Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Staff Picks - Best Books of 2012: Antonia

Swimming Home by Deborah Levy

I'd loved Alison's Moore's The Lighthouse - which was also shortlisted for The Booker this year - and Swimming Home is similarly a short, tight and powerful novel. But while The Lighthouse has a meandering ambiguous quality to its story, Swimming Home is considerably more resonant and dramatic. There are so many phrases, sentences and paragraphs in the book that sing. The novel explores the devastating effect that depression can have on apparently stable, well-turned-out people. Set in a summer villa, the story is tautly structured, taking place over a single week in which a group of beautiful, flawed tourists in the French Riviera come loose at the seams.

May We Be Forgiven by AM Homes

I'd not read any of AM Homes's novels until this one, and I enjoyed May We Be Forgiven so much that I'll definitely be looking at her backlist. Critically acclaimed as belonging to the tradition of  Jonathan Franzen and Suri Hustvedt (The Guardian said it had ‘the narrative intensity of Franzen’s The Corrections and the emotional punch of Hustvedt’s What I Loved’), this is an exploration of family life beginning at a Thanksgiving celebration, a novel about connections, broken, made and remade, existing physically, emotionally and, increasingly, electronically. One of the strongest openings in fiction that I've read for ages - just start reading and you won't be able to stop. The sort of book that makes you excited about books all over again.

The Hanging Garden by Patrick White

2012 was all about Patrick White: May marked the centenary of his birth, Happy Valley was finally republished as a Text Classic after being out of print for decades, the excellent Patrick White exhibition visited the State Library, and we were treated to publication of his previously unpublished novel The Hanging Garden. Whether you've long been a fan of Patrick White or haven't read him yet, I do urge you to read The Hanging Garden. Two children are brought to a wild garden on the shores of Sydney Harbour to shelter from the Second World War. The boy's mother has died in the Blitz. The girl is the daughter of a Sydney woman and a Communist executed in a Greek prison. In wartime Australia, these two children form an extraordinary bond as they negotiate the dangers of life as strangers abandoned on the far side of the world.


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