I read a lot of great books this year! It was difficult to pick my top three, but here they are below….
Lessons In Chemistry – the bestselling debut novel by Bonnie Garmus.
Chemist Elizabeth Zott is not your average woman.
In fact, Elizabeth Zott would be the first to point out that there is no such thing as an average woman. But it’s the early 1960s and her all-male team at Hastings Research Institute take a very unscientific view of equality. Except for one: Calvin Evans; the lonely, brilliant, Nobel-prize nominated grudge-holder who falls in love with—of all things—her mind. True chemistry results.
But like science, life doesn’t always follow a straight line. Which is why a few years later Elizabeth Zott finds herself not only a single mother, but the reluctant star of America’s most beloved cooking show Supper at Six. Elizabeth’s unusual approach to cooking (“combine one tablespoon acetic acid with a pinch of sodium chloride”) proves revolutionary. But as her following grows, not everyone is happy. That’s because Elizabeth Zott isn’t just teaching women to cook. She’s daring them to change the status quo.
What the critics said:
On par with Beth Harmon of The Queen’s Gambit, Elizabeth Zott swept me away with her intellect, honesty, and unapologetic selfhood. Lessons in Chemistry is a story for all the smart girls who refuse to dumb themselves down despite a culture that demands otherwise. Though a creation of the 50s & 60s, Zott is a feminist icon for our time.Rachel Yoder
author of Nightbitch
A timeless book, written with furious elegance, black humour and delightful quirk. Elizabeth Zott is an iconic heroine – a feminist who refuses to be quashed, a mother who believes that her child is a person to behold, rather than to mould, and who will leave you, and the lens through which you see the world, quite changed. Pandora Sykes
journalist, broadcaster, and author of How Do We Know We’re Doing It Right?
‘Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus is the most charming, life-enhancing novel I’ve read in ages. It’s funny, clever, slightly whimsical without being in any way cutesy, and a perfect delight… Very strongly recommend.’India Knight
The Sunday Times
All I can say is: what a remarkable book. I loved every page and enjoyed getting to know the formidable Elizabeth Zott; a woman ahead of her time in more ways than one. The story covers a lot of themes and sub-plots, all of which are neatly tied up at the end. Brilliant stuff!
Heatwave is by French author Victor Jestin (translated into English by Sam Taylor). Waterstones interviewed Jestin about Heatwave in a Q&A feature, which you can read here.
This short novel, set during a scorching summer at a campsite on the French coast, simply drips with teenage angst and raging hormones, which will make you glad that you don’t have to be that age ever again. Oh, and there’s a dark secret that casts a shadow over everything, despite the relentless sunshine.
What the critics said:
‘A short, sharp, shock of a novel… beautifully done’ Daily Mail
‘The modern day successor to Francoise Sagan’ Evening Standard
‘Jestin evokes adolescent turmoil with great delicacy and poignancy’ Times Literary Supplement
‘The Summer Page-Turner You Have To Read’ Waterstones
“This is a searingly vivid novel that depicts the torments of adolescence in a sensual, carnal way. But it is also a profound meditation on the mystery of evil, our deadly urges, and the savagery that lies deep within each of us. I loved the writing, which is spare but highly evocative, and I admired the way that the author used the enclosed world of the campsite to fuel the claustrophobic tension that mounts throughout.” Leila Slimani, author of Lullaby
‘With a searing voice, Victor Jestin captures the stale air of tents, the cheap music, the guys disguised in pink bunny suits who force you to have fun, teenagers as poignant as they are idiotic, rage, desire, absurdity. In effect, scorching’ Grazia
‘Eerie, propulsive, sexy, and unsettling, Victor Jestin’s Heatwave carries the coming-of-age novel into darkly surprising new territory. With echoes of the films of Francois Ozon, this intense, slim novel is a hot summer read that lingers long after you finish the last page’ Laura Sims, author of Looker
No, this isn’t a self-help guide to murder; sorry to disappoint you if that’s what you’re looking for. Perhaps head over to the true crime section of your local library instead, for some top tips on bumping off annoying family members or irritating colleagues.
How To Kill Your Family is the bestselling debut novel from Bella Mackie (a freelance journalist who often writes for The Guardian).
Blurb on the back:
They say you can’t choose your family. But you can kill them…
Meet Grace Bernard. Daughter, sister, serial killer…
Grace has lost everything. And she will stop at nothing to get revenge.
I wasn’t looking for this book; I found it in our local Little Free Library, and grabbed it to bring on holiday. I mean, it looks like a fun read, with that pink cover and eye-catching graphics. There’s even a quote from current popular comic murder novelist Richard Osman, declaring “I loved this book”.
I’ll start off by saying that I enjoyed the build-up and descriptions of the murders; they are indeed darkly comical, and appealed to my twisted sense of humour. The protagonist, Grace, has strong opinions and prejudices against all kinds of people, which often make her seem shallow, although there is a deeper motivation that drives her to commit these crimes. (I won’t share any spoilers here!)
Chapters more-or-less alternate between Grace reflecting on life her prison cell after she has been, ironically, convicted of a murder that she did not commit, and the stories of the murders themselves, which she describes in delicious detail. Grace goes off on tangents, attacking other people’s lifestyles, which makes the reader wonder what kind of people does she actually does like; if she were a real person it’s hard to picture who her friends would be.
There is a twist at the end (no spoilers) which more-or-less wraps things up.
I enjoyed the crimes that Grace commits; even though she is meticulous and cruel, there is something very funny about this murderous story. I guess we have all day-dreamed about bumping someone off and getting away with it…
So that’s it – my reading round-up of the year! What were your top reads in 2022?