Like most avid readers, I always mention books in my annual letter to Santa. If you want to please a reader on your Christmas list, consider gifting one of these. Or be Santa to yourself and buy one or more to help you through the long winter ahead. (Above, “Santa carrying books” the author’s Christmas ornament. Photo Doreen Yakabuski.)
Hamnet and Judith by Maggie O’Farrell (Below, left)
Very loosely based on the life of William Shakespeare and his wife, the book begins by imagining their courtship and the early years of their marriage and then focuses on their coping with a devastating tragedy. An eloquent study of grief, it is one of the most emotionally powerful novels I’ve ever read.
The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue (Above, right)
Set in Dublin during the 1918 flu pandemic, this novel covers three days in a maternity ward for pregnant women who have contracted the flu. The plight of poor women is highlighted, but readers will find much that is uncannily similar to the current Covid-19 pandemic.
Forest Green by Kate Pullinger (Below, left)
The protagonist, Arthur Lunn, is living on the streets of Vancouver. Via flashbacks, we are told the story of how he came to be in this situation. The novel examines how childhood trauma can shape a person’s life and reminds us that we should feel compassion for the downtrodden who all have their stories.
Fresh Water for Flowers by Valérie Perrin (Above, right)
Violette, the caretaker of a cemetery in France, is visited by a man wanting to understand why his mother asked to be buried with a man unknown to her family. As Violette sets out to solve that mystery, she examines her own life with the husband who has abandoned her. This book has something for everyone: mystery, tragedy, romance, humour, and a life-affirming message.
Miss Benson’s Beetle by Rachel Joyce (Below, left)
A spinster schoolteacher abandons her job and travels to New Caledonia to find a legendary golden beetle. Accompanied by a totally unqualified assistant, she sets off on an adventure which becomes a journey of self-discovery. Though hilarious at times, the book also addresses serious topics and ends with a heart-warming message about friendship and second chances.
Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart (Above, right)
This book portrays the complex relationship between an alcoholic parent and a child. Its bleakness and grittiness make this book not for the faint of heart, but it is breathtakingly realistic, empathetic, and powerful. The novel recently won the prestigious Booker Prize and deservedly so.
The Mystery of Henri Pick by David Foenkinos (Below, left)
This feel-good book, part comedy and part mystery with a dash of romance, is for lovers of books. In a library which houses manuscripts rejected by publishers, a young editor finds a literary gem purportedly written by a now-deceased pizzeria owner who supposedly never read. Once the book is published, interest in this unlikely writer rises to a fevered pitch, and the lives of many people are changed.
Snow by John Banville (Above, right)
Near Christmas in 1957, an Irish priest is brutally murdered. Inspector Strafford, the detective in charge of the investigation, faces obstruction from the Catholic Church which publicizes the death as an accident. This police procedural becomes a commentary on Ireland’s social and religious history.
Helen and the Grandbees by Alex Morrall (Below, left)
Helen, the narrator, is mentally fragile because of childhood trauma. She copes by trying to forget her past. When her daughter Lily, taken away by social services twenty years earlier, finds Helen and starts prodding for information about Lily’s past, Helen becomes very anxious and must make some difficult decisions. This book is outstanding for its sensitive examination of mental illness.
Redhead by the Side of the Road by Anne Tyler (Above, right)
Micah Mortimer lives alone, keeps to himself, and has a routine etched in stone. Unfortunately, people disrupt his life and shatter his comfortable existence. During the pandemic, many aspects of our lives have become chaotic so it’s interesting to see Micah learning to live with disorder.
Complete reviews of all these books can be found at https://schatjesshelves.blogspot.com/.
Happy Holidays and Happy Reading!
About the author: Doreen Yakabuski, a Barry’s Bay native, credits the Barry’s Bay Public Library and the Madonna House Lending Library for cultivating her love of reading. After a career as an English teacher/teacher-librarian in Timmins, she and her husband, Jack Vanderburg, settled near Cornwall. Now, Doreen reviews books on her blog schatjesshelves.blogspot.com