While I am a writer, I think I am more of a reader. I sometimes get so lost in a particular book that I become alarmingly negligent of my writing work.
After reading 85 books in 2015 and choosing to keep entirely away from the Goodreads Reading Challenge in 2016, I set myself a moderate target to read 40 books this year. The result was that I was able to devote a good amount of time to my writing endeavours, while also enjoying reading.
Like I have been doing for the past 2 years, I have picked out the 10 best books I read this year to share with you, my readers. Five of them are covered in this post and you can see the rest of my selection in ‘The 10 Best Books I Read in 2017- Part II’.
So let’s begin. By the way, the books are listed in a random order, not indicative of ranking.
What a beautiful, beautiful book! Even though the numbering in my list does not represent ranking, this particular book was by far my most favourite read from 2017.
Many many years ago, when I was not yet in my teens, I went to the Residency in Lucknow. We walked through the battered buildings, seeing the gunshots and damages that told the story of the siege of 1857. For some reason, the place spoke to me. Almost a decade later, as an English Literature graduate, I studied Tennyson’s poem, The Defence of Lucknow. While the poet portrayed the events in an attempt to evoke sympathy for the British women and children caught in the siege, I could not sympathise completely because he chose to call the Indian mutineers ‘dark faces’, ‘dark pioneers’ repeatedly. His prejudice put me off.
Fast forward to 2017 and Valerie Fitzgerald carried me back into the walls of the Residency during the siege. I lived those 87 days and more with the residents. The most beautiful part is that despite narrating the story from the perspective of a young British woman, she does not condemn the Indians. In fact, she is remarkable in her constant endevaour to show us how the Indians alone were not to blame. The events, she suggests, were a result of Indians being provoked by a rather unfortunate mismanagement of issues by the East Indian company.
The story starts with young Laura traveling to India in 1856. Her journey in India leads her to the fascinating hero of the book, Oliver. A third generation English-Zemindar, he is everything that a hero should not be. Until you get to know him better. So very reminiscent of Rhett Butler from Gone with the Wind.
Valerie’s lovely, detailed descriptions of India evoke MM Kaye’s books. From the very beginning, the book had me enraptured. I breathed in each word, each page.
Truly, a hidden gem. I found it thanks to my subscription to Kindle Unlimited. Go, find it too!
Another hidden gem. Not very famous, not read by many, but such a lovely story.
Jean Paget, the book’s enterprising protagonist embarks on a journey to Malaya, which leads her to becoming a prisoner of war, to falling in love, to losing her innocence and finally back to England. Many years later, she returns to Malaya and then goes on Australia, both with a very clear purpose in her mind.
I found it very interesting that the story was not narrated by Jean herself, but by another character who was in fact, not present during most of the story’s events and yet, as a third-party, is able to provide a good overall perspective. As a writer, I enjoyed this unique narrative tool.
When the story begins, Jean does not come across as a particularly impressive character. She is a typist in England, with a simple enough life. But once her story starts unfolding, one comes to admire her more and more. I liked the characters, the descriptions and the plot of the story- all in all, a nice read.
Sweet book. An unusual story, no doubt. Ten year old Auggie, born with a facial deformity, is starting school for the first time. And the kids at school do not exactly make it easy for him. His emotional journey through the year is depicted beautifully from his and others’ perspectives. It reminded me somehow of Eleanor & Park, another beautiful book I read last year. Wonder comes recommended for teens and adults alike.
A definite page-turner!
I did have a few complaints while reading, especially how the giddy, light-headed Celeana prancing about in huge ball gowns did not align with the image of a deadly assassin that the author had been trying to build. Also, the way Chaol and Dorian walked in and out of her bedroom, while she lay sleeping in tiny nightgowns (hardly an alert assassin). In fact, the book often reminded me of The Selection series.
Nevertheless, I have to confess, I could do little else during the few days I was reading this book. As a writer, I try to spend at least a little bit of time each day writing. But Sarah managed to keep me hooked. I was particularly blown away when I finished reading the book and discovered that Sarah had penned it down when she was barely 16!
Incredible book! This was way way ahead of the first book in the series, Throne of Glass. It had everything I could want in a book- a powerful heroine, suspense, romance, edge-of-the-seat moments, mystery, emotional roller-coasters, monsters, gallant men… sigh! I could not keep myself away from the book.
However, I think Sarah may have peaked with this book. The third book in the series, Heir of Fire, garnered a very mixed response from me. While one could see the author was maturing in her writing and the story was getting more complex, the book did not have the kind of hold on me that the first two did. The reviews of the fourth and fifth book were rather discouraging and I moved on to greener pastures after Heir of Fire.
Stay tuned! For I’ll be back next week with the remaining 5 top picks from 2017.
If you like my choice of books, you can also look at ‘The 10 Best Books I Read in 2016’ and ‘The 10 Best Books I Read in 2015’.
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Piyushi Dhir is the author of 'In Search of Love', 'I'm Yours, The Next Time', 'Silent Promises' and 'Enmeshed Evermore'. She is a contributor in 'Nineteen Tales of COVID-19', a collection of short stories. A voracious reader, a keen traveler, a businesswoman and a mom, Piyushi currently resides in Canada. A nomad at heart, she loves to discover new places and capture the hues of life with her pen.