Reading is one of my favourite pastimes and this year I’ve read a book or two each week. After talking to friends and family over Christmas there are certain books that keep being mentioned …. over and over again. So I thought I’d canvas their opinions and those of some of my favourite authors to come up with a few of our favourite novels from 2019.
I had the pleasure of interviewing the charismatic, Trent Dalton, earlier in the year and his magical novel Boy Swallows Universe has been one of the most talked about and best loved books of the year. My son’s girlfriend is one of the many who rates it the best book she’s ever read. It’s been adapted for the stage by Queensland Theatre and this will be one of the most highly anticipated events on Brisbane’s theatre calendar. Trent told me that he’d put his heart and soul on the page. Many memories from his childhood just poured out and this was one book from 2019 which has resonated with readers all over the world.
Then there was the highly anticipated Margaret Atwood work The Testaments, which is a sequel to the mega successful The Handmaid’s Tale. It has scored a big thumbs up from my friends who binge watched the television series and love to read dystopian novels.
For me, the book of the year was Delia Owen’s Where The Crawdads Sing. It combined all my favourite genres – part crime thriller, part coming – of – age story and full of the joys of the natural world. It is a book that has stayed with me long after I finished reading. People would stop me in shops and restaurants to recommend this book and I’m so glad I listened.
Local Brisbane author, Cass Moriarty, spoke about her favourite reads at the reopening of the newly renovated Ashgrove Library. Cass recommended Ann Patchett’s The Dutch House as one of her must reads for the year. I also highly rate this novel which tells the story of brother and sister, Danny and Maeve Conroy, over five decades. It details how their lives are obsessively connected to their childhood home, a magnificent folly, which harbours the family’s murky history behind its majestic façade. It’s a poignant tale with such well drawn characters and is so beautifully written.
Cass also recommends the work of Brisbane author, Melissa Ashley, with her second work of fiction The Bee and The Orange Tree. This work is set in the Paris literary salons of the 17th Century. I have just read Melissa’s brilliant tale The Birdman’s Wife, so this new release will be on top of my to – be – read pile.
My favourite romance read of the year was penned by my Instagram friend, Maya Linnell. Her beautiful rural romance Wildflower Ridge is full of baking , country life and well rounded characters , who you really learn to care about. It tells the story of Penny McIntyre, an ambitious city professional who has to go back to her family home in the country to recuperate from a mystery illness. Back to her Dad and three sisters and ex boyfriend Tim Patterson, who was the reason she ran away in the first place.
Maya knows all about country life from living in the country and having been a country journalist. It shows in the authenticity of the novel. Maya’s writing voice is charming and immensely readable. All my friend’s agree it was one of their favourites for the year. I’m so looking forward to her second novel Bottlebrush Creek which will be coming out June 2020. This story tells the tale of Penny’s younger sister, Amy and will be the second book in a series.
Maya kindly shared her favourites for the year. She says, “ My international favourite was the oh- so -funny and sweet novel The Flat Share by British author Beth O’ Leary and on home turf, I absolutely loved Home Fires by Fiona Lowe, such a gripping and relatable story about a community impacted by bushfires. We were so spoilt for great books this year, I feel lucky to be part of such a thriving literary community of readers and writers. “
Both sound like great reads. My reading list will be overflowing again this year.
Another novel I can’t go past is Elizabeth Gilbert’s City Of Girls, a joyous celebration of life in New York. It tells the story of 19 year old Vivian Morris who’s been kicked out of Vassar in 1940. Her family ships her off to New York to live with her Aunt Peg. Peg owns the crumbling Lily Playhouse in Manhattan and here Vivian is introduced into a world of showgirls, actors and hedonistic pleasure. When Vivian makes a scandalous mistake she must question the sort of life she really wants. I loved that it was told from the viewpoint of the 89 year old Vivian looking back on her life. Gilbert has written a story full of powerful wisdom about human desire and connection.This book was an absolute delight!
I had been waiting patiently for a new book , ever since reading local author Frances Whiting’s beautiful debut Walking On Trampolines. It was well worth the wait. The Best Kind of Beautiful tells the story of Florence and Albert, friends who think they know each other well. Yet how well do we know anyone and can we misinterpret them and their actions ? This novel is full of music, light and joy, with quirky characters you will fall in love with. It’s a special story about a unique family who will delight and enchant you. A perfect Summer read which I have gifted to many friends.
Sally Rooney’s award winning Normal People was another character driven story that I loved and this one definitely resonated with adult readers of all ages. I was lucky enough to meet Melina Marchetta in Brisbane and her story The Place on Dalhousie, set in Melbourne and Queensland was a firm favourite with me and my peers. The beautiful The Gift Of Life by Sunshine Coast author Josephine Moon tackled the difficult subject of organ transplant with integrity and beauty. It reminded me of the wonder of life and the relationships we forge throughout our lives.
Ann Weisgarber’s historical piece The Glovemaker gave me a masterclass in creating tension. In the contemporary genre, Tess Woods sympathetically wrote of family lives and love in Love And Other Battles. The Whisper Network by Chandler Baker was beloved by fans of Liane Moriarty and made you really think about modern life in terms of business, power and women’s relationships.
It has been a wonderful year for new release books and I have so many more that I’ve yet to read. Looking forward to the rest of 2020 I’m keen to read to the magnificent Kate Grenville’s – A Room Made Of Leaves, Trent Dalton’s second novel All Our Shimmering Skies, another coming – of – age story which is set in Darwin during World War Two and Sofie Laguna’s new work with the working title of Big Sky.
What are some of the books that you and your friends and family have been reading and talking about? I’d love to hear your choices. For now Happy New Year to my readers and those who’ve listened to my podcast Buzzing About Books. Looking forward to sharing more book buzz with you throughout 2020.
Head on over to Twitter and check out the “Authors for Fireys” fundraiser. The concept, involves writers selling their work on social media to the person who pledges the biggest donation to Victoria’s Country Fire Authority. Follow the hashtag #authorsforfireys on Twitter and get in on the bidding!
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