I started the year with some blockbusters. The Bone Clocks was a disappointment though mainly due to my very high expectations. The Booker prize winner The Narrow Road to the Deep Northwas another disappointment – in common with almost all Booker Prize winners it was too long (When will a novel of 300 pages win the prize?). Most disappointing book I’ve read this year though has to be Purity.
Favourite characters – Werner – All the Light We Cannot See; Freddie, Isabella and Oskar – The Way Back to Florence; Teddy and the gloriously despicable Viola – A God in Ruins; Elena and Lila – My Brilliant Friend.
This was the year I learned a lot about the more recent history of the city in which I live. Living in Florence it’s easy to believe nothing of much consequence has happened here since the Renaissance. However, walking the streets, you often come across plaques commemorating individuals slain during WW2, the most poignant perhaps are the ones in Piazza Santa Maria Novella marking the building where the Jews were kept before being deported to Auschwitz and the one in Piazza Tasso that mentions the slaying of a five year old boy. The novel I have to thank for providing me with such a moving account of life in Florence during the war was The Way Back to Florence by Glenn Haybittle – a novel which carries its extensive research with fleet footed agility. There are some real life characters in this novel, like Mario Carita, the head of the secret police and as nasty an individual as you’re likely to come across – Villa Triste, the house of torture, still stands in Florence and, incredibly, is now home to many migrant families. The novel dramatises real events too, like the destruction of Florence’s bridges, the internment camps for the Jews and the partisan battles in the Tuscan hills. Elyse wrote a great review of it –https://www.goodreads.com/review/show…
This led me to become more interested in what happened in Italy as a whole during the war and I’ve since read a number of books, both fictional and non-fictional, on the subject. My list can be found here – https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/9…
Favourite ten books of the year
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Trieste by Daša Drndić
My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
The Way Back to Florence by Glenn Haybittle
A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson
How to Be Both by Ali Smith
A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley
Artemisia by Anna Banti
Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson
Favourite non fiction
Benevolence and Betrayal: Five Italian Jewish Families Under Fascism by Alexander Stille
Massive thanks to many of my GR friends who have provided inspiration, sustenance and fabulous recommendations throughout the year. I read somewhere a writer who was contemptuous that the internet had made literary critics of everyone. However, I find the reviews here on GR much more truthful and trustworthy than the nepotism that often passes as literary criticism in the publishing world where, it seems to me, no one will ever give a bad review for fear of a later revenge review.