Ho, ho, ho, it’s *nearly* time to say goodbye to 2021! It wasn’t all bad as I had lots of extra time at home to read this year! This is the second half of my Top 10 list. The books are in no particular order and if you want to read the first half (posted last week) then the link is here: https://luggageandscribble.travel.blog/2021/12/12/my-top-ten-books-of-the-year-part-1/
Let me know what you think!
The Summer Job, by Lizzy Dent
Birdy arrives at Loch Dorn, a luxury hotel on the Isle of Skye, ready to take on the job of their new sommelier ahead of their expensive and highly publicised re-launch. The only problem is… she knows nothing about wine. She is impersonating her friend, Heather, who is a wine expert, but has suddenly left the country to follow a boy to Rome leaving the Loch Dorn position open. Birdy, who both jobless and homeless, decides to give it a go. How much is there to learn about wine, really? The answer: quite a lot.
The book follows Birdy as she tries to find her feet in Scotland and do Heather proud. But, will she be discovered? And what about that handsome chef?
This book is full of the hustle and bustle of being in a professional kitchen and the love of preparing good food. It stands out in my memory because I genuinely loved Birdy; she makes some bad choices in the book but always from a place of love and trying to do good by the people around her. Be warned, it will make you hungry.
‘I love the intensity of service. The creativity of working with food. But when it comes down to it, it’s that one dish. Everything that’s on that plate, from the sea salt to the squid ink, has taken time to get to that point. Someone’s alarm went off at four a.m. to go out on the boats. The weather was just right. Someone else had to know the perfect soil… And I get to transform it. Take its perfect natural state and warm it, or pickle it, or dry it, you know? And sometimes I barely touch it. I kiss it with the pan and season it. Whatever. And the I plate it. And even though they’re perfect strangers, cooking that meal for them is one of the most intimate things you can do…’The Summer Job
The Mercies, by Kiran Millwood Hargrave
The storm comes in like a finger snap. That’s how they’ll speak in the months and years after, when it stops being only an ache behind their eyes and a crushing at the base of their throats. When it finally fits into their stories. Even then, it doesn’t tell how it actually was. There are ways words fall down: they give shape too easily, carelessly. And there was no grace, no ease to what Maren saw.The Mercies
This was an incredible read. The kind of book that, when you put it down at the end, you wonder ‘how on earth did she come up with that?!’
The Mercies is set in 1617 on a remote Norwegian island called Vardo. It starts on Christmas Eve when a freak storm occurs and all the adult men living on the island, who were out fishing at the time, are killed. Maren watches as her father, brother and husband-to-be, simply disappear into the storm that stops as suddenly as it starts. In the village, the women who are left start to learn how to survive without the men, but they also start to divide. Maren’s mother and sister-in-law, for example, are now at odds with each other and other groups start to form.
Ursa arrives on Vardo from Bergen with her new husband, Absalom Cornet. He has been sent because it is suspected that evil has been allowed to prosper amongst the women and now it must be found out. The novel rapidly picks up pace as the danger some of the women face on the island also rapidly increases.
I couldn’t put this book down, it was such an immersive and chilling story.
Miss Benson’s Beetle, by Rachel Joyce
This book was a pure joy to read. Set in 1950, Margery Benson abandons her job teaching miserable and mean children, to follow her life’s passion: searching for an undiscovered beetle in New Caledonia. Margery takes with her her new assistant Enid who, in her pink travel suit and peroxide hair, is not the assistant she had originally hoped for. But, once in the jungle, the two form a strong bond in order to survive.
I loved this book. It was so full of fun and adventure as the unlikely pair make their way around the world and then through the jungle to try and find a beetle that may or may not exist. It was packed with humour and love. Just pure joy.
Could she go without an assistant? Of course she couldn’t. she couldn’t possibly manage all the equipment and, anyway, it wouldn’t be safe… There was only one choice left, and admittedly it was scraping the barrel. With three days to go, Margery wrote to Enid Pretty and offered her the job. In terms of packing, she told her to travel light. A hat, boots, three plain frocks, plus one for special occasions. All bright colours, flowers, feathers, pom-poms, ribbons, etc. were in the worst possible taste and entirely to be avoided. She ended with an instruction to meet at nine beneath the clock at Fenchurch Street station where she would be easily recognised by her safari outfit. True to form, Enid Pretty’s reply made absolutely no sense.
bear miss denson. Please to acept! pink hat!Miss Benson’s Beetle
Ariadne, by Jennifer Saint
I am truly enjoying all the recent books that are re-telling Greek mythology from the women’s perspective, and Ariadne is such a great example of this being done well.
The world felt poised, suspended in a perfect balance between night and day, and I felt as though I stood on the very cusp of something momentous. The day that this sun heralded would be the end of the life I had led so far. What it would start, I couldn’t imagine. I couldn’t pin down the fluttery dreams the wreathed around me. It would be exciting, it would be different, that I knew. But that was all.Ariadne
The story is told from the perspective of Ariadne and her sister Phaedra, both princesses of Crete, daughters of the fearsome Minos and sisters to Asterion, more commonly known as the Minotaur. When Theseus arrives in Crete with the aim of destroying the Minotaur, Ariadne betrays her family to help him and the book follows what happens to her and Phaedra after this.
I knew nothing about this story and it was so full of surprises that I don’t want to say any more about what happens, only that it was so very good! It will definitely make you want to open a bottle of red wine, however.
The Stranding, by Kate Sawyer
Ruth arrives in New Zealand with the hope of helping whale conservation, but in fact, she arrives in time to witness the end of the world.
‘Is it real, do you think? Is it the end of the world?’
‘I don’t know.’
Ruth pushes herself to sit, looking out at the ocean before her. At the edge of the sea there is a pink light. ‘Look.’
Nik sits too and looks where her finger directs. The horizon appears to be glowing; the colour is starting to spread.The Stranding
With a complete stranger, she climbs into the mouth of a dead whale stranded on a beach and somehow they are protected from what happens next. When they emerge, burnt by the acid in the whale’s mouth, it is to an entirely different landscape where they may be the only two left alive.
I found this story captivating. It’s a quiet and subtle story of survival and loss. Through flashbacks to Ruth’s life pre-whale, we learn about her family and friends and ex-boyfriend, and the things that led to her being on that beach. I cared about Ruth so much by the end of the book I wasn’t ready for it to finish.
Did you read any of these books in the last year? What should I pick up in 2022? I’ve decided (due to the ever increasing size of my TBR pile and the diminishing amount of space in my home), I’m going to borrow more from the library next year, so I’ll need suggestions.
Here’s to many more good reads in 2022!