Readersforum's Blog

November 29, 2012

Christmas gifts 2012: the best fiction

  Justine Jordan wraps up the year’s novels, short stories and graphic fiction.

As with Wolf Hall three years ago, Christmas novel-wrapping will be dominated by Hilary Mantel’s latest feat of historical imagination. Bring Up the Bodies (Fourth Estate) won its author a second Booker, and continues to build a Tudor world that feels solid enough to touch, bringing Thomas Cromwell’s life into the precarious present tense and the reader to the heart of Henry VIII’s court. This volume focuses on the downfall of Anne Boleyn, the darkening mood of Henry’s reign, and the chilling practicalities of interrogation and torture.

This year’s Booker also gave a welcome boost to some left-field books from small publishers, shortlisting Alison Moore’s immersive tale of a man unable to escape his own family history, The Lighthouse (Salt), and Deborah Levy’s sly melodrama Swimming Home (And Other Stories). Also on the shortlist was Will Self with Umbrella (Bloomsbury), his deepest and most rewarding novel to date. Madness, war, mechanisation; class, feminism and modernity – all these and more are interrogated in a dense slab of prose that spans the 20th century and jumps from one consciousness to another in the high old modernist style. One for the hard-to-buy-for James Joyce fan in your life.

Though you wouldn’t have known it from the Booker lists, all the big names were out this year.

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