Right, that's 2011 over for me, in a professional capacity at least, as I have just finished December New Titles, the last hardback fiction round-up of the year.
So now seems the perfect time to look back at the year in fiction and all the books I've read this year for New Titles (a conservative estimate would be two to three books a week—although that includes the occasional non-fiction to cleanse the palate). As debuts are so important to The Bookseller I've decided to concentrate on those.
2011 got off to a strong start with one of the most exciting debuts of the year: Snowdrops by A D Miller (Atlantic), a Moscow-set thriller about an expat English lawyer gradually losing his moral bearings. At the time of writing this has, very excitingly, been shortlisted for both the Man Booker and the CWA Gold Dagger.
In March, always a great month for debuts, was Stephen Kelman's Pigeon English (Bloomsbury) about an 11-year-old Ghanian boy living on an inner-city council estate who starts his own investigation when a boy is knifed to death. This has also made the shortlist for the Booker.
Also in March, the luminous The Tiger's Wife, (W&N) with its extraordinary blend of folklore and realism, which deservedly won the Orange Prize for 25-year-old author Tea Obrecht.
The Pile of the Stuff at the Bottom of the Stairs (Hodder) was not, strictly speaking, a debut more a “breakthrough” but it was one of the most entertaining female commercial fiction reads of the year. A funny, sharp and thought-provoking tale of what happens to a modern marriage when children come along, I predicted great things, writing at the time: “[it] really does merit comparison with the mega-selling I Don't Know How She Does It”. It's out in mmpb in February next year and deserves to do the business.
Sometimes you only need hear the briefest premise of a book before knowing you'll just have to read it. What if you lost your memory—your name, your identity, your past—every time you went to sleep . . . and the one person you trust may only be telling you half the story? S J Watson's Before I Go To Sleep (Doubleday) is a cracking thriller, expertly structured with the tension cleverly sustained.
The Mistress's Revenge by Tamar Cohen (Doubleday) was another pacy read. A scorned woman indulges in some light internet stalking before descending into full-blown obsession, and there's a clever twist at the end.
Lastly, the most unforgettable debut this year was screenwriter Amanda Coe's What They Do in the Dark (Virago). The 1970s suburban childhoods of spoilt 10-year-old Gemma, and her neglected classmate are perfectly captured and the ending is one of the most powerful and shocking I've ever read.
Now onto 2012 . . .