December Reflections 6: best book of 2018


It’s been another year of ‘reading what I happen to feel like reading‘, an approach which I recommend. Ceasing to feel guilty about the books that I have or haven’t read has been one of the best decisions of my life. Before I set off on my InterRail trip, I asked people to recommend me books that they had enjoyed, and then loaded up my e-reader with the results. I also downloaded a lot of free stuff from Project Gutenberg. More recently, I’ve been reading and re-reading books with particularly convincing imaginary locations, for my Reader’s Gazetteer series.

I’m amused to note that my top three this year have strong f/f themes, which in some ways is very representative of my reading habits, and in other ways leaves a lot out. But there we go.

I’ve already written about Heather Rose Jones’ Alpennia series, and why I enjoy it so much. In fact, I have read the three main books twice within the space of this year, a habit which I thought had gone the way of long school holidays. I’ll repeat what I said before –

If I’d written a wishlist of all the tropes and themes that I most enjoy reading, and handed my specifications over to an author, I couldn’t have liked the result better than I like this. The series contains nights at the opera, women in breeches, swashbuckling, politics both national and ecclesiastical, relationships between women, and a sensitive portrayal of religious experience. And a fictional state somewhere in Europe. –

– and add that I’m very grateful to the person who recommended it based on my enthusiasm for The Prisoner of Zenda.

The King of a Rainy Country (Brigid Brophy) is a book that I’ve had on the bookcase for ages (I was almost certainly drawn to the Virago green spine in a charity shop) and hadn’t got around to reading. It turns out to be a wistful, regretful, funny novel with moments of sheer beauty, in which a young woman drags the young man she isn’t really in a relationship with around Italy in search of the girl she had a (reciprocated) crush on at school.

But I think my favourite book of 2018 was Passing Strange by Ellen Klages. It was one of the ‘InterRail recommendations’ acquisitions – in fact, one friend recommended it, and another chipped in to say how much they had liked it. This was a short book based in San Francisco in 1940, with a convincing evocation of the lesbian scene, and magic applied with a very light hand. I loved it.

My least favourite book, incidentally, was The Way We Live Now, in which I hated everybody except the American adventuress, and was horrified by the anti-semitism. I only kept reading to see who was going to end up marrying whom.

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