The time has come again to face an impossible task of narrowing the 117 books I have read into a top ten list. As always it was difficult to do but I have managed and I will list them in no particular order. Apart from my favourite book of the year which I will reveal at the end. You can see my review for each book by clicking on the title.
1921. The Great War is over and families are desperately trying to piece together the fragments of their broken lives. While many survivors have been reunited with their loved ones, Edie’s husband Francis has not come home. He was declared ‘missing, believed killed’ during the war, but when Edie receives a mysterious photograph in the post, taken by Francis, hope flares. And so she begins to search.
Francis’s brother, Harry, is also searching. Hired by grieving families to photograph gravesites, he has returned to the Western Front. As Harry travels through battle-scarred France, gathering news for British wives and mothers, he longs for Francis to be alive, so they can forgive each other for the last conversation they ever had.
And as Harry and Edie’s paths converge, they begin to get closer to a startling truth.
With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. The Photographer Of The Lost was a book that I couldn’t wait to read. I knew it would upset me, books like this always do, but I was upset for different reasons than I expected. The story about those who want to find missing service men is one I knew would affect me, families desperate for answers about husbands and sons who they knew deep down had lost their lives and wanted to see their resting place. For proof and some form of closure.
It is something, to my shame, that I had never given much though too. It is easier to think that it concerned just a handful of people, but the author shows how many thousands of families never had their answers. The other thing I never really thought about was the rebuilding of the communities after the war. You often see images of the trenches on the news, followed by images of the pristine cemeteries. I have never seen anything about the time when houses and churches were being rebuilt, the cemeteries being prepared. All with respect, dignity and pride by local men.
Many things will stay with me. The nightmares experienced by Harry, his siblings and friends lost. The pride of the workmen and ex service men who were trying their best. And the description of a recently abandoned home that still had a vase of fresh flowers.
Absolutely stunning, The Photographer Of The Lost is one of the best books I have read this year.
1925. The war is over and a new generation is coming of age, keen to put the trauma of the previous one behind them.
Selina Lennox is a Bright Young Thing whose life is dedicated to the pursuit of pleasure; to parties and drinking and staying just the right side of scandal. Lawrence Weston is a struggling artist, desperate to escape the poverty of his upbringing and make something of himself. When their worlds collide one summer night, neither can resist the thrill of the forbidden, the lure of a love affair that they know cannot possibly last.
But there is a dark side to pleasure and a price to be paid for breaking the rules. By the end of that summer everything has changed.
A decade later, nine year old Alice is staying at Blackwood Hall with her distant grandparents, piecing together clues from her mother’s letters to discover the secrets of the past, the truth about the present, and hope for the future.
With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. The Glittering Hour is a stunning novel that I struggled to put down. With Selina in 1925 and Alice in 1936 I couldn’t decide which narrative I preferred. Selina is a Bright Young Thing, an embarrassment to her family but loved by the media. There were parties, alcohol and drugs but she wasn’t as wealthy as the others and struggled at times to keep up. And go with her heart. One of the reasons she behaved like she did was because of her older brother’s death in WW1, there were just the right amount of references to those who came back and were reduced to selling matches on street corners. It made me consider what a strange time it must have been to live in. So much heartache but also the desire for a carefree life.
Alice is her daughter, nine years old in 1936 and left with her grandparents whilst her parents were away. Missing her mother, she is encouraged to do treasure hunts so she can discover more about her mother. Whilst I liked the hunt and reading the letters from her mother I enjoyed the friendships she built more, especially with Polly.
Whilst most of the novel concerns Selina and Alice there are also short chapters that tell the reader what the minor characters are feeling. Some likeable, some not, but they are all important in both of their lives.
It’s an astonishing novel, one that I will definitely like to read again. And next time I will have the tissues ready.
After eight years in the American Furniture department at Christie’s, twenty-nine-year-old Carolyn Everett is a rising star. But one wrong decision and a scandal leaves her unemployed and broken. Desperate to piece her life back together, Carolyn leaves New York City to work in a tiny antique store in Newport, Rhode Island.
One day at a small county auction, she discovers a piece of Middle Eastern pottery, which she purchases for twenty dollars on a hunch. Curiosity sends her on a mission to find its original owner, and she eventually winds up in the town’s United States Navy Base—and in a relationship with notorious womanizer Marine Sergeant Tyler Ford, who claims the relic came to him as a gift from his translator during the early days of the Iraq War. From two different worlds, Tyler and Carolyn become obsessed with the mysterious relic—and each other—until the origin of the art comes under intense scrutiny and reveals a darker side of Tyler’s past. Carolyn still feels like there’s more to the story, but can she risk attaching herself to another scandal—and does she truly know the man she’s fallen in love with.
The Price of Inheritance is not a novel that I would usually read but I was on a break from crime fiction and this was the novel that looked most appealing.
After losing her job and returning home in an attempt to rebuild her life Carolyn gets a job working for her old employer. It’s completely different to her job with Christie’s but she enjoys it, especially going to an auction and finding a gem. When she sees a bowl that is unusual she buys it. It isn’t her area of expertise but her interest is piqued and she is determined to find out its history and value. She tracks down the man who sold it but is uncertain if he can be trusted.
I enjoyed reading this book. This is the first book that I have read that takes place in auction houses and art history is something I know nothing about. I found myself resorting to the internet looking up the artists and museums mentioned.
I did feel that the characters were slightly stereotyped. All the military were brainless womanisers and a few of the wealthy were condescending but I liked Carolyn and William very much. I loved the sections that took place in the auctions, they felt very convincing. I could sense the tension that the people connected to a sale must experience.
An author that I would be interested in reading again, thanks to the publisher for the copy received via NetGalley.