Ralph’s Book Of The Year – & Compulsory Holiday Reading

This year has been vintage — joyful,painful and memorable, write Ralph McAllister.

So here are some of my Best of the Year choices.

Some have already appeared in my column which you can access.

THE ECHO CHAMBER by John Boyne is a departure from the norm ,a satire on a London family obsessed with reaching the giddy heights of social media fame.

Boyne wrote this as a response to some pathetic critics dismissal of his MY BROTHER’S NAME IS JESSICA.

ECHO provoked pain and painful laughter,what a tonic, with of without the gin!

THE MAN WHO DIED TWICE

On a simpler, yet none the less hilarious level, Richard Osman followed up on the huge success of THE THURSDAY MURDER CLUB with a sequel ,THE MAN WHO DIED TWICE ,with the intrepid quartet of septuagenarians rousing themselves from the retirement home to solve another hilarious,preposterous and totally readable crime.

2021 has seen an astonishing number of novels of sheer brilliance .

In no particular order I guarantee you will be reminded again and again of the joy of books,of reading,of growing tall with these talented writers.

THE PROMISE by Damon Galgut,a deserved winner of The Booker,set in South Africa, outlining four generations of prejudice and broken promises as a black servant attempts to gain justice.

Shimmering prose from an author at the height of his achievements.

THE 100 YEARS OF LENNI AND MARGOT by Marianne Cronin is the quite wonderful story of 17 year old terminal cancer sufferer Lenni and her developing relationship in hospital with 83 year old Margot.

By turns deeply moving and funny I wept and laughed and my wish would be that everyone could read this first novel.

CLOUD CUCKOO LAND by Antony Doerr is another triumph from the author of ALL WE CANNOT SEE,one of the great love stories of the last 10 years.

This is a monumental journey of daring jumps in time,situation and challenges as we move seamlessly from surviving interstellar space to 15 century Constantinople,from a library in Idaho,from Greek myths to terrorist threats.

600 pages

And I shall read it again.

I should mention the latest James Lee Burke,Kate Quinn,Mike Herron ,Kazuo Ishiguro, and Charlie Gilmour so I have.

Finally — my Book of the Year !

But finally, my book of the year would have to be ,no surprise for readers of this column and listeners to Nine To Noon ,

THE SWEETNESS OF WATER by Nathan Harris.

This wonderful story is set in Redemption times Deep South when slaves Prentiss and Landry are set free and offered jobs by George their plantation owner ,jobs which come with with a living wage and the contempt and fury of the white neighbouring farmers.

Violence and tragedy are never far from the surface especially when a gay secret love affair emerges.

The writing is astonishing ,particularly when you realise this is a first novel by a 30 year old .

Harris joins the ranks of Baldwin,Evaristo,Morrison,James and others and is set surely, for a remarkable career.

Finally my thanks to readers.

But my enduring gratitude to Kaye and Rob at Paper Plus in Paraparaumu  who have with patience and generosity offered all that one could wish for from book sellers of supreme excellence.

Next year beckons but please remember to support your local bookshop.

Seasons greetings

Ralph

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