Hello faithful readers! I come to you still warm and sluggish from the great hibernation that was December 2012. I would love to promise that, in this new year, such slackness will not occur again… But we all know it will. So without further ado I introduce you to my favourite books of 2012!
As with last time around, I’m restricting my picks to books published last year because I’ve already raved about anything older (hello, If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller, Death in Venice, The Master, Possession et al).
This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz
You may remember that I loved The Brief Wondrous life of Oscar Wao earlier in the year and I have spent a fair bit of time arguing about how this book is equally worthy. Let me summarise: Yes, it features similar characters and yes, it’s the same voice but THAT VOICE IS AMAZING. Modern, visceral, exuberant and honest, This is How You Lose Her chronicles the affairs of serially cheating Yunior. The final story is painfully and searingly honest, for me a prediction of where Diaz will go next. Contains the line that made me cry: “The half-life of love is forever.”
Melisande! What Are Dreams? by Hillel Halkin
Dually recommended to me by my (ex)boss Zev and Bram Presser, the people who brought us I.J. Singer’s Brothers Ashkenazi (which I now realise I haven’t actually written about yet. Another time!). This quietly captivating novel follows the lives of Hoo, Ricky and Melisande from their high school editing days into their diverging lives. Essentially a love letter from Hoo to Melisande, it captures the way first love and betrayals echo on through life. It kind of reminded me of Julian Barnes’ The Sense of an Ending with its gentle, unassuming mastery of storytelling. I cried for twenty minutes when I finished it because it was beautiful and it was over.
Arcadia by Lauren Groff
Let’s get it out the way: I cried when I finished this one too. I spent the first six months of my life on a kibbutz and perhaps the socialist vibe rubbed off on me because the hippy commune, Arcadia, seemed to me like a beautiful way to grow up. A crumbling mansion in the woods, a vegan diet of tofu everything and fresh bread, rambling lessons on botany in the forest, a kid herd and respectful free love: this is Bit’s childhood. In 1978 the cracks in the utopian dream are already evident but of greater interest is how it echoes over the rest of Bit’s life and the lives of his childhood friends. Groff’s ability to depict time flow effortlessly lets themes of love, parenting, idealism and the questions of success and failure shine through. I don’t think it’s out in Australia yet but the second it is you should definitely read it.