WHO, WHAT, WHY – MY TOP #READS OF 2015

The other day I read a Facebook post commenting how tired they were of the ‘best of’ book lists that were popping up everywhere. If that’s you (or you share similar sentiments), feel free to skip to another post); I thought I’d let the dust settle and wait a few more days before adding my two cents. I was considering forgoing this post altogether, but then a newspaper journalist interviewed me about my choices – I’m still waiting to see the article because the online edition has been delayed by Christmas, but apparently it’s out there. Here’s a snippet of the interview:
What would you say are the top three reads of the last 12 months? Could you give a brief description of the books and why you liked it? 
Bear in mind that I’ve reviewed more than 120 books (read even more), this is no mean feat to choose three.
  • The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood: The Natural Way of Things centres on a group of women who find themselves imprisoned in a rundown, remote property surrounded by an electric fence. Reading Woods’ book was a visceral experience, creating tension in my body as I experienced emotions one after the other: anger, frustration, helplessness, horror, and deep sadness.It’s a stunning example of literature, allegory and talent. Read it … but make sure you’re in a strong frame of mind. Full review here.

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  • The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro: The Buried Giant is set in a semi-fantasy medieval Britain, long after the departure of the Romans, and in the years following the reign of the mythical King Arthur. There are dragons, warriors, pixies, beasts and knights, as well as ordinary humans (split into two opposing groups, the Saxons and Britons); there are journeys, quests, battles and strange mists that make people forget. It would be easy to classify the novel as a fantasy/adventure and yet, it’s so much more. It’s also a love story and an allegory. Defining it as fantasy is overly-simplistic. Full review here.

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  • The Other Side of the World by Stephanie Bishop: A sense of melancholy pervades The Other Side of the World, a beautifully written novel by Stephanie Bishop. Themes of motherhood, depression, belonging and identity are explored with insight, resulting in a moving and memorable tale that will leave readers pondering. Full review here.

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I’m also going to add these because they all stood out one way or another:

  • The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks: A book for fans, thinkers and lovers of beautiful writing, The Secret Chord is one of the best books I’ve read this year. Brooks’ David startled, disappointed, surprised, challenged and saddened me – what more could I ask for in a character?
  • The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende: Reading this book was like unwrapping a gift, layer after layer of decorative paper to the finest tissue, to find the story’s heart inside.
  • The Lake House by Kate Morton: There’s something incredibly romantic about big old houses, once-beautiful but now tangled old gardens, yellowing letters, haunting secrets, ghostly apparitions … they put me in a reader’s swoon every time.
  • The Beast’s Garden by Kate Forsyth: A wrenching tale of love, courage and standing up for what’s right, The Beast’s Garden had me in tears a number of times.
  • Six Degrees by Honey Brown: I read this book in one sitting, completely drawn in by Brown’s honest storytelling, interesting and believable characters, and her insight into what is one of the fundamental aspects of the human experience.
  • Love at First Flight by Tess Woods: I enjoy books that make me think, books that turn stereotypes upside down … and that’s exactly what Love at First Flight did. I’m keen to see what Woods comes up with next.
  • The Soldier’s Wife by Pamela Hart: Set in Sydney during World War I, The Soldier’s Wife brings to life a love story threatened by war and uncertainty, but driven by hope, passion and perseverance.

Joan London’s The Golden Age, Michael Robothom’s Close Your Eyes, Hester and Harriet by Hilary Spiers, The Words in my Hand by Guinevere Glasfurd, Julian Leatherdale’s Palace of Tears, Naked by Eliza Redgold, Undermajordomo Minor by Patrick de Witt and Fredrik Backman’s My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises were also in my ‘loved’ them pile.

Of my total reviewed books, sixty of them count towards the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2015, though I haven’t been as faithful as usual in recording them on the challenge website.

What do you think are the must-reads of 2016? Why?
I am looking forward to Perth-based Natasha Lester’s A Kiss for Mr Fitzgerald, Where the Trees Were by Inga Simpson, and The River House by Janita Cunningham. Oh, and I’ve just read Perth-based Sara Foster’s All That Lies Between Us, due out February, and it’s terrific. A review will be coming soon.
Overall, what are your views on the calibre of books slated to be released in 2016?
I’m in awe of the talent that’s within and emerging into the Australian writing scene. One day, I hope to be a part of that. I’m an emerging author with a story recently published in the Rocky Romance anthology and another highly commended in the City of Rockingham Short Fiction awards. You can find out all about that on the Monique Mulligan website!