My top 10 of 2022

I’ve been busy with work and life in 2022, so haven’t had time to update my blog, but I have still been reading! Here are some of my favourites from my 2022 reading:

Deaf Republic, by Ilya Kaminsky

What I love about this poetry collection, apart from the language, is the way it plays with form: there are elements of drama, as it’s divided into acts, and features a list of characters at the beginning; it’s a novella, each poem advancing the story; it’s multimodal, as it features sign language. I also love the way it plays with ideas about disability, with deafness being used to make a protest.

I wrote about Deaf Republic here. You can read most of the collection here.

Murder at Teal’s Pond, by David Bushman and Mark Givens

A ghost story is told to a child by his grandmother. It turns out the ghost story was inspired by the real murder of a young woman. The child grows up to become co-creator of the TV show Twin Peaks (Mark Frost), and the woman’s fate is part of his inspiration. Two writers hear Frost talking about the murder, and decide to investigate, and write about it, one-hundred years after the fact.

It’s interesting how much can be discovered about people who lived so long ago – Hazel Drew died in 1908 – particularly thanks to local historians, and the keeping of records. It’s also interesting how some things never change – corruption; men having all the power; the law protecting the wealthy…

You can read the foreword and opening here (click on ‘Look inside’).

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, by John Berendt

This is often described as a true crime novel, but I disagree. Firstly, it doesn’t read like a novel – it’s divided into two parts, with each chapter in the first part dedicated to an individual character, and the second part tying some of those characters together, in a loose way, following the ‘murder’. Secondly, it’s not about the crime, it’s about Savannah, and the characters the author meets there.

Berendt captures the voices and zeitgeist of 1990s Savannah, with its homophobic, transphobic, misogynistic, racist, anti-Semitic, and yet delightfully quirky characters.

You can read an excerpt here (under the image of the front cover).

The Hollow Man, by John Dickson Carr

This 1935 crime novel is considered to be the best locked room mystery ever written. I read it simply to find out how the crime was done. Lots of fun!

Read an extract here.

The Memory Police, by Yoko Ogawa

It’s hard to describe this haunting novel – on an island somewhere, people often wake to find their memories of a certain object have vanished, and then they have to make the object vanish too. Roses, books, people…

Read an extract here.

My Cousin Rachel, by Daphne du Maurier

Written in 1951, but set in the 19th century, this Gothic novel is so tense you’ll be shouting in frustration at naïve narrator Philip (‘What are you doing, giving all your money to that evil murderess, you fool!’), but the brilliant ending is worth it, and it’s only when you get to the ending that you’ll realise the power of a first-person narrator.

Read the opening, or the entire thing if you prefer, here.

‘Tortures’, by Wislawa Szymborska

I came across this poem because I’ve been teaching IB Diploma Literature, and the author is a popular choice for others teaching this course. (Unlike A-level Literature, a number of texts in translation must be studied on this course, as well as from different time periods, so the course has introduced me to several texts I haven’t read before).

This poem is both brutal and beautiful:

the soul,
disappears, returns, draws nearer, moves away,
a stranger to itself, elusive,
now sure, now uncertain of its own existence,
while the body is and is and is
and has nowhere to go.

Read the poem here, along with some contextual information about the author.

The Confessions of Frannie Langton, by Sara Collins

As soon as I started reading this historical fiction novel, I loved the narrative voice. It’s the 1800s, and Frannie is an educated Jamaican slave, brought to London as a gift for her master’s friend (slash rival, slash enemy). After finding some measure of happiness as a lady’s maid, Frannie is accused of murdering her new employers. Written in epistolary form, the book charts Frannie’s difficult life, and the love she finds, then loses.

Read the opening here.

Dictionary Entry, Bear: For the Girl Who Killed by Father, by Elizabeth Burton

This is a beautiful piece of creative nonfiction, that uses the form of a dictionary entry to tell the story of the author’s grief.

Read it here.

‘The Hunter’s Wife’, by Anthony Doerr

I love everything about this story: the fairy-tale-like setting and events, the detached narrator, the layers of meanings…

Read it here.

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