Seeing as the Oscars are almost upon us it seems like the perfect time to conduct my own little awards ceremony. Sadly I’ll have to make do without the extravagant dresses and tearful acceptance speeches, but what it lacks in drama it will more than make up for with amazing books! By happy accident, it’s almost exactly a year since I launched Girl, Reading, so in true awards tradition I had a year’s worth of contenders to look back on. It was difficult but I’ve finally whittled them down to a selection of worthy winners – see if you agree with my choices!
Best Leading Male – Dr. Finlay Logan (Devotion by Ros Barber)
You’ll be hard pushed to find a more finely wrought study of grief than this: Finlay Logan is so completely real that he could be any one of us if our lives happened to take a wrong turn. The level of emotional depth captured here is so utterly authentic you’ll have a hard time convincing yourself that he’s actually fictional.
Best Leading Female – Grace (The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon)
One of this novel’s strokes of genius is the use of a child narrator; like all children, Grace can be devious and occasionally unkind, but she possesses a perspicacity that eludes most of her adult counterparts. By the end of the book I absolutely adored her, and I feel she’s going to stick long in my mind.
Best Supporting Character – Ganesha the elephant (The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra by Vaseem Khan)
This is quite probably the first (and last) time a literary award has been bestowed on an animal, but I couldn’t resist! I have a massive soft spot for elephants anyway, but little Ganesha goes above and beyond elephantine expectations, proving to be not just an adorable companion for the titular Inspector but a formidable sidekick in the fight against crime.
Best Cover Design – Devotion
There was no competition in this category for me – this cover is arresting and memorable, sinister yet beautiful, and captures perfectly the novel’s themes of grief, torment and the fragility of the human mind. I love it.
Best Debut Novel – Belonging by Umi Sinha
If you read the review of this book I posted a few weeks ago you’ll know how this unassuming, un-hyped novel caught me off guard. The quality of the writing is sublime, the themes universally relevant and the emotional insights piercing – I really, really wish this book had received more of a fanfare because it deserves every plaudit it gets. Read it now and discover a new author that (I hope) everyone will be talking about in the not too distant future.
Best Novel – A Reunion of Ghosts by Judith Claire Mitchell
This was the hardest winner to choose by far as I’ve read so many phenomenal books in the last year, but in the end I kept coming back to this. What gives the book its impact is the extraordinarily delicate balance of genuine pathos ad deliciously black humour. It takes real skill to make a reader laugh and cry – literally – at the same time, but this novel managed it. It’s been almost a year now since I read it and I’m still moved when I think about it; there are many vignettes that are as clear in my mind as if I read them yesterday, proof surely that the author has worked her magic well.
As always, I’d love to hear what you think – who would your winners be?