Tuesday, 31 December 2013

I'm not sure what happened to December but let's start the New Year with great originality and my round-up of Books of the Year. As ever, it bears little relation to lists in the newspapers because few of the books I've read were actually published this year - and I'm not going all out to impress you with my erudition. (Though I did belatedly read Fifty Shades of Grey back at the start of the year. And I notice with some embarrassment that I didn't flag it on the sidebar! But don't feel you've missed out - it's not on the list - and it was (sort of) in the line of duty for the day job.)

My best read of all was only published last year - so it almost counts as new, though it took me a few months to catch up - and no surprises that it is Hilary Mantel's Bring Up the Bodies.

Next on the list is a bit of a cheat as Mrs Bridge by Evan S Connell topped my list for last year. But it was just as good when I read it again, this time with Mr Bridge. There's a review here. Mr Bridge and Mrs Bridge, read together, proved to be something very rare, a book group choice that was unanimously loved by everyone in our group and sparked off lots of discussion.

I don't think it was a vintage year for reading and so I found myself re-reading lots of old favourites, including Emma and Persuasion. And I enjoyed Marghanita Laski's The Village as much as I did first time round. On the other hand, Barnaby Rudge - I've started, so I'll finish - is never going to feature on my list of favourite Dickens.

The quirkiest book of the year was Ella Minnow Pea and my favourite heroine was Miss Mole.

And the forgotten book  that everybody was talking about and I loved too was Stoner.  But that's on every newspaper book of the year list.

I've read very little non-fiction this year but I greatly enjoyed Mad Girl's Love Song about Sylvia Plath's Life before Ted and Deborah Cohen's fascinating history of Family Secrets.

My Christmas read for dipping in and out of has been Love, Nina by Nina Stibbe, a sharp and funny collection of letters from a nanny in a literary household - Alan Bennett is always dropping in for supper - quite often laugh-out-loud funny but it went on a bit too long for me.

And now on to the film awards ...

We have the film I couldn't review because I woke up from a deep sleep as the closing credits rolled.
We have the most interesting film that not a single person I know went to see. (I must be a strong contender for the least influential blogger/reviewer of the year award.)
Surprisingly, however, a Shakespeare play turned out to be my most enjoyable film of the year.
And this film, with Julie Delpy as the actress I most wanted to strangle, was the most over-hyped and disappointing.

But to go out on a high note. The Cake of the Year award goes to this cafe in Hove, discovered by chance on a day trip to Brighton a couple of weeks ago, for their layered Victoria sponge with plum jam and buttercream, topped with pomegranate seeds and dusted with gold glitter ... I know that sounds strange, but it twinkled like fairylights and tasted fabulous. (Keep walking. It's opposite the big Tesco.)

And now all that remains to be said is Happy New Year and thank you to everybody who has read and commented through 2013.


Tabitha said...

I really enjoyed Much Ado as well. I'd forgotten about Miss Mole. Very enjoyable. Best cake - a white cake made with eggnog and nutmeg and frosted with a cream cheese-nutmeg icing and made by me, so I'm not sure if that counts. I look forward to your posts, so thanks and happy new year, almost.

mary said...

That cake sounds brilliant, Tabitha! I've never tried eggnog cake, presume it's American?

Gina said...

I totally agree about Bring Up the Bodies... but haven't read any of the others. And I like the sound of that cake. Happy New Year Mary

mary said...

And you, Gina. I have just visited your blog and am consumed with envy for your shiny red Christmas present.

Noelle the dreamer said...

As always your posts are interesting Mary and I thank you for the bit of culture you often slip my way!
I agree December went by much too fast and I look forward to 2014.
I'll close by wishing you and your loved ones a Happy New Year!
God bless,

Toffeeapple said...

Gina is a lucky woman!

I read Miss Mole but I cannot, now, recall the plot so shall have to re-read it. I too loved 'The Village' and was very grateful for the cast of characters at the start of the book.

Happy New Year Mary!

mary said...

Happy New Year, Noelle, and you too Toffeeapple.

Tabitha said...

I live in America so it's an American cake, but not a usual cake. Our local natural creamery had samples of the cake along side the recipe. It's like really moist wedding cake, perhaps just a bit denser. And the nutmeg is not overwhelming. Me, I'm normally more of a pastry maker rather than cake baker, but this one was quite good.

We're coming to the UK, probably in September, and if old Conwell agrees we may do an art museum and cake tour as part of the visit. Your blog will be invaluable!

mary said...

An art and cake tour sounds my kind of holiday, Tabitha!