As the festive buying begins so too do the media Best-of lists - and this year is no different.
Condensing a whole 12 months into a round-up that is useful for parents and other Christmas gift buyers is no easy matter. There is nothing better than reading a brilliant book aloud and I’ve included lots of great novels to share for that very reason. Happy reading! - Sarah Webb
And as if that wasn’t enough - Robert Dunbar’s column in the Irish Times encompasses diaries in their many formats - from I Capture the Castle to Natasha Farrant’s After Iris: The Diaries of Bluebell Gadsby, Mackenzie Crook’s The Lost Journal of Benjamin Tooth and Jeff Kinney‘s Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck.
It is difficult to resist a novel that begins with the sentence, “I write this sitting in the kitchen sink,” and continues with a succession of similarly quirky observations of sibling relationships, intimacies, rivalries and the pain and pleasure of first love. “I know all about the facts of life. And I don’t think much of them,” she informs us at one point.
Smith’s decision to use a diary format as her basic narrative device creates numerous opportunities for Cassandra to exhibit her perkiness, her understanding of irony, her perceptiveness and, it must be said, her occasional naivety. The prevailing tone is light-hearted, and there are interludes of high comedy. But in capturing the day-to-day existences of the Mortmains in the disintegrating Suffolk castle that is their home, Cassanda is also capable of sensing and recording the household’s more poignant moments. - Robert Dunbar (on I Capture the Castle)
It’s beginning to feel a lot like… bah humbug.