Okay, this is my (current) top
10, in alphabetical order by author because I really can't bring
myself to choose one over the other. I've added another list at the
bottom of the very-nearlies, which - depending on my mood, what I've
read recently, who's asking & other variables – may well make
the top 10 on another day of the year. But enough disclaimers, here
- A Summer of Drowning by John Burnside
- Claudine in Paris by Colette
- The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt
- Love of Seven Dolls by Paul Gallico
- I Am David by Ann Holm
- The Bone People by Keri Hulme
- Duchess of Nothing by Heather McGowan
- Remembering Babylon by David Malouf
- Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
- The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson
A Summer of Drowning by John Burnside:
A haunting novel of psychological suspense, evoking a wonderfully brooding Nordic landscape, and bringing folk tales to life through the thought processes of a susceptible teenage girl. Dense, intense, suspenseful and mythic.
Claudine in Paris by Colette:
A classic coming-of-age story set in fin-de-siecle Paris. Remarkably fresh, light writing imbued with a true joie de vivre.
The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt:
An absolute joy to read - a stream of consciousness narrative about a child prodigy whose life becomes a quest to find a father figure. Full of diversions and explorations, and told with sparkling wit, intelligence and poignancy. Original and engaging.
Love of Seven Dolls by Paul Gallico:
Against a backdrop of murky, post-war Paris and peopled with faded carnival entertainers, innocence is pitted against brutality and bitterness in this unique exploration of a multiple personality. In some ways overly sentimental, this is still a beautiful story.
I am David by Ann Holm:
A beautiful, life-affirming book about the power of the human spirit. The prose style is simple but nonetheless conveys an eye for small yet important detail, and has a control which emphasises rather than eliminates the poetry of the author's words. Although a children's book, it has more depth than many adult novels I have read and is hugely moving.
The Bone People by Keri Hulme:
sumptuous, poetic language this novel reeled me in,
swept me along and threw me out, gasping for breath at the other end.
It is a massive, swirling story which consumed me entirely. The ending is heartbreaking. Although the middle section might have benefited from a little editing, its overall scope and impact is such that it
would seem petty to quibble!
Duchess of Nothing by Heather
A witty, wordy and wonderful stream-of-consciousness diversion. The narrator is a wonderful creation and her meandering story is a joy to read.
Remembering Babylon by David
was surprised by the power behind this carefully exposed story. There
are moments of pure, undistilled beauty in the prose, but the biggest
strength was the evocation of place and the people
within those places. Revealed one by one, a motley assortment of characters grow from one dimensional caricatures
into living, breathing, flawed human beings, painting a subtle but telling portrait of community, humanity and its prejudices.
Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger:
Written in 1951, the story is set in a different era with different social values and expectations, yet the emotions portrayed are timeless and powerful. A unique voice, much copied by far lesser authors, this novel is the original and best.
The Family Fang - Kevin Wilson:
With a deft, light touch, this novel both implicitly and explicitly raises lots of interesting questions about the nature of art, yet manages to avoid pretentiousness. Just the right mix of family drama, humour, art, philosophy and mystery, combine to make this a thoroughly enjoyable, warm and engaging read.
(Italicised titles in the 'very nearlies' list previously graced the Top 10.)