Popular fiction reads over Christmas and New Years

The Survivors book cover

The holidays give us license to read for pleasure, having time to deep dive into fictional realities gives our hearts and minds a chance to explore different worlds and new experiences. It’s time to catch up on the titles people have been talking about, explore some new directions in fiction, or return to old favourites.

So Wellingtonians, what were the top reads over the holidays? The titles below are ranked from the most popular by issues.

Syndetics book coverTranscription / Kate Atkinson.
“In 1940, eighteen-year old Juliet Armstrong is reluctantly recruited into the world of espionage. Sent to an obscure department of MI5 tasked with monitoring the comings and goings of British Fascist sympathisers, she discovers the work to be by turns both tedious and terrifying. But after the war has ended, she presumes the events of those years have been relegated to the past for ever. Ten years later, now a producer at the BBC, Juliet is unexpectedly confronted by figures from her past. A different war is being fought now, on a different battleground, but Juliet finds herself once more under threat. A bill of reckoning is due, and she finally begins to realize that there is no action without consequence.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverHeads you win / Jeffrey Archer.
“Alexander Karpenko is no ordinary child, and from an early age, it is clear he is destined to lead his countrymen. But when his father is assassinated by the KGB for defying the state, he and his mother will have to escape from Russia if they hope to survive. At the docks, they are confronted with an irreversible choice in a single moment, a double twist decides Alexander’s future. During an epic tale of fate and fortune, spanning two continents and thirty years, we follow his triumphs and defeats as he struggles as an immigrant to conquer his new world. As this unique story unfolds, Alexander comes to realize where his destiny lies, and accepts that he must face the past he left behind in Russia.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverSnap / Belinda Bauer.
“On a stifling summer’s day, eleven-year-old Jack and his two sisters sit in their broken-down car, waiting for their mother to come back and rescue them. Jack’s in charge, she’d said. I won’t be long. But she doesn’t come back. She never comes back. And life as the children know it is changed for ever. Three years later, Jack is still in charge – of his sisters, of supporting them all, of making sure nobody knows they’re alone in the house, and – quite suddenly – of finding out the truth about what happened to his mother.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe midnight line / Lee Child.The Midnight Line
“Reacher takes a stroll through a small Wisconsin town and sees a class ring in a pawn shop window: West Point 2005. A tough year to graduate: Iraq, then Afghanistan. The ring is tiny, for a woman, and it has her initials engraved on the inside. Reacher wonders what unlucky circumstance made her give up something she earned over four hard years. He decides to find out. And return her ring. The deeper Reacher digs, and the more he learns, the more dangerous the terrain becomes. Turns out the ring was just a small link in a far darker chain. Powerful forces are guarding a vast criminal enterprise. Some lines should never be crossed. But then, neither should Reacher.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverLess : a novel / Andrew Sean Greer.
“Who says you can’t run away from your problems? You are a failed novelist about to turn fifty. A wedding invitation arrives in the mail: your boyfriend of the past nine years is engaged to someone else. Arthur decides he can’t witness the nuptials of his (still adored) younger lover and avoids the event by piecing together an around-the-world “ramshackle itinerary” of book-related gigs and a short teaching stint. Arthur Less will almost fall in love in Paris, almost fall to his death in Berlin, barely escape to a Moroccan ski chalet from a Saharan sandstorm, and encounter, on a desert island in the Arabian Sea, the last person on Earth he wants to face. Somewhere in there: he will turn fifty. Through it all, there is his first love. And there is his last.”(Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverStill me / Jojo Moyes.Still Me
“Louisa Clark arrives in New York ready to start a new life, confident that she can embrace this new adventure and keep her relationship with Ambulance Sam alive across several thousand miles. She steps into the world of the superrich, working for Leonard Gopnik and his much younger second wife, Agnes. Lou is determined to get the most out of the experience and throws herself into her new job and New York life. Lou finds herself torn between Fifth Avenue where she works and the treasure-filled vintage clothing store where she actually feels at home. And when matters come to a head, she has to ask herself: Who is Louisa Clark? And how do you find the courage to follow your heart–wherever that may lead?” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverParis echo / Sebastian Faulks.
“Here is Paris as you have never seen it before – a city in which every building seems to hold the echo of an unacknowledged past, the shadows of Vichy and Algeria. American postdoctoral researcher Hannah and runaway Moroccan teenager Tariq have little in common, yet both are susceptible to the daylight ghosts of Paris. Out in the migrant suburbs, Tariq is searching for a mother he barely knew. For him in his innocence each boulevard, Metro station and street corner is a source of surprise. In this urgent and deeply moving novel, Faulks deals with questions of empire, grievance and identity. With great originality and a dark humour, Paris Echo asks how much we really need to know if we are to live a valuable life.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverArcadia / Di Morrissey.
“A breathtaking Tasmanian tale of ancient forests; of art and science; of love and, above all, of friendship. In the 1930s, in an isolated and beautiful corner of southern Tasmania, a new young wife arrives at her husband’s secluded property – Arcadia. Stella, an artist, falls in love with Arcadia’s wild, ancient forest. And when an unknown predator strikes, she is saved by an unusual protector. Two generations later, Stella’s granddaughter, Sally, and her best friend, Jessica, stumble over Stella’s secret life in the forest and find themselves threatened in turn. What starts as a girls’ adventurous road trip becomes a hunt for the story of the past, to solve the present, and save their future. A modern mystery born in a timeless Tasmanian forest, from Australia’s favourite storyteller.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe Survivors / Kate Furnivall.
“Germany, 1945. Klara Janowska and her daughter Alicja have walked for weeks to get to Graufeld Displaced Persons camp. In the cramped, dirty, dangerous conditions they, along with 3,200 others, are the lucky ones. They have survived and will do anything to find a way back home. But when Klara recognises a man in the camp from her past, a deadly game of cat and mouse begins. He knows exactly what she did during the war to save her daughter.
She knows his real identity. What will be the price of silence? And will either make it out of the camp alive?” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverFrom the ashes / Deborah Challinor.
“Auckland, 1956. Allie Manaia works at Smith and Caughey’s department store. It’s been two years since the Dunbar and Jones fire, where some of her friends perished, but she still has nightmares. Allie’s neighbours have recently moved to suburban Auckland. Ana, now a housewife, misses her work on the farm, but she has her hands full, looking after her increasingly forgetful father-in-law. Kathleen Lawson – rich, lonely and bored – is one of Allies’ customers at the make-up counter. Kathleen takes a shine to Allie, but when she discovers Allie’s husband is Maori, Kathleen’s attitude changes. Sonny’s beautiful younger sister, Polly, is living a vibrant but wayward life as a waitress-model-goodtime girl while leaving her young daughter to be raised by her mother. Then one day Polly disappears.” (Syndetics summary)

 

Who’s reading what? Our most popular Fiction

The avid readers of Wellington have been spending these long winter nights, chilly commutes, and chance sunny spells devouring the latest offerings of the fiction world.  What have been the most favourite titles this past season? Interest in Pip Adam’s new award winning title means The New Animals is in a favoured position amongst readers. Adam has received high praise for writing technique and her faceted nuanced characters that live beyond accepted palatable current Auckland stereotypes.

There is a decent helping of gritty mystery writing from the likes of Jo Nesbø and Donna Leon. Jo Nesbø’s Macbeth is one in the Hogarth Shakespeare series preceded by Edward St. Aubyn’s treatment of King Lear in Dunbar. North American President turned author Bill Clinton writing with James Patterson has also captured the capital’s attention, as have writing luminaries Ali Smith and Michael Ondaatje.  Below are the top 10 titles by issues in August.

1. Macbeth / Nesbø, Jo
“When a drug bust turns into a bloodbath it’s up to Inspector Macbeth and his team to clean up the mess. He’s also an ex-drug addict with a troubled past.He’s rewarded for his success. Power. Money. Respect. They’re all within reach.But a man like him won’t get to the top. Plagued by hallucinations and paranoia, Macbeth starts to unravel. He’s convinced he won’t get what is rightfully his. Unless he kills for it.” (Catalogue)

2. The woman in the window / Finn, A. J
“It’s been ten long months since Anna Fox last left her home. Ten months during which she has haunted the rooms of her old New York house like a ghost, lost in her memories, too terrified to step outside.
Anna’s lifeline to the real world is her window, where she sits day after day, watching her neighbours.
But one evening, a frenzied scream rips across the silence, and Anna witnesses something no one was supposed to see. Now she must do everything she can to uncover the truth about what really happened. But even if she does, will anyone believe her? And can she even trust herself?” (Catalogue)

3. The temptation of forgiveness / Leon, Donna
“As the twenty-seventh novel unfolds in Donna Leon’s exquisite chronicle of Venetian life in all its blissful and sordid aspects, Brunetti pursues several false and contradictory leads while growing ever more impressed by the intuition of his fellow Commissario, Claudia Griffoni, and by the endless resourcefulness and craftiness of Signorina Elettra, Patta’s secretary and gate-keeper. Exasperated by the petty bureaucracy that constantly bedevils him and threatens to expose Signorina Elettra, Brunetti is steadied by the embrace of his own family and by his passion for the classics.” (Catalogue

4. The new animals / Adam, Pip
Carla, Sharon and Duey have worked in fashion for longer than they care to remember — for them, there’s nothing new under the sun. They’re Generation X: tired, cynical and sick of being used. Tommy, Cal and Kurt are Millenials, they’ve come from nowhere, but with their monied families behind them they’re ready to remake fashion. They represent the new sincere, the anti-irony. Both generations are searching for a way out, an alternative to their messed-up reality. Pip Adam’s new novel walks the streets of Auckland city now, examining the fashion scene, intergenerational tension and modern life with an unflinching eye. From the the wreckage and waste of the 21st century, new animals must emerge.” (Catalogue)

5. The punishment she deserves / George, Elizabeth
“No. 1 New York Times best-selling George returns with the next mystery featuring DI Thomas Lynley and his partner DS Barbara Havers, who’s in the lead here. Approached by a Member of Parliament with a request to investigate the supposed suicide of a constituent’s son, New Scotland Yard’s assistant commissioner sees an opportunity to stick Havers with an impossible case and thence get rid of her. (He’s not a fan.) George’s last title was in 2015, so folks will be clamoring. Award-winning author Elizabeth George delivers another masterpiece of suspense in her Inspector Lynley series.” (Catalogue)

6. Dear Mrs. Bird : a novel / Pearce, A. J.
“London, 1940. Emmeline Lake is Doing Her Bit for the war effort, volunteering as a telephone operator with the Auxiliary Fire Services. When Emmy sees an advertisement for a job at the London Evening Chronicle, her dreams of becoming a Lady War Correspondent suddenly seem achievable. But the job turns out to be working as a typist for the fierce and renowned advice columnist, Henrietta Bird. The irrepressible Emmy keeps writing letters in this hilarious and enormously moving tale of friendship, the kindness of strangers, and ordinary people in extraordinary times.” (Catalogue)

7. The President is missing / Clinton, Bill
“The President is Missing. The world is in shock. But the reason he”s missing is much worse than anyone can imagine. With details only a President could know, and the kind of suspense only James Patterson can deliver.” (Catalogue)

8. An unsuitable match / Trollope, Joanna
“Rose Woodrowe is getting married to Tyler Masson – a wonderful, sensitive man who is head-over-heels in love with her. The only problem? This isn’t the first time for either of them, and their five grown-up children have strong opinions on the matter… Who to listen to? Who to please? Rose and Tyler are determined to get it right this time, but in trying to make everyone happy, can they ever be happy themselves?” (Catalogue

9. Winter / Smith, Ali
“Following Autumn, the first of four novels named for the seasons and drawing on their moods, Smith takes an icy look at the era of Brexit and fake news, examining themes of history and memory and celebrating our will to survive. Winter. It makes things visible. Ali Smith’s shapeshifting Winter casts a warm, wise, merry and uncompromising eye over a post-truth era in a story rooted in history and memory and with a taproot deep in the evergreens, art and love.” (Catalogue)

10. Warlight / Ondaatje, Michael
“In a narrative as mysterious as memory itself – at once both shadowed and luminous – Warlight is a vivid, thrilling novel of violence and love, intrigue and desire. It is 1945, and London is still reeling from the Blitz and years of war. 14-year-old Nathaniel and his sister, Rachel, are apparently abandoned by their parents, left in the care of an enigmatic figure named The Moth. They suspect he might be a criminal, and grow both more convinced and less concerned as they get to know his eccentric crew of friends: men and women with a shared history, all of whom seem determined to protect, and educate… But are they really what and who they claim to be? A dozen years later, Nathaniel begins to uncover all he didn’t know or understand in that time, and it is this journey – through reality, recollection, and imagination – that is told in this magnificent novel.” (Catalogue)