“Writing fiction is the act of weaving a series of lies to arrive at a greater truth.” Khaled Hosseini
What is it that makes a book truly memorable? As I look at all the books I have read and enjoyed this year I thought about which ones have really stayed with me, and reflected on why. Some books made me laugh, and, at the same time delivered a greater truth about life. Straight White Male, about a successful writer who leads a life of selfish hedonism fell into this category, as did How to be a Literary Genius, a satire about the literary world, with its caution against our X factor culture…..and of course both these books appealed to me with their creative writing theme.
Stories from the dark side always figure amongst my favourites, and several of these featured for me this year. The excruciating self delusion of both Apple Tree Yard and This is How; and the depth of pain and isolation of The Woman Upstairs, all left residues of emotional pain that I can still find, months after having read them. Daddy Love is the darkest tale I have ever read in my life, and I doubt that I will ever again read a story that is such pure agony. It’s also very compelling – I was mesmerised by its forensic exploration of a child abduction, revealing the experiences of the child, the abductor, and the family. If you are the parent of a young child, I caution you against reading it. When my daughter was three years old, a friend gave me a copy of Ian McEwan’s novel The Child in Time, about a small girl snatched from a supermarket, never to be seen again. For several years afterwards my daughter’s life was blighted by being almost permanently strapped to me by one of those curly wristbands you used to be able to buy.
Books with a more philosophical theme stay in my mind (rather than my heart) posing new questions and stimulating fresh ideas, such as my life-long favourite The Chrysalids which I read again this year, almost 40 years after I first read it – that’s a story that really has stood the test of time for me. In the same vein A Tale for the Time Being delighted me, with its powerful truth (so poignant at this time of Nelson’s Mandela’s death) that dedicating your life to a heart felt mission is more important than whether or not you achieve it.
Happy New Year! And lots more memorable reads in 2014, I hope.