Like everybody else, I’m here to wrap up my year of reading. I thought I’d kick it off with my favourite reads of 2019. Despite not having the best reading year, with lots of disappointing and frankly quite boring reads, I’ve managed to find a fair few favourites. I’ve had to split this up into two parts – hope you don’t mind!
I haven’t any order to this really. I’ve just listed the books in the order that I read them. I have one definite favourite which I’ll make clear in part II. Let’s kick if off with the first few months of 2019:
Up first is Ruth Goodman’s How to be a Victorian – a fantastic non-fiction looking at the daily traditions, rituals and codes of conduct that the Victorians lived by. It was *sooo fascinating* to learn the routines of my favourite period, getting a look at how both the working- and middle-class lived.
Goodman is very passionate about history, which comes across in the writing of this book, making every page a pleasure to read. I couldn’t get enough of this one.
My next favourite read of 2019 was Laura Carlin’s The Wicked Cometh – a lesbian detective story set in 1830s London. I love nothing more than a story that tackles the Victorian class division by throwing two women together to discover the truth behind a crime, especially when the all-male police force are doing a shitty job at it.
I had a few issues with it, mainly the fact that authors feel obliged to write happy endings when the alternatives are far better. I don’t mind sadness and melancholy, as long as the story was good (which is was!).
Moving on to my usual style, we have the wonderful Victorian short story ‘Lois the Witch’ by the one and only Elizabeth Gaskell. Lois, an English orphan, who is traveling across the Atlantic to Salem, Massachusetts, is welcomed to the community by the mass hysteria of witchcraft in 1600s.
Gaskell, the clever writer that she is, uses her position as an writer to ridicule and condemn the witch craze that saw roughly 20 people dead, mainly women, may I just add. The fact that this comments on British Victorian society also does not go unnoticed. ‘Lois’ is one of the best short stories I have ever read and would recommend it to all!
I’m here with another witchy book, as that is the theme of this year’s reading, to recommend Tracy Borman’s The King’s Witch – which I actually deemed as “The Best Witchy Novel Yet”. Frances Gorges is a marked woman in King James’ Court for her herb healing is a form of witchcraft. Her situation grows even more complicated when she meets the mysterious Tom Wintour – can she trust him? Is he all that he seems?
This was bloody brilliant. Borman takes the idea of a witch and turns it completely on its head, looking at how the image can fit around the average middle-class woman. It looks at how innocent women were scapegoats for fear, religion and greed. And, it’s not just a book about witches, it’s something more, but you should go into the book blind…
The last 2019 favourite I’m going to talk about in this post is Ambrose Perry’s The Way of All Flesh – a brilliant historical fiction set in Victorian Edinburgh. Yet again, a middle- and working-class pair team up to uncover the truth behind the mysterious murders of working-class women in Edinburgh.
Such a fantastic, dense read that satisfies you in every way. It has everything; there were *sooooo* many plot twists; the dark, atmospheric tone really set the scene for the book; and the characters and their relationships with each other was so fascinating to follow. I cannot wait to get my hands on the rest of the series!
…that’s the first five favourite reads of 2019. I’ll have the second part up next week. I have found so many new favourite books this year, which is unusual, considering I’m a very harsh rater and don’t like to call books my “favourites”. Most of these books were just random ones that I picked up off the shelf, having never really heard anyone talk about them!
What was your favourite book of 2019? Let’s discuss it!
Thanks for reading, Lauren X