When I started reflecting on my reading experience in 2017, the first word that sprang to mind to describe it was ‘inconsistent’. It wasn’t a particularly extraordinary year, but it was also far from bad. A couple of the books that I read I ended up loving, a few I quite liked, and others were satisfactory. However, I really didn’t like three books, having rated them with 2 stars, and also gave up on reading two books without even reaching 1/3 of their length, and thus I can’t really make a fair assessment about them.
In terms of numbers, I’ve read 33 books so far and will probably finish another one before the actual end of the year. I do know that this is a really small number for many people, but for me it’s a great one, since I’ve only managed to read 19 books in 2016, and not that many years ago I was probably not even reading more than one book per month.
My favourite books from the ones that I read this year, in reverse order, are:
Fahrenheit 451 is a science fiction and dystopian novel set in a society where books are forbidden. The main character, Guy Montag, is a fireman whose job isn’t to stop the flames from destroying buildings or the natural world but to burn books with the assistance of a mechanical hound. Although, at first, he doesn’t question why they do it and takes pleasure in seeing the books burn, a new acquaintance unleashes uncertainty. Throughout the novel, interesting points are raised about the role of the media on the ignorance of the population and how that benefits totalitarian leaders.
Ensaio sobre a Cegueira, Blindness in the English translation, is a thought-provoking allegorical novel about humans living under a life-threatening situation. In an unnamed city, people start going blind. But instead of being surrounded by darkness, everything around them turns white. Throughout the book, we are presented with many relevant social, moral and political considerations, making us think about how we live in society.
The Handmaid’s Tale is a powerful read which takes place in the Republic of Gilead, a totalitarian, repressive and puritanical state established in the US. Through Offred’s point of view, the reader is introduced to a society where women who are deemed fertile, called Handmaids, are used by the Commanders, men who are part of the elite, to breed, since their own Wives can’t conceive. This is a dystopian novel full of enlightening remarks about equality, freedom (or the lack of it), love, feminism and women’s agency.
The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton was my favourite read in 2016. And although The Muse got the second place this year, I can truly say that I love them equally. While it was mainly the plot that gripped me in The Muse, it was the characters that stood out the most to me in her debut. But both these elements, as well as the topics covered, were fantastically developed in both books.
A mysterious painting connects two time periods in The Muse. In 1967, Odelle Bastien is offered a job as a typist at the Skelton Gallery. In 1936, Olive Schloss, the daughter of an Austrian art dealer man and an English woman, arrives at a house in rural Spain and gathers courage to tell her parents that she has been accepted to do a Fine Arts degree. This is a book about artists which also covers other important topics, such as the unequal treatment of women and racism. The result is an atmospheric page-turner.
I have a feeling that Rebecca will end up having a place among my favourite books of all time, as even almost eight months after finishing it, the characters still linger in my mind. After meeting Maxim de Winter in Monte Carlo, the unnamed narrator accepts to marry him and, following their honeymoon, they move to Manderley, his family house. There the shadow of his deceased first wife, Rebecca, is even more present. She seemed to have exceled at everything, so the narrator becomes plagued by doubts and insecurities. The fleshed-out characters and the enthralling and atmospheric prose make this book an unforgettable classic.