1 January 2022 Susannah

My 2021 Favourites

My 2021 Favourites

I always begin the year by giving you my Top Ten books of the year before. Please remember that my Top Ten always automatically includes the novels of Jane Austen – I just don’t list them every year! I am cheating a bit this year as I’m including some series of books as one choice, but I hope you’ll forgive me. I also hope that I am giving you some good recommendations for books you might like to read this year. They are listed alphabetically according to author’s surname:

  • Jane Austen: Reflections of a Reader by Nora Bartlett was published after the author’s death. A truly fabulous book of literary criticism, elegantly written and a work that shows deep knowledge of Jane Austen’s fiction.
  • As a leader of literary tours, I got huge enjoyment from Larissa Behrendt’s After Story, about an Aboriginal woman and her daughter who go on a literary tour in England, visiting Stratford, Chawton, Bath and many of the places I include in my English tours. The story was half told by the mother, and half by the daughter, so you got their very different reactions, and it was a moving account of loss, grieving, and the way in which travelling somewhere else can make you see where you have come from with new eyes.
  • I enjoyed two excellent books about Coco Chanel this year – Coco Chanel: An Intimate Life by Liza Chaney, and Chanel’s Riviera by Anne de Courcy. I hope you can get to see the Chanel exhibition in Melbourne.
  • Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser was a fantastic biography and also history book. I learned so much from this book.
  • Like Stephen Fry, A.S. Byatt and Margaret Drabble, I am a huge fan of Georgette Heyer. This year I re-read her Venetia, one of her best books. Heyer’s witty Regency novels were the perfect antidote to lockdown and I loved rediscovering just how good Venetia is. You might like to watch my YouTube talk about the theme of the novel.
  • The Cazalet novels of Elizabeth Jane Howard, read on audio by Jill Balcon (except for the 5th book). I had never read any of Howard’s fiction before, but adored this series and felt bereft when it came to an end.
  • Lampedusa by Stephen Price is a biographical novel about the author of The Leopard. I wrote about this book a few months ago and really recommend it.
  • A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth was first published in 1993 and I read it that year. However, this year I re-read it and was blown away by how marvellous and magisterial it is. I loved all its connections with Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen is one of Seth’s three favourite novelists (you can learn more about Seth and his other favourites in my video talk on the book).
  • C.J. Sansom’s historical series, featuring lawyer Matthew Shardlake, and set in Tudor England. I have read them all before, but this year had the huge pleasure of listening to them superbly read on audio by Anton Lesser. Definitely my favourite mystery novels of all time!
  • The Jane Austen Remedy by Ruth Wilson is not yet a book, but it will be published early this year. I had the privilege of reading it in manuscript and it is superb – moving, thought-provoking and memorable.

Good books to read have helped me endure a second year of lockdown and disruptions. I hope books have helped you, too.

Have you read any memorable books this year? I’d love you to recommend a book to me. Tell me by leaving a comment.

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Comments (19)

  1. Louise Gain

    I highly recommend The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles. Written in the great American tradition -Steinbeck, Salinger With multiple narrators it’s a well constructed Bildungsroman.

  2. Heather Grant

    I am rereading the Cazalet series over the Christmas break and have nearly finished the second volume, Marking Time. Unfortunately my Library doesn’t appear to have the third in the series, Confusion but I can purchase it on iBooks if the Library copy has been lost. I find Neville quite delightful and typical little boy. A wonderful series

    Also have read Elly Griffiths third in book of the Ruth Galloway series which has now made me reserve the fourth book!

    I have taken note of your other recommendations and will search for those in the Library. Thank you for that

    I recently purchased from the National Library Jane Austen’s Table – recipes inspired by the works of Jane Austen which arrived just after Christmas Day. . I am quite sure you have a copy already.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I am so glad you are enjoying re-reading The Cazalets.
      Yes, I have seen the new JA book, though don’t know if I will ever get around to trying out the recipes.
      I adore Elly Griffiths! I believe she has a new one coming out soon – can’t wait.
      Happy New Year – I hope it is packed with good books.

  3. Ruth Wilson

    I am re-reading a novella (probably my favourite fictional form) by Dorothy Strachey perhaps better known for being the wife of a famous painter and the sister of the celebrated Lytton. Such has been the fate of many brilliant women. The book is called ‘Olivia’ and is purportedly by Olivia! It was first published in 1949 . In the introduction the author confessed that love has always been the chief business of her life, and the novella gives an account of the first love of a 16 year old girl for Mlle Julie, her intriguing French teacher. It sounds simple enough, and it is – simply perfect!

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I know nothing about Dorothy who sounds fascinating and neglected, so thanks for letting me know about her book. I will look for it. I am currently following your fabulous suggestion of Niall Williams’ This is Happiness, and am loving it.
      I hope 2022 is filled with good reading for you.

  4. S. Beckett

    Best book I’ve read of all those I’ve read in 2021 is unquestionably “A Gentleman in Moscow” by Amor Towles. Elegantly written and an absolute delight to read. I was in thrall to the last page.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I loved most of ‘A Gentleman in Moscow’, but felt the ending let it down badly. It’s all a matter of taste when it coems to books, isn’t it.

      • Sandra Beckett

        Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. I thought the ending worked beautifully, and I liked the idea that though he finally escaped, he didn’t leave his loved homeland – and, of course, the willowy lady was waiting for him. I felt quite satisfied when I finally closed the book. (Actually, I’d downloaded it from my local library during lockdown and so read it digitally. When we were finally allowed to leave our home, I hot-footed it to my favourite bookshop and brought an actual copy).

        • Susannah Fullerton

          Maybe I need to read it again. I know loads of people who adored the book and were not unhappy with the ending, so it must just be me.
          Happy New Year and may 2022 be filled with many fabulous books.

  5. Lorraine McKerrow

    My favourite read this year Susannah was Amore Towles’ , ‘A Gentleman in Moscow’. The ending fell away for me though the clues had been laced into the story that he would escape but it put our isolation into a new perspective for me. The delightful character development and poignant moments have placed this book in my ‘To Read Again’ basket. He has two other books ; one I finished soon after The Gentleman In Moscow and now The Lincoln Highway which I am savouring.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I can see that reading ‘A Gentleman in Moscow’ during lockdown would give it a whole new meaning. I just really disliked the ending, but enjoyed it all before that. I will order The Lincoln Highway from the library as it seems to be getting good reviews.
      Happy New Year and I hope 2022 is full of good books.

  6. Jenny Gray

    I’ve just finished “After Story” by Larissa Behrendt. I really enjoyed the way she intertwined the travel stories of the mother and daughter and related them to their Australian/Aboriginal heritage stories. Well worth reading.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Wasn’t it good! I loved seeing those places in England that are so familiar from my own tours through the eyes of the two women.

  7. Carolien Evans

    Hi Susannah,

    Happy New Year to you.
    The year is only four days young so I’ve only read one book so far.
    It’s Trent Dalton’s ‘Love Stories’: interviews with a cross section of people in our society. He sat on a Brisbane city corner for a couple of months with an Olivetti and a sign: sentimental author collecting love stories. Keep the tissue box near…

    Best wishes,

    Carolien

    • Susannah Fullerton

      That’s an interesting way of collecting stories! Thanks for letting know about it – will add it to my list.

  8. Carol

    Happy New Year, Susannah!

    I, too, have always loved Georgette Heyer since first reading them as a teenager, and have re-read them many, many times. As you say, they are comfort reading, and I turn to them whenever my mood dictates their need. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to your talk on Venetia. Interestingly, when I was growing up in Australia, her name was pronounced to rhyme with “higher”, as it was originally pronounced by her family before the First World War. To this day, my age friends still do! I was so upset when she died and I knew there would be no more wonderful characters to get to know. Perhaps you’ve read “The Private World of Georgette Heyer” by Jane Aiken Hodge (The Bodley Head 1984)? I don’t know if it is still in print, I have had a copy since it was first published and I sold it in my bookshop all that time ago. It is an illuminating read and very enjoyable; I highly recommend it.

    Cheers…Carol

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I know exactly how you feel, Carol. Her books are all good friends and such wonderful comfort reads. There is still debate over the way to pronounce her name. Jennifer Kloester, her biographer, has told me that the family say ‘Hair’, but that sounds a bit odd if you are not English, so I’ve stuck with Hay-er. I have read ‘The Private World of GH’ and love it, and I also have Jennifer’s fabulous biography. I think she would have been a formidable woman to meet, but oh what pleasure she has given us. I am delighted you enjoyed my youtube talk on ‘Venetia’.

  9. Wendy Gray

    I recently enjoyed ‘Pachinko’ by Min Jin Lee, a family saga set in the Korean community in Japan from 1905ish to the 70s. Koreans came to Japan as a result of the Japanese occupation of their country, seeking a better life but they were severely restricted in where they could work, live or (rarely) own property. As a result nearly all lived in poverty and some took to crime, thus confirming the prejudices held against them. Choices made cause consequences for children & grandchildren finding their own way in a difficult world.
    Beautifully written and a deep immersion into a completely foreign culture for me.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      A few people have recommended ‘Pachinko’ to me, so it is definitely one I must add to my list.
      Many thanks, and Happy New Year.

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