Ripping, gripping and slicing yarns

THE NOVELS of 1992 were brilliant, unforgettable, gripping, dazzling, enthralling, even 'morally slicing' - at least, according to the literary pages' nominations for 'books of the year'. Nearly 500 titles were featured, with almost as many superlatives.

Adam Thorpe's Ulverton, for instance, is 'warm, funny and very moving', 'a unique blend of talent, virtuosity, energy' and 'uncanny, accomplished'. All these recommendations are from Hilary Mantel, in the Spectator, the Times Literary Supplement and the Daily Telegraph respectively - but full marks for consistency.

Despite Ms Mantel's solid support, Thorpe is well beaten into second place in our 'poll of polls' by Philip Larkin's Selected Letters, which received 17 nominations. Victoria Glendinning's biography of Trollope and Iris Murdoch's latest philosophical treatise come equal third with nine votes each.

What is most striking about 'books of the year' features is the dominance of literature, biography and history. In the year when scientists claimed to have cracked the origins of the universe, when political leaders gathered for the Earth Summit in Rio, when Britain fell catastrophically out of the ERM, no book on science, the environment or economics got more than a single mention - unless you count Robert Skidelsky's biography of J M Keynes, which received five nominations. But then Keynes, like Ottoline Morrell (eight for Miranda Seymour's biography), was a member of the Bloomsbury set.

Veteran observers like to catch the reviewers nominating their friends. Alice Thomas Ellis neatly got round this by insisting that the only books she read were by friends, while Julie Burchill said that people became her friends because they were good writers.

Jeanette Winterson went further and nominated her own Written on the Body ('this year's most profound and profoundly misunderstood book') . . . which was just as well, since otherwise it would have received no votes at all. Also unplaced was Christopher Hope's 'morally slicing' (A S Byatt) Serenity House.

Few reviewers were so unseasonal as to respond to invitations from the Spectator and the Sunday Times to nominate the worst books of the year, but sometimes the recommendations seemed waspish. 'Much of it was beyond me,' Rupert Christiansen wrote of Iris Murdoch, 'and some of what I did faintly comprehend seemed rambling and repetitive, but there is real wisdom there.'

Patrick Skene Catling 'admired rather than enjoyed' A N Wilson's Jesus, and confided that this and another Wilson volume had sent him into a monastic library to read about transsexual developments.

Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient topped the list of 'worsts' with three nominations, against seven in the 'bests'. (This, we decided, should take him out of our Top 10.)

The prize for the rudest nomination goes to Julian Symons in the Sunday Times. He described Hugh David's biography, Stephen Spender, as 'ill-written, often ignorant, inaccurate and pettily malicious'.

Other prizes:

All-round generosity: Christopher Hawtree (the Spectator) who nominated 18 books including one that he 'eagerly awaited'.

Least helpful nomination: Kate Kellaway, in the Observer, who put forward Elizabeth von Arnim's All the Dogs of my Life before remarking that it was out of print.

Least inviting nomination: Jilly Cooper (Sunday Times) who proposed a novel 'about the backstage loves and intrigues of an Australian operetta company'.

Most superior nomination: Not those who recommend untranslated works in foreign languages (an old trick), but Nicholas Shakespeare (Daily Telegraph), who nominated a novel so unputdownable that he had to finish it on 'a glacier 16,000 feet up in the Andes'.

Most honest nominations: Craig Raine (Times Literary Supplement) who proposed Garrison Keillor's Radio Romance, Nicholson Baker's Vox, and Susan Wicks's Singing Underwater, because 'I enjoyed the sex'.

Least honest nomination: Chris Dunkley (Financial Times) who liked Madonna's Sex because it was 'a striking departure in concept'.

News
Denny Miller in 1959 remake of Tarzan, the Ape Man
people
Arts and Entertainment
Cheryl despairs during the arena auditions
tvX Factor review: Drama as Cheryl and Simon spar over girl band

News
Piers Morgan tells Scots they might not have to suffer living on the same island as him if they vote ‘No’ to Scottish Independence
news
News
i100Exclusive interview with the British analyst who helped expose Bashar al-Assad's use of Sarin gas
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Angel Di Maria celebrates his first goal for Manchester United against QPR
Football4-0 victory is team's first win under new manager Louis van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
art
News
newsIn short, yes
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script
tv'Thomas comes right up to the abyss', says the actor
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris claimed the top spot in this week's single charts
music
Sport
BoxingVideo: The incident happened in the very same ring as Tyson-Holyfield II 17 years ago
News
Groundskeeper Willie has backed Scottish independence in a new video
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor poses the question of whether we are every truly alone in 'Listen'
tvReview: Possibly Steven Moffat's most terrifying episode to date
News
i100
Life and Style
Cara Delevigne at the TopShop Unique show during London Fashion Week
fashion
News
The life-sized tribute to Amy Winehouse was designed by Scott Eaton and was erected at the Stables Market in Camden
peopleBut quite what the singer would have made of her new statue...
Sport
England's Andy Sullivan poses with his trophy and an astronaut after winning a trip to space
sport
News
peopleThe actress has agreed to host the Met Gala Ball - but not until 2015
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Teaching Assistant for KS1 & KS2 Huddersfield

£50 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We are looking for flexible and i...

Teaching Assistant for KS1 & KS2 Huddersfield

£50 - £65 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: We are looking for flexible and...

Primary Teaching Supply

£130 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS2 Supply Teacher r...

Year 1/2 Teacher

£130 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1 Teacher required,...

Day In a Page

These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week
The fall of Rome? Cash-strapped Italy accused of selling its soul to the highest bidder

The fall of Rome?

Italy's fears that corporate-sponsored restoration projects will lead to the Disneyfication of its cultural heritage
Glasgow girl made good

Glasgow girl made good

Kelly Macdonald was a waitress when she made Trainspotting. Now she’s taking Manhattan
Sequins ahoy as Strictly Come Dancing takes to the floor once more

Sequins ahoy as Strictly takes to the floor once more

Judy Murray, Frankie Bridge and co paired with dance partners
Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Alexander Wang pumps it up at New York Fashion Week
The landscape of my imagination

The landscape of my imagination

Author Kate Mosse on the place that taught her to tell stories