Diane Setterfield Recommends Her Top 5 Reads of 2019
This Boxing day my plan is to sit all day by the fire reading. I keep hearing good things about Abir Mukherjee’s detective series set in Calcutta and so one of my fireside companions will be his latest, Death in the East. This year I’ve fallen in love with everything Bauhaus, so Naomi Wood’s new novel The Hiding Game will also be on the pile. About love and obsession in a radical art school in Nazi Germany, it has had great reviews.
When I gave this book to my nature-loving Dad, he followed my Mum all over the house reading little bits aloud to her because it’s so good. Arranged month by month, the short pieces can be read cover to cover or – better - with the seasons. Miraculously close observation of wildlife, great depth of knowledge, a poet’s sensitivity to language – it’s all here. Brilliant stuff.
This note-perfect debut novel has a genius first line and it just gets better from there. About a pair of friends who live with their mums, play boardgames and go to work, it proves that there is nothing ordinary about ordinary lives. I adored it and have given half a dozen copies away already. Everyone likes it!
I’ve gone off thrillers in recent years – I think I got bored of being scared. This one is different. It’s a clever study of male entitlement and by setting it in the creative writing department of a university, Jo Baker is able to raise questions about violence against women as it is used by storytellers. I don’t mind books that frighten me if they also make me think, and this one does just that.
This is just up my street. I love non-fiction that moves me the way novels do, and this is one of those. Bringing together the author’s own experience of family loss with accounts of books and films that focus on ghostly places, it is a reminder that being haunted is one of the defining characteristics of being human. Perfect!
The Bauhaus has got a grip on me this year, and Gropius could have no better biographer than Fiona MacCarthy. In telling the story of the founding and the disintegration of the Bauhaus, she unearths the man behind the myth. It’s a big book, but I read it in two days flat and fell in love.
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