The Best Books of 2019

When I started making this list, I had more than 40 books scrawled on a piece of paper. Getting it down to 20 books was difficult. Whittling it down to 10 was excruciating. I could actually feel it in my gut each time I crossed one out. Fact is, this list would probably be slightly different depending on the day you asked me to make it. On any other day, Favel Parrett’s There Was Still Love, Adrian McKinty’s The Chain, and R.W.R. McDonald’s The Nancys — not to mention a whole host of others — might’ve made it. But ultimately I think my Top 10 fairly and evenly represents the books that I think stand above the rest this year.

Continue reading “The Best Books of 2019”

Review: The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

9781526614940Ann Patchett cemented her reputation long ago as a writer capable of examining families with ruthless intimacy. Compassionately, powerfully, understatedly and effortlessly she has stripped bare the dynamics of families, each novel quivering on the brink of being a masterpiece. Well, The Dutch House is it; her tour de force; as good a novel as you will ever read, this year or any year, about two siblings who plummet from riches to rags and form an everlasting bond as a result.

At the end of World War II, Cyril Conroy surprises his wife, Elna, by purchasing a mansion — so named the “Dutch House” because of its former owners, the VanHoebeeks — in the Elkins Park neighbourhood of Philadelphia. It’s a luxurious, fully-furnished estate, embellished with domineering portraits of the VanHoebeeks, and staffed by a servant girl named Fluffy. The perfect home to raise a family, you might think; but Elna can’t stand its decadence, and soon abandons her children — Danny, aged three, and daughter Maeve, aged ten —  to be cared for by the household staff and their gruff, inattentive father. Then a stepmother and stepsisters enter Danny and Maeve’s lives; both parties equally uncongenial, but content to live within each other’s orbits; until tragedy strikes, uncoupling the Conroy children from the Dutch House, thrusting them into a new reality wholly separate from the affluence they once knew.

Narrated by Danny, Ann Patchett unspools the lives of the Conroys with customary grace, rendering the ageing of her ensemble cast over many decades with profound authenticity.  The magic of Patchett’s work is her ability to spin ordinary lives into operas; to take the patchwork of moments that comprise our lives, the comedy and pathos, and turn it into revelatory, enthralling art.

ISBN: 9781526614957
Format: Paperback / softback
Pages: 352
Imprint: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Publish Date: 24-Sep-2019
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Pages & Pages Booksellers Books of the Year

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At Pages & Pages Booksellers we’re celebrating our favourite books of 2016. Early, you might be thinking, since there’re still a couple of months of the year left. But most of us are about to move onto 2017 books, or will be using the crazy Christmas season to catch up on backlist stuff we missed from years past. Reading-wise, we’re pretty much done with 2016, which is a scary thought. A new year is right around the corner…

Anywho: check out The Pages & Pages Booksellers Books of the Year. Will any of these be making your Top 5? And how’s that particular list shaping up for you?

Review: Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

CommonwealthAnn Patchett’s Commonwealth presents the evolution of two American families fused together following the events of one hot Southern Californian day in 1964. It’s a thoughtful, poignant and moving novel, elevated beyond the traditional domestic novel thanks to the depth of its characters and their tumultuous experiences so deftly depicted by one of the great contemporary American authors.

The story opens during a seemingly innocuous christening party hosted by Beverly and Fix Keating for their second daughter, Franny. The celebrations are proceeding as planned – that is to say, mundanely – until a lawyer named Bert Cousins shows up uninvited, carrying a bottle of gin, which immediately livens things – particularly when he is introduced to Beverly, and develops an immediate infatuation, which results in their marriage, and their move to Virginia. And so, a new familial unit is established, comprised of six step-siblings; a unique blend.

Patchett doesn’t lay out her narrative chronologically, but events transpire seamlessly, cutting back and forth in the family’s timeline, and spotlighting a variety of its members. In another writer’s hands, this approach and such an extensive cast might be unwieldy ; but we’re in a master’s. Despite the novel’s epic scope, it’s confined to a wonderfully limited page-count (just eclipsing the 300-page mark), and its tragedies and revelries are incredibly potent.

Commonwealth is honest and heartfelt, presenting a family at their best and worst and most shambolic. It is packed with truths, and powerfully illustrations the importance of family, and the strength of that unit. It’s a novel that will make you feel, and grateful for the loved ones in your life.

ISBN: 9781408880395
Format: Paperback (234mm x 153mm x mm)
Pages: 336
Imprint: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Publish Date: 8-Sep-2016
Country of Publication: United Kingdom