I started to write BooksandLiliane, because I wanted to share my love for books with other people. I came upon a growing amount of novels I absolutely enjoyed, I also found some novels really not worth the reading. Looking back on 2014 I have had a good literary year with lots of novels I thoroughly enjoyed.
Though I absolutely liked this year’s Booker Prize Winner, it was not my favourite. I rooted for Ali Smith and How To Be Both because it combined great characters, playfulness in structure and two beautiful plots in a sublime way. Looking back on it: my absolute favourite novel of 2014.
Do please read Family Life by Akhil Sharma, The Lie by Helen Dunmore, Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Burial Rites by Hannah Kent, The Narrow Road to the Far North by Richard Flanagan, History of the Rain by Niall Williams, The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell, The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters and The Snow Queen by Michael Cunningham – they are all great novels.
I read three novels in 2014 that officially were not published in 2014. Since I absolutely loved the three of them I simply gave them their own category. In December I finally read Stoner by John Williams. I was hesitant about it because everybody was so utterly taken with it. Rightly so, I can only say: what a great novel. One of the first novels I read for the Dutch version of BooksandLiliane was The Illuminaries by Eleanor Catton: it set the standard for future Booker Prize winners. Not an easy read but definitely worth the trouble. My number three is anything but an easy read. I had to stop reading from time to time to recover from the rollercoaster of emotions that Eimear McBride confronted me with in A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing. I have always utterly disliked stream of consciousness and was not exactly pleased when I found that one of the Bailey Prize short list novels was just that. I pushed through and was rewarded with the reading experience of a life time.
There were some writers who completely surprised me this year, in a good way. Some wrote astoundingly good first novels, others continued on their path and proved to become better with every novel. One of my first entries on BooksandLiliane was Courtney Collins‘ The Burial. I had never heard of Collins and absolutely loved her novel in which a dead baby told the story of her mother, from the grave. It was followed quickly by another novel taking place (partly) in Australia: All the birds, Singing by Evie Wyld. The terror underlying this novel made it a memorable read. Newcomer Sarah Perry also convinced with a novel in which tension and suspense lead to a touching apotheosis: After Me Comes the Flood. Deborah Kay Davies‘s novel Reasons She Goes to the Wood described an utterly chilling relationship between a mother and daughter leading to disaster. Paul Kingsnorth forced me to read aloud his novel The Wake because I could not understand what he had written otherwise. After a tricky start I loved every minute of it. The Land of Decoration by Grace McCleen finally showed what an impact religious fanaticism can have on the life of a sweet, innocent girl.
What is it everybody else likes about this novel?
I still feel that Alison MacLeod‘s novel Unexploded mainly profited from the fact that it was published in the year Great Britain looked back at Dunkirk. The events in a family waiting for an invasion by the Germans were unlikely and overwrought. I still cannot understand why the judges found To Rise Again at a Decent Hour could make the long list let alone the short list of the Booker Prize. Only at the end when Joshua Ferris stopped imitating Woody Allen and showed his own voice I started liking the novel. I suspected I was going to have a problem with J, Howard Jacobson‘s novel. One of the reasons being that I did not manage to finish his previous Booker Prize winner. This one I only finished because I felt obliged to write about it. I felt almost insulted at the rushed trough totally unconvincing ending.