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Top Ten Reads of 2021

What a great year for books. I don’t whether it is because there was a backlog that hadn’t been published in Covid but I feel as though there has been an abundance of inspiring and compelling reads this year. I struggled to limit it to ten.

Sorrow and Bliss is probably top of the list, and I love it even more having watched Meg Mason in conversation with @WhatSarahreadnext last week. Meg, I feel as though we are on first name terms now, is as humble and charming and funny as you might imagine if you've read her brilliantly heartfelt and yet hilariously acerbic novel. It is about Martha’s mental health journey which comes to a crunch as she hits that formidable milestone of 40 and begins to reimagine her past and dismember the labels that have been attached to her for as long as she can remember, and in doing so she begins to find the magic that she never knew was there. If you only read one book this year - please make it this one! I think The Paper Palace might be a close second - a beautifully evocative story that takes place over two days and yet spans fifty years and four generations as Elle grapples with the crucial decision whether to stay with her husband or leave with her lover. And I loved Nothing But Blue Sky – a tragic but humble story about a widow lamenting the loss of his beloved wife who died in a plane crash. Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller is another melancholic novel about bereavement, there seems a be a theme here! A pair of middle-aged twins who have been brought up on the fringes of society, are struggling to cope in the modern world in the wake of the death of their mother. But it is not as bleak as it sounds and the language is so poetic and so visceral that is somehow breaks and lifts your heart at the same time. The Mercies is a story that has stayed with me for a long since finishing – set in northern Norway in 1617 when the entire male population of a village are wiped out in a storm leaving a community of women to survive, bond and ultimately betray each other. It is packed full of drama, patriarchal violence and brutal landscapes but underneath lies a quiet and devastating love story. And then there is Kazuo Ishiguro’s Klara and the Sun – a dystopian novel about teenage friendship and love that is so extraordinarily complex and heartfelt you can't believe you are crying about a robot. Transcendant Kingdom is as beautiful as its cover! Following a Ghanain family's journey as migrants in America and their struggles with drug addiction and depression. It is quietly insightful despite the hard hitting subject matter and not a word is wasted. Girl A is my top page-turner of the year, a haunting story about a girl who escapes from her abusive parents. And whilst there are several deeply traumatic scenes in the book the underlying sense is of hope. I literally read it in one sitting and failed to do anything else, this one sucks you in and won't let you out til you're finished and floored! Summerwater is also a one day read but in a very different way. Sarah Moss' extraordinary perception and delivery of every day thoughts and actions will have you laughing out loud despite the impending sense of doom and the gloomy setting on holiday in Scotland in the rain. From page one you know that it is not going to end well but have no idea on which of the holiday makers' heads the axe is going to fall. And last but by no means least Sally Rooney's latest masterpiece Beautiful World Where Are You? A quiet but dense story about friendships and relationships that peak and plummet, not because of earth shattering events but rather the misconceptions and insecurities that plague us all every day. Rooney's masterful dialogue and stripped back language is as astute and profound as ever and the result is a joy to read. Lets hope next year is as fruitful and compelling on the book front- my 'To be read' pile is growing so it looks promising!!

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