Best Books of 2019
“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language, and next year’s words await another voice.”
― T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets
I can’t believe it’s the end of 2019?! This year has been absolutely unbelievable, I can’t believe how much has changed, and I’m ending the year in a very different place to where I started. We’ve moved house, I’m about two weeks off having our second baby, Dougie has grown and developed and thrived and I’ve had the most amazing year with blogging and reading.
I wanted to do a round-up post of my favourite books of the year. I was having a look back over my Goodreads and reading challenge blog posts, and while this could have ended up being an incredibly long post, I decided to limit my favourites to just four!
These are all such different books – anyone that knows me knows how much I love reading thrillers, but this year I really tried to branch out and read other genres!
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
“Perhaps there is some secret sort of homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers. How delightful if that were true.”
― Mary Ann Shaffer, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Author: Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Genre: Historical fiction
Page Count: 274
Published: 10 May 2009
Plot: (10.0 / 10) Characters: (10.0 / 10) Ending: (9.5 / 10)
It’s 1946. The war is over, and Juliet Ashton has writer’s block. But when she receives a letter from Dawsey Adams of Guernsey – a total stranger living halfway across the Channel, who has come across her name written in a second hand book – she enters into a correspondence with him, and in time, with all the members of the extraordinary Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.
Through their letters, the society tell Juliet about life on the island, their love of books – and the long shadow cast by their time living under German occupation. Drawn into their irresistible world, Juliet sets sail for the island, changing her life forever.
For me, this was the best book I read this year. The story is told in two parts – during the first half, Juliet is in London, corresponding with the residents of Guernsey, and in part two, Juliet travels to Guernsey.
It took approximately one page before I completely fell in love with this book. It is an epistolary novel (written in the form of letters), which is a style I don’t usually enjoy, but in this book, it works perfectly. There are a lot of characters in the story, which can be quite difficult to keep track of, but each person has a story to tell, whether it is shared through one letter, or several, and they all brought something unique to the story. There are obviously sometimes when the letters have to be overly descriptive – at one point Juliet thanks Sidney, her editor, for sending some red sequinned tap shoes – generally in a letter you’d be more likely to just say “Thanks for the shoes!” but naturally it’s more entertaining for the reader to get the extra descriptions!
I love reading war literature, I find it fascinating, but this was so different – I had no idea about the Occupation in Guernsey and it was so interesting to learn more about it. The stories about the relationships between the Germans and the residents of Guernsey was fascinating – I now really want to visit the island to learn more about it. The story is so descriptive, so vivid that I actually forgot it was fiction – I felt like I was reading about real people.
“We clung to books and to our friends; they reminded us that we had another part to us.”
― Mary Ann Shaffer, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
The story is beautifully written, and once I finished, I discovered that due to ill health, Mary Ann Shaffer had been unable to write once the manuscript had been sold, and her niece, Annie Barrows had stepped in to make the changes the editor requested. I think this is such a lovely thing to hear, and it somehow adds to the heartwarming nature of the story. Mary Ann Shaffer had visited Guernsey where her interest in the German occupation during World War II began, but it wasn’t until 20 years later that she started writing this novel.
The Flatshare (Beth O’Leary)
“I stop dead in my tracks. Someone behind me walks into me and swears (stopping abruptly in central London is a heinous crime, and immediately gives the people around you permission to kick you).”
― Beth O’Leary, The Flatshare
Author: Beth O’Leary
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Page Count: 336
Published: 18 April 2019
Plot: (9.5 / 10) Characters: (9.0 / 10) Ending: (9.0 / 10)
Tiffy Moore needs a cheap flat, and fast. Leon Twomey works nights and needs cash. Their friends think they’re crazy, but it’s the perfect solution: Leon occupies the one-bed flat while Tiffy’s at work in the day, and she has the run of the place the rest of the time.
But with obsessive ex-boyfriends, demanding clients, a brother in prison and, of course, the fact that they still haven’t met yet, they’re about to discover that if you want the perfect home you need to throw the rulebook out the window…
The Flatshare was one of those books that was extremely hyped up, and I genuinely think it deserves all the praise that was heaped upon it – it absolutely lives up to the hype. The genre is a mix of things, mainly romantic comedy but it is so much more than a typical rom-com. It’s like a big, cosy hug and I think it’s the kind of uplifting, heartwarming book that everyone should read.
Despite the fact I had work and was exhausted due to a toddler who had no interest in going to sleep, I read The Flatshare in a day – it was one of those books I would open at every available second. It’s a story that is really easy to get lost in, and there is much more to it than I initially thought.
Beth O’Leary has managed to create personable, entertaining characters, and dialogue that is charming and relatable without being too sickly-sweet, which can sometimes be the case with romantic storylines! It’s also makes some excellent points about the struggles of finding somewhere to live in London, particularly if you are on a tight budget.
Tiffy is a brilliant character, I liked her immediately and the descriptions of her (and her outfits) are so vivid, it was easy to picture her. I loved hearing about her job as an editorial assistant at a publishing house, and all about the manuscripts she was working on.
I really liked the character of Leon too, he is absolutely someone I would want to be friends with in real life, though I didn’t find his chapters as easy to read because of the way they were written, it was more like his train of thought or text messages – conversations were written like a script, which is fine, but I just sometimes found it hard to switch between the two different narratives – this is the only reason I’ve not given this book a 10/10!
Each character’s story is woven together very cleverly, and the supporting characters are great. I particularly liked Mo and Rachel, they are so brilliantly written. The detail is what really makes this book special, especially the description of the flat.
Becoming (Michelle Obama)
“For every door that’s been opened to me, I’ve tried to open my door to others. And here is what I have to say, finally: Let’s invite one another in. Maybe then we can begin to fear less, to make fewer wrong assumptions, to let go of the biases and stereotypes that unnecessarily divide us. Maybe we can better embrace the ways we are the same. It’s not about being perfect. It’s not about where you get yourself in the end. There’s power in allowing yourself to be known and heard, in owning your unique story, in using your authentic voice. And there’s grace in being willing to know and hear others. This, for me, is how we become.”
Michelle Obama, Becoming
Becoming is the memoir of former First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama. She was the first African American woman to serve as FLOTUS, and she helped to create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history, as well as establishing herself as an advocate for women and girls in the United States and the rest of the world. During her time at the White House, she worked to encourage healthier and more active lifestyles, and she stood beside her husband as he led America through some of the most difficult times the country has faced.
Her memoir is split into three parts: Becoming Me, Becoming Us, Becoming More. She shares stories of her childhood on the South Side of Chicago, growing up with her family, her schooling and her time at Harvard. She describes how, when she was working at the Chicago law firm, Sidley & Austin, she was asked to mentor an incoming associate, called Barack Obama, who was late on his first day. She describes how their relationship began, how it grew and flourished, how they became parents and made their marriage work for both of them. She speaks very openly and honestly about the many years of campaigning, her concerns and the issues it raised, and she gives an incredibly unique insight into the world of politics and the effect it had on their family.
No Way Out (Cara Hunter)
Author: Cara Hunter
Genre: Crime / Police Mystery
Page Count: 384
Published: 18 May 2019
Plot: (8.5 / 10) Characters: (9.0 / 10) Ending: (9.0 / 10)
The Christmas holidays, and two children have just been pulled from the wreckage of their burning home in North Oxford. The toddler is dead, and his brother is fighting for his life.
Were they left in the house alone? Where is their mother, and why is their father not answering his phone?
Then new evidence is discovered, and DI Fawley’s worst nightmare comes true – this fire wasn’t an accident. It was murder.
I’ve had this book for a while and all I can say is that I wish I’d read it sooner. It’s definitely not an easy read – there were several times when I wanted to just grab my son and cuddle him and not let him go, but it’s brilliantly written and I thought the plot was very impressively woven together. There is a lot happening – a lot of twists and turns, but I think it is a very plausible story. I found the format of the book enjoyable – with texts, chat rooms and certificates included – it gave another layer to the story.
This was the first book I’d read by Cara Hunter, and since reading this in October, I’ve read the other books in the DI Fawley series, and all of them are incredible. I’d really recommend them, especially if you love police procedural stories and thrillers.
What have been your favourite books this year?