I could sit here and be horrified about how we’re in the second half of the year and where has the time gone aaaaahhh BUT July is my birthday month so YAY!
Other than getting excited about my birthday, it’s a good time to look back on my favourite books of the year so far..
Britt-Marie Was Here
I am really quite obsessed with this book. In a possibly unhealthy way, I’m already getting worried that if I read it again I might have overhyped it for myself. Fredrik Backman is just the KING of characters that you can’t help but fall in love with and then you will bawl your eyes out at the slightest provocation. That’s not even a spoiler alert that something bad happens, Backman has done a number on me to the point where I will legitimately cry at the happy and the sad stuff.
Britt-Marie is a woman who has lived her whole life for other people, but has not been shown the kind of love and care that she so deserves. This story finds her in a situation that is pretty much as far out of her [very narrow] comfort zone as she could be, and seeing the growth of her character over the course of the book was absolutely beautiful.
If you’ve come to Backman via A Man Called Ove, it’s highly likely you’ll relate to this – Britt-Marie and Ove have a lot of similar characteristics. If you’ve come via Beartown, this is a bit different as Backman’s first three books all focus in one character more than others, whereas Beartown and its sequel are ensembles; BUT, the heart is still there, and that’s the fundamental quality of his writing. If you’ve not come via any of his other books, you are in for a TREAT.
The One Who Wrote Destiny
I reviewed this one earlier in the year so I won’t go on too much about it, but this is another one that had me sobbing. Shukla has crafted something beautiful here with a cast of characters whom I couldn’t help but love and a story that is both mystical and moving. I heard him say that it had taken twenty years to write this novel, I would say that it was time very well spent.
The Fifth Season
This one is my most recent read on this list and I’m still chewing over it in my mind. It’s possibly one of the most unique books I’ve read…ever? This is the first of a very high fantasy/dystopian trilogy, i.e. there is a LOT of world building to get your head around. However, once I’d grasped the language, I was absolutely HOOKED. I can’t even really describe to you what it’s about…but there’s so much in there that makes this book distinct, from the strong female characters (which, I admit, I hate as a term but it’s really the best I can think of in this moment) to multiple LGBTQ+ characters/narratives that were presented in a completely normalised way, rather than in a tokenistic or superficial way. And just the sheer creativity and attention to detail. I’m looking forward to reading the second one this month, fingers crossed it’s as good, if not better!
Are you really surprised I’m shoving another Backman in here? I had real reservations about this one, I’d seen a lot of mixed review of it and heard that it was quite different from his previous work. Given how much I loved the first three, I was not prepared for the possibility that I might not love a Backman book so the stakes were HIGH.
It is different from his others, as I mentioned earlier, there is a whole ensemble of characters that we switch between rather than one lead, and I didn’t like that initially. Where was my stubborn yet loveable weirdo to fall for? Luckily, I found Benji and Amat who were gorgeous in their own ways, and was surprised to find that Backman was able to inject the same heart into such a huge number of characters.
What really sealed it for me was the way in which Backman took the dark subject of sexual violence and did it well. As a survivor myself, I became worried when I realised what it was about – I wasn’t prepared and the stakes suddenly became even higher because I could not bear the idea of my favourite author taking on such a personal subject and doing it badly. Yet another thing I should not have worried about. He may not have gone into as much detail as I would have liked about the impact on the survivor (which is my common gripe about authors who tackle that subject), BUT Backman does give us a story about how toxic masculinity (especially in sport) leads to sexual violence and generally ruins lives. It holds men to standards they cannot possibly meet, and normalises violence to an abhorrent degree, and Backman shows us that in this book with exquisite clarity.
The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
I have to admit, I didn’t give this five stars (although I’m struggling to remember why), and I have rated other books five stars, but my gut feel is that it has to be in my top 5. It was the second or third book I read this year, but I still think about it several months later. This is another unique book, at least I thought it was, but I will freely admit I don’t read a lot of mystery/thriller type books. In a nutshell, this is Groundhog Day meets Cluedo, set in Downton Abbey. If that doesn’t pique your interest then I question your interests.