by Tim Murphy
In a year that also saw a critically-acclaimed revival of Tony Kushner’s seminal Angels in America, this stunning New York-set novel was a timely piece of publishing. Eschewing a straightforward chronology, the book zips back between the 1980s, the 2000s and the 2020s, following the fortunes of the victims and campaigners of the AIDS crisis, as the city changes and evolves around them.
Collins creates a memorable cast of characters in Mateo, a young boy adopted by two artists, Milly and Jared, who live in the titular Christodora building with Hector, a noted AIDS activist now battling a crystal meth addiction. A beautifullywritten and engaging story, which will appeal to fans of Hanya Yanagihara’s epic A Little Life.
by Fiona Mozley
When this year’s Booker shortlist was announced, one name stood out amongst Paul Auster, Zadie Smith, Sebastian Barry, Arundhati Roy, Colson Whitehead, Mike McCormack, Jon McGregor and eventual winner George Saunders: Fiona Mozley. Mozley was nominated, and eventually short-listed, for her début novel that focuses on a brother and sister living with their father in the wilds of Yorkshire.
This is a novel, like those of McGregor, which lives in the tiny detail of the everyday, with a dark, brooding undercurrent that bubbles quietly on the pages and in the mind of the reader. While the Yorkshire dialect may prove daunting initially, it’s a book that will resonate long after it’s back on the shelf.
The End of Eddy
by Édouard Louis
Undoubtedly one of the year’s most critically acclaimed reads was Édouard Louis’ autobiographical novel The End of Eddy. The book centres on a young effeminate boy in a deprived northern French town who suffers greatly at the hands of homophobic bullies. Hailing from an exceptionally poor family, his mother and father eke out a meagre living where they can, while Eddy stands out like a sore thumb.
By no means an easy read, The End of Eddy is an incredibly accomplished book – even more so when you consider Louis was just 22 when the book was published. It speaks brilliantly to the random low-level violence that permeates our society and the vicious, stultifying eﬀect that poverty has on the family and the individual.
The Gender Games
by Juno Dawson
Juno Dawson is one of the brightest, most ferocious and most succinct commentators on gender and trans issues at work today. The author of a number of Young Adult novels, Dawson began her transition in 2015 and has produced a proliﬁc and important body of work since. In The Gender Games: The Problem With Men and Women, From Someone Who Has Been Both, Dawson argues that gender isn’t doing anyone any favours – the pressure to conform to preexisting norms is harming everyone, from small children, to teenagers, to grown adults, and transgender people most especially. The Gender Games is a clear-sighted, thoughtful and very witty look at a topic that unfortunately has become a go-to battleground in the mainstream press.