Top 10 Books of 2016

 

This was a really satisfying year of reading good literature even though I didn’t read that many books (about 35). I was able to read Dickens, Trollope and Gaskell from the classics and a few interesting biographies and modern classics.

There are several books on my Top 10 list that I know I will be re reading again and that have become great favourites. Read on and discover a few of my favourites (in no particular order).

1) A Month in the Country by J.L. Carr. Full review here.

 

2) Diary of a Provincial Lady by EM Delafield. Find my review for Novelicious on their website.

 

3) Bleak House by Charles Dickens. Find review here.

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A few days ago we discussed Dickens' opening of Bleak House and so many of you commented on the narrative structure of the novel. Bleak House is considered by many to be Dickens' masterpiece. For one, the narrative technique is extraordinary. In Bleak House we observe Dickens using two different types of narrative. The first is the omniscient narrator who is impersonally telling the story in the third person. The second is the first person narrative via the character of Esther. Whilst reading the story I immediately felt I was drawn intimately into the story in the 'Esther chapters'. The tone of the young girl is fresh and innocent although meek and considerably self-deprecating. This contrasts sharply with the satirical rather jaded tone of the omniscient narrator. In providing this vivid contrast in narrative and the tense in which the story is told (present tense for the omniscient narrator, past tense for Esther) we are alternately pulled in and out of the narrative. The use of the omniscient narrator broadens the scope of the novel, however. There are certain situations that Esther cannot be part of although we do see the narratives intersecting in certain parts of the novel (eg. The event of the young law-writer and lodger at Mr Krook's dwelling). ~ Here are a few questions for us to ponder: ~ What did you think of the narrative technique? Did it feel modern to you? Did you feel that the transitions were awkward or did they provide you with a respite from the intensity of a first person narrative for a novel of this immense length? Do you feel Esther is a reliable narrator at this point in the story? What do you feel about Esther's character so far? She opens her commentary with the disclosure that she is 'not clever'. Did you gain this same impression from her narrative technique? Is she how you imagine a Victorian woman to be represented? ~ We are a fourth of the way into the novel. Are you enjoying it so far? Feel free to also post your own discussion questions too below. I have not added any spoilers (I think!) but please realize a few may crop up in the comments below.

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4) Someone at a Distance by Dorothy Whipple. Find review here.

 

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'Someone At a Distance' by Dorothy Whipple and published by @persephonebooks is a story about adultery. It is a story about a husband’s weakness, a wife’s short-sightedness and a young, ambitious girl’s yearning to rise up from her provincial upbringing and to destroy the happiness of others. But the book is more than the sum total of these individual parts and the title reveals this. The title 'Someone At a Distance’ is a curious one. It is only towards the latter part of the novel that the significance of the title emerges and one realizes it has been used with much thought. The title deals with the idea that a person’s negative actions and thoughts can have a far-reaching consequence on the lives of people far removed from them. It is like a ripple effect. A strong undercurrent of ill-will may wreak havoc on the hitherto peaceful lives of people on distant shores. Such is the inter-connectedness of the world and its people. It is a beautiful book. I read it in one breath. It was virtually unputdownable. Whipple’s storytelling is superlative. The psychological tension she develops in taut situations can be felt acutely. When Ellen grieves in the aftermath of her husband’s desertion, which has been dealt to her out of no wrong-doing of her own, we grieve along with her. We feel and comprehend her every emotion. We sympathize with her and we yearn for her strength and salvation. On the opposite side of the spectrum we despise the young French girl Louise’s every movement and intention. And we hope and pray for some kind of justice. Whipple manipulates our emotional well-being, during the reading of the novel to good effect and delivers yet another stellar story. To read the full review please click on the link in my profile. I highly recommend this one!

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5) Look Back With Love by Dodie Smith. Full review here.

 

 

6) The Fortnight in September by RC Sherriff. Full review here.

7) The Home-Maker by Dorothy Canfield-Fisher.

 

8) A Chelsea Concerto by Frances Faviell.

 

9) North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell.

 

10) Period Piece by Gwen Raverat.

 

So that’s my ten from this year. Honourable mentions should be given to ‘Our Spoons Came from Woolworths’ by Barbara Comyns, ‘Britannia Mews’ by Margery Sharp, ‘ The Warden’ and ‘Barchester Towers’ by Anthony Trollope and ‘The Constant Nymph’ by Margaret Kennedy.

My Top 10 Books from 2015 can be found here

See you next year for more delightful reading and I wish you all a happy and healthy holiday and rest of the year.

Arpita.

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