Elizabeth Strout’s new novel, My Name is Lucy Barton is set in the mid 1980s where Lucy, a writer, has spent weeks in a Manhattan hospital recovering from a mysterious persistent infection. Her husband struggling to cope running their home and looking after their two young daughters, as well as with his job, unable to visit regularly. She is well cared for, particularly by the rather sad but fatherly doctor, but finds herself increasingly diminished by the nebulous nature of her illness, and her isolation.
Then, one afternoon, she wakes to see her mother seated on a chair at the end of her bed. It is completely unexpected. They have not seen each other for years, nor kept regular contact since her marriage. Her mother has never visited New York. Never been on a plane, nor even travelled in a taxi. But she has come and for five days she sets
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