There’s no second-book syndrome going on here! I expected I would devour Jane Harper’s latest thriller, and I did! In both this one and The Dry there are all the ingredients I love: the natural environment interwoven into the plot, a brilliant whodunit, and characters that stay in the mind so vividly you can hardly believe they don’t exist! Well done Jane Harper, what a fantastic achievement.
In second place: I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O’Farrell
You might just have heard me talk about Maggie before! For a long time I have loved pretty much anything that Maggie O’Farrell writes, but until this year that had all been fiction. This is a non-fiction memoir with an unusual focus: it’s about all the near-death experiences Maggie has had in her life. There have been 17 altogether, some more serious and ‘near miss’ than others, but all written in such a compelling and contemplative style as to captivate me from start to finish. Maggie has a unique narrative voice and style that always makes me want to strive to do better in my own work. Some of the ways she has played with her fiction have had a direct influence on me, particularly when I wrote Shallow Breath. This book is another of her treasures, and the content drew me closer to her and her work in new, enriching ways.
So which book could possibly top Maggie’s?
In first place: Gifted: The Tale of 10 Mysterious Book Sculptures
I don’t know if I would ever have found or noticed this book myself. It came into my life through a very dear friend at just the right time – a short time after my dad passed away, when I was trying to come to terms with a lot of different things. It’s about an anonymous artist who played a game of hide and seek with Edinburgh’s literary community in 2011, leaving a series of beautiful book sculptures in various locations across the city.
When I sat down with it, it was the first occasion in quite a few weeks that I was carried away into a different world and a fresh headspace. It reminded me of everything that is wonderful and vital and life-affirming about books and art, at just the time I needed it. It has also come to represent all the lovely things people did for me around that time to support me, and how much that meant to me. And for all those reasons it is, most definitely, my favourite book of 2017.