10 Favourite Movies 2020

I watched 75 films this year. Unfortunately, I only got to watch two at the cinema before the UK lockdown. Here are my top ten in no particular order, and the places in the UK you can watch them. I prefer to give my viewing money to organisations other than Amazon, but I’d still rather watch films than boycott the company altogether, nevertheless as well as summaries of each film, I have listed the places you can currently see them in the UK. Read to the bottom and you’ll find a few bonus movies that I also recommend.

A few facts and figures about my 10 movies:

  • Five female directors, five male (which I’m pretty pleased about)
  • Four American-made movies, the rest from different countries
  • Three subtitled films
  • One from 1992, one from 2013, the rest from 2019 and 2020

Vivarium
2019
Dir: Lorcan Finnegan
Ireland, Denmark & Belgium

Speculative / science fiction. Gemma and Tom go with a peculiar estate agent to visit a house on an estate of identical houses. When Gemma and Tom try to leave they can’t. It gets more and more odd, and ends with a clever circular twist. Available on Curzon Home Cinema and bfi.org

Once Upon A Time in Hollywood
2019
Dir: Quentin Tarantino
USA

Action drama. It’s the 1960s and Rick is an actor in LA. His stunt man and friend, Cliff lives in a nearby caravan with his dog. The pair go to Italy to film some spaghetti westerns, and when they return they get to know Rick’s heavily pregnant neighbour, Sharon Tate. A reworking of the Charles Manson murders, this doesn’t end as expected. Violent, yes. Brilliant, yes. Available on Amazon.

The Assistant
2020
Dir: Kitty Green
USA

Drama. Jane is an assistant in a film company in New York. She starts early and performs mundane tasks: clearing her boss’s office, fetching sandwiches, photocopying, as well as lying to his wife about where her boss is. When another assistant arrives in the office, Jane is concerned about her welfare but when she tries to report her suspicions things don’t go as planned. Quiet, reflective, excellent.

System Crasher
2019
Dir: Nora Fingscheidt
Germany

Drama. Nine year old Benni, angry and out of control, is in the German care system. She runs away, back to her mother who is unable to provide the love and care Benni needs. She makes a connection with Micha and his family, and goes with him to the woods for three weeks to learn to take care of herself and although this at first seems to help, the system is unable to cope with her. Eye-opening, emotional, tough. Available on Curzon Home Cinema

The Last Days of Chez Nous
1992
Dir: Gillian Armstrong
Australia

Family drama. Beth lives with her partner, JP, daughter Annie, and lodger Tim, in a house in an Australian city, when her younger sister, Vicky comes to stay. The house is wild with laughter and arguments between Beth and JP. Beth goes on a road trip with her father and when she returns much has changed in the house. Real, touching, memorable. Available on Google Play.

Parasite
2019
Dir: Bong Joon-ho
South Korea

Black comedy thriller. Ki-woo, a poor young man living in a semi-basement with his parents and sister gets a job tutoring a rich family’s daughter. Over time he gets his sister, mother and father jobs for the family, ousting the existing staff. When the rich family are away, Ki-woo and the rest of them discover something unexpected in the basement of the house. Tense, thrilling, eye-opening. Available on Curzon Home Cinema and bfi.org

Ordinary Love
2019
Dir: Lisa Barros D’sa
Britain

Family drama. At Christmas Joan discovers a lump in her breast. She begins treatment and her husband, Tom supports her through chemo and a mastectomy. At the hospital Joan recognises a fellow patient, who is her daughter’s former teacher, and a friendship develops. Quiet, emotional, beautiful. Available on Google Play.

Only the Animals
2019
Dir: Dominik Moll
France

Mystery Thriller. Using a complex but satisfying narrative, this film weaves five different stories and perspectives together. A woman disappears in a snow storm and her car is found. Five people know something about what has happened and as the film visits each perspective we learn something new about the previous section. Clever, absorbing, satisfying. Available on Curzon Home Cinema

Blue Ruin
2013
Dir: Jeremy Saulnier
USA

Action drama. Dwight, apparently a down-and-out, goes after Wade, the killer of his parents, after he is released from prison. But Dwight is neither a killer nor a homeless man, but he quickly gets tangled up in looking for and running from revenge for various murders. It’s complicated and violent, but very satisfying. Available on Netflix.

Never Rarely Sometimes Always
2020
Dir: Eliza Hittman
USA

Drama. Autumn is 17 when she discovers she is pregnant. Not finding support from her family or her local clinic, and living in Pennsylvania where she needs parental consent to have an abortion, Autumn and her cousin, Skylar travel to New York. Female friendship, quiet, emotional.

Bonus Movies

There were a few more films that almost made my top ten which you might be interested in looking up. They are:

  • Good Posture
  • Paddleton
  • The Lunchbox
  • It Follows
  • Nancy
  • Calibre

Which of my top ten have you seen and loved? Which have you seen and hated? And do you have any recommendations for me?

Claire’s and Tim’s Best Books of 2020

2020 didn’t turn out to be the year anyone was expecting. Many people found it difficult to concentrate on reading, others, like me and Tim, found reading to be a solace and a distraction. (Not so much with the writing though.) My free little library outside my house got more use than ever over our lockdown periods and continues to do so now. I received some lovely notes from my neighbours, saying how much it helped them especially when the libraries were closed.

This is the sixth year that Tim and I have been tracking the books we’ve read over the previous year and trying to work out which ten we’ve liked the best. We rate all the books we read out of five as we read them, and of course always end up with more than ten 5-star books each. Then the discussions begin!
You can see previous year’s lists here: 2019, 2018201720162015.

I read 96 books this year. Here are some facts and figures about my top ten books I read in 2020:

  • Two books published this year (Writers & Lovers, and The Weekend)
  • The oldest published in 1976 (Bear)
  • One book in translation (Youth)
  • Nine books by women, and one man (The Innocents)
  • Two books set in England (The world Before Us and Expectation), one in Denmark (Youth), four in America (Severance, The Hare, Writers & Lovers, A Crime in the Neighborhood), two in Canada (The Innocents, and Bear), one in Australia (The Weekend)
  • One about a pandemic (Severance)
  • One not published yet (The Hare)
  • One winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction (A Crime in the Neighborhood)
  • Three of my books are also in Tim’s list (A Crime in the Neighborhood, Writers & Lovers, and Youth)

All but one of my books are available in the UK. (The Hare is yet to find a UK publisher.) I have created a list on Bookshop.org to make it easy to buy books from my list online in the UK, here. The Hare is available here (currently pre-orders). But please also consider ordering from you local independent – they need our business more than ever. Please try not to buy your books from that other place which really doesn’t need your business – you know the place I mean.

My Best Reads of 2020

Top three (in no order)

Bear by Marian Engel

Controversial and prize-winning, and a masterpiece. Is what I’m going to say now a spoiler? Maybe. This short novel is about a woman who has sex with a bear. There, it’s said. Avoid it, or read it, now you know. But it’s so much more than that – although these scenes are handled expertly. It’s about nature, a woman working out who she is and what she wants, falling in love (yes), feminism, loneliness, connection. Engel writes beautifully, plainly, elegantly. There is nothing lurid or salacious here; it is all part of the whole.

The Hare by Melanie Finn

With The Hare, Melanie Finn has written a powerful story of female perseverance, strength, and resilience. This book has rare qualities: beautiful writing while being absolutely unputdownable, and I will be pressing it into the hands of every reader I know. Teenager, Rosie meets the much older Bennett and for a while is in thrall to him, but when he leaves Rosie and their daughter in a run-down cabin to fend for themselves, Rosie toughens up and fights for her freedom and her daughter.

Writers and Lovers by Lily King

Don’t be put off by the cover – I thought that it was going to be whimsical, a bit too cute for my tastes, but it was almost my perfect read. (I still don’t like that jacket.) It is funny in a downbeat way, brilliantly written, and with such an engaging main character and story. Casey is grieving the death of her mother, juggling debts and gruelling shifts in an upmarket restaurant in Boston (the waitress scenes were so good). And she’s been writing a novel for six years. (All the parts about writing books were spot on.) Writers & Lovers covers the few months where she has relationships with three men and finishes her novel. It’s about creativity and commitment, work and love.

Best of the Rest

The Weekend by Charlotte Wood

In The Weekend three female friends in their seventies gather at the holiday home of a fourth friend who has recently died, in order to clear it out. Bitchy, grumpy, private, candid, supportive, loving, these three women are so real, so full of life, I absolutely loved them and the book.

The Innocents by Michael Crummey

This book starts with the death of Ada’s and Evered’s parents and baby sister, leaving the siblings aged 9 and 11 completely alone on a cold and inhospitable New Foundland shore. Ada and Evered – see what Crummey has done there – labour through the seasons only with very occasional visits from The Hope to deliver supplies and take their catch of cod. Ada and Evered know just about enough to survive (and the book is full of the work they do, and the landscape they have to submit to), but like Eve and Adam before the time of the apple, they know next to nothing about the world beyond their cove and even less about their bodies. A brilliant, visceral, evocative coming of age novel.

A Crime in the Neighborhood by Suzanne Berne

Marsha is looking back to a couple of months in the summer of 1972 when as a child her father leaves her mother for her aunt, and a boy she knows a little, and doesn’t really like, is molested and murdered in her neighbourhood. Hot days and boiling nights make everyone in the claustrophobic suburbs suspicious of strangers until the undercurrent of hysteria bubbles up into a terrible accusation. This book positively simmers. But don’t expect a crime novel; it’s more about asking why we do the things we do, and not always knowing the answer.

Severance by Ling Ma

This was pure enjoyment, even though it’s mostly a book about a world after a virus has killed most people off. I love a good apocalit. But it’s much more than that, and has a lot to say about immigration, consumerism, capitalism, millennial ennui, and office work. It is also an elegy to New York, or cities in general. Candace is an office worker when a deadly pandemic kills people, but not before they repeat the same routine again and again. She escapes New York and finds the scary Bob and a small team of people heading to The Facility in Chicago. The story flips backwards and forwards in time looking at how Candace ended up in New York, and her brief time in China, as well as the immigration of her parents to the US. The more I’ve been thinking about this book in the months since I read it, the more I’ve found to love.

Youth by Tove Ditlevsen (translated by Tiina Nunnally)

Second in Tove Ditlevsen’s Copenhagen trilogy and from the start it was definitely going to be in my top ten reads of the year. Tove is a teenager moving from job to job, longing for love and to have her poems published. The writing is so fresh despite it being first published in 1967 and being set in 1930s. I’m not sure I’m ready to say goodbye to 20 (or so) year old Tove.

The World Before Us by Aislinn Hunter

How had I never heard of this book until this year? How have I never read it before? when it is exactly my kind of book. Layered, ambiguous, thoughtful, beautifully written, but with a strong narrative. When Jane was 15, Lily the child she was minding, vanished on a walk. The disappearance has haunted her into adulthood, shaped her decisions about work, relationships and study. Jane is obsessed with two things: a girl known only as N who disappears from the pages of history in a similar location, and William Eliot, Lily’s father. When Jane meets William again after more than fifteen years it doesn’t go as she has always imagined, and forces her into action. Following Jane around is a group of ghosts who talk about themselves in the first person plural and are trying to work out who they are and why they are here. If that sounds ridiculous, it isn’t – I found the ghosts very moving.

Expectation by Anna Hope

While the story might not be particularly new, something about the way Hope writes just pulled me in and I ended up reading this in any spare moment, even standing up cooking the dinner. The author doesn’t show herself in even the tiniest way and so it was as though I wasn’t reading at all, but walking along the London streets with these women, lying in the park in the dusk, smoking in their flat with them. Hannah, Cate and Lissa are in their mid 20s and are best friends living together in London. They have the rest of their lives ahead of them: they can be anything, go anywhere, do anything. The book skips ten years on (and back again) to see how their lives have unexpectedly turned out. For fans of Ann Tyler, Maggie O’Farrell, and Esther Freud.

Tim’s Top Ten Reads of the Year

Tim’s Top Three (in no order)

A Crime in the Neighborhood by Suzanne Berne

Tim says: Originally published back in 1998, this is amazing. As close as it comes to time travel by reading a novel as you can get. I read it and it was 1972. I read it and the sun pounded down. I read it and I was in the Boston suburbs. Great characters and so much wonderful detail. If you like your books vivid and bright, try this one.

Burning Bright by Ron Rash

Tim says: Raw and honest. Sometimes brutal, sometimes intimate, always just right. I’ve read tons of incredible short stories this year (see Emma Cline and Jeffrey Eugenides in my top 10), but this is something else. Brilliant. Ron Rash is new to me. Claire and I give each other books all the time. She always gets it spot on, or at least that’s what I thought. Then I found out that she asks her Twitter and Instagram friends for suggestions after briefing them on my tastes. I don’t care if that’s cheating, but if it was you who pushed her in the direction of Ron Rash, I thank you. Pushing it back.

Love by Hanne Orstavik (translated by Martin Aitken)

Tim says: Tense, Nordic, and beautiful in equal measure, with a bit of eerie thrown in too. Love takes place over the course of a single night. Jon is locked out of his house. He and his mother have very different journeys. I couldn’t put it down. Makes me want to go back to Scandinavia right now. How do books do that?

Tim’s Best of the Rest

  • Feast Your Eyes by Myla Goldberg
  • Daddy by Emma Cline
  • Medicine Walk by Richard Wagamese
  • Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore
  • Fresh Complaint by Jeffrey Eugenides
  • Youth by Tove Ditlevsen
  • Writers and Lovers by Lily King

***

My fourth novel, Unsettled Ground will be published in March in the UK, and in May in the USA and Canada. Find out more here.

US Cover of Unsettled Ground

I’m thrilled to be able to show you the amazing US cover of Unsettled Ground for the first time. It was designed by Diane Chonette, the Art Director at my US publisher, Tin House, using art work by Valerie Hegarty. What do you think? Drop me a line and let me know.

The cover was revealed today on Entertainment Weekly’s website, and they have also published a sneak preview of chapter one. Read it here.

Unsettled Ground will be published in the US on 18th May 2021.

If you missed what the UK cover looks like, you can see it here.

Free bookplates for any of my books

I’m so excited to be part of the UK campaign to support bookshops throughout lockdown – #SignForOurBookshops. During the last lockdown, bookshops moved mountains to remain operational – taking orders online, or over the phone. They now face a second lockdown in the build-up to Christmas, their busiest sales period. 

#SignForOurBookshops is a national show of support from UK authors, urging people to keep buying through bookshops by offering exclusive signed bookplates to stores and customers. Over 200 authors are taking part so far, including me!

The former Children’s Laureate, Chris Riddell, has designed bespoke bookplates for the campaign. Buying a #SignForOurBookshops book is buying a slice of positive history in a challenging year. What better Christmas present idea than that? 

WHAT IS A ‘BOOKPLATE’?

It’s a signed label that you can stick into the front page of books, so it’s like having a personalised, signed, copy.

HOW TO GET A BOOKPLATE

I will send a signed, personalised bookplate to the first 50 people who buy one of my books through a UK bricks and mortar bookshop during lockdown.

This offer is a first-come-first-served basis. Just drop me an email to claire@clairefuller.co.uk with a picture of your receipt (from a UK bricks and mortar bookshop) for one of my published books – Our Endless Numbered Days, Swimming Lessons, or Bitter Orange – and let me know your address and any particular dedication you would like on the bookplate. And I’ll post a book plate to you, free of charge.

AND PLEASE SUPPORT BOOKSHOPS!

If you buy a signed copy, do try and pick other books up while you’re shopping with that store. Books make incredible, thoughtful Christmas presents – even if they’re not signed. 

Check out #SignForOurBookshops on Twitter and Instagram to see the hundreds of other authors who are offering bookplates.

Agent & Author Q&A Event

On Thursday 12th November I’ll be appearing on Zoom with my literary agent, Jane Finigan from Lutyens and Rubinstein to talk about how we work together on my books. I’ll also be reading from Unsettled Ground, due to be published in the UK in January 2021 (and May 2021 in the US and Canada).

The event is being run by Blue Pencil, an editorial services agency who run writing retreats (where I’ve been a guest), and provide manuscript advice.

So, if you’re writing a novel, sign up to the event and come and ask me and Jane some questions. I’d love to see you there and I’m happy to answer any question about writing, getting published, or finding an agent. Click here to buy a ticket.

Blue Pencil are also running their Pitch Prize for unpublished authors, and the prize, for up to seven writers, is to be able to pitch your novel to Jane. More information here.

L’été des oranges amères published today

L’été des oranges amères (aka Bitter Orange) is published in France today. After the tremendous success of Un mariage anglais (aka Swimming Lessons) in France last summer, I’m hoping that French readers will enjoy my third novel just as much.

I’m also delighted that Editions Stock, my French publishers have bought my fourth novel, Unsettled Ground – although I’ve yet to hear whether the title will be changed and what to.

If you live in Europe and you’d like the chance to win a signed copy of L’été des oranges amères, I’m running a give-away on my Instagram account. Just visit @writerclairefuller on Instagram for details of how to enter. The competition closes on 10th June. Good luck!

Free Zoom Literary Festival

On Friday 1st May (4pm UK time / 5pm French time) I’ll be appearing at LockDownLit, an online version of Festilitt, a wonderful French literary festival I appeared at (in real life) in 2017.

The event is free, you just need to click here and log on to Zoom at the correct time on Friday to join the audience. You can also email info@festilitt.com to join their mailing list to be informed about any future author appearances as part of the festival, and reminded about this one.

I’ll be interviewed by Kath Humphries about Bitter Orange, and there will be plenty of opportunity for questions from the audience.

Hope to see you there.

Backlisted Podcast: Journal of a Disappointed Man

A short while ago I was invited onto the award-winning podcast, Backlisted to discuss with the two presenters, Andy Miller and John Mitchinson, together with fellow guest William Atkins, The Journal of a Disappointed Man, and the episode has now gone live.

If you haven’t come across Backlisted before, it’s a discussion podcast about a book which deserves greater attention – often a book which has been forgotten from an author’s back-catalogue. It’s friendly, and chatty, and funny, and I have come across so many gems.

In fact, I discovered The Journal of a Disappointed Man through Backlisted a few years ago, and then here I am, on the podcast extolling the wonders of this journal.

The podcast will explain more about the book, and hopefully persuade you to find a copy and read it, but it is the journal of Bruce Cummings, starting at age 13, and continuing until his early death from MS. It’s sad, of course, but also incredibly funny and clever, and just very very readable.

So, have a listen, in fact have a listen to some of the other Backlisted episodes, and you might discover some new favourite books.

Claire’s and Tim’s Top Ten Books of 2019

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Here we are again, the end of another year of reading. More bookshelves built, more books bought, borrowed and lent. This year, as well as the bookshelves, Tim216 Aug 04 built me a free little library so that I can swap books with my neighbours and anyone who happens to come past. These are springing up all over the world and you can find the locations of many of them here.

This is the fifth year that Tim and I have been tracking our books and coming up with a list of our ten favourites of the year (read, rather than published). You can see previous lists here: 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015.

Some facts and figures about my list, compiled from the 94 books I read this year:

  • Five female authors, five male (of the 94, 63 were by female authors)
  • Three books published this year
  • Earliest was first published in 1919
  • One book not published until next year
  • One book in translation
  • One book of short stories
  • Seven books set in the USA; one in the Netherlands; two in England
  • One non-fiction book

UPDATE: Please buy books from independent bookshops. 
During the coronavirus outbreak independent bookshops need you to buy books from them, rather than that large online store that everyone knows. Most independents have an online presence, or if not will take orders over the phone or by email. If we don’t buy from them now (or at least shops with physical stores), then they won’t be able to reopen when all this is over.

If you don’t know any independents, I’m listing one per country below, or you can use bookshop.org in the US, or hive.co.uk in the UK to find / buy from independents. Although it is still best to go to the shop directly. If you can recommend an independent bookshop which will deliver in your country, please let me know and I’ll add them to the list.

US: Literati Bookstore
UK: The Aldeburgh Bookshop

My Best Reads of 2019

Top three (in no order)

Halibut on the Moon by David Vann

HalibutontheMoonThis is a tough but brilliant read. Vann has returned to the story of his father, this time as a complete novel covering a few days when Jim sees a therapist, and with his brother, visits various relatives and friends. We follow Jim’s most intimate thoughts, and can only watch his self destructive actions as he contemplates suicide. The story is agonising, the writing expressively perfect.

 

Mrs Bridge by  Evan S. Connell


MrsbMrs Bridge was Evan S. Connell’s debut, and it’s so damn good. Over the course of 117 chapters (some as short as a paragraph), we follow Mrs Bridge as she goes about her day-to-day life as a housewife and mother in 1930s Kansas City. She’s been brought up in a certain way, and wants to bring her children up in that way too. She can be bigoted and racist, but she knows this isn’t right, and yet she can’t seem to work out how to break out of her narrow boring existence of the country-club circle. Oh, and the ending is superb. I might be reading this again in 2020.

 

The Journal of a Disappointed Man by W.N.P. Barbellion

Journal 2I can’t remember the last time I underlined as many lines, as in The Journal of a Disappointed Man, or laughed as much, or cried. Actually cried, quiet rolling tears, while my husband slept beside me in bed.
This journal starts in 1903 when Barbellion (a pen-name) is 13 and wants desperately to be a naturalist (the journal is full of wonderful descriptions of nature), but has to follow his father and become a local journalist. Still, he is determined, and despite ill-health and being completely self-educated takes an exam and gets a job at The Natural History Museum in London (unfortunately, and rather amusingly the job he is given is to measure the legs on lice). He becomes increasingly ill, but (after much indecision) marries and has a child. All the while recounting his illness, and his thoughts on life and death. Eventually, while still in his twenties, he learns he has multiple sclerosis, only because he opens a letter from his doctor that was not addressed to him. He worries about money, and how his wife and child will manage, but he lives to see his journal published. He dies age 31.
So it is desperately sad, but W.N.P (or Bruce) is funny, and clever, and witty, and thoughtful, and despairing. 2019 marks 100 years since his death, and yet he seems so very real and close. (I came across this book via the Backlisted Podcast. Check it out.)

The Best of the Rest

 

Sleepless Night by Margriet De Moor (translated by David Doherty)

SleeplessThis novel is a subtle, enigmatic and beautiful elegy to a husband and marriage that ends in tragedy. De Moor’s writing is sensual and spare, whether she’s writing about love, a walk in an ice forest, or baking a cake in the middle of the night. There are layers of meaning here, which with adroit subtlety De Moor lets the reader puzzle out.

 


Valentine
by Elizabeth Wetmore

ValentineValentine – another debut – won’t be published until June 2020, and you should definitely look out for it. A wonderful cast of female characters are living in a small West Texas town in 1976 just as an oil boom hits. The terrible event that links them together is finely woven, the thread sometimes even disappears, but it’s the women’s and girl’s lives, their hardships, that kept me reading. Beautifully written, this novel and author surely is going to go far.

 

Rabbit, Run by John Updike

RabbitI’ve come very late to this modern classic, and at first I almost put the book down because I loathed Rabbit, the main character, so much. But I’ve always said I don’t mind reading about horrible characters and then anyway Updike’s writing won me over. Utterly.
At twenty-six, seemingly on a whim Rabbit deserts his wife and child, and hooks up with a young woman he lusts after while criticising her for accepting him. Everything gets messed up, of course. (Excuse the terrible cover – but it’s the edition I read.)

 

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

the dutch houseThis is the story of Maeve, as told by her younger brother, Danny. Before Danny can fully remember her, their mother leaves them in the care of their father who soon remarries. They live in the Dutch House – an ornate monstrosity with huge glass windows and all the furniture and belongings that a previous Dutch family left behind, and then they are forced to leave. For a while I kept waiting for something big to happen, but once I let that go, I completely fell for this book; fell in love with the family and Patchett’s writing.


Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont
by Elizabeth Taylor

Mrs PalfreyThink of a funnier Barbara Pym and you’ll be halfway there with this novel. Mrs Palfrey goes to live at the Claremont Hotel in London in the 1960s, after her husband dies. The hotel is down at heel, as are many of the aging residents. Mrs Palfrey’s grandson doesn’t come to visit her . . . until he does. I laughed out loud many times, mostly at the spot-on observations of people and growing old. Highly recommended.

 

The Understory by Pamela Erens

the understoryThis is another debut, with wonderful lucid and understated writing. It tells the story of Jack an ex-lawyer who has been living illegally in his dead uncle’s apartment in New York for fourteen years. He has compulsive tendencies – visiting Brooklyn bridge every evening, a certain secondhand bookstore, and the same diner for lunch every day. When his new landlord wants to evict him, Jack meets and becomes obsessed with the architect employed to redesign his building. Each chapter alternates between this narrative and one from a few months on when Jack has left New York and is staying in a Buddhist monastery tending their bonsai trees (poorly). I loved it.

Jesus’s Son by Denis Johnson

JesusA perfect collection of short stories all with the same main character. ‘Fuckhead’ is in his early twenties and he’s a drug addict and alcoholic. And no, a series of stories about drug-fuelled craziness narrated by this kind of man wouldn’t normally interest me, either. But the free-wheeling mind-altered narratives are so fresh and scary, and sometimes even funny. Don’t be put off by the subject matter, just read it.

 

Tim’s Top Ten Reads of the Year

Tim’s Top Three (in no order)

  • Half Wild by Robin MacArthur (Tim says: Brilliant intertwined short stories set rural Vermont.)
  • Lila & Theron by Bill Schubart (Tim says: Weirdly, also set in rural Vermont, spanning most of the twentieth century, a small-scale epic story of love and hardship.)
  • Halibut on the Moon by David Vann (Tim says: The unflinching story of a man’s decline. Brutally honest and heartbreaking.)

Best of the Rest

  • Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout
  • My Life as a Rat by Joyce Carol Oates
  • Mendocino and Other Stories by Ann Packer
  • In the Distance by Hernan Diaz
  • The Largesse of the Sea Maiden by Denis Johnson
  • The Solace of Open Spaces by Gretel Ehrlich
  • Turbulence by David Szalay

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Let me know what your top ten reads of the year were, and I’ll do a post about some of them at a later date.

 

Signed cards for Christmas

Christmas books final

 

Personalised cards for Christmas

If you buy a copy of one of my books as a gift for someone this Christmas, let me know and I’ll post you a signed card for free, to include with the book. If you buy more than one book, I’ll send you as many cards as you need.

I’m happy to post cards to anywhere in the world, just send me a message, telling me which book or books you’ve bought, who I should write the card for, and what your address is. Or if you want to treat yourself this Christmas and buy one of my books for yourself, I’ll send a card personalised for you.

And if you post a Christmas-y picture of the book or books you’ve bought on your main feed (not stories) in Instagram, I’ll include a little extra gift. Just make sure to mention this offer and tag me (@writerclairefuller) so I know you’ve done it.

Happy Christmas!

*

Buy a copy of Bitter Orange, Swimming Lessons, or Our Endless Numbered Days.

(The small print: this offer is only for physical books – not ebooks or audio; please try to buy your book from a real bookshop, not Amazon; I’ll try to get cards to you in time for Christmas, but can’t guarantee it; this offer is not for copies of my books you have already bought for yourself.)