Yorkshire Times
A Voice of the Free Press
Features Writer
1:00 AM 30th December 2023

‘Tis The Season’: Artis-Ann's Book Round-Up Of 2023

Selecting my top ten of the books I’ve reviewed this year isn’t as easy as it sounds. Since I started reviewing books, for the Yorkshire Times, I’ve published over 140 reviews, including 39 just this year, so where to start? Chronologically, in rank order, or by category? I opted for categories. I’m not offering you a countdown on the lines of Top of the Pops. They’re too different but all memorable and highly readable – at least, to me.

I have been a little elf-indulgent this year (sorry, I’ll get my coat!) and have included reviews of some of my favourite classics but topping the list is still Jane Eyre, that wonderful, gothic bildungsroman by Charlotte Bronte which follows the trials and tribulations of the eponymous heroine, for whom I still have the greatest regard. That she and Rochester eventually sort out their lives and find happiness is simply the icing on the cake.

Then there’s the serious modern novel and Christie Lefteri definitely left her mark on me with The Beekeeper of Aleppo and Songbirds, both deeply moving, offering a different perspective to the reader, sitting in the comfort and safety of their own home. The struggles described echo real experience and shake your complacency to its core. No bad thing, now and then.

Regular readers of my reviews will know that I like historical novels, preferably ones based on fact or which take their ideas from real events, particularly, the war. A Jewish Girl in Paris by Melanie Levensohn and The Runaway Family by Diney Costeloe are two novels about Jewish families fleeing the horrors of Nazi Germany. It is my belief that this period of history should never be forgotten, and these two novels remind us why. So too, the heroism of often unsung heroes should not be ignored, as in the story of The Flying Angels, another offering by the doyenne of novelists, Danielle Steele. It retells the bravery of the nurses who helped rescue and treat injured military personnel, often at great risk to themselves. The Woolworths Girl’s Promise by Elaine Everest slots into a similar category: an easy read but authentic and worthy just the same, recalling an earlier period of twentieth century history - an interesting social document.

Then there’s comedy – we all need a laugh now and then – and Richard Osman’s Thursday Murder Club series tops my list this year (I’ve still to read the last one, hint hint, Santa!). I loved his characters and more, I loved the way they developed and became ever more real as the series grew. The comedy is gentle and interwoven, naturally, with the cases they solve and a poignancy which comes with old age and any form of infirmity.

Our Ethel by Phil Batman touched me, as we followed the sad life of Ethel, used and abused by men, threatened with a death sentence for something she did not do. I’m not sure why I found this novel so compelling, maybe it was the unfairness of it all or maybe Batman’s crafted writing made Ethel real and he simply made me care about her.

And finally, in a category of its own, there was The Other Side of Night by Adam Hamdy, something totally, totally different, gripping, compelling and with an ending I could not predict. The space time continuum made credible – and maybe desirable.

2024 is round the corner. Watch out for reviews of Lessons in Chemistry, The Fortunes of Olivia Richmond and The Botanist – as I get ready for another year’s reading.

Merry Christmas and may the puppy not nibble the corners of your new book – speaking from experience, of course!