After Her

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My Top Ten books for 2013: A wonderful year of reading

For the first time I kept a list of the books I read during past year and looking back over the months, 2013 was a rich year for literary pleasure.  In total I read 76 books. That averaged out at about six books a month  I only managed three in June yet nine in May (that’s the luxury of holidays). Apart from reading all the books on the Booker Prize shortlist there was no particular rhyme or reason to my selections. Sometimes I would just see a book in a book shop, other times it was the book selected by my book club. Sometimes it was a review or a news item in a newspaper or magazine or because an author was appearing at a literary festival I was attending (Dublin, Hay-on-Wye in England and Byron Bay in Australia).

Despite all that,  I when I read other people’s  end-of-year Best Of book lists I was stunned at the number  I had not even heard of let alone all those wonderful authors whose books are sitting on my bedside table or in my e-reader but which I haven’t got around to reading yet. I did live up to the promise I made myself to read more collections of short stories and was richly rewarded. I read a pathetically small number of non-fiction which I hope to remedy in 2014. There were one or two which, if it were not for the “I’ve started so I’ll finish” rule, would have immediately been relegated to the bottom of the book pile but thus is the delicious serendipity of reading.

So, before the clock ticks over to a new day and new year, here is my top ten for 2013

Book Review: After Her by Joyce Maynard

9780062257390A little over thirty years ago, on a June day just before sunset … a man came toward me with a length of piano wire stretched between his hands, and the intention of ending my days. I was 14 years old and many had already died at his hands … I have my sister to thank that I am here to tell what happened that day. Two ties, it was my sister who saved me, though I was not able to do the same for my sister.

 Rachel Torricelli and her younger sister Patty are growing up in a small, poor, suburban area in Marin County, southern California, eight miles north of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. Their father is the chief homicide detective, a charming, romantic, habitual philanderer whose escapades have shattered his marriage. Patty is a gifted athlete but hardly speaks except to Rachel to whom she is devoted. Rachel believes she has the gift of seeing the future and has a scarily mature understanding of her parents relationship.

“The problem between our parents, maybe, was that of all the women, our mother may have been the only one who appeared immune to our father’s romantic tactics, and for a man accustomed to charming the female population of the entire San Francisco Bay area this must have taken the wind right out of his sales.”

To all effect abandoned by their mother, a depressive who has retreated into her own private world after the breakdown of the marriage,  the sisters are content to be left to their own devices and spend much of their time playing imaginative games in the sprawling foothills of the mountains close to their home. Then the first body is found thrusting their father  into the limelight.  For Rachel, his


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