Hello, happy new year – and happy new decade!
2019 was another great reading year with the Expat Book Club – here’s a run down of all the books we read last year.
Did you read any of these? What did you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Here are all our top five books of last year, as voted for by our members.
1. Where The Crawdads Sing, Delia Owens
This beautifully lyrical debut novel by American wildlife scientist Delia Owens has been a huge hit – picked up by Reese Witherspoon, it’s also set to be made into a film. It’s an account of a girl growing up wild in the marshlands of North Carolina, and the difficulties she has to overcome. The depictions of nature are just stunning, the characters are vivid and the plot is a real page turner.
2. Educated, Tara Westover
Another best-selling book by an American author, but this time it’s a coming-of-age memoir. Westover grows up in a Mormon fundamentalist family in Idaho; her father believes that the world will end at the stroke of the millennium. The book chronicles the extremes of her childhood; they are poor, her father doesn’t believe in formal education. There are horrifying accidents and episode of abuse but, ultimately, through education (despite no formal schooling Westover gets to college and then completes a PHD at Cambridge), Westover is able to move out and move on – but not without consequences.
3. The Testaments, Margaret Atwood
This book, the sequel to the Handmaid’s Tale, was hotly anticipated. Did it disappoint or live up to expectation? Well, I loved it. I enjoyed the threading together of three different narratives and filling in lots of the Gilead gaps. Some have likened this to YA fiction. I’m not sure, but I do know that I couldn’t put it down – and I appreciated – and needed – the send of light at the end.
3. Normal People, Sally Rooney
In tied place at number three is Normal People, the much lauded second novel by Irish writer Sally Rooney. I read this in a weekend; I couldn’t stop, and I think the reason that it’s so compelling is because the characters are so very well drawn. It charts the relationship between Marianne and Connell from school to university; it’s beautifully observed and the dialogue really leaps off the page. A portrait of what it means to be young and in love.
4. The Versions of Us, Laura Barnett
Remember Sliding Doors? Well this novel follows a similar principle – think of all those seemingly small decisions in life. What would happen if we had made a different choice? And so we follow two beautifully evoked characters through three different versions of their lives. These are love stories intertwined – but not just romantic love. It shows us what it means to be married, how relationships change. Love of parents, of children. I found it hugely moving.
And here are all the rest of the books we read and enjoyed…
Girls Burn Brighter, Shobha Rao
The Secret River, Kate Grenville
Swan Song, Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott
Celestial Bodies, Jokha Alharthi