Books :: 2022

Yeah, maybe I'm heading out the gates too fast on this one, but for someone who read her first book of the year for 2021 in June, I'm pretty proud of already having two great reads under my belt in the last couple of weeks...

1. The Motion of the Body Through Space - Lionel Shriver
What is a year without a Lionel Shriver? A bad year (not surprising I didn't read one of hers in 2021...). This one is magnificent for being about fitness, a world I have more insight into now than I did a few years ago, and aging - another pertinent topic tbh). 
As always with Lionel I sometimes find the dialogue between characters hard - they're so blatant with each other - but the content, the musings, the clever thought into the people and topics is so enriching.

2. The World That We Knew - Alice Hoffman
Another favourite author, but only when she's employing magic realism I've discovered. Some of her more literal work I've not enjoyed as much.
This is beautiful and painful. A young German girl fleeing the Nazi's with a golem, tasked by her mother to protect her. (Forget LoTR, not that kind of golem).

3. A Little Influence - Zoe Mafham
No picture because it's a manuscript - the SECOND novel from my great friend Zoe in the last two years! It's an honour to be asked to read and feedback on Zoe's work - she has a special talent and it makes me wonder if it's too late to become an actual editor. It's not right?

4. The German Boy - Patricia Wastveldt
The THIRD time I've read this! The last reread was 2014 according to these lists of mine, so the first must've been some years before that. The cover above is the same as the first copy I read.
Just as good as I remembered, and long enough ago that there were still quite a few surprises. Harrowing but compelling, like any good wartime read right?
I read this long before I discovered Maggie O'Farrell but as it basically says on this red sticker - same vibes.

5. Hitler, Verwoerd, Mandela and me - Marianne Thamm
Marianne is a local journalist a little older than me who I have admired for years. Her partner is the beloved therapist of a dear friend, one of her daughters has friends in common with mine - it's Cape Town, we're all practically related. I picked this up second hand and read it in a weekend really. 
So many South Africans are descendent from immigrants, white and black, that our origin stories are often so fascinating. I loved this.

6. Beautiful World, Where are You - Sally Rooney
The famous Sally Rooney. I struggled a bit with this one. I think the target audience is a bit younger than me (whaaa, what a confession), but I mean in the sense that the 'millenial angst' isn't really mine. I've already decided on my sexuality, and had children. Career wise yes, I'm still in flux, but I've kind of gotten used to that by now too. Climate change? Scares the bejezuz out of me, but I'm too far down the line for it to fundamentally change any of my life decisions right?
I mean, I bought a house on an estuary lake for god's sake - I'm already fucked.

7. The Summer Without Men - Siri Hustvedt
I'm really revisiting so many beloved female authors this year (here's looking at you Hamnet). I haven't read a Siri in some time.
Ironically I read this while on a weekend away with my husband - and he did raise an eyebrow at the title ha ha.
Very good study of lots of women at different stages of their lives relating to each other. So much more subtle and nuanced than the Sally Rooney a few reads back, but very different so that's not really a fair comparison. Anyway, enjoyed it.

8. Wit's End - Karen Joy Fowler
Another yellow cover - it's funny when that happens.
This one I enjoyed for being set in a different kind of place - an author's big house on a cliff overlooking a beach in the Californian winter - I like it when books introduce me to a new setting. Also dense with detail, the author in the book makes dioramas of all her famous murder scenes. I loved that. The storyline was compelling enough to keep me interested, but I got through this slowly.

9. Snapper - Brian Kimberling
What a weird one. I could've sworn it was biographical but apparently not. Some quite interesting parts about ornithology and white supremacy in the American mid west (I'm into birds, not so much rascists) but in parts it was like reading someone's fairly arb journal. Why did I stick with it? I was on holiday! I'm a less critical reader when I time doesn't feel as pressured, and precious.

10. Outside Looking In - TC Boyle
Love me a good TC Boyle, it's been years. This one about Timothy Leary and friends LSD experimentation in the 1960's. Communes and tripping and assorted weirdness, all under the guise of academic study. A good gig while it lasted!

11. Whatever - Saskia Bailey
This one should really be filed under morbid fascination. Daughter of a famous local artist, written only a couple of years back when she was 23 this is a terrifyingly honest account of her life shagging and drugging through Cape Town from teendom to present. Seriously, Cape Town is tiny, her family are very well-known, it remains to be seen whether publishing this turns out well for her...
I shared this with some friends saying 50 bonus points every time you recognise someone in the book. I automatically get 100 for having babysat this young woman briefly when I was 20 and she was 4!

12. The Diving - Helen Walne
Oof what a book. Helen is a local writer (who takes the MOST beautiful underwater photos - find her on Instagram), and this is a very honest and heart-breaking account of her brother's suicide. But also warm and funny and loving and a beautiful tribute and gift to any reader. 
My 5th Cape Town author this year!

13. The Probable Future - Alice Hoffman
Another Alice Hoffman. This one about multiple generations of strong women. These ones each receive a unique magical gift on their 13th birthday. Also some nice men, and some not so nice ones.
A good read.

14. Afterland - Lauren Beukes
Launched in Feb 2020, Lauren's international book launch for Afterland was postponed due to the pandemic and get this: the novel is about a pandemic! Talk about marketing gold. 
Creepily I was reading it now when Roe v Wade was overturned in the States - with a plot line full of state controlled birthing rights.
Both these facts further proof that truth is often stranger than fiction.

14. A Long Petal of the Sea - Isabel Allende
Ah Isabel, her novels always feel terribly familiar while at the same time consistently producing characters with new and interesting back stories. This one was good in that it tackled a bit of history I didn't know too much about, incorporating the real life story of Pablo Neruda and other Chileans chartering a boat to Europe to collect and relocate refugees from the Spanish Civil War. I learnt stuff.

15. A Ladder to the Sky - John Boyne
Oooo a nice twisty tale of an ambitious young author who steals stories. All went a bit too far but I loved being taken along for the ride.

16. Here is the Beehive - Sarah Crossan
24h read, written almost like a journal - about a woman who has an affair and then befriends her lover's wife after his death. Couple of plot twists to keep one engaged.
I read this at the same time as watching Scenes from a Marriage and it's all blurred into one story in my mind in a weird and nonsensical way... A time filler this one.

You guys, I'm calling it - I am a Reader again. 16 books and it's only the end of July. I haven't done this well in years.
And it's so compelling! I just want to read and read and read and when I'm engrossed in a book the characters walk with me through my days while also waiting patiently next to my bed for me to rejoin them.
What a gift.

17. Olive Kitteridge - Elizabeth Strout
I hadn't picked up this book until now as I was convinced I read it. How ridiculous of me? Then I found it secondhand and read the back and was simultaneously embarrassed for myself and thrilled that I had this treat ahead. She writes so well. Her characters are incredible.

18. Rush Oh - Shirley Barrett
Ooooo what a lovely read. Australian whalers in the last century, from the perspective of the oldest daughter of a large, motherless family. Lovely humour and emotion, not harrowing at all - this is whaling as a small-scale subsistence economy - and full of lovely characters.

19. A Slim Green Silence - Beverly Rycroft
Weird coincidence with this one - my mother was reading it at the same time, unbeknownst to each other. I walked into her house and saw it on the couch and had a weird wait, what moment.
A small, local novel, a quiet story despite covering rough ground.

20. The Little Stranger - Sarah Waters
TWENTY! And it's August. Whoop whoop.
I love Sarah Waters for being so English. Her novels are always such easy, luscious reads - full characters, houses, landscapes, stories. This one is eerie and weird and I devoured it.

21. Days Without End - Sebastian Barry
What a painful and beautiful book. Reading about the American West in the days of massacre and genocide becomes more and more painful the older I get, but the love story in this book and the writing - achingly beautiful. Sebastian Barry is a rare talent.

22. All of This - Rebecca Woolf
Read on Kindle, fast. And then started it again immediately to reread slowly. I have been reading Rebecca on her blog Girls Gone Child since my babies were small - I have so many pieces of her writing highlighted, saved, emblazoned on my heart. In life we have little in common I suspect, but in heart - she speaks to mine.
Rebecca's husband was diagnosed with cancer and died very quickly in the same years I was losing my friend, dealing with my brother's diagnosis.
I had picked up Hal's absence from her blog for a while, it felt like things weren't great there and then he was back, but dying.
In her book Rebecca speaks so openly about that weird situation, becoming a widow when the marriage was already over, supporting her husband through death having already decided to no longer share a life.

23. The Hypnotist's Love Story - Liane Moriarty
This should have been a quick holiday read - it's that kind of book - but instead I dragged it around for weeks, not prioritising reading (I rewatched the entirety of The Crown after the Queen died and caught up just in time for the new season so that was labour intensive!), and not particularly enthralled. I finished it though.

24. We All Want Impossible Thing - Catherine Newman
Another Kindle read, another book on loss, another so beautifully and honestly written.
The pain and absurdity and privilege of spending someone's last days by their side.

25. The Fall - Jen Thorpe
Number 25 and my 7th South African read of the year. This was good. A very contextual South African story but the characters were great and Jen's touch very amusing and insightful.

And that's me. I've started the next read but I doubt I'll finish it before the end of the month. Despite just having had the flu (not Covid) AGAIN. 
But two weeks of work left plus a weekend away plus the kids on holiday plus family arriving from aboard - I don't see a lot of time for reading in the next while. Let's see what 2023 has to offer!

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