So many books, so little time!
That’s how I feel at least. There are so many books out there to choose from and with limited time on our hands, how do we narrow down the choices?
I’ve done some of the hard work for you as I managed to read 52 books this year. That’s right. One book a week. I’m just as impressed as you are.
While I read a lot of great books this year, these were the ones that stood out. The ones worthy of a 5-star rating.
Exiles by Jane Harper
At a busy festival site on a warm spring night, a baby lies alone in her pram, her mother vanishing into the crowds.
A year on, Kim Gillespie’s absence casts a long shadow as her friends and loved ones gather deep in the heart of South Australian wine country to welcome a new addition to the family.
Joining the celebrations is federal investigator Aaron Falk. But as he soaks up life in the lush valley, he begins to suspect this tight-knit group may be more fractured than it seems. Between Falk’s closest friend, a missing mother and a woman he’s drawn to, dark questions linger as long-ago truths begin to emerge.
Jane Harper is a marvel. She writes gripping and uniquely Australian mysteries and I’ve been hooked on her novels since reading The Dry a number of years ago. Exiles continues the story of Federal Agent Aaron Falk (definitely read The Dry first but you can skip Forces of Nature if need be) as he visits friends in South Australia for a christening which happens to coincide with the anniversary of a family friend who has gone missing.
What I love about Jane Harper’s novels is how she cleverly weaves clues and details throughout the story and yet she keeps you guessing right til the very end.
We Are Wolves by Katrina Nannestad
Sometimes it’s good to be wild. Sometimes you have to be wild.
When the Russian Army marches into East Prussia at the end of the war, the Wolf family must flee. Liesl, Otto and their baby sister, Mia, find themselves lost and alone, in a blizzard, in the middle of a war zone. Liesl has promised Mama that she will keep her brother and sister safe.
But sometimes, to survive, you have to do bad things. Dangerous things. Wild things.
Sometimes to survive, you must become a wolf.
This book has been nominated for and won a great many awards and after reading it, it’s easy to see why. We Are Wolves is technically a children’s book, aimed at primary school students to help them understand the impact of war on families and children however that didn’t stop me, a fully grown adult from enjoying it. I read a lot of fiction novels about World War II and while it’s lighter than other novels covering the same subject matter, it’s still emotional and deeply moving.
The hardcover edition is beautiful with stunning illustrations and would make an excellent gift.
The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
Alaska, 1974. Untamed. Unpredictable. A story of a family in crisis struggling to survive at the edge of the world, it is also a story of young and enduring love.
Cora Allbright and her husband, Ernt, a recently returned Vietnam veteran scarred by the war, uproot their 13-year-old daughter, Leni, to start a new life in Alaska. Utterly unprepared for the weather and the isolation, but welcomed by the close-knit community, they fight to build a home in this harsh, beautiful wilderness.
At once an epic story of human survival and love and an intimate portrait of a family tested beyond endurance, The Great Alone offers a glimpse into a vanishing way of life in America.
I read a lot of great books this year but this is my favourite book of 2022. It’s the kind of book I wanted to take my time with because I wanted to savour every chapter. While The Great Alone is not a page turner, there’s enough tension to keep you interested throughout Leni’s teen and adult years. It’s a powerful look at trauma, surviving in a remote and wild part of the world and young love. I cried at the end (happy/satisfied tears), and it takes a lot for me to cry while reading a book.
This book covers the issue of abuse and also has some adult scenes, so reader discretion is advised.
Three Sisters by Heather Morris
When they are little girls, Cibi, Magda and Livia make a promise to their father – that they will stay together, no matter what. Years later, at just 15, Livia is ordered to Auschwitz by the Nazis. Cibi, only 19 herself, remembers their promise and follows Livia, determined to protect her sister, or die with her. Together, they fight to survive through unimaginable cruelty and hardship.
Magda, only 17, stays with her mother and grandfather, hiding out in a neighbour’s attic or in the forest when the Nazi militia come to round up friends, neighbours and family. She escapes for a time, but eventually she too is captured and transported to the death camp.
In Auschwitz-Birkenau the three sisters are reunited and, remembering their father, they make a new promise, this time to each other: That they will survive.
You have most likely read or at least heard about The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris which is a WWII novel based on the real lives of Sokolov and his wife, Gita Furman. She has since followed it up with Cilka’s Journey and now, Three Sisters. Three Sisters isn’t deeply connected to the first two stories and can be read as a standalone but it’s the same gritty and honest storytelling that I have come to expect from Heather Morris.
I have enjoyed (it’s a weird choice of words for such heavy books) both of her previous stories but I think I enjoyed Three Sisters the most. The sacrificial love of family and siblings in particular is on full display in Three Sisters and once again, I learnt something new about WWII.
What were your favourite books from 2022?