Sarah’s Brilliant Reads of 2015

I’ve not read an awful lot of fiction this year, a lot of what I’ve read has been nonfiction or related to my studies. However with such a heavy reading load in 2015 there are five books that really stick out for me as being brilliant reads.

Four of them are quite whimsical, two are translated from the French, two are modern children’s classics (or should be!) and my best book of the year was such a good novel that I had to keep checking that it was indeed fiction!

In no particular order:

When Marnie Was There by Joan G Robinson.

When Marnie Was ThereI loved the Teddy Robinson books by the same when I was small and I have no idea how I missed this one.  I’m not sure if this counts as a time slip or a ghost story but I found it to be truly beautiful and the North Norfolk Coast setting really made it feel like “my” book.

Studio Ghibli have made a film version of this, it and it had its UK premier at the London Film Festival in the autumn so hopefully it will make it to a cinema soon, or failing that a DVD to borrow from the library.

The Last Pilot – Benjamin Johncock.

The Last PilotI love the history of the early manned space programme (American and Russian) and have read many history books and biographies featuring the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo astronauts.  This book was so good I really thought that it was a biographical story of an astronaut I’d overlooked. The story fitted seamlessly into the real histories and like all of the best books I lived and breathed America in the 1950s and 1960s.  On talking with the author I was astounded to read he’d not spent hours visiting the actual sites he talks about as he describes it all so well.

This isn’t science fiction and it isn’t a hard core science book what it is is a brilliant story about a man pushed to the edge by life and his job.

George’s Grand Tour – Caroline Vermalle (translated by Anna Aitken)

George's Grand TourGeorge is 83 and about to fulfil his life-time’s ambition – he’s going to follow the route of the Tour de France. No not on a bike, he’s in his eighties after all, but on a road trip with his friend Charles. And so begins a wonderful, heart-warming, tear-jerking novel that evokes rural France, family life and so much more.

I’m not ashamed to say that this book made me cry as I read it (and yes embarrassingly I was on a train at the time) but I still rate it as a top read of 2015.

King of Shadows by Susan Cooper (no library copy at present)

I read this book after coming across mentions of it repeatedly in books I was reading for my dissertation.  It is another time slip story, this time set in London at Shakespeare’s Globe when a modern day actor suddenly finds himself thrust back in time to 1599.

I did like this an awful lot, from all of my studies I know that it is well researched and accurate as well as being enjoyable.  It reads a lot like a very good Doctor Who episode and I think that had I read it as a child I’d have been clamouring for either a trip to the theatre or a time travel machine!

The Red Notebook – Antoine Laurain (translated by Jane Aitken and Emily Boyce)

The Red NotebookThis was possibly the book I’d been waiting for with the most excitement in 2015, I loved Laurain’s first book (The President’s Hat) and although this second book doesn’t quite live up to the first it was still a delightful little whimsical tale that I’ll be recommending to anyone looking for something light and quirky.

Laurent finds an abandoned handbag that contains a notebook and decides that as a true romantic he should reunite it with its owner.  There are many adventures on the way but in the end this book is just pure escapism that brings the sights, sounds and smells of Paris to life. I really hope that this Paris can still be found after the dreadful events of November 2015.


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