We’ve read books this year with unforgettable characters and heart wrenching plots, some of these book we’ll be thinking about for the rest of our lives!
Still Life – Sarah Winman
1944, Italy. As bombs fall around them, two strangers meet in the ruined wine cellar of a Tuscan villa and share an extraordinary evening.
Ulysses Temper is a young British soldier, Evelyn Skinner a 64-year-old art historian living life on her own terms. She has come to salvage paintings from the wreckage of war and relive memories of her youth when her heart was stolen by an Italian maid in a particular room with a view. Ulysses’ chance encounter with Evelyn will transform his life – and all those who love him back home in London – forever.
Uplifting, sweeping and full of unforgettable characters, Still Life is a novel about beauty, love, family and friendship.
Lessons – Ian McEwan
While the world is still counting the cost of the Second World War and the Iron Curtain has descended, young Roland Baines’s life is turned upside down. Stranded at boarding school, his vulnerability attracts his piano teacher, Miriam Cornell, leaving scars as well as a memory of love that will never fade.
Twenty-five years later, as the radiation from the Chernobyl disaster spreads across Europe, Roland’s wife mysteriously vanishes and he is forced to confront the reality of his rootless existence and look for answers in his family history.
From the fall of the Berlin Wall to the Covid pandemic and climate change, Roland sometimes rides with the tide of history but more often struggles against it. Haunted by lost opportunities, he seeks solace through every possible means — literature, travel, friendship, drugs, politics, sex and love.
His journey raises important questions. Can we take full charge of the course of our lives without damage to others? How do global events beyond our control shape us and our memories? What role do chance and contingency play in our existence? And what can we learn from the traumas of the past?
Lessons in Chemistry – Bonnie Garmus
Chemist Elizabeth Zott is not your average woman. In fact, Elizabeth Zott would be the first to point out that there is no such thing.
But it’s the early 1960s and her all-male team at Hastings Research Institute take a very unscientific view of equality. Except for one: Calvin Evans, the lonely, brilliant, Nobel-prize nominated grudge-holder who falls in love with – of all things – her mind. True chemistry results.
Like science, life is unpredictable. Which is why a few years later, Elizabeth Zott finds herself not only a single mother, but the reluctant star of America’s most beloved cooking show, Supper at Six. Elizabeth’s unusual approach to cooking (‘combine one tablespoon acetic acid with a pinch of sodium chloride’) proves revolutionary. But as her following grows, not everyone is happy. Because as it turns out, Elizabeth Zott isn’t just teaching women to cook. She’s daring them to change the status quo.
A Town Called Solace – Mary Lawson
Clara‘s rebellious older sister is missing. Grief-stricken and bewildered, she yearns to uncover the truth about what happened.
Liam, newly divorced and newly unemployed, moves into the house next door and within hours gets a visit from the police.
Elizabeth is thinking about a crime committed thirty years ago, one that had tragic consequences for two families. She desperately wants to make amends before she dies.
The Facemaker – Lindsey Fitzharris
n The Facemaker, award-winning historian Lindsey Fitzharris tells the astonishing story of the pioneering plastic surgeon Harold Gillies, who dedicated himself to restoring the faces – and the identities – of a brutalized generation. Gillies, a Cambridge-educated New Zealander, became interested in the nascent field of plastic surgery after encountering the human wreckage on the front.
Returning to Britain, he established one of the world’s first hospitals dedicated entirely to facial reconstruction in Sidcup, south-east England. There, Gillies assembled a unique group of doctors, nurses and artists whose task was to recreate what had been torn apart. At a time when losing a limb made a soldier a hero, but losing a face made him a monster to a society largely intolerant of disfigurement, Gillies restored not just the faces of the wounded but also their spirits.
Meticulously researched and grippingly told, The Facemaker places Gillies’s ingenious surgical innovations alongside the poignant stories of soldiers whose lives were wrecked and repaired. The result is a vivid account of how medicine and art can merge, and of what courage and imagination can accomplish in the presence of relentless horror.
The Island House – Mary Considine
Mary and Patrick’s dream was to live in London, have children, the nice house, the successful jobs. But life had other plans, and in one traumatic year that all came crashing down. Bruised and battered, Mary finds herself pulled towards Cornwall and dreams of St George’s Island, where she spent halcyon childhood summers.
So, when an opportunity arises to become tenants if they renovate the old Island House, they grab it with both hands. Life on the island is hard, especially in winter, the sea and weather, unforgiving. But the rugged natural beauty, the friendly ghosts of previous inhabitants, and the beautiful isolation of island life bring hope and purpose, as they discover a resilience they never knew they had.
Second Place – Rachel Cusk
A woman invites a famed artist to visit the remote coastal region where she lives, in the belief that his vision will penetrate the mystery of her life and landscape.
Over the course of one hot summer, his provocative presence provides the frame for a study of female fate and male privilege, of the geometries of human relationships, and of the struggle to live morally between our internal and external worlds. With its examination of the possibility that art can both save and destroy us, ‘Second Place’ is deeply affirming of the human soul, while grappling with its darkest demons.
Nettle and Bone – T. Kingfisher
After years of seeing her sisters suffer at the hands of an abusive prince, Marra – the shy, convent-raised, third-born daughter – has finally realized that no one is coming to their rescue.
No one, except for Marra herself.
Seeking help from a powerful gravewitch, Marra is offered the tools to kill a prince – if she can complete three impossible tasks. But, as is the way in tales of princes, witches, and daughters, the impossible is only the beginning.
The Tiger and the Wolf – Adrian Tchaikovsky
In the bleak northern crown of the world, war is coming . . .
Maniye’s father is the Wolf clan’s chieftain, but she’s an outcast. Her mother was queen of the Tiger and these tribes have been enemies for generations. Maniye also hides a deadly secret. All can shift into their clan’s animal form, but Maniye can take on tiger and wolf shapes. She refuses to disown half her soul so escapes, rescuing a prisoner of the Wolf clan in the process. The killer Broken Axe is set on their trail to drag them back for retribution.
The Wolf chieftain plots to rule the north, and controlling his daughter is crucial to his schemes. However, other tribes also prepare for strife. Strangers from the far south appear too, seeking allies in their own conflict. It’s a season for omens as priests foresee danger and a darkness falling across the land. Some say a great war is coming, overshadowing even Wolf ambitions. A time of testing and broken laws is near – but what spark will set the world ablaze?
Stone Blind – Natalie Haynes
Medusa is the sole mortal in a family of gods. Growing up with her Gorgon sisters, she begins to realize that she is the only one who experiences change, the only one who can be hurt. And her mortal lifespan gives her an urgency that her family will never know.
When the sea god Poseidon commits an unforgivable act in the temple of Athene, the goddess takes her revenge where she can – and Medusa is changed forever. Writhing snakes replace her hair, and her gaze now turns any living creature to stone. The power cannot be controlled: Medusa can look at nothing without destroying it. She is condemned to a life of shadows and darkness.
Until Perseus embarks upon a quest to fetch the head of a Gorgon . . .
Trust – Hernan Diaz
Can one person change the course of history?
The legendary Wall Street tycoon whose immense wealth gives him the power to do almost anything. The second-generation Italian immigrant tasked with recording his life story. The reclusive, aristocratic wife.
And the writer who observes them from afar.
In a city devoted to making money and making stories like no other, where wealth means power, who gets to tell the truth? And to rise to the top of a glittering, destructive world, what – and who – do you have to sacrifice?