Posts tagged ‘Penelope Fitzgerald’

December 15, 2013

Books of the Year 2013

by Andre

Books_of_2013We’ve expanded our trawl of the literary pages for the books of 2013 to come up with a definitive list of the 10 favourites (click on the image for a clearer view of the books – all available at the Riverside, of course). Here’s our top 10 poll of polls based on the books with the most nominations from critics and fellow authors in The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, Evening Standard, The Spectator, Financial Times, New York Times, Metro, The Independent, Daily Mail and Sunday Times.

1 The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
“…a deliciously compellingly dazzling jewel about beauty, fate and life.” – Simon Sebag Montefiore, Evening Standard

2 Margaret Thatcher – The Authorised Biography: Volume 1 – Not For Turning
“…an exceptional political biography with dozens of incidental pleasures — it is full of Dickensian walk-on parts and deliciously redolent of its period.” – Philip Hensher, Spectator

3 Tenth of December by George Saunders
“The stories are clever and moving, and the title story is the best piece of fiction I’ve read this year.” – Roddy Doyle, Guardian

4 The Pike: Gabriele D’Annunzio, Poet, Seducer and Preacher of War by Lucy Hughes-Hallett
“…an extraordinary story of literary accomplishment, passionate war-mongering and sexual incorrigibility.” – John Preston, Spectator

5 The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
“I read… The Luminaries three times in my capacity as Man Booker judge, and each time round it yielded new riches.” – Robert Macfarlane, Guardian

6 Love, Nina: Despatches From Family Life by Nina Stibbe
“…no book this year made me laugh more.” – John Lanchester, Guardian

7 Harvest by Jim Crace
“…easily the best-written novel of the year.” – Philip Hensher, Spectator

8 Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life by Hermione Lee
“…charts a life that travelled the full 360 degrees on the wheel of fortune.” – Helen Simpson, Guardian

9 Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
“…her most challenging, complex and compelling novel yet.” – Ian Rankin, Guardian

10 Power Trip: A Decade of Policy, Plots and Spin by Damian McBride
“Bankrupt of morals and bankrupt of style, it is a nonpareil of peevishness, and self-delusion shines from it like a Christmas star.” – Hilary Mantel, Guardian

Several of these titles were, in fact, level pegging but at the top The Goldfinch did just edge out Charles Moore’s richly rewarding – and surprisingly funny – account of Thatcher up until the 1982 Falklands victory. The P-Fitz biography did well to make the top 10 as it was only released in November. Stoner by John Williams got plenty of picks as a favourite of 2013, even though it first appeared in 1965. And bubbling under: The Circle by Dave Eggers, The Childhood of Jesus by J M Coetzee and All That Is by James Salter (“no question, the best novel I read this year,” said Richard Ford of the senior American author).

October 13, 2013

The Testament of Mary: Colm Tóibín

by Andre

Colm Toibin TESTAMENT OF MARYNovels that are barely novels have sometimes managed to win over the Booker Prize judges: Julian Barnes won for The Sense of an Ending a couple of years ago and Penelope Fitzgerald’s Offshore was triumphant in 1979. (Both are excellent, slender novels that are suited to reading in a single sitting.) So perhaps The Testament of Mary, in which Colm Tóibín enters the mind of the aged mother of Christ over 100 lyrical, heart-wrenching pages, will be named the best novel of the year this week at the 15 October prize ceremony, which takes place just the other side of London Bridge at the Guildhall. The Irish author would certainly be a deserving winner.

The Testament of Mary is such a rich work of the imagination, you’d have to be Richard Dawkins not to be moved by this depiction of Mary’s memories of her sanctified son and the violence, cruelty and duplicity that encroached upon her daily existence. This is a subtly daring work of fiction, in which Jesus (though his name is never uttered) and his followers are portrayed with a degree of ambivalence by his mother, as she recalls the world-changing incidents that sent her into exile. The Son of God is serenely powerful yet distant with her, and preoccupied during the wedding banquet where his followers claim he has turned water into wine. In the months and years after his murder, these early Christians busily fashion myths about his life, death and rise that confound his mother. His death may have redeemed the world, but for Mary it was the tragedy of losing a son.

As she tries to make sense of it all in later life, her account swells with a sadness that is, at times, overwhelming. ‘Memory fills my body as much as blood and bones,’ says Mary. Read this remarkable book in one sitting and Tóibín’s insistent, poignant prose will have a similar effect.