Mr Loverman by Bernardine Evaristo
Barrington Walker, who emigrated from Antigua in the 1960s, has a big secret. His friend Morris has been his lover for decades. His wife Carmel is at her wits' end thinking he’s a philandering womaniser, while Morris is putting pressure on Barry to do the right thing. In Mr Loverman, Evaristo has created a memorable family with a magnificent patriarch whom you can’t help falling for. Hilariously funny, yet compassionate and bittersweet – I loved every single page. One of the best books of 2013.
The View on the Way Down by Rebecca Wait
It’s hard to choose just one book from several wonderful reads this year, but on reflection, my best book is The View on the Way Down by Rebecca Wait. This was a superb, beautifully written debut novel, the writing understated yet incisive, the story sad, raw and honest but also warm and hopeful. Rebecca Wait sensitively portrays painful, harsh truths about depression and the effects on sufferers and loved ones, yet the book remains throughout a compelling, vital story that the reader has to read to the finish.
The President’s Hat by Antoine Laurain
It's hard to pick just one book but Antoine Laurain’s delightful The President’s Hat remains my favourite book of 2013. Left behind in a brasserie, François Mitterrand’s hat does the rounds bestowing gifts on all who wear it – a diffident accountant stands up to his irritating boss, a woman breaks off her dead-end affair, a member of the bourgeoisie finds his inner socialist – eventually coming full circle. An absolute gem, guaranteed to make you smile.
Alex by Pierre Lemaitre
This book should come with two warnings. First is the fact that Alex is not for the faint of heart, secondly that it is ridiculously addictive to read. A woman, Alex, is kidnapped by a man who wants to watch her die. But why? And why, when Commandant Camille Verhoeven is called to investigate, can he find no lead, no suspect and more mysteriously nothing about the victim? Possibly one of the most twisting and twisted novels that I have read for quite some time, it is also a book that will make you question what you think is morally right or wrong. It makes Gone Girl look like a fairytale.
Far from the Tree by Andrew Solomon
The best book I've read this year is Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon. It is a masterpiece of research; giving an impressive insight into human relationships and our tolerance of those who are different. It’s one of those life-changing books that will make you look at the world in a different light.
HHhH by Laurent Binet
If you’d asked me at the beginning of the year if I’d be recommending a novel that centres around the Second World War and an assassination attempt on Heinrich Himmler I would have looked at you a little oddly. But in HHhH, Laurent Binet mixes a narrator’s exploration of fact with the facts themselves to make compelling what could have been a dull read. Even if you think you know what’s going to happen next you’ll want to hear it from Binet.
Hannah’s Night by Komako Sakai
Three translated books captured my heart this year: Hannah’s Night by Komako Sakai is exquisite, soothing and magical, Waffle Hearts by Maria Parr makes the world a better place with peals of laughter and inspirational generosity, while The Letter for the King by Tonke Dragt is thrilling beyond dreams. All bring the world closer, at the same time as enlarging and enriching it. For me, the best books of 2013.
Heroic by Phil Earle
The best book I've read this year was Heroic by Phil Earle . Heroic is the story of two brothers, one of whom is a soldier who has recently returned from Afghanistan. I loved this book because of how it deals with a poignant subject in a sensitive and respectful way, doing justice to the risks those in the Forces face everyday – and the toll that has on the families left behind. The story is heart-breaking, insightful and will leave you an emotional wreck by the end. Recommended.
The Love-Charm of Bombs by Laura Fiegel
I was smitten as soon as I read about The Love-Charm of Bombs by Laura Fiegel. It tells the stories of five authors living in London during the Second World War, including Graham Greene and Elizabeth Bowen – the dangerous, exciting years that they lived through and the books they wrote inspired by those times. The Love-Charm of Bombs was even more wonderful that I had dared to hope: it had such depth, and it was written with such love, and it was so very, very readable.
The Orenda by Joseph Boyden
Without a doubt, my favourite book of 2013 is Joseph Boyden's The Orenda, which was published to critical acclaim in Canada, was longlisted for the Giller Prize and shortlisted for the Governor General's Literary Award. I'm a member of the Shadow Giller (a bit like the "not the Booker" ) — and we named it as our unanimous winner. Set in the 17th century, it plunges the reader into the vast wilderness of Eastern Canada and takes us on a captivating journey following a Huron warrior, a kidnapped Iroquois girl and a French Jesuit priest as they try to live together peacefully. The natural world is brought vividly to life through Boyden's beautiful prose — indeed, every time I opened the pages of The Orenda it was like stepping into another world, so vastly different to my own, but so wonderfully rich and evocative that I would feel a sense of dislocation whenever I closed the book and went about my normal life. It is by far the best novel I've read all year.
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