Five brilliant novels but I couldn’t enjoy them
- John Crace Being Dead. Begins with a gruesome murder and then traces the victims’ lives leading up to that moment, and describes in detail the putrefaction of the corpses. I was too squeamish for this, though John Crace as a writer of beautiful and evocative prose is second to none.
- Margaret Drabble The Dark Flood Rises. A cool, quizzical look at ageing through the experiences of several characters, none of whom I liked particularly. Very little in the way of plot. So I wasn’t gripped, though I was, as usual with her novels, full of admiration for Margaret Drabble’s writing style, erudition and astute observation of human nature.
- Margaret Atwood Hag-seed. This is a take on Shakespeare’s Tempest. Perhaps too clever and complicated for me, or perhaps I don’t know The Tempest well enough. Atwood remains one of my favourite writers, and her skill shines through, so I may give this another try after re-reading the Shakespeare.
- Otessa Moshfegh Eileen. One Amazon reviewer says ‘it will wipe the smile off your face.’ Moshfegh achieves this so brilliantly that one has to admire her. I can’t forget the characters and the story, but I wish I could.
- Kent Haruf Our Souls at Night. A gentle, exquisitely written story about love and ageing. I think it is one of the best novels I have read in 2016, up there with Elizabeth Strout’s. I am going to read all of Haruf’s work. Our Souls at Night is on this list because it made me so sad – perhaps I identified too much with the lonely elderly protagonists.
Two questions for you: Do you have any books to add? And is it important that a novel should be ‘enjoyable’ – and what does that mean?