Wednesday 21 December 2011

Best of 2011 Part Two: May To August

Welcome back to my Best Of 2011 posts, where I am highlighting my favourite book from each month of the year.  


Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

I went into this book expecting a story about a hermaphrodite, and it is that, but it's also so much more.  It's an epic family saga of three generations of a Greek-American family and each story is distinct.  My favourite was the story of Cal's parents, who immigrated to America from Greece, and who shouldn't have fallen in love with each other.  I was expecting to be disappointed with this book as The Virgin Suicides is one of my all time favourites, but I loved it.  Recommended for literary fiction fans.


Tiger, Tiger by Margaux Fragoso

Tiger, Tiger is a controversial book.  It's the true story of a relationship between a fifty-one year old man and a seven year old girl.  It's also brutally honest, to the extent that many reviews I've read of this book have been a bit victim-blaming, as Fragoso perfectly describes the process of grooming and how she eventually became the instigator.  It's a disturbing read, especially as many of the adults around Margaux do seem to be aware to some level of what is going on, but unwilling to face the horrible truth.  Recommended especially for anyone who works with young children.


On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan

On Chesil Beach is the story of newly-weds Florence and Edward on the day of their wedding.  Both nervous about the intimacy that is to follow, for different reasons they are apprehensive about their wedding night.  Edward has performance anxiety but Florence is repulsed by the very idea of sexual contact.  Unable to communicate effectively, as a reader you watch as they effectively throw away their love for each other.  This is a short book but packed full of astute observations about being human and relationships.  Recommended for anyone who has ever felt awkward.


Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman

This was my pick for the Booker prize.  Eleven year old Harri arrives in London from Ghana with his Mum and sister and is overwhelmed by the new sights and experiences.  Without realising exactly what he is doing, he soon becomes caught up with local gangs and the murder of a teenager.  I loved this as you completely get inside Harri's head and it's a perfect examination of how growing up in an inner-city area like the one in the book can destroy childhood.  Recommended for anyone who wants to escape themselves, or has connections with the inner-city.

Next time, the last installment: September - December.
I'm really enjoying looking back over all of the books I have read this year.


  1. On Chesil Beach will most likely appear on my 'best of' list, too. I really need to get to work on that...

  2. I LOVED On Chesil Beach! It was the first of McEwan's books I read, and I listened to the audio version which was supremely uncomfortable and ultimately quite touching. Love!

  3. This the first I've heard of Chesil Beach but it sounds pretty interesting. I am so glad you loved Middlesex, it's definitely one of my favorite books! I can't stress how much I like how you've broken this down. Great idea!

  4. I don't think I could handle Tiger, Tiger. Sounds like a bit too much for me (Lolita was a bit too much for me - this one sounds similar?) though I can see how it would be good information in regards to understanding how to identify such a situation. Still, don't know if I could do it.

    After reading Atonement (which I loved until the ending) I've been completely uninterested in McEwan, but On Chesil Beach does sound intriguing. Maybe I'll have to consider forgiving him for that terrible ending. :)

  5. I thought Pigeon English was really excellent. It took me a while to get into the book, but I'm glad I stuck with it.

  6. JoAnn, it's such a good book, isn't it? Look forward to your end of year posts ....

    Andi, I'm glad other people have enjoyed the book :)

    Beth, I've enjoyed your end of year posts too, I feel like I've got to know you better.

    Melody, it is about paedophilia and unlike Lolita, it actually happened. I wouldn't suggest it if Lolita was a bit much. I hope you do read Chesil Beach, though.

    Lindsey, I'm glad you enjoyed it too :)

  7. I like your way here of highlighting a differnt book for each month. AND you get to work 2 extra books in there, too! Also, I like the UK cover of Pigeon English better than the US version that I have.

  8. I ADORED Middlesex and only read it for the first time this year as well. It will definitely make my top ten books read in 2011.

    I'd like to read Pigeon English as well. The premise is intriguing, and I love the title.

  9. Tiger Tiger was a complex story, wasn't it? I had so many questions when it was done. Middlesex was also surprisingly good. I wondered how a story about hermaphroditism would read, but you're right, it was more of a family saga than anything else.

  10. Compete agreement about the Kelman. It was really special!

    On Chesil Beach is one McEwan I've never read...adding it to the list!

  11. As The Crowe Flies and Reads, it was still hard to pick only 12 books! There might even be a post of honorary mentions as I've read so many good books this year ....

    Brenna, I think you would enjoy Pigeon English. And I think I read Middlesex after reading your review of it, so thanks for the encouragement :)

    Trish, it definitely was. My questions were mainly for the adults and along the lines of 'why didn't you do anything?'

    Jenny, hope you enjoy Chesil Beach!

  12. I though On Chesil Beach was very good too, I preferred it to Atonement.
    I still have Pigeon English to read, I've had it a while, I must read it soon. I have picked Tiger, Tiger up and put it down a few times in shops, but I thik I'll read it one day.

    Merry Christmas Sam! :)

  13. We both read Anna Karenina and Middlesex this year! Weird. I think we had different feelings about them, though. I was torn over Middlesex, though in the end I liked it and would probably rank it as one of my favorites for the year. Anna Karenina though... I was disappointed and still don't really get why people love it so much. I just couldn't get on board with any of the characters.