What a year of novels! I found at least five I loved.

This list does not include the big pile of novels I discarded. So all of these had some merit, or I wouldn’t have finished them.

1. Gilead – Marilynne Robinson (2004), USA
It got even better this second time I read it, a novel which embodies grace and what it means to be alive. 10/10

2.  Freedom – Jonathan Franzen (2010), USA
It is a deeply perceptive novel. Franzen is smart and cynical, but he knows how to break my heart and then patch it up again with hope. He knows our inner worlds, and he also knows the outer political worlds. He seems to know everything. 10/10

3.  Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro (2005) , Brit
A devastating tale of a dystopian childhood and youth. I’m still waiting for the film to be released in Australia. 9/10

4.  Home, Marilynne Robinson (2008) USA
The companion to Gilead; some will find it ‘slow-burning’, others ‘boring’, but I came to love it. 9/10

5.  Journey Through Space – Toby Litt (2009) USA
A ship travelling to the nearest habitable planet at 1/10th light speed, taking generations to get there – what an amazing concept. Litt covers the span well and the civilisation of the ship comes to symbolize the behaviour of humanity broadly. It is bleak and sad, but also fascinating and compelling. 9/10

6. Cold Mountain [audiobook] – Charles Frazer, Charles (1997) USA
A cruel ending sours an incredibly rich and beautiful account of the dark days of the Civil War.  8/10

7.  On Beauty – Zadie Smith, (2005), Brit
An engrossing drama-comedy set around a university. She perceives the young and old well, it seems to me. 8/10

8.  Rabbit at rest – John Updike (1990) USA,
It was a perfect book last time I read it; what changed? 8/10

9.  Howards End – E.M. Forster (1910) Brit, 8/10

10. The Final Solution [audiobook] – Michael Chabon (2002)
Delightful, wise descriptions of life are what this novella are about, rather than the detective story. Missed crucial aspects listening on tape – like the fact the ‘old man’ is, of course, Sherlock Holmes! 8/10

11.    The Bell Jar [audiobook] – Sylvia Plath (1962) USA, 8/10

12.    Solar – Ian McEwan (2010) Brit, 7.5/10

13.    Unless – Carol Shields (2003) Canada, 7/10

14.    Oranges are not the only fruit – Jeannette Winterston (1985), Brit, 7/10

15.    The Reincarnation of Peter Proud – Max Ehrlich  USA (1974)
There is a satisfying narrative symmetry to The Reincarnation. It begins with Peter Proud’s recurring dream from his previous life of being drowned in a lake at night by a woman named Marcia, and it ends with this same woman drowning Peter in his current life.  The plot is well structured. Peter Proud has disturbing, recurring dreams of his past life. He seeks answers from a sleep researcher, a clairvoyant and a ‘psi-researcher’ in order to recover his past. But the break-through comes when he sees footage on television from the town where used to live, and eventually tracks it down. Once he’s discovered who he was, he has two tasks to juggle: he finds his daughter and wife (Marcia) from his previous life and learns as much information he can from them; and he re-enacts each of the recurring dreams, as the re-enactment has some sort of psychological healing effect on him – it stops coming back. 7/10

16.    The American – Henry James (1877) USA, 7/10

17.    In A Dry Season – Peter Robinson (1999) Brit, 6.5/10

18.    The Lovely Bones [audiobook] – Alice Sebold (2002) USA, 6.5/10

19.    Sunset Park – Paul Auster (2010) USA, 6/10

20.    A Personal Matter – Kenzaburo Oe (1964) Japan, 6/10

21.    That eye, the sky – Tim Winton (1986) Aust, 6/10

22.    The Three Evangelists – Fred Vargas (2006) France, 6/10

23.    So Much For That – Lionel Shriver (2010) USA, 5/10

Murdering Stepmothers – Anna Haebich (2010) Australia (Unrated)

When We Were Orphans – Kazuo Ishiguro, Brit (Unrated)