As the year comes to a close, it’s time to reflect on the year’s best novels. Here at DDW, we have rounded up our eight favourite novels from the year below.
Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney
Starting with one of the most highly-anticipated novels of the year, Sally Rooney did not disappoint. Particularly after Normal People graced our televisions last year, Rooney has become an international literary sensation. Typically, the novel takes place in Ireland and the plot follows the lives of Alice, a young novelist who has recently had a nervous breakdown, and her best friend Eileen, who works as an unpaid editorial assistant “and thinks of herself as socially awkward”. The character of Alice actually shares a partial biography with Rooney, as the creation of the character helped her work through some of her own issues. This novel intelligibly explores the world as we know it, but is also an attempt to conceive a world that is fundamentally different. Beautiful World, Where Are You is stylistically similar to Rooney’s previous novels but is also a testament to her literary development and maturing, which is a pleasure to witness as a reader.
We Are All Birds of Uganda by Hafsa Zayyan
This novel is a debut from Hafsa Zayyan, the co-winner of the #Merky Books New Writers Prize run by the British grime artists, Stormzy. The publishing of We Are All Birds of Uganda was delayed due to the pandemic but was well and truly worth the wait. Zayyan connects the lives of young, successful lawyer Sameer in modern-day London and widower Hasan in 1960s Kampala, Uganda, during the ruthless regime of Idi Amin by exploring the sense of belonging for both characters. It’s a very moving work about racial tensions, generational gaps, and what it means to belong, and it paves the path for many talented young authors to share their tales too.
Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan
Claire Keegan, a renowned short story writer, presented us with this gorgeous and finely woven short novel, Small Things Like These in October 2021. The story followers Bill Furlong, a coal merchant and family man living in a small Irish town in 1985 as he makes a discovery. This is a truly emotional narrative of hope, quiet heroism, and compassion from an incredible author. Having already become a international bestseller, it is no wonder we have also decided that this was one of our favourites this year. It’s also only 128 pages too!
Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
Kazuo Ishiguro won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2017, so we knew we were in for a treat with this one. Klara and the Sun tells the story of an “Artificial Friend” who sits on display in a shop desiring to one day be chosen as a companion to a human. Once this day comes and Klara is picked by Josie, their companionship is threatened by Josie’s illness. A novel of this sort is given its potential by Ishiguro himself; he delicately approaches heavier issues and his prose is a joy to read.
Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters
Being one of the first trans novels to appeal to a mainstream audience, Torry Peters’ Detransition, Baby breaks boundaries by challenging conventional concepts of family, gender and relationship. Original, funny and deeply moving, the novel follows a trans woman, a cisgender woman, and a detransitioned male coming together over the possibility to reimagine parenting. The question then arises whether the three of them could raise a child together. Not only does the novel itself mark a watershed in literature, but Torrey Peters also became the first trans woman nominated for the Women’s Prize for Fiction.
Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead
An example of beautifully-crafted prose, this “love letter to Harlem,” is typical of Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning Colson Whitehead. The brilliant plot of Harlem Shuffle takes place in a wonderfully recreated New York City in the early 1960s, but is much more a family tale than a story about crime. It’s a captivating story of Ray Carney, who “was only slightly bent when it came to being crooked.” Nonetheless, the content of the story is almost the least interesting part of the novel, we were more captivated by Colson’s descriptions – an ode to the good and the bad of the time.
Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr
Cloud Cuckoo Land, written by another Pulitzer Prize winner, follows five unique individuals over three time periods, all linked by a coveted copy of an ancient text. All of the protagonists are on the verge of maturity, battling for survival and discovering ingenuity and optimism in the face of danger. Doerr’s exquisite narrative highlights our interconnection. This novel can only be described as a complete treasure.
The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman
Following on from his successful first comic crime novel, The Thursday Murder Club, TV personality Richard Osman published his second in the series earlier this year. Richard Osman’s humour and friendly writing allows him to explore the heavier aspects of his elderly characters’ lives. It’s this friendliness that excites us as readers to reading the next instalment of the series.
With Christmas around the corner, hopefully our list has inspired either your wish list or you now know what you’re getting for a loved one.
SEE MORE: https://www.dontdiewondering.com/five-new-york-times-bestsellers-to-read-this-month/