Reflecting on 2017's Best Reads
Happy 2018, dear readers! As many of you might have done, or may be doing, I am reflecting on my favorite reads of 2017: Burial Rites by Hannah Kent* A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara*
And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini*
Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman* These were all stories that stuck with me, and kept me reading, despite a move to a new city and home, recovery from an intense surgery, cross-country and global travel, and near-constant university homework. Burial Rites is based on a true story about Agnes, a young Icelandic woman who, in 1829, has been accused of murder and sentenced to die. As she awaits her execution, Agnes is sent to a remote farm, where her hosts are equally scared of and morbidly fascinated by her. The reader lives alongside Agnes, toiling through her final days, slowly recounting to a young priest who is supposed to save her soul, how she came to be accused of murder. Rich with dark, evocative imagery and a slow burn story, Burial Rites examines the implications of story-telling on Agnes's life, and how the stories others tell about her exact the greatest consequence of all - her death.
It's hard to describe A Little Life. I still haven't even been able to write a review fitting of such a book. The narrative slayed me, emotionally, and the characters stuck with me for weeks following my reading. The reader follows 4 friends – Jude, JB, Willem and Malcolm – from college to adulthood, and observes how their friendships evolve over decades. Though the narrative is told in alternating perspectives of each character, the character around whom they all revolve is Jude, a brilliant, tender man who is traumatized by a savagely violent past. The center of the story seems to be Jude's tragic past, which is slowly, painfully revealed, but the real star of the story is the unlikely, beautiful, and ugly-at-times friendship between these four men. At a loss for further elaboration, allow me to simply say: read this book.
And the Mountains Echoed was my second Hosseini book, and yet another excellent example of his captivating story-telling ability. It offers unflinching portrayal of the vulgarities of life, the costs of war, the complicated dynamics of family, and the betrayals we suffer at the hands of those we love most. This particular book, while featuring several smaller, short stories within a larger story, is about the powerful relationship between brother and sister, and the ripple effects of their individual decisions on the other, even though separated by great distances. While this wasn't my favorite Hosseini book, it is still a beautiful story worth reading.
Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine was one of my final favorites of 2017, and what a fitting book on which to end the year! Eleanor is one of the most lovable, imperfect characters I've read in a while. To those on the outside, she is quite peculiar, thanks to her ritualistic mannerisms, lack of social awareness, and tendency to say exactly what is on her mind - with self-deprecating eloquence. While Eleanor is seemingly happy with her mummy's weekly phone calls, vodka-addled weekends, and obsessive routines, the title of the book itself gives us a hint that not every thing is "completely fine" with Eleanor. There is a darker thread that hints at past abuse running underneath what is mostly a light-hearted read, which unspools as the reader gets closer to the end. Overall, however, as Eleanor develops unlikely friendships with Raymond, Sammy, and her adopted cat, the reader discovers a woman who is intelligent, witty, caring, and loyal; someone who, while perhaps not "completely fine," is someone completely herself. This book had some minor flaws, but ultimately made me laugh and tear up in equal measure, thanks to its' unique, charming, inspiring main character.
So, there you have it, dear reader: my Top 4 Books of 2017. I didn't read nearly as much as I wish I had, due to university studies and other goings-on, but what I did read, I thoroughly enjoyed. Look for another post later this week on some of my most-anticipated reads for 2018. Happy reading!
What were your favorite books of 2017? Did you read any of the books I mentioned above? I would love to discuss with you in the comment section below!
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