Thursday, January 06, 2011

Review of 2010: Fiction

2666 by Robero Bolaño (The Part of the Critics)
(Jeff In Venice), Death In Varanassi by Geoff Dyer
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
The Thousand Autumns Of Jacob De Zoet by David Mitchell
A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore

Bolaño tops the list again this year as he did last. I have to admit I've only read the first part of 2666 so far, but the author apparently intended to flog this as a separate novel, and it is so disarmingly brilliant that I just had to include it.

In the case of Geoff Dyer's two-parter, I managed to get through the Varanassi-located second half in 2010 and it was just as enthralling as the bit in Venice. OK, I did have a sense that this is a book crafted for a rather specific demographic (middle-aged European males such as myself), but that doesn't detract from its brilliance.

Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall strikes me almost as a game-changer for historical fiction and perhaps for historiography in general, for she has shown how a judicious use of imagination can be put to use to place the reader inside a particular period, and the result is as authentic a reading of events as many a formally non-fictional approach to the same material. The last two books on this year's list are both arguably somewhat flawed from a strictly literary perspective, yet when all's said and done, were possibly the two best reads I've had in the past twelve months. (I am still trying to knock out some more critical responses to Mitchell's novel on this blog.)


Begonia said...

Jacob de Zoet is on my must-read list.

2666 looks fascinating. I haven't heard of it before. Are you reading it in English or Spanish?

My favorite read this year was Middlesex, by Jeffery Eugenides. Perhaps you've already read it (it came out in 2002). Alternately brilliant and hilarious. He has a wonderfully visual/cinematic quality to his writing.

GC said...

In Spanish, but I have a copy of the English audiobook with which I am less far advanced. The translation has involved some odd word choices and the actor who reads it hasn't quite grasped the tone of the novel.

Not heard of Middlesex. Will have to look it up.