The Top 5 series is back! Top Five Saturday is a meme hosted by Devouring Books to discover and share books that all have a common theme. Previously on the blog I have focused on witches, werewolves, thrillers, faeries, fairy tale re-tellings, high fantasy and many more. I am going to try and bring this series back for every Saturday.
PREVIOUS TOP FIVE SATURDAY LISTS:
9th May 2020: Books with Numbers in the Title
16th May 2020: Debut Novels
23rd May 2020: Books About Plants and Flowers
This week’s topic is interesting. Books have been dominated by men for thousands of years: it is an industry which – like so many others – has diminished and marginalised the successes of women since it emerged with a few notable exceptions. But, having just finished the wonderful Bernardine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other the female voice is on the ascendency. If I just look through my review in chronological order, it takes a little while to find a male narrator or narrative point of view. Obviously my choice to shadow the Women’s Prize has something to do with that too…
So, what are we looking for? Books from a male perspective. So a male first person narrator or a male protagonist; and I am not going to restrict the list to male authors. I believe that writing is an imaginative leap and if we can write books about serial killers, Trojan warriors and alien necromancers without being either, we can write books from a different gender’s perspective too. Although I am aware that there is a political statement being made there as well as a creative one.
And the truth is that, taking a chronological sweep through my reading, my list would comprise male protagonists written wholly by women and most of them would be gay.
The Watchmaker of Filigree Street and The Lost Future of Pepperharrow, Natasha Pulley
In 1883, Thaniel Steepleton returns to his tiny flat to find a gold pocketwatch on his pillow. When the watch saves Thaniel’s life in a blast that destroys Scotland Yard, he goes in search of its maker, Keita Mori – a kind, lonely Japanese immigrant. Meanwhile, Grace Carrow is sneaking into an Oxford library, desperate to prove the existence of the luminiferous ether before her mother can force her to marry.
As the lives of these three characters become entwined, events spiral out of control until Thaniel is torn between loyalties, futures and opposing geniuses.
For Thaniel Steepleton, an unexpected posting to Tokyo can’t come at a better moment. The London fog has made him ill and doctor’s orders are to get out.
His brief is strange: the staff at the British Legation have been seeing ghosts, and his first task is to find out what’s going on. But staying with his closest friend Keita Mori in Yokohama, Thaniel starts to experience ghostly happenings himself. For reasons he won’t say, Mori is frightened. Then he vanishes.
Meanwhile, something strange is happening in a frozen labour camp in northern Japan. Takiko Pepperharrow, an old friend of Mori’s, must investigate.
Red, White and Royal Blue, Casey McQuiston
What happens when America’s First Son falls in love with the Prince of Wales?
Alex has a beef with the actual prince, Henry, across the pond. And when the tabloids get hold of a photo involving an Alex-Henry altercation, U.S./British relations take a turn for the worse.
Heads of family, state, and other handlers devise a plan for damage control: staging a truce between the two rivals. What at first begins as a fake, Instragramable friendship grows deeper, and more dangerous, than either Alex or Henry could have imagined. Soon Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret romance with a surprisingly unstuffy Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations and begs the question: Can love save the world after all?
when Will There Be Good News, Kate Atkinson, the Jackson Brodie series
In rural Devon, six-year-old Joanna Mason witnesses an appalling crime.
Thirty years later the man convicted of the crime is released from prison.
In Edinburgh, sixteen-year-old Reggie works as a nanny for a G.P. But Dr Hunter has gone missing and Reggie seems to be the only person who is worried.
Across town, Detective Chief Inspector Louise Monroe is also looking for a missing person, unaware that hurtling towards her is an old friend — Jackson Brodie — himself on a journey that becomes fatally interrupted.
The Benefit of Hindsight, Susan Hill, The Simon Serrailler Series
On the face of it DCS Simon Serrailler has had time to recuperate after the violent incident that cost him his arm, and nearly his life. He is back in harness at Lafferton CID, but is spending his spare time high up in the cathedral roof, making drawings of some medieval angels which are being restored.
Lafferton is apparently going through a quiet patch, so far as crime is concerned, until one night two local men open their front door to a distressing scene. Simon makes a serious error of judgment when handling the incident. The stress of this, combined with the fact that he refused all offers of counselling after the loss of his arm, takes its toll.
The Starless Sea, Erin Morgenstern
When Zachary Rawlins stumbles across a strange book hidden in his university library it leads him on a quest unlike any other. Its pages entrance him with their tales of lovelorn prisoners, lost cities and nameless acolytes, but they also contain something impossible: a recollection from his own childhood.
Determined to solve the puzzle of the book, Zachary follows the clues he finds on the cover – a bee, a key and a sword. They guide him to a masquerade ball, to a dangerous secret club, and finally through a magical doorway created by the fierce and mysterious Mirabel. This door leads to a subterranean labyrinth filled with stories, hidden far beneath the surface of the earth.
When the labyrinth is threatened, Zachary must race with Mirabel, and Dorian, a handsome barefoot man with shifting alliances, through its twisting tunnels and crowded ballrooms, searching for the end of his story.
If we want to look for male points of view that explore what it is to be male, written by men we might include
The Heart’s Invisible Furies, John Boyne
Cyril Avery is not a real Avery or at least that’s what his adoptive parents tell him. And he never will be. But if he isn’t a real Avery, then who is he?
Born out of wedlock to a teenage girl cast out from her rural Irish community and adopted by a well-to-do if eccentric Dublin couple via the intervention of a hunchbacked Redemptorist nun, Cyril is adrift in the world, anchored only tenuously by his heartfelt friendship with the infinitely more glamourous and dangerous Julian Woodbead.
At the mercy of fortune and coincidence, he will spend a lifetime coming to know himself and where he came from – and over his three score years and ten, will struggle to discover an identity, a home, a country and much more.
The Road, Cormac McCarthy
The searing, postapocalyptic novel destined to become Cormac McCarthy’s masterpiece.
A father and his son walk alone through burned America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. It is cold enough to crack stones, and when the snow falls it is gray. The sky is dark. Their destination is the coast, although they don’t know what, if anything, awaits them there. They have nothing; just a pistol to defend themselves against the lawless bands that stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food – and each other.
Ulysses, James Joyce
James Joyce’s astonishing masterpiece, Ulysses, tells of the diverse events which befall Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus in Dublin on 16 June 1904, during which Bloom’s voluptuous wife, Molly, commits adultery.
Initially deemed obscene in England and the USA, this richly-allusive novel, revolutionary in its Modernistic experimentalism, was hailed as a work of genius by W. B. Yeats, T. S. Eliot and Ernest Hemingway.
Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
Great Expectations’ was his last great novel, and many critics believe it to be his finest. It contains some of Dickens most memorable scenes. One of Dickens’s most renowned and enjoyable novels, Great Expectations tells the story of Pip, an orphan boy who wishes to transcend his humble origins and finds himself unexpectedly given the opportunity to live a life of wealth and respectability. Over the course of the tale, in which Pip encounters such famous characters as Miss Havisham, Herbert Pocket and Joe Gargery, he comes to realise that his money is tainted and the girl he loves will not return his affections; happiness must be found in the things he gave up in pursuit of a more sophisticated life.
The Iliad, Homer
High on Olympus, Zeus and the assembled deities look down on the world of men, to the city of Troy where a bitter and bloody war has dragged into its tenth year, and a quarrel rages between a legendary warrior and his commander. Greek ships decay, men languish, exhausted, and behind the walls of Troy a desperate people await the next turn of fate.
So, those are my top five book from a male perspective – books perhaps which formed my ideas on what it is to be a man, if I have any concept of what that even means! I look forward to reading your lists!
Again, a David Mitchell book is an event, and a thing of beauty! But the music industry is not my natural setting and again I was caught between this and another book – Daisy Jones and the Six in this case – and Daisy Jones was read first. This time, because it was nominated on a book club I was part of.
Bonus: The Lies of Locke Lamora, Scott Lynch
They say that the Thorn of Camorr can beat anyone in a fight. They say he steals from the rich and gives to the poor. They say he’s part man, part myth, and mostly street-corner rumor. And they are wrong on every count.
Only averagely tall, slender, and god-awful with a sword, Locke Lamora is the fabled Thorn, and the greatest weapons at his disposal are his wit and cunning. He steals from the rich – they’re the only ones worth stealing from – but the poor can go steal for themselves. What Locke cons, wheedles and tricks into his possession is strictly for him and his band of fellow con-artists and thieves: the Gentleman Bastards.
This one has been on my TBR for years. Literally years. I have heard nothing but praise for it, but so far have never quite got around to reading it! Go figure!
So, there we go: a range of books that I got in 2020 – save for the Scott Lynch – and do regret not reading during the year. Is regret the right word? Probably not to be honest: I do not regret the reading that I did do last year at all. But these are books that I would like to find time to catch up with this year – before prize season hits us again!
Pop in the comments below your thoughts on these – maybe let me know which I should read first!