In theory, the fiasco that was 2020 afforded us far more free time for reading. Nevertheless, I managed to read not only fewer books, but also fewer pages than in the previous year. The only reason for that is that I found it difficult to focus on whichever book I was reading for long periods of time, having had to shorten each reading session significantly. On the bright side, I enjoyed the vast majority of the books that I have read.
So far, I have read 29 books in their entirety and will certainly finish the one I’m currently reading before the end of the year. Almost all of the books that I decided to pick up were novels and novellas, but I also read a couple of short story and poetry collections (I didn’t review all of them, though). My reading was also varied in terms of genres: literary fiction, classics, fantasy, myth retellings, historical fiction… Two of the books that I read were not new to me. After reading their translations into Portuguese years ago, I decided to finally read Atonement by Ian McEwan and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen in the original. I loved them as much as I did the first time.
However, only taking into consideration the books that I’ve read for the first time in 2020, irrespective of date of publication, my favourites, in reverse order, are:
Two identical men met by chance at a train station in France and ended up assuming the identity of the other. Our narrator had the difficult task of not only dealing with Jean’s complicated family, but also solving his financial troubles. As Jean’s family is shrouded in mystery, discovering more about the characters at the same time as the narrator is engrossing. The seventh book that I read by Daphne du Maurier shines thanks to its convincing dialogues, absorbing writing style and distinguishable characters.
A mix of mystery and family drama, The Blind Assassin covers various decades and explores the difficulties faced by women in the 20th century. The narrator, Iris, recalls her and her sister Laura’s life until there is an answer to the question posed at the beginning: what was the real cause behind Laura’s fate? This novel, whose characters have clear personalities, is a collection of parts that complement each other. It entails a first-person narration by Iris, a short book written by Laura, and various news pieces. This structure helps arouse readers’ curiosity.
A gripping tale about freedom, independence, love and obsession, The Doll Factory is set in London in 1850. The main character, Iris, is eager to become a painter, even if her family opposes her decision. Her life changes when she meets Louis, a painter who wants her to be his model, and Silas, a taxidermist. The absorbing plot and the vivid writing style make this book a riveting read.
This retelling of Homer’s Iliad by Pat Barker features intricate and believable characters. The majority of the book is told from the perspective of Briseis in the first person, but readers are also offered the points of view of Achilles and Patroclus in the third person. This helps to create a contrast between two ways of grieving – the women who became slaves during the Trojan war had to grieve inconspicuously, while men could openly seek revenge. The evocative and haunting descriptions are a welcome addition to this engrossing story.
Yeong-hye had always been a dutiful wife. But one day, after having a disturbing dream, she decided to become a vegetarian, which shocked her family. It’s easy to care about her throughout the book, although we never read her version of events. The story is told from the perspectives of her husband, her brother-in-law and her sister. All of them have distinctive voices. This is a deeply affecting and disconcerting read, which delves into abuse, mental health issues, rebellion against social conventions and desire in an extraordinary way.
Which are your favourite books from the ones that you read in 2020? Tell me in the comments!