Book of the Year
Autumn by Ali Smith
This year needed this book and Smith has provided it.
A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson
Hot Milk by Deborah Levy
Eileen – Ottessa Moshfegh
At Hawthorn Time – Melissa Harrison
The Winterlings – Cristina Sanchez-Andrade
The Vegetarian – Han Sang
The Ministry of Nostalgia – Owen Hatherley
The Pier Falls – Mark Haddon
Respectable – Lynsey Handley
The Green Road – Anne Enright
Number 11 – Jonathan Coe
The Victorian Chaise Longue – Marghanita Laski
Foxlowe – Eleanor Wasserberg
Still not sure about
The Argonauts – Maggie Nelson
Nelson’s book is essentially a memoir about her family coming to terms with how people create a life within the often confusing, often contrary, frequently disturbing, but always present sexual identity politics of the 21st century. My main criticism was that Nelson refused to present ideas for a future, instead taking the easy (?) option of seeming to imitate heterosexual bonds. And yet…is this book simply a product of our times, when identity politics is fractured into a thousand pieces, a new definition appearing almost daily, another piece in a jigsaw with no box lid to guide us? It may not be a favourite, but it is probably the most thought provoking book I have read this year – and that can only be a good recommendation.
The most beautiful book of 2016:
A perfect Christmas gift, ‘Bitten by Witch Fever: Wallpaper & Arsenic in the Victorian Home’ by Lucinda Hawksley is possibly the most beautiful book of 2016.
In the development of wallpaper, it was discovered that arsenic could enhance the colours and vibrancy of wallpaper, resulting in a frenzy of patterns and designs for the home. This book is a potent history of that craze, from its origins to the inherent dangers of having poison on your walls. It also looks at some of the possible literary connotations: For example, Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’. In that book we witness the mental collapse of a young married woman who comes to see figures hidden inside the wallpaper of the room in which her husband has imprisoned her. Our heroine is clearly suffering from the claustrophobic structures by which middle class women were expected to live, but was that wallpaper also alive with something a little more poisonous?
Ingeniously put together, the book’s text placed within slender booklets which are interspersed amongst page after page of the most glorious prints you will ever see.