When I first started this blog some ten years ago now, I was a very earnest reader. I read reviews, I took note of what the latest books were, I checked the Booker list and any other list that came out. I kept a note book in which I jotted down names and authors which I felt I should read. The emphasis being on the word 'should'. Now I look back and realised how pointless it all was. There were times when I was surrounded by review copies of the latest Zadie Smith, or Margaret Atwood or Martin Amis and feeling that I just could not be bothered with them but I should because everyone said they were wonderful. After a few years of this I just thought Elaine this is stupid. Who are you kidding? Most of the books on the Booker/Costa/Orange whatever award are just the kind of books you really do not enjoy. This is not something that has crept up on my in old age, I have always felt this way. I much prefer a socking great Victorian door stopper or a crime novel or a soppy romance and now I read what I want and what I feel like and though I am sure the book reviewers would turn up their nose I have reached the stage where I do not care.
So my reading over the last year has hardly been of what you might call Literary Standard but most of it has been huge fun and I have enjoyed everything I have read. If I am struggling with a book I now chuck it without a moment's guilt whether it be by a Mills & Boon author or the winner of a prestigious prize. Life is too short.
So here we go with some of my reading in 2016. According to my blog list it seems I have read some 200 books this year. Where I have reviewed them I have provided a link to my post. I have not reviewed all of those named here so leave it up to you if you are interested in any of them to check them out.
I kicked off the year with The Mistresses of Cliveden Three Centuries of Scandal, Power and Intrigue in an English stately home by Nathalie Livingstone. Totally fascinating and after reading the section on Nancy Astor then went on to read Nancy by Adrian Fort. This was then followed up by the autobiography of her loyal maid, Rosina Harris, who was with her for forty years. I have mentioned this in the post on Adrian Fort. After reading this fascinating trio of books I came away thinking that Nancy Astor was a deeply unpleasant woman who had very little time for her husband and family, had a cruel tongue and was not as wonderful as she thought she was.
I discovered that the Lillian Beckwith books including The Hills is Lonely which I first read back in the sixties, had been reprinted and was keen to read them again. Sadly, they were more boring that I remember and this time around found her depiction of all those Highlanders as quaint or barking rather tedious.
Then discovered George Bellairs and here is a link to my post on him, here. Great fun and the British Library have also decided to reprint some of his books so lots to read here if anybody likes crime - though these are on the gentle side.
Another discovery was Robert Barnard, The Case of the Missing Bronte wetting my appetite. He has great wit and humour and I have read nearly all of his output now. Some better than others and the slightly racist, sexist attitudes expressed in these books has to be expected as many of them were written in the sixties and seventies. Just be aware that sometimes they may make you wince slightly.
In May I read a wonderful book In Search of Anne Bronte by Nick Holland and delighted to see that she is at last being given the recognition she deserves. A labour of love and wonderfully interesting and written.
A Very English Scandal by John Preston. All about Jeremy Thorpe and his plot to murder his ex lover and all the machinations involved. My hair stood on end when I read it as I remember this so well. He was arrested just a few months after my elder daughter was born and I remember the sensation it caused. He got off though everyone knew he was guilty. But this book finds out all the twists and turns and the appalling behaviour. I did not know whether to laugh or cry when reading this as it was so totally ludicrous.
Slightly Foxed is one of my favourite publishers and their book Terms and Conditions by Ysanda Graham about life in a boarding school 1939-1979 is a hoot and also quite eye opening as we see the attitudes towards female education at these times. We have come a long way since then.
In 2016 I have read the latest books by the following crime/detective/thriller authors who I love and whose books I always keep an eye out for: Kate Rhodes, Linda Castillo, Camilla Lackberg, Anne Zouroudi, Cynthia Harrod-Eagles, Donna Leon and Martin O'Brien whose Jacquot books I adore.
I must mention that the latest Donna Leon The Waters of Eternal Youth has the author back on track after her last two Brunettis and one stand alone story which I found rushed, muddled and uninteresting. This is a relief.
And then I finished off the year with the latest Clara Vine book by Jane Thynne which was terrific. I will be writing more about this soon.
But it has been a year of Crime really. Lots of discoveries of old names about whom I knew nothing, and adding more to my reading list. My thanks to the British Library for sending me their fantastic series of Classic Crime editions all beautifully produced with wonderful cover.
This week I have read three romances written back in the sixties which make fascinating reading - more of that anon and am also indulging in an orgy of Evelyn Anthony another superb author who wrote in the sixties and seventies. I intend to post more about her in the New Year as well.
So lots of fun, lots of good reading and my Book of the Year goes to In Search of Anne Bronte by Nick Holland. Totally enthralling and throws an interesting slant on Charlotte's view of her sister and why she portrayed her in the way that she did. For all Bronte lovers everywhere.