Hello. Apologies for the delay. The blog had a critical error or something which I have sorted out myself without having to phone Bill Gates. This is good because he is very busy controlling all the 80-year-olds who have had the vaccination. This must be a full-time job if you think about it. I know trying to keep Aged Parent under any kind of control is very time-consuming. Especially at the moment. The lift has broken down. “Well, they will keep putting fat people in it and they insist on bringing their wheelchairs.” She is getting quite a lot of stir craziness and last week took a taxi to Asda again without telling anyone. She came back to a place full of carers who were panting slightly because they had been running around trying to find her and trying to keep the rising levels of panic under control. She was, of course, completely unrepentant.
Right. So, as promised, my favourite books of last year. I think you would be expecting some magnificent and in-depth list because of all the extra free time I have had. (Spoiler alert. I have had NO extra free time and I know I am not alone in this). It was not a vintage year for books for me. This is not a reflection on the books. It is a reflection on me. I have been almost permanently distracted, with a poor attention span and a lot of perfectly sound books have just got on my nerves. I think I have spent a fortune on books as well this year – only to be three chapters in and suddenly think. “Blimey, this is annoying” and chuck it onto the Ziffit pile. Many of these books are not new but they are mostly new to me. I have re-read a couple of old favourites. I make no apology for re-reading a few Barbara Pyms when the going got really tough but these are the standouts.
The Thursday Murder Club. This was the publishing sensation of 2020 and for good reason, I think. It is part of the “Cosy” murder mystery genre and although it wasn’t that cosy – there are quite a few bodies – it was really enjoyable. Cometh the hour – Cometh the book. Lovely characters. A sympathetic study of old age (If you have the dosh) and written by Richard Osman who may well be the cleverest, nicest man on the planet. Apparently, Mr Osman has film rights and there is lots of interest around – possibly from someone with the words Spiel and berg in their name. I think it is crying out for a decent treatment. I just hope the characters are played by older people – not Lily James and Idris Elba on walking frames.
I also enjoyed The Windsor Knot in which her Majesty the Queen (yes that one) solves murders. It is a lovely read and the Queen is sympathetically and believably drawn. I enjoyed it more than The Crown, some of it felt more believable (apart from the murder bit) Philip, in particular, is well written and the bond between them is touching and you understand what binds them together. I had to keep reminding myself that it was fiction. On a negative note, the murder solving is a bit rubbish and I can always do without a high heeled, kick-ass assistant but I loved the book and I love Queenie. So there you are.
Favourite book of the year was Amor Towles A Gentleman in Moscow. During the Russian Revolution, an aristocrat is sentenced to life imprisonment in the Metropole hotel. He has to leave his luxurious suite and is taken to a small room to live out the rest of his days. Count Alexander Rostov, though is resourceful and determined and he carves out a life for himself full of friendship and love and his life takes in unexpected twists and turns. It must have been quite daunting to write a novel in 95% of the action takes place in one building but he sorts that brilliantly. it only feels claustrophobic when it is meant to. Sometimes he is in danger but you are rooting for him all the time. This is also ready for a film treatment and I have decided that he should be played by Ralph Fiennes. (see above). Please also feel free to look at “Rules of Civility” by the same author. Set in a depression-era New York – the characters, the story and the setting are all outstanding.
I have a couple of Christian type books to finish on. However, I have to say that I have struggled with this this year. Some of my fondest memories were reading books like Improving Your Serve by Charles Swindoll, What’s So Amazing About Grace? by Philip Yancey, Ordering Your Private World by Gordon MacDonald and Father Heart of God by Floyd McClung. And that’s to name a few. I just can’t find anything like these books. There’s a lot of stuff hectoring me about how I should reduce time on social media (you think?) or telling me about Christian mindfulness, but nothing that made me cry on the bus as the Yancy did. It could be me obviously or maybe I am looking in the wrong places. I very much enjoyed Equality is Biblical by Pen Wilcock. It’s scholarly but very readable. A lot of things I have taken for granted were challenged but also it is a warm and encouraging read.
I also enjoyed Miss What Does Imcomprehensible Mean? by Fran Hill. It’s not a “Christian” book – it’s about a teacher who is a Christian. It’s funny and touching and I never want to be a teacher. I don’t think I could take the pace. Honourable mentions to Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout, The Mirror and the Light by Hillary Mantel (bit long for me though sorry) and Broken Harbour by Tana French. Next year I hope to read a few more 40s and 50s murder mysteries because I like ’em and find more Christian books that aren’t helping me to lose weight. Any recommendations gratefully received.