Because not all of 2016 was doom and gloom!
Children of the Dust – Louise Lawrence (1985)
I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty bored of dystopian fiction. It seems every week there’s a new dystopian blockbuster, based on some book trilogy. However, Children of the Dust’s apocalyptic (and then post-apocalyptic) story just blew me away.
Lawrence covers Earth’s destruction and revival in three separate sections, following three different protagonists across three generations. Each of these characters are distinctive, and I was intrigued by all of their stories.
The level of imagination and thought that went into this book is amazing. The novel discusses the effects of nuclear weapons, radiation poisoning, and evolution. It’s about human suffering and human empowerment. It’s also about love.
And although the novel contains some distressing scenes and cannot be defined as a “happy” book, I would say Children of the Dust is an optimistic piece, as humanity finds ways to survive.
When It Happens to You – Molly Ringwald (2012)
Banish any preconceived ideas! Who ever said actors can’t write?
I was stunned by this novel. Ringwald really delivers – there wasn’t a single character (no matter how small) I did not care about. When they ached, I ached; and when they loved, I loved. In Ringwald’s multi-narrative novel, the reader follows the interconnectivity of people and relationships.
The span of subjects in this novel is incredible. Ringwald refers to transsexuality, to loss of love, to infertility. Despite these “big” and somewhat indigestible subjects, the novel in no way feels too heavy.
The Character of Rain – Amélie Nothomb (2000)
Nothomb’s semi-autobiographical novella about a Belgian child growing up in Japan amazed me. I may be biased here – as a third culture kid (any individual who has spent a large portion of their development years outside of the country their family comes from), I identified heavily with the protagonist’s feelings of loss and disillusionment with the world when she is told that one day she must leave what she considers is her native land.
The protagonist, though only a toddler, considers herself God and speaks in such a way that the reader may start to believe she truly is.
Laugh out loud funny and wonderfully witty, Nothomb knows exactly when to deliver punches of sadness. Absolutely one of the best books I have ever read.
The Outsiders – S. E. Hinton (1967)
Something of a classic, S. E. Hinton’s The Outsiders tells the story of a greaser gang in Oklahoma during the early 60’s. Our protagonist, Ponyboy, recounts the last couple months: life was already tough, but all goes wrong when one of the greasers accidentally kills another boy.
Hinton explores ideas of class wars, confusion, family, and appearance VS reality in a way that is not preachy or demeaning for the reader.
Ponyboy has become one of my favourite fictional characters. He is imaginative, self-doubting, confused, and “young”. His voice is so clear; you could believe this was really written by a fourteen year old boy.
The Outside Lands – Hannah Kohler (2016)
Hannah Kohler’s first novel is outstanding. Set during the Vietnam war, Kohler takes us on a journey through family troubles, sexual realisation, war, self-doubt, disablement, and many more weighty subjects. But this is no droning war story. There is brightness here. Kohler’s protagonists are delightfully flawed and lost in their own ways; you cannot help but root for them as they try to better themselves and their lives.
Kohler’s writing is profound and carries infinite weight. I am someone who highlights interesting / wonderfully written sentences in books I read, and I can honestly say I have never highlighted so much in a book.
**What were your favourite books of 2016?**