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17 Literary highlights of 2015

BY Farhana Gani

1st Jan 2015 Book Reviews

17 Literary highlights of 2015

From American sagas to a deceptively slight Austrian bestseller, a delightful French satire, and an intimate portrait of the last wife of Henry VIII, we look at the greatest page-turners of 2015.

A Little LifeHanya Yanagihara

A Little Life - Hanya Yanagihara

This doorstopper of a book was many people’s book of the year and shortlisted for the 2015 Man Booker Prize, only to be pipped at the post by Marlon James.  Yanagihara’s tale covers five decades in the lives of four men who meet at university and go on to experience adulthood in New York City.

Within 40 pages you’ll be immersed in the lives of Jude, Willem, Malcolm and JB and those they surround themselves with. And you’ll never want to let them go.


The Lake HouseKate Morton

The Lake House - Kate Morton

Kate Morton never fails to delight and proves yet again to be a masterful plotter. Her latest novel, another hefty tome, is a mystery and a gothic thriller that shifts between 1930s Cornwall and contemporary London.

At its core, this is a book about a family, specifically a mother and three daughters. It’s a perfect winter read if you’re in the mood to hole yourself indoors and escape into a very fine book.

Read our review


The Sense of an ElephantMarco Missirolli

The Sense of an Elephant - Marco Missirolli

If you’ve read The Elegance of the Hedgehog, you’re going to love Missirolli’s charmingly provocative prize-winning tale.

Pietro is an elderly man who takes on the job of concierge in an apartment block in Milan. He forms relationships with the residents—a variety of lost, eccentric and secretive souls—and as the story unfolds we begin to understand why Pietro has chosen to be a guardian at this particular palazzo at this time of his life.


Paris, He SaidChristine Sneed

Paris, He Said - Christine Sneed

A very unconventional novel about falling in love, Christine Sneed’s elegant tale sweeps us from New York to Paris as struggling artist Jayne follows her much older French lover to his hometown.

They make a life together but it’s not all wine and roses. Cultures clash and compromises are made as two extremely well-drawn and likeable people learn to accept a new reality.

Read our interview with Christine Sneed


A Whole LifeRobert Seethale

A Whole Life - Robert Seethale

This is a short novel about a long life. Andreas Egger lives his whole life in the Austrian Alps. He is a man of few words. His is a life of closely-held dreams, in which he must come to terms with loss, and with what happened the one time he left home: to fight in World War II.

This slim and very moving masterpiece became a literary sensation when it was first published in German and has been a runaway international bestseller.


The Taming of the QueenPhilippa Gregory

The Taming of the Queen - Philippa Gregory

Philippa Gregory’s latest historical saga is fun every step of the way. And it’s a fascinating read, too. We know Kateryn Parr was Henry VIII’s sixth wife but who was she really?

Gregory paints an intimate portrait of a brilliantly intelligent woman who managed to keep her head in spite of a demanding husband and a suspicious Tudor Court.

Philippa Gregory discusses her novel

Buy the book


Death Wears a Beauty Mask and Other StoriesMary Higgins Clark

Death Wears a Beauty Mask - Mary Higgins Clark

The queen of suspense has penned a collection of short stories that are as mighty as her bestselling novels.

There are 25 stories here, collected together for the first time. And the title story, left unfinished since 1973, finally gets a spectacular ending.


CarolPatricia Highsmith

Carol - Patricia Highsmith

The film adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s neglected tale of forbidden love is a critical sensation and trophies are expected to be showered on its cast and director Todd Haynes in the new year.

Highsmith originally published the novel as The Price of Salt in 1952, under the pseudonym Claire Morgan, and word-of-mouth about its daring content led to sales exceeding a million copies in the US. Now reissued in a film tie-in edition, you should read it to understand what the original fuss was about.

Read our review


A Manual for Cleaning WomenLucia Berlin

A Manual for Cleaning Women - Lucia Berlin

All 43 stories in this collection are sensational and I’ve been wildly foisting the Manual on friends and family this holiday season. If you think short stories aren’t your thing, this book could cure your reticence.

The stories are all linked and all told in the first person. They are raw, dirty and emotional. This is very much a book for readers who love the sheer pleasure of words and ideas about the pain of life.


The Moth CatcherAnn Cleeves

The Moth Catcher - Ann Cleeves

The seventh book in the Vera Stanhope series. Most of us know Vera from the ITV adaptation of Ann Cleeves’ police procedurals, starring Brenda Blethyn as the middle-aged detective.

The TV show is good, but the books are better and this latest investigation ‘was different from anything Vera had ever worked before. Two bodies, connected but not lying together. And nothing made her feel as alive as murder.'


Sinatra: Behind the LegendJ. Randy Taraborrelli

Sinatra: Behind the Legend - J. Randy Taraborrelli

This book isn’t new, but it was revised and updated in 2015 to mark the 100th anniversary of Sinatra’s birth. Taraborrelli has added two decades worth of new material, including interviews. I happened upon it by chance and was transfixed.

It’s so much more than a gossipy examination of the life of a celebrity icon. It’s also vivid social history of the United States.

Read an excerpt


Big MagicElizabeth Gilbert

Big Magic - Elizabeth Gilbert

The bestselling author of Eat, Pray, Love eloquently persuades us to fall in love with our creativity in her latest book. It’s a self-help manual unlike any other out there in that it’s compellingly honest and packed with Gilbert’s trademark wit and zest for life.

See for yourself in this extract in which Gilbert explains exactly what she means by living a more creative life. Don’t read this book hoping for a life-changing experience, read it more for the pleasure of finding out about possibilities and to not give a **** about what others think.

Read our review


Last Hundred Years TrilogyJane Smiley

Last Hundres Years Trilogy - Jane Smiley

Pulitzer Prize-winning Jane Smiley has written a stunning three-volume family saga that, you guessed it, takes place over the course of a century. Each book covers roughly three decades in the evolution of one multi-generational Midwestern farming family.

You can learn more about the trilogy in our review of the first two novels.  It’s a matter of time before this becomes a TV series, but in the meantime make sure you’re fully versed in the lives of the remarkable Langdons.


As Good as DeadElizabeth Evans

As Good as Dead - Elizabeth Evans

A slim thrilling novel that you will read in the time it takes to watch a movie. It’s suspenseful but not in the conventional sense. It’s about a friendship between two women and an act of shame that will haunt one and cause the other to seek revenge.

Charlotte and Esmé are exquisite characters in Evans’ tightly written psychological drama, and it is their intriguing and fully developed personalities that give this tale an edge.

Read our interview with Elizabeth Evans


The Japanese LoverIsabel Allende

The Japanese Lover - Isabel Allende

Another deserved bestseller from the author of The House of Spirits. Allende’s unsentimental, magical realism-free, and beautifully crafted new novel is an against-all-odds love story and multi-generational, multicultural epic that spans World War II to present-day Poland and San Francisco.

Read our review


The Last Act of LoveCathy Rentzenbrink

The Last Act of Love - Cathy Rentzenbrink

The literary sensation of the summer, Rentzenbrink’s powerful memoir tells the story of a family changed forever when her brother Matty, on his way home from a night out, was mown down by a hit-and-run driver.

At the hospital, the family prayed for his survival, little realising that there are fates worse than death. Matty survived for eight years with severe brain damage and in a near-vegetative state. Warning: you will weep.

Read an excerpt


The Age of ReinventionKatrine Tuil

The Age of Reinvention - Katrine Tuil

Katrine Tuil’s global bestseller is a brilliantly conceived love triangle set in the midst of the war on terror. Glamorous New York criminal lawyer Sam Tahar has everything… fame, fortune, a fabulous marriage – and a stolen identity.

This suspenseful satire was deservedly shortlisted for the Prix Goncourt, France’s most prestigious literary award.


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