Another year draws to a close in a gentle fizz. The world is still under the ever-changing grasp of Covid and although here in England parties and family gatherings are allowed, many have opted for a more cautious approach. Despite spending less time under restrictions than in 2020, looking back over the past twelve months it feels like a familiarly uneventful year, in part because of Covid, and in part because personally the final five months of the year have been host to a lot of debilitating ill health. Here’s hoping that we will soon emerge from this pandemic without too many more casualties. My heart goes out to everyone who has been impacted.
|Eilean Donan at sunset
Never one to dwell on the negative, let’s close this year out focussing on some of the positives. The return of live theatre has been a particular joy, with Hairspray and Amelie featuring among my most joy-filled visits. The uncertainty around travel abroad led to finally heading to Scotland (along with seemingly half of the population of England…), a trip oft-talked about but never realised until now. I was so grateful for the opportunity to explore some more of that beautiful country, and it proved to be one of my most beloved trips. We were unbelievably lucky with the weather, and the late sunset encouraged long days of walking. We spent almost the entire trip outdoors, marvelling at the natural beauty all around. After over a year of largely being confined to a flat and a small local radius, it was just the salve I didn’t know I needed, and I came back with a full heart.
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring and Wide Sargasso Sea were among them, and provoked quite different responses. Other fiction highlights include The Story of a New Name, the second in Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Quartet, a powerful, consuming book. The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne offers a sweeping look at life in Catholic Ireland over the course of one man’s life, tinged with discrimination even before he breathes his first. It was entirely captivating and I can’t wait to read more by Boyne. The Vixen by Francine Prose introduced me to an assured writer who crafted a beautiful tale that transported me to 1950s America. Perfect for book lovers as it heavily features a publishing house, as well as fans of intrigue. Another intense, troubling read was Born of No Woman by Franck Bouysse. Set in nineteenth century France, it has a truly despicable villain, and doesn’t let go of your heart until the very last page. After quite a few challenging reads, Midnight in Everwood by M. A. Kuzniar made for a nice close to the reading year, although it was darker than I had anticipated. Nonetheless, it was a beautiful, magical festive read.
It’s been a bumper year for non-fiction reads with The Shadowy Third by Julia Parry offering a personal look at her family’s connection to Elizabeth Bowen, and the way history is created. How Was It For You? by Virginia Nicholson was an eye-opening account of gender and sex in the 1960s. Most recently, I thoroughly enjoyed Threads of Life by Clare Hunter, a fascinating look at the history of needlecraft and its ever-changing position in society.
Finally, I want to wish you all a happy and healthy year full of good times with loved ones, and many excellent books.