A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth
I read this book over several months as part of a read-along, but I started it in July and it was by far the best thing I read that month. In fact, A Suitable Boy is my favourite book from the whole year, hands down. It's an epic tale of four families in post-partition India, but it's more than that too, it's an examination of what it means to be human in all it's forms (it reminded me of Anna Karenina). The links between the characters and the number of plots that Seth does well are awe-inspiring. Honestly, he is a genius. Apparently the sequel, A Suitable Girl, is due out in 2013 and I can't wait.
In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddy Ratner
The Cambodian genocide as seen through the eyes of a child, In the Shadow of the Banyan is a grim but beautifully written book. It's a novel but is based on the experiences of the author, and all the fear of her experiences comes through alongside her love for Cambodia. I couldn't tear my eyes away from this book.
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
Up until this point, I had only read Jane Austen books that I had first seen an adaptation of (Emma, Pride & Prejudice), so Sense and Sensibility was the first Austen book I went into 'blind'. I was worried I wouldn't be able to keep up! But I loved the story of the two sisters, Elinor and Marianne, one led by emotions and one who suppresses them. I'm also getting better at spotting Austen's famous wit! In 2013, I hope to read at least one of the three Austen books I have left.
On Black Sisters' Street by Chika Unigwe
And now for something completely different to Austen! On Black Sisters' Street is about four African women who have become prostitutes in Brussels, seduced by dreams of the wealthy West. When one of their number is murdered, the women come together and start to share their harrowing stories. I liked how Unigwe didn't take the easy way out by making this story too moral - three of the women knew they were going to be prostitutes and made the decision purely for money. Not an easy read, but a good one.
Beside the Sea by Veronique Olmi
Regular readers will know that I am taking part in a read-along of Peirene Press novellas and the best one so far has been Beside the Sea. A worn out mother plans to take her two sons on a holiday to the seaside, one last trip. You can guess the tragic ending before it comes, but Olmi's portrait of the mentally ill, exhausted mother unable to cope with life is unsettling because of how true to life it is.
A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
After resisting this series for over a year, I am now officially hooked. I've read the first two books within the space of three weeks (and these are big books) and am desperate to start the next. Martin's world-building is so good that the books are pure escapism, full of plots, twists and turns. The characters are constantly plotting against each other and it's impressive how Martin keeps up with it all. The high fantasy elements are minimal, so this series will appeal to even non-fantasy readers like me. Expect reviews of the remaining books in 2013, I've got to know what happens next!
2012 was a great year in books, I hope 2013 is the same.
Have you read any of the books on my list?
Ooh, I wanted to read "A Suitable Boy" this year, but it looked far too long and, frankly, I didn't want another huge one after "Anna Karenina". But it's definitely one I'll be looking into soon.ReplyDelete
I love your list - both volumes. It looks like you read some great books this past year. Reading your post has made me want to pick up a few, like "Annabel" and "The Song of Achilles" - I've always loved Greek mythology.
I read A Suitable Boy the year after I read Anna K and it was a decent waiting period. As you say, they are both huge books that require a lot of time.Delete
And if you love Greek Mythology, Song of Achilles is definitely a book for you!
I want to read A Suitable Boy after reading your review now. I am a sucker for Indian literature.ReplyDelete
As for In the Shadow of the Banyan, I just recently came back from a five week trip to South East Asia including Cambodia, where I visited a Killing Field and the Tuol Sleng Prison Museum. I didn't know such a book was out there and am happy that you brought it to my attention.
A Suitable Boy is the best Indian lit I've ever read, and I'm a fan too. I'm sure visiting the Museum & Killing Fields in Cambodia must have been a powerful experience.Delete
I'm so into choosing best books of the year month-by-month! Might have to steal that idea in one form or another (if you don't mind, of course!)ReplyDelete
I've only read Sense and Sensibility of these, but I love it very much :)
Of course I don't mind, steal away! :PDelete
I loved S & S, think it will have a reread before too much time passes.
So pleased that A Suitable Boy is your book of the year- mine too! And Beside the Sea - here's to more readathons next year :)ReplyDelete
It was such a good book, wasn't it? I'm so glad I finally took it off the shelf and read it!Delete
I'm hoping to get to the Game of Thrones series this year. On Christmas my brother-in-law tossed the first four into my lap and told me to read them. He said that they are even better than Lord of the Rings. (!!!!)ReplyDelete
I would love it if you got into the series, another person to discuss it with! They are more fast-paced than LOTR, which in my opinion is a good thing but they are too different to compare. Game of Thrones isn't as moral!Delete
I had such a hard time coming up with Best Books this year, I love the best of the month approach. May steal that for next year. I haven't read most of these, you're a much more diverse reader than I am. Happy new year!ReplyDelete
Steal away! :PDelete
I try to read diversely, but my fall-back genres are historical fiction & fiction set in other countries. I'm an armchair traveller.
I agree with you on the first one! :DReplyDelete
I would love to read In the Shadow of the Banyan and Sense and Sensibility as well. I am an armchair traveller too and would love to read books from different countries. :)
I read Sense and Sensibility in college, but I have to say that I am seriously considering picking up the Game of Thrones series in 2013. You are the latest of many people to gush about how wonderful it is.ReplyDelete
Have a very happy New Year's!
I'm hoping to read some Jane Austen this year too. I've only read Pride and Prejudice and Emma.ReplyDelete
I read Sense and Sensibility and A Suitable Boy is on the TBR list. Have you heard the BBC World Book Club program where Vikram Seth was the guest? That was a good one. My favorite question was a joking one: "Is there ever such a thing as a "suitable boy'?"ReplyDelete