Year End Review #1: The Discoveries

I’m kicking off my review of my 2018 reading year by sharing a few of the authors I discovered for the first time and now want to read much more of.

Kent Haruf

The New York Times
Kent Credit: Michael Lionstar

Others have praised this author for years and I truly don’t know why I resisted reading him.  I finally picked up Our Souls at Night (reviewed here), not realising until after I’d read it that this was his last book.  (You can read his obituary in the New York Times here.)

This tale of two lonely widowed neighbours finding love again and trying to grow old together gracefully was just beautifully written, and I cried too.  He has an understated style that is without ornament, simply chronicling the lives of ordinary people, often in the setting of Holt, a fictional town based on several of those he lived in over the years.

I’m so glad that I have his back catalogue to read, and I already have Plainsong on my shelves.

Patrick Gale

© Dan Hall

Like Haruf, I’ve read so much about Gale’s novels, and heard him often on the radio, but again resisted reading him. This year I devoured his latest novel, Take Nothing With You (reviewed here), which mixes the coming of age a few decades ago of a boy who knows he is different with a love of music, and a contemporary timeline for his protagonist too.

What I hadn’t expected was the humour in Gale’s writing, which endeared me to him immediately, even if emotions will be put through the wringer later.  It was also a pleasure to read about Eustace’s cello playing written by someone who plays themselves – he caught the focus and intensity that musicians can bring to their playing perfectly.

Gale has a super back-list for me to explore – any suggestions?  I’ll also be looking out for whatever he writes next.

Alfred Hayes

Hayes wrote just a handful of novels, but having read My Face for the World to See (reviewed here), I’ll have to read the rest.  This novella tells the story of a doomed romance between Hollywood scriptwriter and the young woman he saves from committing suicide.

Intriguingly, Hayes never gives names to either of them: are they not worth naming?  Rather, naming would set their character for us, and they would then play a role for the reader. Remaining unnamed, the truth of this doomed romance is laid bare on the page.  Hayes’s narrator is brutally honest with his thoughts, sometimes they tumble out of him in long paragraphs of internal dialogue with lots of colons. This novella certainly has the power to shock and at just over 130 pages, it can be read in one session, although you may need a breather from its intensity.  It’s also claustrophobic, mostly taking part in the protagonist’s apartments with only short forays out elsewhere.

This is accomplished writing, or ‘writhing’ as David Thomson tells us Hayes called it. A starkly beautiful novella of the hard truth about relationships.

I also discovered the first Dublin Murder Squad novel by Tana French and Don’t Skip Out on Me by Willy Vlautin – both authors I want to read a lot more by.

Which authors did you discover this year?

15 thoughts on “Year End Review #1: The Discoveries

  1. Café Society says:

    I love Gale and Take Nothing With You has received far too little recognition. Haruf is a writer I have been recommended as well and still not got round to reading – next year? The only discovery I can think of off the top of my head is the crime writer Mike (M. C.) Craven. I loved his most recent book, The Puppet Show, mainly for the wonderfully quirky Tilly Bradshaw.

  2. Liz Dexter says:

    I have read Haruf but have never read Gale in spite of the fact that I think some of my friends KNOW him! I’m not sure what discoveries I’ve made this year as haven’t reviewed it in detail yet, but I did read my first Robert Macfarlane and loved him.

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      Yes, Facebook keeps inviting me to ask Gale to be my friend as some other bloggers are. Daren’t – yet! 🙂

  3. Jenny says:

    I too have discovered Kent Haruf this year and can’t believe I hadn’t found him before!! I love Patrick Gale and would highly recommend Notes from an exhibition, a book I have bought for friends and go back to, in my view, a masterpiece! Enjoy another year of reading and thanks for keeping me abreast of books old and new! Jenny

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      I’m going to enjoy the rest of Haruf. Hope you do too. Thanks for the recommendation of Note… for my next Gale – I think I may even have a copy of it.

  4. JacquiWine says:

    So pleased to see Alfred Hayes on your list of discoveries this year. I can thoroughly recommend The Girl on the Via Flaminia if you’re looking to read more by him.

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