Monday, 10 December 2012

Saturday Book Club - Favourite Reads of 2012

Choosing the three best books of  2012 was quite a challenge, while we readily agreed the top three it proved more difficult to rate them.

Ultimately we agreed with the Man-Booker panel and rated Hilary Mantel's Bring Up the Bodies number one. For those who have not yet read this book, it focuses on the period in English history, when Henry VIII is seducing Jane Seymour and relying on those around him to find a way for him to be rid of wife number two Anne Boleyn. His loyal supporter (or is he) Cromwell, plots and schemes to rid Henry of Anne and give him his hearts desire.

The Boleyn family scheme to keep Anne on the throne and pray for the birth of a son to secure their power, while the Seymour’s manipulate Jane into a relationship with Henry in an attempt  to increase their power and gain greater access to the king and his money.

Cromwell, the puppet master plays all sides while the only people he is really trying to benefit are his family and supporters.

It was more difficult to choose second and third, finally we settled upon Elliot Perlman’s The Street Sweeper for second, and Patrick Gale’s A Perfectly Good Man for third, while very different books, both authors are excellent at observing  interpersonal relationships and the small things that make all our lives richer.

Perlman's The Street Sweeper has as its centre three characters an academic, a street sweeper and an old dying patient at a hospital. The characters are tied together by Perlman in the narrative that reaches from modern day New York to the concentration camps of the second world war. Through their lives we experience the holocaust, loss of family  and the impact of history on people long after the event.

The story winds it way through the lives of the various characters, leading to an ultimate redemption for the central characters and a greater understanding of human nature for the reader.

In A Perfectly Good Man Gale returns to his two recurring themes of god and sex. Set in a small community in Cornwall, the first chapter asks the question of the reader: is Barnaby a good man? We are never given the answer to this question, but by traversing Barnaby’s life and the lives of those who matter most to him the reader reaches his or her own decision.

The book follows the lives of the characters through their life in no particular order, offering insights into why Barnaby does what he does and the forces that have shaped his lives and the lives of those he loves a lot and far less so.

We would also like to give a thumbs up, for a racy novel about the current day political and intelligence elite of Canberra; The Marmalade Files by Chris Uhlmann and Stephen Lewis. This is a book that makes you laugh and cringe in equal measure at the goings on in the nation’s capital. Good summer reading with a cold one. The top three  are both character driven and beautifully written, and thus the reason chosen by the Saturday Morning Book club as the top three for 2012, The Marmalade Files is just a fun read.

- Paddy

No comments:

Post a Comment