For awhile, I’ve been reading a number of book blogs, and they’ve supplied me with many books for my to be read list and exposed me to works that have become new favourites. For some time, I’ve also been commenting on some of these blogs, and I felt blessed to find people that loved the same kinds of books I did. I don’t often get to talk about the books I like in my everyday life, so finding others online with whom I can chat is wonderful. I’ve decided to start my own blog so I can join more fully in this online community of readers.
For my first post, I thought I would list my favourite reads of 2010. I get most of my books from the library, and besides a Persephone on which a post has been saved for Persephone Reading Weekend, I’ve returned my most recent reads to the library. I have a terrible memory, so I don’t trust myself to write a review just from what I can remember. I know it’s already February, but it’s much easier for me to construct a top ten list than it is to write a book review at the moment. So here it is:
10) A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute
This novel was one of the most inspiring and engrossing books I read last year. It tells the story of a young British woman during World War II who is captured and forced with other women and children to walk all over Malay until settling down in a Malay village. After the War, she eventually moves to Australia. It is both a love story and one of personal achievement and endurance.
9) The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim
Four British women rent a house in Italy during the Inter-War period and are uplifted spiritually due to their time spent there and the influence of one of the women, Lotty. It is a beautiful novel with gorgeous descriptions of Italy.
8) Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain
In the first of Vera Brittain’s autobiographies, she describes her experience as a young woman during World War I and her time as an Oxford student and then journalist and political activist after the War. It contains extracts from letters and journals. Testament of Youth is also an engrossing and moving read, and it helped me to understand the changes that occurred during the War.
7) I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
This novel is whimsical and a joy to read. It follows the life of a teenage girl, Cassandra, and her eccentric family in a ruined castle in Inter-War England and how Cassandra has to face up to the disappointments of life.
6) The Home-Maker by Dorothy Canfield Fisher
Published in 1924, this book explores gender roles in 1920s America. Because of an injury, a man is forced to stay home to look after his children while his wife must work to support the family.
5) The Crowded Street by Winifred Holtby
In The Crowded Street, Holtby, a friend of Brittain’s, describes the growth of one young middle-class woman during the Edwardian period, World War I, and the early Inter-War period in Britain and how societal pressures to marry kept women of the time from developing their individuality and gifts.
4) Good to a Fault by Marina Endicott
This is the best Canadian novel I read last year. A middle-aged single women, Clara, runs into a homeless family’s car in Saskatoon. After the mother of the family is taken to hospital, she discovers she has cancer, and Clara decides to take the family into her home. The book explores how even the best intentions can be made up of selfish desires, the nature of letting go, and class differences. It’s full of wisdom and definitely worth a read.
3) The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
This book is one of the best recent novels I have ever read. I saw the movie a long time ago and was inspired to read the book this past year. It conveys the thoughts of a butler in the 1950s. He has put service and loyalty to his employer above everything else in his life; Ishiguro is able to fill the reader with compassion for a character who is so blind to his own moral compass and the workings of his own heart.
2) Middlemarch by George Eliot
This book may be a long, Victorian novel that will make most people groan, but it is totally worth the effort. George Eliot had an amazing gift; in this book, she is able to get inside the heads of so many different people from different backgrounds at the time of the Reform Act of 1832 in Britain. It follows the lives of a host of characters but two stand out: Dorothea, a wealthy, intellectual, and earnest woman of the gentry, and Doctor Lydgate, a smart, ambitious medical reformer. Dorothea lacks both the education and circumstances to realise her abilities while Doctor Lydgate has received the education needed to realise his. At the same time, both make a poor decision that squanders the chances they may have had, and they live in a time and place not ready for either of them.
1) They Were Sisters by Dorothy Whipple
Dorothy Whipple has become one of my favourite authors. She wrote novels in the Inter-War period into the 1950s; they mostly explore the workings of English middle-class families. I’ve read most of her novels except High Wages, and almost all of them are excellent. The only one I thought was less well done than the others though still enjoyable was Young Anne. My favourite, however, is They Were Sisters. In it, Whipple explores three marriages, two of which are dysfunctional, and the effects these marriages had on the children involved.