2017 in First Lines

This is a fun meme, giving a snapshot of one’s reading through the year – not necessarily an accurate sample, but fun. The title links will take you to my reviews.

January:  Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis

‘They made a silly mistake, though,’ the Professor of History said, and his smile, as Dixon watched, gradually sank beneath the surface of his features at the memory.

Our book group’s Christmas read, we all enjoyed it a lot. This is indeed a great comic novel and probably one of the greats of its particular time, sending up life in a provincial university in the 1950s, as experienced by Jim Dixon, a junior history lecturer. There are some great set pieces, a wonderful drunk scene – and JIm careers from one situation to the next, nearly always just managing not to get caught.

February: Hit Makers by Derek Thompson

The first song I loved was my mother’s.

This dissection of what makes a hit in the world of popular culture was entertaining and informative, using good examples from the worlds of music, film and TV. From Brahms’ Lullaby to Mad Men, Thompson looks at the history of hitmaking – how radio changed everything, the psychology of exposure, the effects of newness on our perception of hits etc, before turning to the business view and how to manufacture a hit. Fascinating stuff.

March: Narcissim for Beginners by Martine McDonagh

Turning twenty-one, not much about me changed, physically speaking.

A coming of age story meets a tribute to the film Shaun of the Dead, Martine’s third novel was a joy from beginning to end, featuring an unusual protagonist – a reliable narrator – in Sonny as he goes on a journey to discover his roots and pay homage to his favourite film along the way. Loved it!

April: Wake Up Happy Every Day by Stephen May

Fifty is not the new forty.

I must read more of May’s novels, for this one, a comedy thriller with some dark moments was very good indeed. Nicky goes to stay with his best friend Russell to celebrate Russell’s 50th birthday – when Russell dies and Nicky finds out he’s a multi-millionaire, Nicky takes over Russell’s life …

May: Mirror, Shoulder, Signal by Dorthe Nors

 “Sonja is sitting in a car, and she’s brought her dictionary along.”

This Danish bestseller is by turns funny and wistful as singleton Sonja decides to learn to drive.

Shockingly, this was the first book in translation that I read in 2017. I did go on to read more though!

June: Alice in Brexitland by Leavis Carroll

Alice sat by her sister on the riverbank and wondered if she might not die of boredom.

After the hoo-hah of the original vote to leave the EU, this comedy now seems rather nostalgic and even dated, just months later as our political situation continues to change.

As a Carroll pastiche, it was well done though.

Forever Judy BlumeJuly: Forever by Judy Blume

Sybil Davison has a genius I.Q. and has been laid by at least six different guys.

Blume wrote Forever back in 1975, long before the YA subdivision in children’s publishing had been conceived of.  Her novel of “first love, first sex and first heartbreak” was a brave one then, resulting in it being banned in many schools and libraries. However it became an underground and later mainstream hit with its message of sexual responsibility and has, ever since, remained in print, helping teenaged girls struggling with the dilemma of whether, when and how to lose their virginity. I read this book as Patrick Ness’s latest novel Release was influenced by it.

August: Truth or Fiction by Jennifer Johnston

I work at home mostly at my computer, a newish Apple Mac, big screen, it didn’t cost me an arm and a leg, but it looks very good.

This 2013 short novel from the octogenarian Irish author was an entertaining read, with sculpted dialogue-driven prose.

 

A journalist is sent to interview an old author who tells a good story…

Reminders Val EmmichSeptember: The Reminders by Val Emmich

Dad forgot me.

A young girl who can’t forget befriends her parents’ grief-stricken old friend who only want to forget. A wonderful story about grief, memory, John Lennon and songwriting with a lovely innocent and nurturing friendship at its core. I will look forward to reading more but this debut author.

October: The Magician’s Lie by Greer Macallister

Tonight, I will do the impossible.

Women magicians are a rare breed and Ada is a heroine like no other.  Did she or didn’t she kill the man she was to cut in two?

This novel had a super pace which together with the suspense made for a compelling read.

November: The Lucky Ones by Julianne Pachico

Her parents and brother are spending the holiday weekend up in the mountains; they’re going to a party at the Montoyas’ country house.

This book, which I read for the shadow judges panel of the SUnday Times Young Writer of the Year Award, has converted me to short stories.  This was our shadow panel’s first choice for the prize.

Mostly set in Colombia during the drug wars, these cleverly interlinked tales were just brilliant, bizarre, hallucinatory, shocking – all the superlatives.

December: The Book of Dust, La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman

Three miles up the river Thames from the centre of Oxford, some distance from where the great colleges of Jordan, Gabriel, Balliol, and two dozen others contended for mastery in the boat races, out where the city was only a collection of towers and spires in the distance over the misty levels of Port Meadow, there stood the priory of Godstow, where the gentle nuns went about their holy business; and on the opposite bank from the priory there was an inn called the Trout.

Pullman has delivered another adventure for all ages in this first in a new trilogy set around the life of Lyra, the heroine of Northern Lights. Lyra is but a babe in this book, but her young protectors, Malcolm and Alice keep her safe.  Scene-setting, but satisfying in its own right.


This dozen has turned out to be a fairly good snapshot of my reading this year.  It’s a fun meme, do feel free to have a go,  and you can see Eleanor’s list here.

 

7 thoughts on “2017 in First Lines

  1. What a wide-ranging year, Annabel. I’m tempted by the Leavis Carroll just to try and inject a little humour into the misery of Brexit although, as you say, it must become more dated by the day.

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      Liz – I did the first line from the first book I read each month, not the first line of posts – so yours wouldn’t be your TBR updates after all.

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