a few lovely books from 2021

Last year I wrote a post about the books I’d liked reading the most over the year, and I’m continuing that tradition this year! 2021 was quite a busy year for me, with getting a new full time job and moving house, and trying to cope with all the changes stemming from COVID. Nevertheless, I tried to read a few books. Admittedly I didn’t get off to a great start, as the first book I read I ended up not finishing. However, I did read some absolute gems last year and I’m excited to share them with anyone reading this.

5. The Mermaid of Black Conch by Monique Roffey

This book is very strange and quite unlike any book I’ve read before, but I did enjoy it. It’s set on an island in the Caribbean with a small fishing community. In particular it follows the life of a poor yet laid-back fisherman named David, who rescues a captured mermaid and tries to keep her safe and hidden from her captors. The novel mainly details his account of his time with her and the peculiar relationship that develops between them, written in his native dialect, as well as giving her point of view and that of others. I would say it’s not a typical Disney fairytale type mermaid love story; although it is clearly imaginative and magical it also mixes in gritty realism and mature themes, sometimes in deliberately crude ways. Overall I thought the characters were interesting and that the book was well written and easy to read. I also enjoyed the vivid imagery of the setting and depictions of Caribbean culture and folklore.

4. A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes

I find Greek mythology and history fascinating, so this book really appealed to me from the get-go. A Thousand Ships imagines how the progression and impacts of the Trojan war affected women of the time, giving a refreshing portrayal of the war and its consequences from their eyes rather than the usual male heros. It is divided into chapters which give the perspectives of different women on both sides of the conflict, both mortal and otherwise. It is a tragic, enchanting, witty, bittersweet, and intriguing novel. I found the author’s writing style elegant, romantic, and pleasant to read, and I thought the characters had good depth despite most of them getting only one chapter each to tell their respective story. However I will say that by the end of the novel I didn’t feel overly affected or touched by it. I did enjoy the ride though.

3. The Fifth Season – Book 1 in The Broken Earth Trilogy by N.K. Jemisin

Another foray into fantasy. I chose this novel because I wanted an epic fantasy story, but not the usual medieval Tolkien-type world with magical kingdoms and elves, dragons, princesses and warriors, which is often the case for this genre. I got my wish, as The Fifth Season is a wonderfully creative story set on a hostile Earth where civilisation-destroying events (such as major earthquakes, volcano eruptions, tsunamis, etc) happen frequently, making human life and the progression of the human race incredibly hard. To make things more interesting, there are humans who have strange abilities, for which they are horrendously persecuted but also exploited. It is a bleak apocalyptic survival story, giving a gripping portrayal of human savagery and ruthlessness in desperate times, yet it captured me completely. The characters are believable and deeply interesting, and the strange, cruel, and increasingly mysterious world that Jemisin has so artfully built is exactly the type of unique fantasy world I was looking for.

2. The Obelisk Gate – Book 2 in The Broken Earth Trilogy by N.K. Jemisin

….so given how much I enjoyed the first book by Jemisin, I was highly eager to read book 2 in this series! I would say that in all honesty I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as the first book, as the pacing was a bit slower with this one and one of the new main characters wasn’t particularly likeable to me, however I did still really like the book as a whole. It definitely keeps you interested by elaborating on some of the more mysterious aspects of the fantasy world and I am SO excited to read the third book and see how the story plays out.

1. Circe by Madeline Miller

My absolute favourite book of last year and probably now one of my top 3 books I’ve ever read. I don’t even know if I can find words to describe how much I adored this book. Another novel about Greek mythology, this one tells the story of Circe, the somewhat pitiful and outcast daughter of the God Helios, who ends up banished to a remote island, where she lives alone but meets many famous figures from Greek mythology whilst she cultivates her powers. The first thing to say about this book is that it is SO beautifully written. Every sentence by Miller was a delight to read. Circe’s journey and growth was also utterly captivating and despite being a witch-goddess of legend, her emotional struggles felt very relatable and authentic. It covers many themes like suffering, sorrow, loneliness, love, romance, power, vengeance, cruelty, anger, healing, freedom, and finding yourself. I did not want this book to end. Outstanding storytelling.

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