Looking back on what I read in the past year is always a pleasure. I read so many good books, a few rotten ones that I couldn’t finish, and some that were outstanding. Here are a few of my favourites, in the order that I read them:
February, by Lisa Moore
This was a contender in CanadaReads 2013 and one of the two that I hoped would make it to the end. And I was so pleased when it won! I loved this book and was very moved by the story of the disaster on the oil rig off the coast of Newfoundland in February of 1982. Heartfelt, and beautifully written.
Indian Horse, by Richard Wagamese
The other CanadaReads participant that I loved. It is a harrowing tale of a young boy, Saul Indian Horse, and his experience in the Residential school system. Not an easy read, as we are forced to think about what happened to so many Indian children, and the far-reaching, long-term effects of the abuse they suffered, mental, physical and sexual, but so important to be told.
Bury Your Dead, by Louise Penny
This is perhaps my all-time favourite of Penny’s series featuring Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Québec Sureté. The main focus is Gamache’s struggle to come to terms with a horrific event for which he feels responsible, but there are several other story lines, including an ancient mystery, and a local murder. All are tied together through the theme of past mistakes. One small mistake can lead to tragedy; but sometimes the mistakes can be fixed, and lead to hope. Fantastic read.
The Three Evangelists, by Fred Vargas
Brand new author for me and enjoyed this immensely. Another mystery, but very lighthearted and energetic, with quirky characters and scenarios. Set in Paris, and stars three young historians (Marc, Matthias, Lucien) who get involved in a local murder. Will definitely read more by her, especially if I can find them in the original French.
The Miracles of Ordinary Men, by Amanda Leduc
I was so excited to read Amanda Leduc’s debut novel because it was the first time I would be reading a book by someone I knew! But I was also a bit nervous—what if I didn’t like it??! Happily, my worries were soon laid to rest. Though some of the circumstances in the book are quite unusual (one of the main characters grows wings, really huge wings, that only a select few can see) we are easily led to suspend our disbelief and have great empathy for Sam as he undergoes his transformation. An extraordinary book about “ordinary” men.
Ru, by Kim Thuy
This book was a delight to read: the French is elegant and poetic, the story is gentle and humorous. It is written in memoir format, and through a series of vignettes that flow back and forth in time, we get to know An as a young refugee in Québec, a younger girl in Viet Nam before fleeing to Canada with her family, and as a present-day mother of two sons. Despite the harshness of An’s experience, she relates her story with humour, love and compassion. A book filled with hope that I highly recommend.
Bone and Bread, by Saleema Nawaz
Nawaz explores the relationship between two sisters, Beena and Sadhana, raised in Montreal by their mother and later their uncle. When Sadhana dies at the age of 32, Beena is confronted by the past as she tries to figure out how and why her sister died. Memories come flooding back, both good and bad, with all the quarrels and misunderstandings inherent in a sibling relationship as intense as theirs. Beautifully written, believable portrayal of a strong but prickly relationship.
The Beauty of Humanity Movement, Camilla Gibb
I absolutely loved this book. Set in Viet Nam, the timeline alternates between the present and the past, particularly the 1970s, and involves Old Man Hung, who makes the most delicious “pho” in the city, Tu, a young tour guide, and Maggie, who has returned to Viet Nam to search for clues about her artist father’s disappearance during the war. It is a wonderful book, filled with vivid descriptions of Viet Nam, its food, its culture, its history, with interesting, believable characters. You will be dying for Pho! Will definitely read again someday.
Natural Order, by Brian Francis
Beautiful book, told from the point of view of an elderly woman, thinking back on her life and her relationship with her gay son. Very, very moving, and highly recommended.
Oryx and Crake, by Margaret Atwood
Fascinated by the first of Atwood’s MadAdam trilogy and can’t wait to read the other two, especially the Year of the Flood because of being included in CanadaReads 2014. Her ability to create a truly believable dystopian world is uncanny, and although it is disturbing, at the same time it is a pleasure to read a book that is so well-written.