Top Five Saturday is a meme hosted by Devouring Books to discover and share books that all have a common theme. The list of themes currently runs at
- 1/4/20 — Funny Books
- 1/11/20 — Books Over 5 years old
- 1/18/20 — Unreliable Narrators
- 1/25/10 — Books by Favorite Authors
Five books? Only Five?
Only five favourite authors?
What sort of fresh torture is this?
Who only has five favourite authors?
Okay, so let’s try to set some ground rules for this. I do love me some classics but lets limit this list to modern novels and perhaps different genres.
Crime: Kate Atkinson, One Good Turn
I love a good crime novel! And there are some wonderful writers out there: Tana French would come very close here. The Jackson Brodie novels, though, sneak in with the quality of the writing and the characterisation. And, for me, One Good Turn stands out. There is an elegant muscularity to Atkinson’s writing here and an effortless self-aware sense of dark humour which does not detract from the vivid characters at all.
Written from multiple points of view, none of which are reliable, a brutal road rage incident at the Edinburgh festival drags Brodie – now retired from both police and detective work – into a complex web of murder and violence and assassination and prostitution. The central image is of the matryoshka doll as each chapter reveals more complexity.
Fantasy: Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind
“I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep.”
High Fantasy – Tolkien – taught me the joy of abandoning myself to other worlds and magics and adventure. A joy I never lost. And Rothfuss’ novels are vibrant and potent and vivid and Kvothe, the apparently broken old man recounting his mythic histories is utterly compelling.
Historical: Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall
This is an absolute gem: the character of Thomas Cromwell is so human and engaging – simultaneously so powerful and threatening but so vulnerable.
And Mantel’s prose has such a lyrical power that you feel genuinely transported into Tudor England with all its noise and smells and tastes. It is a beautifully sensory novel.
Henry VIII and Cardinal Wolsey and Anne Boleyn are such familiar characters in history and in literature that for Mantel to be able to breathe new life and vibrancy into that period of suspicion, plot and machination is remarkable.
Waiting for The Mirror and The Light with bated breath!
Young Adult: Akwaeke Emezi, Pet
Emezi has elbowed her way into my list of favourite authors with just two books: Freshwater and Pet.
As a teacher and (newly appointed) curator of the school book club I read a lot of YA fiction and much of it is wonderful: I highly recommend following the Carnegie Medal nominees! Great fiction is great fiction regardless of the labels.
And Pet is great fiction. Emezi’s prose lifts itself off the page with the same muscularity and physicality that the monstrous looking Pet hauls itself out of a painting and into reality in order to hunt monsters. Emezi creates a powerful and important narrative but they never lose the joy of creation.
Literary Prizes: Jeanette Winterson, Frankissstein
But Frankissstein is exceptional in my opinion and Winterson a fabulous author. Alternating between a vividly recreated portrait of Mary Shelley’s inception of Frankenstein and her relationship with Percy Bysshe Shelley, and a modern reimagined telling of the Frankenstein myth involving robotics, AI and sex-bots. At times deeply moving, at others hilarious, this is a powerful and wonderful novel.
Looking through the list and the comments I have made, it is interesting – at least to me – that certain adjectives keep cropping up. Sometimes I like to just chuck the contents of a blog post through a word cloud generator just to see what happens.
So I seem to like a novel which is powerful, vivid, joyous and complex, full of life and written with muscularity. Yup, seems reasonable enough to me!
This week, I’m tagging five people from the bookish group I’m part of on Twitter. It’s great to see contacts becoming friends!