My books of the year 2021 – part one, recently published books

2021 has been another tumultuous year for many of us – maybe not as horrendous as 2020, but still very challenging. In terms of books, various changes in my working patterns enabled me to read some excellent titles this year, the best of which feature in my highlights. My total for the year is somewhere in the region of 100 books, which I’m very comfortable with. This isn’t a numbers game for me – I’m much more interested in quality than quantity when it comes to reading!

This time, I’m spreading my books of the year across two posts – ‘recently published’ books in this first piece, with older titles to follow next week. As many of you will know, quite a lot of my reading comes from the 20th century. But this year, I’ve tried to read a few more recently published books – typically a mixture of contemporary fiction and some new memoirs/biographies. So, the division of my ‘books of the year’ posts will reflect something of this split. (I’m still reading more backlisted titles than new, but the contemporary books I chose to read this year were very good indeed. I’m also being quite liberal with my definition of ‘recently published’ as a few of my favourites came out in 2017-18.)

Anyway, enough of the preamble! Here are my favourite recently published books from a year of reading. These are the books I loved, the books that have stayed with me, the ones I’m most likely to recommend to other readers. I’ve summarised each one in this post (in order of reading), but you can find the full reviews by clicking on the appropriate links.

Mayflies by Andrew O’Hagan

Every now and again, a book comes along that catches me off-guard – surprising me with its emotional heft, such is the quality of the writing and depth of insight into human nature. Mayflies, the latest novel from Andrew O’Hagan, is one such book – it is at once both a celebration of the exuberance of youth and a love letter to male friendship, the kind of bond that seems set to endure for life. Central to the novel is the relationship between two men: Jimmy Collins, who narrates the story, and Tully Dawson, the larger-than-life individual who is Jimmy’s closest friend. The novel is neatly divided into two sections: the first in the summer of ’86, when the boys are in their late teens/early twenties; the second in 2017, which finds the pair in the throes of middle age. There are some significant moral and ethical considerations being explored here with a wonderful lightness of touch. An emotionally involving novel that manages to feel both exhilarating and heartbreaking.

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk (tr. Antonia Lloyd-Jones)

A very striking novel that is by turns an existential murder mystery, a meditation on life in an isolated, rural community, and, perhaps most importantly, an examination of our relationship with animals and their place in the hierarchy of society. That might make Plow sound heavy or somewhat ponderous; however, nothing could be further from the truth! This is a wonderfully accessible book, a metaphysical novel that explores some fascinating and important themes in a highly engaging way. Arresting, poetic, mournful, and blacky comic, Plow subverts the traditional expectations of the noir genre to create something genuinely thought-provoking and engaging. The eerie atmosphere and sense of isolation of the novel’s setting – a remote Polish village in winter – are beautifully evoked.

The Shadowy Third by Julia Parry

When Julia Parry comes into possession of a box of letters between her maternal grandfather, the author and academic, Humphry House, and the esteemed Anglo-Irish writer, Elizabeth Bowen, it sparks an investigation into the correspondence between the two writers. Their relationship, it transpires, was an intimate, clandestine one (Humphry was married to Madeline, Parry’s grandmother at the time), waxing and waning in intensity during the 1930s and ‘40s. What follows is a quest on Parry’s part to piece together the story of Humphry’s relationship with Bowen – much of which is related in this illuminating and engagingly written book. Partly a collection of excerpts from the letters, partly the story of Parry’s travels to places of significance to the lovers, The Shadowy Third is a fascinating read, especially for anyone interested in Bowen’s writing. (It was a very close call between this and Paula Byrne’s Pym biography, The Adventures of Miss Barbara Pym, but the Parry won through in the end.)

The Cost of Living by Deborah Levy

This luminous meditation on marriage, womanhood, writing and reinvention is the second part of Deborah Levy’s ‘living autobiography’ trilogy – a series which commenced in 2014 with Things I Don’t Want to Know. In essence, this fascinating memoir conveys Levy’s reflections on finding a new way to live following the breakdown of her marriage after twenty or so years, prompting her to embrace disruption as a means of reinvention. Levy has a wonderful ability to see the absurdity in day-to-day situations, frequently peppering her reflections with irony and self-deprecating humour.

This is an eloquent, poetic, beautifully structured meditation on so many things – not least, what should a woman be in contemporary society? How should she live?

A Sunday in Ville-d’Avray by Dominique Barbéris (tr. John Cullen)

This beautiful, evocative novella is set in Paris on a Sunday afternoon in September, just at the crossover point between summer and autumn. The narrator – an unnamed woman – drives from the city centre to the Parisian suburb of Ville-d’Avray to visit her married sister, Claire Marie. As the two sisters sit and chat in the garden, an intimate story emerges, something the two women have never spoken about before. Claire Marie reveals a secret relationship from her past, a sort of dalliance with a mysterious man whom she met at her husband’s office. What emerges is a story of unspoken desire, missed opportunities and avenues left unexplored. This haunting, dreamlike novella is intimate and hypnotic in style, as melancholy and atmospheric as a dusky autumn afternoon.

Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri (tr. by the author)

This slim, beautifully constructed novella is an exploration of solitude, a meditation on aloneness and the sense of isolation that can sometimes accompany it. The book – which Lahiri originally wrote in Italian and then translated into English – is narrated by an unnamed woman in her mid-forties, who lives in a European city, also nameless but almost certainly somewhere in Italy. There’s a vulnerability to this single woman, a fragility that gradually emerges as she goes about her days, moving from place to place through a sequence of brief vignettes. As we follow this woman around the city, we learn more about her life – things are gradually revealed as she reflects on her solitary existence, sometimes considering what might have been, the paths left unexplored or chances that were never taken. This is an elegant, quietly reflective novella – Lahiri’s prose is precise, poetic and pared-back, a style that feels perfectly in tune with the narrator’s world.

The Past by Tessa Hadley

A subtle novel of family relationships and tensions, written with real skill and psychological insight into character, The Past revolves around four adult siblings – Harriet, Alice, Fran and Roland – who come together for a three-week holiday at the Crane family home in Kington, deep in the English countryside. The siblings have joint ownership of the house, and one of their objectives during the trip is to decide the property’s fate. The inner life of each individual is richly imagined, with Hadley moving seamlessly from one individual’s perspective to the next throughout the novel. Everything is beautifully described, from the characters’ preoccupations and concerns, to the house and the surrounding countryside. A nearby abandoned cottage and its mysterious secrets are particularly vividly realised, adding to the sense of unease that pulses through the narrative. My first by Hadley, but hopefully not my last.

Intimacies by Lucy Caldwell

A luminous collection of eleven stories about motherhood – mostly featuring young mothers with babies and/or toddlers, with a few focusing on pregnancy and mothers to be. Caldwell writes so insightfully about the fears young mothers experience when caring for small children. With a rare blend of honesty and compassion, she shows us those heart-stopping moments of anxiety that ambush her protagonists as they go about their days. Moreover, there is an intensity to the emotions that Caldwell captures in her stories, a depth of feeling that seems utterly authentic and true. By zooming in on her protagonists’ hopes, fears, preoccupations and desires, Caldwell has found the universal in the personal, offering stories that will resonate with many of us, irrespective of our personal circumstances.

Blitz Spirit by Becky Brown

In this illuminating book, Becky Brown presents various extracts from the diaries submitted as part of the British Mass-Observation project during the Second World War. (Founded in 1937, Mass-Observation was an anthropological study, documenting the everyday lives of ordinary British people from all walks of life.) The diary extracts presented here do much to debunk the nostalgic, rose-tinted view of the British public during the war, a nation all pulling together in one united effort. In reality, people experienced a wide variety of human emotions, from the novelty and excitement of facing something new, to the fear and anxiety fuelled by uncertainty and potential loss, to instances of selfishness and bickering, particularly as restrictions kicked in. Stoicism, resilience and acts of kindness are all on display here, alongside the less desirable aspects of human behaviour, much of which will resonate with our recent experiences of the pandemic.

My Phantoms by Gwendoline Riley

A brilliantly observed, lacerating portrayal of a dysfunctional mother-daughter relationship that really gets under the skin. Riley’s sixth novel is a deeply uncomfortable read, veering between the desperately sad and the excruciatingly funny; and yet, like a car crash unfolding before our eyes, it’s hard to look away. The novel is narrated by Bridget, who is difficult to get a handle on, other than what she tells us about her parents, Helen (aka ‘Hen’) and Lee Grant. This is a fascinating character study, one that captures the bitterness, pain and irritation of a toxic mother-daughter relationship with sharpness and precision. The dialogue is pitch-perfect, some of the best I’ve read this year, especially for illustrating character traits – a truly uncomfortable read, for all the right reasons.  

And finally, a few honourable mentions for the books that almost made the list:

  • Second Sight – an eloquent collection of film writing by the writer and critic, Adam Mars-Jones;
  • Nomadland – Jessica Bruder’s eye-opening account of nomad life in America;
  • Open Water – Caleb Azumah Nelson’s poetic, multifaceted novella;
  • and The Years – Annie Ernaux’s impressive collective biography (tr. Alison L. Strayer), a book I admired hugely but didn’t love as much as others.

So that’s it for my favourite recently published titles from a year of reading. Do let me know your thoughts below – and join me again next week when I’ll be sharing my favourite ‘older’ books with plenty of treats still to come!

58 thoughts on “My books of the year 2021 – part one, recently published books

  1. MarinaSofia

    Intimacies and Open Water made my list of best of recent releases (I stuck to this year only though). But there are a few others on your list that I still have to read.

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Yes, I recall you rating both of those books very highly – and the authors themselves seem very thoughtful from the interviews I’ve seen or heard on Zoom. It’ll be particularly interesting to see what Caleb Azumah Nelson does in the future as he could go down one of a number of routes based on that debut…

      Reply
    2. Cindy

      Ooh, they all sound quite intriguing – particularly the Hadley and the Barberis. Open Water was added to my Want to Read list on Goodreads this morning after Jenny on Reading Envy raved about it in her latest podcast. I may well ‘find’ it under the tree with my name on it – bought and wrapped by moi. Is there a more charming word than ‘novella’ at the end of a year full of chunksters? I think not. Eagerly await your backlisted list – hope I have read most of them as my bookshelf is groaning.

      Reply
      1. JacquiWine Post author

        Haha! Yes, that’s the danger of these end-of-year lists; there’s always another book or two to pick up.

        Jenny is right to rave about the Barberis as it’s so beautiful done. Quite enigmatic in style, I think – the sort of book that benefits from being read in one or two concentrated sittings. Luckily it’s quite short, so that’s definitely achievable – I do hope you enjoy it.

        Reply
  2. Claire 'Word by Word'

    An excellent list and good idea to create two posts. I’m trying to narrow mine down, very difficult. I think I’m going to do fiction and nonfiction separately, as I read a lot more of the latter this year.

    I read all three of Deborah Levy’s Living Autobiography this year after reading your review and each one was better than the last which is such an agreeable way to encounter a trilogy of sorts. I found The Cost of Living insightful and frustrating both, but loved it, whereas Real Estate was just pure entertainment, like something about the style and manner of it just clicked, like a woman coming into her own in the aftermath of letting go, moving and healing from the rupture.

    There’s a little bit of an epistolary theme in your choices, and the revelations that come of reunions between family members, they all sound so promising, I’ll be adding to be TBR for 2022 from here for sure. Looking forward to your next post. And what a joy 100, that’s 2 a week, well done.

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      That’s a really interesting observation about some of the underlying themes and styles that connect my (seemingly disparate) choices, Claire! I hadn’t thought about it before, but you’re right about the family dynamics and subsequent fallout from reunions and reconnections. That’s definitely an area of interest for me, along with the letters and diaries that feature in The Shadowy Third, Blitz Spirit and the Pym biography. One could also argue that Whereabouts, The Cost of Living, The Years and Second Sight have something in common too, a fragmentary or vignette-style format that has resonated particularly strongly with me this year. It’s interesting, isn’t it, how these patterns emerge? Thanks so much for prompting me to consider that!

      Levy’s Real Estate is pretty high on my ‘must read soon’ list, I must admit. Maybe I’ll get to it over the Christmas break, when I’m hoping to get a little more time to read than usual. It’s great to hear that it’s your favourite of the three! And I still need to go back and read the first one in the series. Somehow the focus of The Cost of Living really appealed to me as a way into the trilogy, so I’ll have to flip back and catch up at some point!

      Thanks for all your comments during the year, Claire. I always enjoy talking books with you and seeing what you’ve been reading. Your best-of-the-years lists are bound to be full of treats!

      Reply
  3. inthemistandrain

    Thank you for your posts, your reading taste and mine seem to chime well and I’ve added many or your choices to my list of tbr. This time it’s Deborah Levy’s trilogy and The Shadowy Third. Not to forget Andrew O’Hagan – so many books……..
    I look forward to your next post (although perhaps my wallet doesn’t!) and wish you a happy and safe Christmas and a more uncomplicated, for us all, 2022.

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      A pleasure, and I’m so glad our tastes in reading are fairly closely aligned. It’s lovely when that happens! Do you have a few favourites of your own to recommend to me? If so, I’d be very interested to hear.

      Levy’s The Cost of Living is excellent, and I’m hoping to read the new instalment of her living biography soon. From what I know of your reading interests, The Shadowy Third feels right up your street. An absorbing, elegantly structured story, and beautifully written too. I really hope you enjoy it. Best wishes for a restful Christmas and, as you say, a less stressful 2022 for all of us.

      Reply
  4. Janakay | YouMightAsWellRead

    I very much enjoyed your wonderful list, Jacquiwine. You’ve clearly had a lovely year of reading.
    The only one of your selections that I’ve actually read myself is A Sunday in Ville-d’Aray, of which I share your very high opinion.
    Your review, as well as others I’ve read, have made me very curious about Debra Levy’s memoirs/autobiography (I’m never quite sure where to draw the definitional line on these categories). I don’t usually read this genre but I’m actually starting to relent a bit with respect to Levy; while she’s not one of my personal favorites, I find her work always interesting and worth checking out. I’ve already added the Pym biography to the shelves, as Ms Barbara is one of my very favorite writers (her work just gets better every time I read it).
    I wasn’t interested at all in O’Hagan’s Mayflies but, thanks to your review it’s now on the TBR! I almost embarrassed to say that, as the TBR list probably has a couple of thousand entries by this point.
    I’m dying to read Drive Your Plow, but I’ve avoided it, primarily because I get pretty depressed thinking about humanity’s relationship with animals, or, indeed, any facet of nature. I had thought I’d try Tokarczuk through another of her books but . . . I’m afraid I’m not up for The Books of Jacob right now and Flights seems a bit intimidating. Hmmm – it might be Plow after all.
    Anyway, at the risk of adding to my overflowing stacks of unread books, I eagerly await the Part II of your 2021 favorites!

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Ah, thanks, Janakay, I’m glad you enjoyed it. And yes, I recall our previous discussion about the Barberis, and the great point you made about its focus on liminal states/spaces, e.g. the crossover from summer to autumn, the move from afternoon to evening, the contrast between city and suburbs etc. etc. It seemed to perfectly capture the tone/mood of the book.

      As for The Cost of Living, I would thoroughly recommend you take the plunge. It’s a really difficult book to describe, partly due to its vignette-style structure, but there’s also something about Levy’s prose style that’s hard to articulate. I think you have to experience it for yourself, if that makes sense? Anyway, a very perceptive book, the sort of text that may get you thinking about your own life and how comfortable you feel about certain aspects of it.

      Reply
  5. A Life in Books

    So pleased to see Whereabouts on your list, Jacqui. An absolute gem! As to the others, you’ve added the Levy and Barbéris to my list, Intimacies was already on it and I think I’ll have to reconsider Mayflies which I started at the wrong time last year and abandoned.

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      You know it’s funny. When I first heard about Whereabouts, it didn’t particularly appeal to me. But then, more and more readers whose opinions I respect started talking about it online — there was a readalong on Twitter, in the summer I think? — to the point where I couldn’t resist. Maybe it’s one of those books that doesn’t sound very ‘exciting’ on paper because it’s not plot-driven, or even character-driven in a conventional sense. It’s driven more by experiences, the movement of the woman around the city, her reflections, and the encounters that take place therein.

      Re: Mayflies, I think you’d love the second half in particular, but the book as a whole is perfectly balanced. It needs the ‘exhilaration of youth’ in part one for the heartbreak of part two to hit home. Definitely worth another try, if you can find time for it.

      Reply
  6. Cathy746books

    Great to see Intimacies and My Phantoms on your list Jacqui – I loved them both. I’m planning to start Mayflies at the weekend and I almost bought myself A Sunday in Ville-D’Avray this morning! Wish I had now…

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Oh, I think you’ll love Mayflies, Cathy, definitely a book I would recommend to you given your passion for music. The characterisation is so impressive too, very relatable and realistic. I’ll be interested to see what you think.

      Reply
        1. JacquiWine Post author

          Oh, great! I’m sure he’ll be excellent. He spoke very briefly about Mayflies at a Faber showcase event I went to at the end of Feb 2020, just before the pandemic swept in, and I found him so naturally engaging. Even just hearing him speak about the book for 10 mins made it sound very appealing. Heartfelt too, that really came across on the night.

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  7. Rohan

    What an interesting and, it seems, rewarding reading year this list reflects! I loved Plow too. A lot of the others here are ones I can’t seem to get easily here (Riley!). I have read a few of Hadley’s; I don’t respond to her with as much excitement as I know Dorian does, but I admire her enough that maybe I will keep an eye out for this one. I’ve never read Levy but you make this one sound really enticing!

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Thanks, Rohan! Yes, it’s been a great year reading-wise, a bright spot amid the turmoil of the pandemic and toxic political environment etc. Lord knows what we would have done without box sets and books…

      I think you’d like the Levy a lot, definitely worth checking out. Plus, it’s short but thoughtful and insightful – a good combination, I feel. Somehow she manages to pack a lot into this slim book without making it seem dense or dry, which is quite a feat.

      According to Dorian and other Hadley fans, The Past is considered to be one of her best, so even if you’ve felt a little ambivalent towards some of her others, it might be worth considering? Not that you don’t have lots of other books competing for your attention, I’m sure!

      Will you be doing your own ‘best-of-the year’ list, Rohan? I do hope so!

      Reply
  8. Liz Dexter

    What a good list! I’ve not read any of them but have enjoyed your reviews for sure! I’m just doing one list but I’ve read a lot this year and think I’ll allow myself 15 or even 20, if I can find that many stand-out ones when I go back through …

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Thanks, Liz, I shall look forward to it. Yes, you do seem to have read a lot this year, especially non-fiction – I’ll be interested to see what stood out. :)

      Reply
  9. heavenali

    What a gorgeous pile of books, I have only read two, Whereabouts and Drive Your Plow… both were wonderful. Several others are on my radar because of your reviews though. The Dominique Barbéris sounds like something I would like and I am also interested in The Shadowy Third and My Phantoms.

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      The Barberis is wonderfully shadowy and enigmatic – very much the kind of WIT read you would enjoy, I think. There’s a timeless quality to it that really comes through, almost as if it could have been set in the middle of the 20th century. I’d love to hear what you think of it.

      The Shadowy Third is excellent too, and so beautifully written. It’s actually quite hard to believe that it’s Parry’s first book, such is the elegance of its structure and prose!

      Reply
  10. madamebibilophile

    Much to my surprise (because I’m so behind on reading) I’ve read two of these – Drive Your Plow and The Cost of Living. Now I think about it, they have quite a lot in common in terms of themes, despite being so different. I loved them both, great to see them make your list Jacqui.

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Yes, it hadn’t occurred to me before, but now you mention it I think they *do* have certain things in common…especially the focus on a middle-aged woman, no longer in a relationship, someone who is independently minded with strong values and views. It’s funny how these connections emerge, almost without us realising it!

      Glad to hear that you loved both of those books. I’m looking forward to getting back to Levy’s trilogy fairly soon!

      Reply
  11. Julé Cunningham

    This year has been a year of wonderful reading, I think my themes during the year might be coming-of-age stories and books that pushed against boundaries in one way or another. Andrew O’Hagan is a writer I’ve been meaning to try, so maybe next year!

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      I love a good coming-of-age story, and there’s definitely a novel that falls into that category in my second post, the one on older books. I’m looking forward to seeing what you choose as your bookish highlights of the year Julé, assuming you’ll do a round-up of course!

      Reply
      1. Julé Cunningham

        Well, I have to ‘fess up – I’m afraid trying to put together a top ten list or those very careful stats doesn’t much appeal to me.😬 Probably the closest I’m going to come is the rather random selection of new-to-me authors and old favorites that was in my post earlier this week.

        Reply
  12. gertloveday

    Good to read of your favourites for the past year. I think Drive Your Plough and The Years would be my favourites from this selection. I was disappointed inthe Lahiri; found it cold and disengaged. But I guess that is the nature of this woman.

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      I really wanted to love The Years, especially as the subject and era were right up my street. But while I admired Ernaux’s technical brilliance and dazzling prose, the book didn’t move or engage me quite as much as I’d hoped. Maybe my expectations were too high…it’s difficult to tell. Oddly enough though, I have a feeling that I will prefer her other books, possibly due to their simpler, starker style?

      Sorry you didn’t take to the Lahiri, but I get where you’re coming from on it. The style is quite detached — deliberately so, I think — and it won’t suit everyone. Besides, life would be rather dry and dull if we all liked the same things. (In my book group, we all feel the discussions are more valuable when we disagree or have different responses to certain aspects or characters. It just makes everything more interesting to discuss!)

      Reply
  13. BookerTalk

    The titles that appeal to be most from your list are the novellas. I’ve only been reading this format for a few years but am loving the experience. The Dominique Barbéris and the Jhumpa Lahiri are now being added to my wish list.

    Reply
  14. kaggsysbookishramblings

    Really interesting selection of books, Jacqui! I’ve only read Drive Your Plow, but there are several which appeal there – the Bowen and Mayflies in particular. Will be interested to see what’s on your backlisted books of the year post!

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      I know you were a little hesitant about Julia Parry’s book at first, wondering if there would be enough about Bowen etc etc., but it’s such an absorbing story in its own right that the link to Bowen is kind of a bonus (if that makes sense). I found it fascinating, and beautifully written too. It’s hard to believe that this is Parry’s first book…

      Reply
  15. Grier

    I’ve noted a few of your titles and hope to read them next year, particularly the Levy and the Lahiri. I’ve long admired Lahiri and I keep hearing how good Levy is. I already have two Tokarczuk novels in my audiobook queue, too. I really enjoy reading your reviews, even your backlisted ones. I’ve just read Penelope Fitzgerald’s Innocence and then read your lovely review. It’s like discussing the book with an old friend.

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Oh, how lovely! I have very fond memories of reading Innocence earlier this year; it felt like taking a trip back into the the glamorous world of 1950s Italy, so I’m glad to hear you enjoyed it too. Whereabouts and The Cost of Living would be two excellent choices for the future, Grier – very much up your street, I think. And thanks for all your comments this year – I’ve really enjoyed our interactions and chats about books, especially as our tastes seem relatively well aligned.

      Reply
  16. Constance Martin

    Ah, some lovely sounding titles. I have been thinking about The Past for my book group and I am eager to read Blitz Spirit (hoping it will be published in the US).

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      The Past would be a great choice for a book group as there’s quite a lot to discuss, especially around the characters and family dynamics. It’s a quiet, unshowy novel, but very accomplished. And fingers crossed for a US release of Blitz Spirit, hopefully in 2022!

      Reply
  17. Lisa Hill

    Goodness, I haven’t read any of these though some are on my TBR. Most of my recent releases tend to be Australian, and I catch up with international titles at my leisure…

    Reply
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  19. Max Cairnduff

    I’ve not started working out my own end of year list yet (I probably won’t before January, not least as I’m still hoping to read Black Narcissus this year which I see is on your other list).

    Drive your Bones and Ville d’Avray are I agree both excellent, and both will I expect be on my own list. You were part of getting me to read Ville in fact, so thanks for that.

    Lucy Caldwell is interesting. I read her collection Multitudes earlier in the year, no idea how it came to my attention, and it was very good. Given that I’m not surprised to see her getting on your end of year list and it’s good to see her reaching a wider audience. I suspect that was building even before she won her prize or I can’t see otherwise why she’d have got on my radar – I wasn’t particularly on the lookout for new short story writers.

    Tessa Hadley is the other which caught my attention. I know the name, but I don’t really know her work. I’ll have a read of your review.

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      I’m really looking forward to seeing your list, Max, whenever you get a chance to post – it’s always one of my favourites, so it’s good to know you’re planning to do it, even if the books themselves are yet to be confirmed!

      Black Narcissus is terrific, and I really hope you like it as much as I did. I was a bit nervous going into it, having loved the P&P film for years, but luckily it wasn’t an issue in the end. Godden’s book is more than good enough to strand on its own, and the sense of place is particularly strong. Lush, evocative, heady, sensual – all the elements that come across so wonderfully in the film. We get a a little more of Sister Clodagh’s backstory in the book, and the other nuns are more clearly differentiated from one another too – better fleshed out, I guess.

      I’m so glad you liked the Barbéris! I’d love to read more by her going forward, so it’ll be interesting what else comes through in the future. I’m also really glad you’ve mentioned Lucy Caldwell’s Multitudes as I’ve been thinking of picking that up, ever since I read Intimacies (which I think you’d appreciate). She first came my way through the BBC National Short Story Award, maybe 5 or 6 years ago – they’ve shortlisted her three times over the past few years. Alongside Sarah Hall, I think she might be one of the best short story writers working at the moment – certainly on this side of the Atlantic. (I’m much less familiar with who’s hot in the American, Canadian or LatAm arenas, but you or Grant might know more, especially for LatAm.)

      Reply
  20. 1streading

    A couple of these I’ve read before these year – Drive my Plow and The Cost of Living – both great and deserving of their place. Another couple I’d like to read – Mayflies and A Sunday in Ville-d’Avray – both as a result of your reviews!

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Excellent! I think you’ll enjoy both of those. Mayflies for the Scottish connection and the central character’s passion for music, which really comes through, and A Sunday for the evocative, enigmatic mood. In some respects, the Barberies a like a summer-into-autumn equivalent of Winter in Sokcho, especially in tone and mood. I’ll be fascinated to see what you think of them!

      Reply
  21. Annabel (AnnaBookBel)

    I’m late to the coversation, but I also loved three on your list. Mayflies – emotionally wonderful and made me cry, Levy – angry and eloquent and something to identify with, and Plow – totally unexpected! I love the sound of the Barberis too.

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      It’s never too late to join in, Annabel! I remember you loving Mayflies, a novel that manages to be both utterly heartbeaking and strangely exhilarating at once, especially towards the end. I wasn’t sure quite what to expect from Drive Your Plow either, but its lightness of touch came as a very pleasant surprise! The Barberis is wonderful – quite slippery and enigmatic but beautifully done. I think you’d like it a lot.

      Reply
  22. Andrew Blackman

    Great list, Jacqui! I haven’t read any of them, but there are a few on there by authors I’ve read and enjoyed before (Levy, O’Hagan, Lahiri), so it was good to hear about their latest work. Happy New Year, and here’s to discovering lots of great books in 2022!

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Thanks, Andrew – and a Happy New Year to you, too! I’ve read and enjoyed other books by Levy and Lahiri, but the O’Hagan was my first. His book reviews and essays are always interesting to read, so I’m sure I’ll be tempted to try more by him in the future.

      Reply
  23. Pingback: Looking Around……. – reviewsrevues

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