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A selection of TripFiction’s Top Reads 2020

29th November 2020

A selection of TripFiction’s Top Reads 2020.

We come to the end of another year and a VERY difficult year in more ways than one. Reading top titles has been a salvation, particularly during lockdowns and we want to bring you just a small selection of the books that have delighted and enthralled us over this past year. Our team members all have sightly different, preferred genres but we all agree that this year has been fabulous for the high quality of new books that have graced our shelves. But you know the real shame for the team members? We can never read the same book, as we have too many titles to cover; thus, we have to rely on discussion from you, the readers!

Without further ado, we list a selection of the Team’s Top Titles.  DO let us know the books that have really got under your skin this year, in the Comments below!

Andrew:

TripFiction's Top Reads 2020A Theatre for Dreamers by Polly Samson – HYDRA

1960. The world is dancing on the edge of revolution, and nowhere more so than on the Greek island of Hydra, where a circle of poets, painters and musicians live tangled lives, ruled by the writers Charmian Clift and George Johnston, troubled king and queen of bohemia. Forming within this circle is a triangle: its points the magnetic, destructive writer Axel Jensen, his dazzling wife Marianne Ihlen, and a young Canadian poet named Leonard Cohen.

Into their midst arrives teenage Erica, with little more than a bundle of blank notebooks and her grief for her mother. Settling on the periphery of this circle, she watches, entranced and disquieted, as a paradise unravels.

Burning with the heat and light of Greece, A Theatre for Dreamers is a spellbinding novel about utopian dreams and innocence lost – and the wars waged between men and women on the battlegrounds of genius.

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett – NEW ORLEANS

This one is sure to be one of 2020’s best and boldest by the author of The Mothers. Identical twin sisters Stella and Desiree are born in a small Southern community in the 1960s, when they decide to run away from home at 16 and carve out new lives in New Orleans. But as they turn down separate paths, Desiree returns home with her daughter, while Stella conjures a life of secrecy as a black woman passing as white. A tale of family, identity, race, history and perception, Bennett’s next masterpiece is a triumph of character-driven narrative.

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell – MAINE

An era-defining novel about the relationship between a fifteen-year-old girl and her teacher

ALL HE DID WAS FALL IN LOVE WITH ME AND THE WORLD TURNED HIM INTO A MONSTER

Vanessa Wye was fifteen-years-old when she first had sex with her English teacher.

She is now thirty-two and in the storm of allegations against powerful men in 2017, the teacher, Jacob Strane, has just been accused of sexual abuse by another former student.

Vanessa is horrified by this news, because she is quite certain that the relationship she had with Strane wasn’t abuse. It was love. She’s sure of that.

Forced to rethink her past, to revisit everything that happened, Vanessa has to redefine the great love story of her life – her great sexual awakening – as rape. Now she must deal with the possibility that she might be a victim, and just one of many.

Nuanced, uncomfortable, bold and powerful, My Dark Vanessa goes straight to the heart of some of the most complex issues our age.

Tony:

The Bell in the LakeTripFiction's Top Reads 2020 by Lars Mytting – Norway

The first in a rich historical trilogy that draws on legend, by the author of Norwegian Wood and The Sixteen Trees of the Somme.

Norway, 1880. In the secluded village of Butangen at the end of the valley, headstrong Astrid dreams of a life beyond marriage, hard work and children. And then Pastor Kai Schweigaard comes into her life, taking over the 700-year-old stave church with its carvings of pagan deities. The two church bells were forged by her forefather in the sixteenth century, in memory of conjoined sisters Halfrid and Gunhild Hekne, and are said to have supernatural powers. But now the pastor wants to tear it down, to replace it with a modern, larger church. Though Astrid is drawn to him, this may be a provocation too far.

Talented architecture student Gerhard Schönauer arrives from Dresden to oversee the removal of the church and its reconstruction in the German city. Everything about elegant Schönauer is so different, so cosmopolitan. Astrid must make a choice: for her homeland and the pastor, or for a daunting and uncertain future in Germany.

Then the bells begin to toll . . .

The Coral Bride by Roxanne Bouchard – Gaspé Peninsular in Quebec

When an abandoned lobster trawler is found adrift off the coast of Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula, DS Joaquin Moralès begins a straightforward search for the boat’s missing captain, Angel Roberts – a rare female in a male-dominated world. But Moralès finds himself blocked at every turn – by his police colleagues, by fisheries bureaucrats, and by his grown-up son, who has turned up at his door with a host of his own personal problems.

When Angel’s body is finally discovered, it’s clear something very sinister is afoot, and Moralès and son are pulled into murky, dangerous waters, where old resentments run deep.

Exquisitely written, with Bouchard’s trademark lyrical prose, The Coral Bride evokes the power of the sea on the communities who depend on it, the never-ending struggle between the generations, and an extraordinary mystery at the heart of both.

10 minutes and 35 seconds in this Strange World by Elif Shafak – Istanbul

‘Haunting, moving, beautifully written – and based by an extraordinary cast of characters who capture the diversity of modern Turkey. A masterpiece’ Peter Frankopan

‘In the first minute following her death, Tequila Leila’s consciousness began to ebb, slowly and steadily, like a tide receding from the shore. Her brain cells, having run out of blood, were now completely deprived of oxygen. But they did not shut down. Not right away…’

For Leila, each minute after her death brings a sensuous memory: the taste of spiced goat stew, sacrificed by her father to celebrate the long-awaited birth of a son; the sight of bubbling vats of lemon and sugar which the women use to wax their legs while the men attend mosque; the scent of cardamom coffee that Leila shares with a handsome student in the brothel where she works. Each memory, too, recalls the friends she made at each key moment in her life – friends who are now desperately trying to find her. . .

Tina:

Hamnett by Maggie O’Farrell – Stratford

TWO EXTRAORDINARY PEOPLE. A LOVE THAT DRAWS THEM TOGETHER. A LOSS THAT THREATENS TO TEAR THEM APART.

On a summer’s day in 1596, a young girl in Stratford-upon-Avon takes to her bed with a fever. Her twin brother, Hamnet, searches everywhere for help. Why is nobody at home?

Their mother, Agnes, is over a mile away, in the garden where she grows medicinal herbs. Their father is working in London. Neither parent knows that one of the children will not survive the week.

Hamnet is a novel inspired by the son of a famous playwright. It is a story of the bond between twins, and of a marriage pushed to the brink by grief. It is also the story of a kestrel and its mistress; flea that boards a ship in Alexandria; and a glovemaker’s son who flouts convention in pursuit of the woman he loves. Above all, it is a tender and unforgettable reimagining of a boy whose life has been all but forgotten, but whose name was given to one of the most celebrated plays ever written.

TripFiction's Top Reads 2020Dear Child by Romy Hausmann – Bavaria

A windowless shack in the woods. Lena’s life and that of her two children follows the rules set by their captor, the father: meals, bathroom visits, study time are strictly scheduled and meticulously observed. He protects his family from the dangers lurking in the outside world and makes sure that his children will always have a mother to look after them.

One day Lena manages to flee – but the nightmare continues. It seems as if her tormentor wants to get back what belongs to him. And then there is the question whether she really is the woman called ‘Lena’, who disappeared without a trace over thirteen years ago. The police and Lena’s family are all desperately trying to piece together a puzzle that doesn’t quite seem to fit.

The Weekend by Charlotte Wood – New South Wales

Sylvie, Jude, Wendy and Adele have a lifelong friendship of the best kind: loving, practical, frank and steadfast. But when Sylvie dies, the ground shifts dangerously for the remaining three.

These women couldn’t be more different: Jude, a once-famous restaurateur with a spotless life and a long-standing affair with a married man; Wendy, an acclaimed feminist intellectual; Adele, a former star of the stage, now practically homeless.

Struggling to recall exactly why they’ve remained close all these years, the grieving women gather for one last weekend at Sylvie’s old beach house. But fraying tempers, an elderly dog, unwelcome guests and too much wine collide in a storm that brings long-buried hurts to the surface – a storm that will either remind them of the bond they share, or sweep away their friendship for good.

Charlotte

Three Hours by Rosumund Lupton – Somerset

Three hours is 180 minutes or 10,800 seconds.

It is a morning’s lessons, a dress rehearsal of Macbeth, a snowy trek through the woods.

It is an eternity waiting for news. Or a countdown to something terrible.

It is 180 minutes to discover who you will die for and what men will kill for.

In rural Somerset in the middle of a blizzard, the unthinkable happens: a school is under siege. From the wounded headmaster in the library, unable to help his trapped pupils and staff, to teenage Hannah in love for the first time, to the parents gathering desperate for news, to the 16 year old Syrian refugee trying to rescue his little brother, to the police psychologist who must identify the gunmen, to the students taking refuge in the school theatre, all experience the most intense hours of their lives, where evil and terror are met by courage, love and redemption.

Daughters by Lucy Fricke – Europe

Lucy Fricke‘s Daughters tells the story of two women either side of forty on a road trip across Europe, each of them dealing with difficult fathers along the way. A bestseller and booksellers favourite in Germany, Daughters evokes laughter and tears by way of life and death, friendship and family.

 

TripFiction's Top Reads 2020Little Faith by Nikolas Butler, novel set in Wisconsin

WINNER STANFORDS TRAVEL WRITING AWARDS, FICTION WITH A SENSE OF PLACE 2020

Lyle Hovde is at the onset of his golden years, living a mostly content life in rural Wisconsin with his wife, Peg, daughter, Shiloh, and six-year old grandson, Isaac. After a troubled adolescence and subsequent estrangement from her parents, Shiloh has finally come home. But while Lyle is thrilled to have his whole family reunited, he’s also uneasy: in Shiloh’s absence, she has become deeply involved with an extremist church, and the devout pastor courting her is convinced Isaac has the spiritual ability to heal the sick.

While reckoning with his own faith–or lack thereof–Lyle soon finds himself torn between his unease about the church and his desire to keep his daughter and grandson in his life. But when the church’s radical belief system threatens Isaac’s safety, Lyle is forced to make a decision from which the family may not recover.

Set over the course of one year and beautifully evoking the change of seasons, Little Faith is a powerful and deeply affecting intergenerational novel about family and community, the ways in which belief is both formed and shaken, and the lengths we go to protect our own.

Fern (TF’s Kid’s Lit Writer in Residence)

Winter Tales: Stories From Around the World by Dawn Casey, illustrated by Zana Goldhawk – World

A treasury of stories celebrating the wonders of winter, and the qualities within that warm our hearts through the long cold. This stunning book brings together a selection of wintery tales from all over the world – from North America to Siberia, Scotland, France, Russia and Norway.

Written by award-winning author Dawn Casey and with beautifully detailed artwork by illustrator Zanna Goldhawk, this is a magical book to be treasured for generations to come.

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli – World

The latest installment in the New York Times bestselling Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls series, featuring 100 immigrant women who have shaped, and will continue to shape, our world.

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Immigrant Women Who Changed the World is the third book in the New York Times bestselling series for children. Packed with 100 all-new bedtime stories about the lives of incredible female figures from the past and the present, this volume recognizes women who left their birth countries for a multitude of reasons: some for new opportunities, some out of necessity.

Readers will whip up a plate with Asma Khan, strategize global affairs alongside Madeleine Albright, venture into business with Rihanna, and many more. All of these unique, yet relatable stories are accompanied by gorgeous, full-page, full-color portraits, illustrated by female artists from all over the globe.

TripFiction's Top Reads 2020Freedom, We Sing by Amyra León, Molly Mendoza (Illustrator)

I wonder, then, what freedom is.

Is it a place? Is it a thought?

Can it be stolen? Can it be bought?

As powerful as it is beautiful, Freedom, We Sing is a lyrical picture book designed to uplift and inspire millions of young readers around the world. Gorgeous, flowing illustrations let children immerse themselves in Amyra León’s emotive text, as they contemplate big, wonderful questions. Thoughtful and considered, this book is a perfect read for children and parents alike.

ENDORSED BY AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL

Now we would love it if you would share some of your top reads of 2020, especially if they have been particlarly strong on setting! You can do so in the COMMENTS below.

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