So, unsurprisingly, I’m a little late with this as it’s just past the middle of the year BUT I thought I would try splitting my favourite books of the year into two halves for a change. At first I thought it would make it easier for me as I’m always rushing to write reviews over Yule, but as I’ll be writing perhaps double the amount of reviews its unlikely to work out that way. Never mind though, I’m committed to trialling it! At least it’ll mean I can talk about more books instead of having to narrow it down so much like last year.
The Illumination of Ursula Flight by Anne-Marie Crowhurst
This book follows the first 19 years of Ursula Flight’s life as she struggles to correlate her intelligent and feisty personality with what society expects of her. Despite the slow pace, I was pulled into the era by the use of language and writing style, along with the clever use of letters, lists and scripts throughout. I really enjoyed that aspect as I had not been expecting it and haven’t read anything with that sort of format before. Ursula’s humour and wit shone through! Even when faced with tragedy, she managed to find some aspect to look upon with mirth. She was so likeable and sweet too that by the end of the book I was incredibly fond of her. My only complaint is that certain sections seemed too long and others too rushed but overall I adored it.
Her Body And Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado
This short story collection took me by surprise, thrilling me with the dark tales that were still in my thoughts long after I finished the book. While not every story was perfect, as a whole they were modern faerie tales, thoughtful and cautionary. Each one focused on women, their sexualities, their trials in society and the expectations placed upon them. The writing was wonderful, so many sentences struck a chord with me and much like Angela Carter’s work, I feel Machado’s will be talked about for years to come.
My Cousin Rachel by Daphne Du Maurier
After reading Rebecca last year and adoring it, I’ve been on a bit of a Du Maurier binge this year! While loving all of the ones I’ve read so far, this one is the only that compares to Rebecca in sheer brilliance in terms of tension and writing. The first chapter alone was absolutely stunning for its metaphors and foreshadowing. Du Maurier was the master of slow building tension, the uncomfortable feeling growing almost without me noticing until I was as tangled between the half truths and lies as much as Philip as he tries to uncover Rachel’s true intentions. The last couple of sentences left me stunned, mumbling ‘fuck’ to myself as they were so full of meaning and I immediately went and read that first chapter again! That rarely happens! I will say this for Du Maurier too, she knew how to write an ending!
Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik
I’ve been waiting so long for this book and it did not disappoint! Uprooted is one of my favourite books and this sister book stands beside it perfectly, combining everything I love, folk lore, history and faerie tales. If I could read books like this all year long I would be a very happy lady! I’d previously read the short story that spawned this novel in the anthology The Starlit Wood and perhaps due to this, and the preconceived perception of where the story would go, I was so pleasantly delighted by the twists the plot took. I was never quite able to guess what was going to happen next. I adored the theme of winter that ran through, from the Staryks ice realm to the heavy sense of loss and hardship that was part of each storyline. It was incredibly vivid, weaving the setting with Polish and Jewish traditions and folklore. Instead of one lady to love like in Uprooted, in this Novik has created three, all incredibly strong ladies at that. Miryem and Irina are the focus of the plot but Wanda still shines despite this. I find it hard to pick a favourite as they are all determined and wonderful in there own right. I’m crossing all my fingers and toes that Novik writes another faerie tale retelling at some point because I need more!
The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gower
This one is very similar to Ursula Flight in regards to the immersive tone though this doesn’t have as much humour. In it’s place is the hint of the fantastical, always teasingly just out of reach as it weaves a tale of two people, Mr Hancock and Angelica Neal, that are brought together by a mermaid. Whether mermaids truly exist or if it’s all false isn’t explored until the end so don’t be mistaken and expect them to be the main focus in that regard. At its heart it’s about unlikely characters learning to bear with each other as they struggle with the paths set before them and ultimately realising that it might not be too late to change. Despite its length I was pulled into Georgian London, adoring the slow pace and all the glittering details, especially the scenes within the brothels!
So there you have it, five books that delighted me and have stayed in my mind this first half of the year. I’ll be posting Part 02 at the usual time over Yule!