Books published in 2022 that I’ve enjoyed ( excluding the one what I wrote!) include ‘The Gift of a Radio’ by Justin Webb, ‘Trespasses’ by Louise Kennedy and ‘France: An Adventure History’ by Graham Robb.
Webb’s book reminds us that a tough childhood is sadly not the preserve of the poor. Louise Kennedy writes like an angel but there’s nothing angelic about this book, set in the Northern Ireland troubles of the 1970s. Graham Robb is a Francophile who’s found a new format for writing history just as surely as Craig Brown found a fresh way to write biography in his books about Princess Margaret and the Beatles.
As for older books consumed this year, I read David Niven’s ‘The Moon’s A Balloon’ again, having read the book when it was first published in 1972. It’s either deteriorated with age or my tastes have changed. Back then I could see what all the fuss was about; now I can’t.
I devoured six of George Simenon’s superlative Maigret novellas. Penguin Random House has published the complete set, newly translated. In prose, plot and character they make Agatha Christie look like Barbara Cartland.
‘The Enchanted April’ by Elizabeth Von Arnim was first published a hundred years ago but was my newly-discovered joy of 2022.
I also read favourite authors such as Barbara Pym (‘Crampton Hodnet’), Damon Galgut (‘The Imposter’), Ian McEwan (‘Sweet Tooth’) and Simon Raven (‘Friends in Low Places’).
I read Simenon because I’ve always loved his books but now that I’m writing crime novels I thought I should read more of that genre. Conan Doyle’s ‘The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ was a re-introduction to an old friend because I read lots of Holmes stories as a teenager. I always preferred short stories to the novels and this book reminded me why.
John Banville is probably (with AS Byatt) my favourite living novelist. His detour into detective fiction has been pronounced a triumph by the critics and ‘April in Spain’ showed me why.
A friend suggested I read the Morse novels by Colin Dexter, so I decided to start at the beginning. ‘Last Bus to Woodstock’, the very first Inspector Morse novel, was a disappointment. I’m sure it’s just me because the books have so many fans. I just wish I could be one of them.