Best Books Read in 2019 by Mariah Feria

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STORGY reviewer Mariah Feria gives us a rundown of the best books she read in 2019 – and there are a few great books on this list! Enjoy!

The Gallows Pole

Benjamin Myers, published by Bluemoose Books

This is a spectacular novel, and probably the book that I think back to most regularly. Even though I read it while lazing on the beach in Costa Rica, Myers managed to transport me back to the misty Yorkshire Moors in a gentle yet mesmerizing way. The story of the ‘coiners’ itself is fascinating and one that well-deserves the Myer’s detailed attention. The historical research is something to be marvelled at, and even though the novel was largely written in local dialect, it was very easy to quickly adapt to this way of speech. There are some fantastic scenes in the novel too – the opening in particular stands out as one of the best I’ve ever read, and the ‘gorier’ sections of the novel increase the pacing of the book in an intense yet subtle way. Everything just works so perfectly together, and I really didn’t want this novel to end.

When I Hit You

Meena Kandasamy, published by Atlantic Books

A short and impactful book, When I Hit You is full of passionate emotion and exquisite writing techniques. Kandasamy has injected the story with elements of her own life, giving an insight not only into the workings of domestic abuse, but also how navigating and escaping that abuse fits into a traditional South Asian society. The narrator also imagines some of her time within the abusive relationship as being part of a play, which offered an intriguing perspective into the coping strategies of this situation, and showcased Kandasamy’s creative talents. The ending of the novel was moving too, written as a ‘list of people you should give this book to’, leaving a powerful and timely summary to the book.  This was my first encounter with Kandasamy, and you can tell that she comes from a poetry background – every word was considered, and added an element of beauty to the book.

Let’s Hope For the Best

Carolina Setterwell (translated by Elizabeth Clark Wessel), published by Bloomsbury Circus

It takes a lot to make me cry at a novel, however Let’s Hope For the Best managed to do just this. A heart-breaking story of overcoming loss and the many steps there are to grieving, this auto-fiction creation is simply sublime. The vulnerability of the narrator is captured, as well as her strength and perseverance. Despite experiencing nothing nowhere as near to what the writer has endured, this novel touched me, and it’s easily been the book that I’ve recommended the most to friends and family. There are two main praises I have for this book – the unique timing and chapter division, which aids the story (especially the first half) wonderfully, and the exceptional skills of the translator. There were so many times in this book that I had to remind myself that this was a piece of translated literature; the power of the language wasn’t compromised at all. Instead, the intensity of the story built with each page.

Apple and Knife

Intan Paramaditha (translated by Stephen J. Epstein), published by Harvil Secker

I’m a sucker for a ‘weird’ short story collection, and this one did not disappoint, delivering consistently with strong tales. With horror-feminist elements, this collection also highlighted issues within Indonesia’s patriarchal society, using well- and lesser-known fairy-tales to convey a powerful, modern message. Apple and Knife pushes the boundaries with its sensual and sinister undertones, and thanks to the exceptional translation skills of Epstein, the stories maintained their authentic, mystic feel throughout. These are stories that aim to shock, evoke emotion and in many ways make the reader uncomfortable, making for a memorable reading experience which also tackles the cultural taboos with its gut-wrenching and intense imagery. This collection achieves on many more levels than one, and that’s what makes it so uniquely satisfying and fascinating to read. There are layers behind the stories and the writing as a whole, yet at the end of it all they are simply fairy-tales, retold.

From the Wreck

Jane Rawson, published by Picador

This is probably the most surprising book on my list, as at first glance and over the initial few pages, From the Wreck did little to peak my interest. However over the course of the novel, I was utterly transfixed. The mysterious presence moving through the novel and capturing the characters stands for so much more than an eerie entity. It has its own backstory, personality, and by the end we feel we both know yet want to learn more about Rawson’s unique creation. This is a science-fiction novel, but not as you know it, as the plotline twists and weaves throughout the wonderful imagery. This is a strange and heart-warming story, spanning topics of loss, family/relationship dynamics and love. The way the characters move through the story is fascinating, and the alternating chapters add a subtle mystery to this moving tale.

Cover Image by Nietjuh

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