Six Books of 2012

I thought I might write a post of my top ten reads of 2012, but two stood out so far above the rest that I thought I might make it five, and one of those will be a reread.
Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel was, in my eyes, the deserved winner of this year’s Booker Prize. Her prose is so deft, her lyricism, her down-to-earthness all built a believable world with Thomas Cromwell as the unlikely hero at its centre. I was concerned it wouldn’t be as good as the first book in the trilogy, Wolf Hall, but it emphatically is. The only thing that stops me champing at the bit for the third volume is that Mantel has managed to make me rather fond of Cromwell, and of course the third volume is where it all goes horribly wrong. Perhaps that is something of an understatement for his fall from grace, trial and execution.
My second top book was Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? Jeannette Winterson’s powerful memoir. Like Bring Up the Bodies I started reading a library copy, but a few pages in knew it was a book I had to own. It is Winterson’s very own self-help book, how she survived an extraordinary childhood, succeeded against the odds in being herself, made it to Oxford, wrote a fictionalised account of her life in her début novel, had her own fall from grace, depression, attempted suicide, rebirth. Which makes it all sound rather dull. But it isn’t, no it isn’t at all. Her comments, her reflections, her humour, her absolute drive for survival make this a compelling and wonderful book. Her remarks about the importance of well stocked public libraries, or the power of language, the connection between the language of the King James version of the bible and understanding Shakespeare should be engraved on the eyelids of Michael Gove and anyone who thinks education is simply what we put in the National Curriculum. Oh, and she likes cats and dogs too.
In another year, Michèle Roberts Ignorance, a novel about collaboration, occupation and resistance in France under the Nazis, would have been higher up my list. It is a subject the French have not yet really faced, and is thought provoking and often painful stuff.
Penelope Lively’s Heat Wave has all her usual hallmarks; deceptively simple writing about relationships, no wasted words, a picture built up in the reader’s mind, strongly drawn characters, complex ideas covered in a neat paragraph, a story that lingers in the mind and on the eye long after the last page.
In the autumn I reread Pride and Prejudice for the first time in several years, and realised all over again why Jane Austen’s work remains so popular.
I’m going for a sixth book. I bought Savage Lands by Clare Clark for £2.99 in a Waterstone’s promotion. I enjoyed her book the Great Stink a few years back and thought this looked interesting. It was. In the eighteenth century single women were shipped to the new French colony of Louisiana, to be wives to the men who had settled there. Promised a life of ease and plenty, the reality falls far short. Told through the eyes of two main characters Elisabeth and Auguste, the book tells how they come to make a life in this new world, and the deceptions, the privations, the exploitation of and disdain for the native Indians by the colonists.
It is only now I have finished this that I realise all six books I have mentioned are by women. I borrowed four books from the library today, three of them novels, two of those novels by women.


31 thoughts on “Six Books of 2012

  1. Hello, Isobel,

    I have that feeling that there are more women writing than men… In fact, I remarked on this the last time I was in London, in 1999, it seemed all the books enhanced on the tables were written by ladies… I also notice almost all blogs, above all about cats, are held by women… I think it is thanks to our communication skills, I don’t say they are better, but I think we feel more like communicating…

    I am going to your previous post now, about that little tuxedo girl, I am so concerned about her…

    Have a nice New Year’s Eve!

  2. I recently purchased Wolf Hall and hope to read it in 2013. And Pride and Prejudice is one of my favorite books of all time. I’ve read it many times and each time I love it even more.

  3. After you told me about Jeanette Winterson’s new memoir, I have been saving it (with difficulty) for 2013. Only a few hours to go now.
    Happy New Year!

  4. Oh, what a treat, a list of recommended books. I have Jeannette Winterson’s book on the bedside table, with many others waiting my attention.

  5. Isobel as soon as I click off of here I am ordering Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? Although I am working at my normal as being that we all deserve to be happy!
    Happy New Year Isobel! May 2013 treat you well and may you be happy, healthy and have enough! And may MasterB continue to be a happy healthy ginger boy! MasterB’s calendar is hanging in the kitchen.. 🙂

    • “After a thought” !??! Hasan, you are revealing yourself as quite unreconstructed. Time for you to embrace feminism and come to understand what it means. And alas that means also recognising that not all women are great sensitive etc.

      • lol, you took me wrong, by after a thought i meant thinking about it, you know it is known that women are better than men at language, and writting is language right?
        about feminism, if you really know me you wouldnt have said that, if i discuss any issue people would get bored and run away, am not that good speaker, but when it never happened that i was explaining why i prefer girls to boys, and why i love females more than males, and people got bored, and i have a story about that.
        i really think that women are better than men in almost everything, in passion, love, hardwork…. the only place where men are better than women, is where being un emotional is needed, cause men are less emotional and women are too much emotional, and maybe in maths and physics, although you know men are becoming more lazy, and women are proving they could even be better at this domain too.
        yet, i have my own opinions about every ones personality, am a virgo and i have an opinion in every thing, but am not to force it over anyone, i have the right to have my own opinion dont i?

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