…okay, so I’m back with part II of my favourite 2019 reads. Let’s save the introduction and get straight into it!
I read Sara Collins’ The Confessions of Frannie Langton and *loved* it. This is yet another historical fiction murder mystery (
but just before the Victorian period, haha, but very close). It’s 1826 and crowds gather to watch Frannie’s trial for murder. The testimonies are damning – slave, whore, seductress – and they may be the truth. But they are not the whole truth.
I liked this for multiple reasons: it tackled class issues, racial issues, LGBTQ+ issues in a society that cared very little for these groups. It raised some very interesting questions, like “what constitutes as a criminal?”, “when should someone feel guilty?” and “can some actions be justified?”. It was a very thought-provoking book. I just had some difficulties with the F/F romance – not a lot of chemistry between the two.
So next is the heartbreaking non-fiction by Jeremy Dronfield: The Boy Who Followed His Father into Auschwitz. Gustav and Fritz Kleinmann, father and son, have managed to survive the Holocaust together, only being separated for a few years in between. Dronfield, relying on extensive research and family history, has traced the story of these two men and has brought it before us.
I learnt a lot from this; more than I ever could have from school. It’s historical, but it’s also personal. It’s the history of two remarkable men. It was a beautiful read, despite the tragedy that is describes. If we can take anything away from this piece of history, it’s that hope and resilience is everything. Time may not heal wounds, but it allows us to prosper, in spite of our experiences.
Right, so we’ve finally got to my ALL TIME FAVOURITE OF 2019: Stacey Halls’ The Familiars. This is my favourite for a number of reasons: 1) witches, 2) it’s set in Lancashire around the Pendle Witch Trials, 3) it’s by a northern writer, and 4) it’s set within the natural world.
It’s takes a real accused woman from the Pendle Witch Trials and gives her a story. It’s explores the boundaries between upper- and lower-classes; it explores this idea of a “witch”; it explores how nature is an inherent part of witchcraft; and it explores how the patriarchy is responsible for the mass murder of women. Who said men weren’t hysterical?
It was like my witchy dreams had come true. Honestly, this is *sooooo* good. If you haven’t read it already, then get to it in 2020!
So my last favourite of 2019 has to be Laura Purcell’s The Corset, the most dreamy neo-Victorian novel I’ve read. It follows Dorothea Truelove, who is young, wealthy and beautiful, and Ruth Butterham, a young, poor woman awaiting trial for the murder of her mistress. Dorothea, a budding new phrenologist, takes an interest in Ruth and her story. But can Ruth be trusted? Is she mad or a murderer?
It was a deeply psychological book that looked at class differences and how someone’s guilt can control their life. I cannot fathom how Purcell created such a story, it was that complex and moving. I couldn’t get enough of this, and I think it’s one of the books that got me out this reading slump. I’m so excited for Bone China to come out in paperback – I think Purcell is gonna be a new fave author!
…so I only have nine favourite books of 2019 but we still have a couple of weeks left. I might end up finding another. As I mentioned in part I, I read a lot of disappointing books this year but I still managed to find some amazing books and authors. I’m really happy with these nine books, and I’m sure I’ll come back to revisit them one day!
What was your favourite book or author of the year? Book would be The Familiars, of course, and author (
or should I say authors?) would probably be Ambrose Perry! Let’s discuss it!
Thanks for reading, Lauren X