Friday 15 January 2021

QuickLit January 2021: Reading round up for 2020

 First link up of the year with Modern Mrs Darcy. I thought I'd share reading stats and my starred reads for last year, since I enjoy others' round ups as well. (Reviews edited from my original posts.)

It doesn't look like all those Pinterest photos, but I had a stab at a book tree this year!

I read 54 books in 2020, for a total of 17, 597 pages, deliberately fewer than in 2019. By the end of the year, I felt that I was beginning to make reading a competition with myself, and I decided to slow down. So my goal for 2021 is even fewer books, read with more attention.

Of those, 46 were fiction and 8 non-fiction. I think that is a by-product of my job dealing with copy-editing non-fiction, because when I first gave up my job teaching literature, I was desperate to catch up with non-fiction. 32 were e-books (since I don't have access to many books in English here in Koper) and sixteen were print, mostly bought second hand on trips to the UK. Only six were audio books. I pivoted to podcasts over audiobooks at some point, but I'll try to get in a few more next year. 

I rarely buy new books unless I know the author personally, because I prefer reads that have stood the test of time. (I know I should do better in supporting authors.) So, it's not surprising to me that two of my favourites were new publications (and non-fiction) that I couldn't resist: Square Haunting and The Salt Path

The women of Bloomsbury. Credit: NYT

Square Haunting: Five Women, Freedom, and London Between the Wars is a non-fiction debut by Francesca Wade.  In five linked biographies, she explores the time spent in the same Bloomsbury square by five notable British women: novelists Virginia Woolf and Dorothy L. Sayers, academics Jane Harrison (with Hope Mirrlees) and Eileen Powers, and modernist poet H.D. I especially recommend it for young adult girls, who should know about these women who paved the way for us, who dared to live, work and love outside the bounds of society's dictates, not afraid to re-imagine their lives, even, as with Harrison, when in their 70s.

I only reviewed The Salt Path by Raynor Winn last month, but here's the shortened versionIn mid-life, Winn and her husband, Moth, lose everything, and in the same week, Moth receives a diagnosis of a fatal degenerative disease. With no home, little money, and nowhere to go, they decide to walk the 600-mile South West coast path of Britain, wild camping on the way. Beautiful nature writing, and some sobering insights into homelessness.

Raynor and Moth. Credit: Guardian

My three starred fiction books also unsurprisingly included two classic authors, Dorothy L. Sayers and Daphne Du Maurier, and one not-quite-new novel by Madeline Miller.

The Nine Tailors, a Lord Peter Wimsey novel by Sayers is quite simply, a truly grown-up detective novel. It's the best Wimsey one I have read, though I hear lots of people vote for Gaudy Night on that count. After crashing their car on a treacherous New Year's Eve in the Fens, Lord Peter Wimsey and Bunter are taken in by the local vicar, and Lord Peter helps the bellringers ring in the new year. But when a strange and mutilated body is later discovered buried in another's grave, the vicar calls him back to investigate. Hearing the local cathedral bells has now taken on a whole new meaning...

Du Maurier. Credit: Guardian/Hans Wild

The Parasites is a lesser-known Du Maurier novel, but I think it's one of her most accomplished. The Delany children - step siblings Maria and Niall, linked by Celia, half-sister to each - are the children of famous artistes. When Maria's husband bitterly announces one afternoon that they are nothing but parasites, they delve into their past to put themselves on trial. To call it a psychological drama might sound boring, yet it is anything but. Even the narrative voices are parasitic, feeding off one another and merging in and out of one unidentifiable 'we'. Absolutely read it if you have enjoyed her other books.

I loved Miller's retelling of the Achilles and Patroclus story in The Song of AchillesIt was right up my alley: classical, with spare but lyrical prose, and sensual (but not explicit). The story of the greatest Greek warrior unfolds through the eyes of Patroclus, an unloved, exiled child prince who becomes first Achilles' companion and then lover. Beautiful final chapters that I kept returning to.

What were your favourite reads of 2020? How do you track your reading? Here's a few other MMD reader round-ups for your inspiration:

Anne Bogel at Modern Mrs Darcy on her favourite books and audiobooks.

Linda Stoll at

Kendra Nicolle at Kendra Nicolle: My World in Reviews

Laura Thomas at Laura Thomas Author

Lisa at Lisa Notes 

Katie Gilley at The Cozy Burrow