnduff

    A lovely list indeed. I’m glad I didn’t read it before writing mine as it would definitely have influenced me. We have a fair bit of crossover (though not all from 2016) which doesn’t surprise me. I’ll be bookmarking a few of the others (did you particularly recommend the Bowen to me at one point?) for future reference.

    Really glad you liked the Isherwood in particular. I felt a bit protective towards Mr Norris too.

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Cheers, Max. I owe you a massive thank you for Mr Norris as it was your review that encouraged me to buy The Berlin Novels in the first place. (Ditto Brophy’s The King of a Rainy Country, which I also loved.) Funnily enough, I read Goodbye to Berlin in December and I think it’s got a pretty good chance of making my highlights for 2017. (As I still need to write my review, it’ll count as part of this year’s batch of books – otherwise things will start to get too complicated). I’ve also read another Taylor (The Soul of Kindness) and a Pym (the wonderfully named Crampton Hodnet) both of which I’d be very happy to see on my end-of-year round-up next December. All being well, I’ll be writing about them later this month.

      Yes, I did recommend the Bowen to you. I think it’s a masterful novel. My only worry is that I may have started with her best, or at least one of them. Her debut novel, The Hotel, is right at the top of my TBR, so I’ll see how I fare with that. Out of interest, which of the others are you thinking of bookmarking? I think you’d love In a Lonely Place, and Pym’s Excellent Women would be a good bet too, as would the Spark.

      Right, I’m off to take a look at your list now – well, probably a little later today as I want to give it the time it deserves. Delighted to hear that we have a few books/authors in common – hopefully some points of difference too, then I can pick up some tips for the future.

      Reply
  25. Naomi

    I remember most of these from your reviews, but it’s always nice to have them compiled into a list for future reference. :)
    Happy New Year!

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      I had fun putting my list together as it’s always interesting to reflect on a year’s worth of reading. Happy New Year to you too, Naomi – wishing you all the best for 2017!

      Reply
  26. Richard

    The good news is that of all the books on your list I’ve only read the Simenon, so I have a lot of new choices to select from. The bad news is that I–alone, seemingly–didn’t really care for The Widow even though I was loathe to part with the book afterward because it had such a great cover! Is there another Simenon you’d recommend to me? I’m ready to give him another try sometime soon, but he wrote so many novels I’m not sure where to start. Help!

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Ha! The cover of the NYRB edition is fabulous, isn’t it? So dark and alluring, I’m afraid I’m not going to be much use on the Simenon front as this was only my second experience of his romans durs! My first was Three Bedrooms in Manhattan, which I liked but didn’t love – the story was based on Simenon’s real-life relationship with Denise Ouimet, a woman he met in Manhattan in the 1940s. I wouldn’t say it was one of my favourite reads, but something about it did get under my skin at the time. What about his Maigret novels? I’ve read a whole bunch of them as they’re useful palate cleansers between heavier things. Pietr the Latvian (the first in the series) would be a good one to try. Happy reading, Richard!

      Reply
  27. Amélie

    Very interesting list! I haven’t read or even heard of most of the books mentioned here, which is really refreshing. The only one I read (and liked a lot) some years ago was ‘Bonjour Tristesse’. Now I am super tempted to read ‘The Go-Between’, ‘Grand Hotel’ and ‘In a Lonely Place’.

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Thanks! If you liked Bonjour Tristesse, then I would definitely recommend The Go-Between and the Hughes as the Sagan shares some similarities with both of these books. Grand Hotel is wonderful too, especially if you’re in the mood for something entertaining with plenty of light and shade. I hope you get a chance to read one or two of them.

      Reply

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