I may be the last blogger to publish Best of 2017 lists. I continue my tradition of waiting until the end of the calendar year before compiling my lists. Partly I follow this practice because I do not see how you have a “best” of the year before the year is over though I see major media outlets starting their lists in November. I have wondered if their lists just ignore reading for the rest of the year or are their lists now November to November lists. Another reason for me waiting until the end of the year is that my list includes books not published in 2017. My “Best of” lists are from my reading during the year.
I read 43 books this year which was less than usual. This post will cover Fiction. My next post will be on Non-Fiction and my personal category of Most Interesting.
Bill’s Best of 2013 Fiction choices are:
1.) Last Days of Night by Graham Moore – A perfect book for me that also became a bestseller. The combination of a skilled and determined lawyer in the midst of great legal conflicts defining changes to the world with real life historic characters was irresistible.
In the book Paul Cravath, a young New York lawyer, is chosen by George Westinghouse in the 1880’s to defend 312 lawsuits launched across America by Thomas Edison alleging patent infringement with regard to the light bulb. The lawsuits seek damages of $1,000,000,000, a staggering sum even today.
With regard to those lawsuits I said in my review:
Through the legal fray there is skullduggery, treachery, a touch of violence and amazing minds conjuring the future.
As well there is a beautiful young singer, Ms. Agnes Huntingdon, with a mysterious past.
Still, proving more often not I am not in tune with the judges of Awards, Last Days of Night did not win the Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction. In my last words on that subject neither of the other books on the shortlist – Gone Again and Small Great Things - while good books are on my Best of 2017 Fiction list.
2.) The Winners’ Circle by Gail Bowen –One of the reasons I love the Joanne Kilbourn series is the continuing development of characters. In the 17th book of the series the three teenage daughters of legal partners in Zack Shreeve’s firm have a major role. They assert themselves in a gathering of the families as they as stated in my review:
…. call upon their parents and spouses to commit to exploring together their enduring griefs a few weeks later on October 31 in the way of the Mexican tradition of the Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos). Having learned that day “celebrates the lives of the dead by the living reminiscing and sharing some of the things that have brought their loved ones joy when they were alive” one of the girls, Isobel, says:
“That’s when we knew that the Day of the Dead offered something our families needed. We’ve all lost people we loved or people we wish we’d had the chance to love. Gracie and Taylor’s mothers both died. The sister who I never knew existed until three years ago died before I had the chance to meet her.”
It is a rare mystery that gives teenagers such importance.
Later in the book Gail shook me up with dramatic violence concerning several major characters that has left me wondering about will happen next in the series. I am eager to read the next book.
Gail is diligently writing this winter despite a vicious cold snap that has left our province enduring temperatures where the daytime high is -25C. She said in a comment on Facebook a week ago:
Our house is warm, but my office is not, so I’m writing wrapped in an electric blanket with a space heater – very safely placed and never on unless I’m in the room – and a heated wheat bag. All this would be commendable if I were writing something that will change the world, but it’s just another Joanne book.
(Gail added that the next book in the series is done and she is working on the book after the next book.)
3.) The Fortunate Brother by Donna Morrisey – The Now family lives in outport Newfoundland still laboring through the grief of the death of son/brother, Chris, in the oilfields of distant Alberta. I described the family:
Father, Sylvanus, drunk every day refuses to even mention Chris’s name. Sister, Sylvie, is in Africa trying to safari away from her sorrow. Brother, Kyle, constantly chews his fingers. Mother, Addie, amidst her own sadness strives to instill hope but the Now’s remain a family lost in pain.
As they struggle along Clar, a wife abuser and general lout, is killed. Suspicion falls upon all the members of the Morrisey family.
Morrisey creates a vivid family story amidst a strong mystery. Even more impressive The Fortunate Brother is her first foray into crime fiction.
The Fortunate Brother was a worthy winner of the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Canadian Crime Fiction mystery from the shortlist. I regret that I have not yet made my way through the full shortlist. There will be a post another day. Of the Canadian mysteries I read over the past year I did not think the shortlist contained the five best Canadian mysteries.
3.) Jade Dragon Mountain by Elsa Hart – Joining The Fortunate Brother at tied for 3rd is this wonderful novel of 18th Century China.
The Emperor of China is coming to southwest China as Commander of the Heavens to preside over an eclipse of the sun.
Shortly before his arrival an elderly Jesuit is murdered at the residence of the local magistrate. Wandering scholar Li Du, a former Imperial Librarian banished from Beijing, cannot abide a coverup and manipulates his cousin, the magistrate, into authorizing him to investigate the murder.
Hart take us deep in to the China of that era wrestling with the efforts of the Western World to have access. I felt transported back to 1708 as I read the story.
Hart accomplishes a wonder in Jade Dragon Mountain. She creates a complex plot which is unpredictable without resorting to credibility defying twists. The ending was a genuine surprise.
My next post will discuss my Best of 2017 Non-Fiction and Most Interesting of 2017.