If you’re approaching, or have just started your first year of retirement, then you’ll know it’s important to keep as busy as possible (both my parents are finding lots more time to read and the garden has never looked so green and lush, I wish my mum would bake up a storm instead but alas its not to be!), to make sure boredom does not become a permanent pastime. It may be that you’re only now finding time to delve into some novels, or that you’re simply looking for the next one, but here’s a list of some highlights from recent years, that will hold your attention and enthusiasm for many hours. ExtraCare communities will all be able to get round and discuss these after reading to see what they think.
Laurent Binet – HHhH
This novel was actually published in 2010 by French writer Laurent Binet, but has had another burst of success in the last 12 months, due to the unusual yet charismatic style of writing. The title abbreviation stands for Himmlers Him heist Heydrich, or Himmler’s brain is Heydrich, and follows the events of Operation Anthropoid, a World War II operation to assassinate Reinhardt Heydrich, who, as the title suggests, was the thinker behind some of the Nazi regime’s cruellest schemes.
The most impressive thing about this novel is the way his facts and research is intertwined with the author’s own experience of his research and that of other literature surrounding the events that led up to 1942, and the chapters are very clear-cut and short, meaning it’s easy to pick up and put down when it suits you.
Hilary Mantel – Wolf Hall
Hilary Mantel is blessed with a steady assurance that whenever she releases a novel it will probably be at least shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize that year. Wolf Hall was no exception, winning the Man Booker, the National Book Critics Circle Award and reaching the 10 top historical novels in 2012. The story, involving accurate historical research alongside some fictionalised characters, follows the rise of Thomas Cromwell inside the court of King Henry VIII. Like all her novels, it received huge critical acclaim.
Flannery O’Connor – Collected Stories
Flannery was an American writer based in Georgia who, sadly, only lived till she was 39. In that time though, she managed to produce short stories prolifically. Nearly all of her stories aim to expose the grotesque and dark nature of society, not in a demons and gargoyles way, but subtly. ‘A Good Man is Hard to Find’ is a particular highlight, and take note of how her characters are often described by the look of vegetables.
Fyodor Dostoyevsky – Crime and Punishment
This Russian classic has been brought into current affairs recently since NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden’s Russian lawyer gave him the book to read while waiting in Moscow Airport. Although there was apparently no connection intended between Snowden and the protagonist, Rodion Raskolnikov, you can’t help but wonder if there’s something other than helping him understand Russian history. Give it a read and found out, let us know if you anything!
Lo Kuan-Chung – Romance of the Three Kingdoms
The longest novel before this was 674 pages (Wolf Hall), which is pretty long, but if you’re after something to really sink your teeth into then look no further than this epic. Romance is a heavily exaggerated account for the fall of the Han Dynasty, spread over a formidable 2339 pages, and featuring over 250 main characters. Reading this is bound to be an exercise in patience, and memory!