Reading lists

John Boyne: The powerful books I read in 2017

The Heart’s Invisible Furies author shares his standout novels of the year, from Edouard Louis’ powerful The End of Eddy to Roddy Doyle’s tale of two school friends that reunite when middle-aged

I’m a voracious reader. At the time of writing I’ve read almost 120 books this year, most of them contemporary fiction and some classics that I’ve never read before too. Of the new books from 2017, here’s a selection of my favourites.


Polly Clark

The dual narrative in Polly Clark’s debut novel is one of the strengths of this brilliant book. Clark juxtaposes the poet WH Auden’s time as a schoolmaster in Scotland with a contemporary young woman’s arrival in the same town, finding enchanting and unexpected connections between the two. Exploring issues as diverse as sexuality, motherhood and isolation, Clark creates a world filled with trauma and, while focussing on the minds of two poets, also details the effects of post-natal depression. A really fine debut.


Min Jin Lee

Pachinko tells the story of Korean immigrants living in Japan between 1910 and today, a family saga that explores the effects of poverty, abuse, war, suicide, and the accumulation of wealth on multiple generations. The monstrous degrees of hardship suffered by the Koreans makes for painful reading. Lee writes of this maltreatment with a stoicism that reflects the fortitude of her characters. Surviving is what matters to them, not human rights.

The Party

Elizabeth Day

Elizabeth Day’s psychological drama put me in mind of Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr Ripley in its depiction of an unbalanced friendship between two boys who grow into men together. The twists and turns that the novel takes are never predictable and the novel becomes as unsettling as it is involving. One of those books that a person reads in one day because you absolutely have to know how it’s going to turn out.

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