It’s that time of year again – when we reflect on the year that was. 2021 was of course the year that turned out NOT to be the year we conquered covid and while that brought many challenges – and sadly, for many illness and unimaginable difficulties – it did mean we stayed at home more, which meant more reading time.
Hosting and producing a weekly writing/book podcast means I’m lucky to be sent books by publishers and that my reading pile is usually teetering. As an author myself I find the whole book review thing to be fraught and I do steer away from it but having a bit of post- Christmas down-time (due to a casual contact situation!) has given me time to reflect on the books that really resonated with me this year. I’m always so happy when a reader says one of my books made her (invariably) cry; as a reader if I cry it’s usually a sign I’ve truly connected with the characters and their situation.
While I can honestly say there was not one book I read this year (I think I read around 30, possibly more) that I didn’t enjoy in one way or another, it’s the books that made me cry which really left a lasting impression. Here they are in no particular order, with one off the top of my head sentence about why I loved them.
Love Objects by Emily Maguire
Heart-breakingly real characters I could root for and writing that took me into their heads and hearts.
Sisters of The Resistance by Christine Wells
Riveting war-time intrigue and two protagonists who were so different and both so finely drawn.
The Hush by Sara Foster
Compelling near-future fiction with three generations of women who refuse to be silenced.
When Things Are Alive They Hum by Hannah Bent
A beautiful story about family, sibling connection and the sacrifices we make for those we love even when it breaks our hearts.
The Riviera House by Natasha Lester
Paris, World War Two, art and love – all wrapped up in a page-turning story by an author who just keeps getting better. Of course I cried!
Still Life by Sarah Winman
Florence, London, art, and a fabulous cast of characters including a magical parrot, all woven together in a tapestry sewn together with language that sings …a story I became so immersed in I blubbered like a baby when it ended.
The Warsaw Orphan by Kelly Rimmer
Compelling and tragic in equal measure, this one took my breath away (and had me reaching for the tissues) with the beauty of the writing and the humanity of its characters.
The Beautiful Words by Vanessa McCausland
A fabulous follow-up to The Valley of Lost Stories, a story about friendship, family and finding our inner strength written in Vanessa’s swoon-worthy (and tear-inducing) style.
The Tea Ladies of St Jude’s Hospital by Joanna Nell
Three wonderful protagonists all dealing with their own dilemmas brought together to fight for a cause and a twist I didn’t see coming – and did I mention the lovely writing and quirky humour
All Our Shimmering Skies by Trent Dalton
An unforgettable, magical story told in Trent’s wonderful style that had me complete ly mesmerised.
Starting from Scratch by Penelope Janu
Okay, that’s 11, i know, but I had to include this gorgeous rural romance written so beautifully that the descriptions brought me to tears,
But wait, there’s more…
- The Dressmakers of Yarrandarrah Prison – something completely different with a real Australian flavour, set in a men’s prison with great characterisation and many smile-inducing moments (as well as a few lump in the throat ones as well).
- This Has Been Absolutely Lovely by Jessica Dettman – so many laugh out loud moments in this contemporary family story, great feel-good fiction but with some very poignant bits as well.
- Bila Yarrudhanggalangdhuray (River of Dreams) by Anita Heiss– a beautifully written story of the interaction between white settlers and the first nations people living on the Murray River, weaving indigenous language into the narrative, both sad and inspiring.
- The Ripping Tree – the first historical fiction by Nikki Gemmell and hopefully not the last, written in Nikki’s lilting style with such a strong character in Poss, and some inevitably gut-wrenching scenes.
So there you have it, the books that made me cry – and laugh and wish I’d written them – in 2021.
Would love to hear about the books that had a strong impact on you this year. Please leave your thoughts in the comments.
And bring on another great reading year in 2022.
Happy New Year!