Join the gold rush with a weighty winner: literary fiction
This was the year of big books: two 800-page-busters on the Man Booker longlist alone had bookworms lifting weights. The winner, Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries (Granta, £18.99), is a good old-fashioned page-turner set in New Zealand during the 19th-century gold rush, but it was its narrative structure, mirroring astrological movements in a beautifully-wrought minuet, that really set it apart.
Another heavyweight, The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt (Little Brown, £20) was not eligible for this year’s Man Booker Prize, but she will be from next year under new rules: the American writers are coming. Tartt will always be a contender, and this novel, which stars Fabritius’s tiny painting of the same name, took the breath away. A sort of miniature on a large scale, The Goldfinch begins with a description by a 13-year-old boy of a birthday cake in a dark room seen just before his mother died: “... that candlelit circle, a tableau vivant of the daily, commonplace happiness that was lost when I lost her.”
Speaking of America, Lionel Shriver (pictured) was back on form this year with Big Brother (Harper-Collins, £16.99), a frightening picture of obesity in modern America, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie triumphed with Americanah (4th Estate, £20) – the slightly autobiographical story of a young Nigerian woman’s life as a “Black American”. If a writer with a bigger ego had produced a novel this magnificent, huge, intimate and devastating, it would have been hailed immediately as a Great American Novel. Its younger, more hyperactive sister We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo (Random House, £14.99), in which a young girl moves from a shanty town called Paradise to the false paradise of the USA, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.
There were some surprises from well-known faces among the year’s best fiction. Pig’s Foot by (yes, the dancer) Carlos Acosta (Bloomsbury, £12.99) is a magic realist, satirical, historical novel spanning 150 years of Cuban history and some really filthy jokes. Polly Courtney is better known for light-hearted popular fiction set in The City or lad-mag offices, but Feral Youth, set amid the background to the 2011 London riots (Troubadour Books, £8.99) marks her out as a serious voice and one to watch. Many novels spanned continents with great success. A Tale for the Time Being, by Ruth Ozeki (Canongate, £8.99) spins a thread between a 16-year-old Japanese schoolgirl in trouble and a Canadian woman who finds her diary washed up on a beach. It is bewitching. The Breath of Night by Michael Arditti (Arcadia, £11.99) gives us two unlikely heroes: a 1970s priest from English suburbia who disappears mysteriously from a rural Philippines town, and the 21st-century boy sent to trace him. It is too complex and wonderful to condense into a “best of year” round-up, so you’ll just have to buy it. Amy Tan’s The Valley of Amazement (4th Estate, £18.99), a typically Tan-esque tale of mother-daughter struggle, is narrated by the wonderful Violet Minturn, who starts as a wilful seven-year-old living in her mother’s courtesan house, and walks us through a history of Shanghai and women’s role in the world.
Finally, fans of 2012-13’s hit, Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, should try The Cry by Helen Fitzgerald (Faber, £7.99). A terrifying thriller about a baby snatched from a roadside, and the storm of accusation and guilt that follows, it’s enough to make anyone lose sleep. Don’t give it to any new parents this Christmas.
Art Piece taken off website amid 'severe security alert'
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated
tvAn expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle
artLee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Asteroid narrowly scrapes past Earth: how to watch the closest space rock for decades as it flies by
- 2 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 3 The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
- 4 British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
- 5 Watch Richard Dawkins read his own hatemail: 'I hope you do get sodomised by satanic monkeys in hell'
Mr Selfridge series 3: Actress Kara Tointon says 'we're starting to see his demise'
Ed Sheeran texts Noel Gallagher to offer him tickets after Wembley Stadium rant
Benedict Cumberbatch says Hollywood is better for black British actors
Emma Watson to play Belle in Beauty and the Beast
Sia apologises for 'Elastic Heart' music video that sees Shia LaBeouf wrestle 12-year-old Maddie Ziegler
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
Islamic history is full of free thinkers - but recent attempts to suppress critical thought are verging on the absurd
30,000 reasons why the rhetoric on immigrants claiming benefits can stop now