Review of 2020 and My Top Reads of the Year

It’s that time of year again – where I am for once, pretty on time with this whole reflective post malarkey!

2019 was a pretty shocking year for me, and apparently 2020 had 2019 hold its beer as it spent twelve whole months concocting misery on a global scale. Therefore, this year there will be no grand declarations that 2021 will be ‘my year’. Instead, I’m just pleased to see the back of 2020, and whilst I know there is no magical wand that will be waved at midnight – I think the dawn of a New Year offers hope, and that is what I am clinging on to as we tick past twelve.

Despite all of the negatives this year, there have been highlights – and not just that I’ve forever stuck through ‘teacher’ as future career possibilities (the horrors of homeschooling deserves a blog post of its own, and yet I’m unwilling to revisit as the possibility looms again). Just before we went into the first lockdown in March, I had visited my GP after months of feeling progressively worse. Initial tests showed low thyroid function. It took several more months to get follow up tests, but which time my TSH levels were four times the maximum level and I was sobbing on the phone to the GP receptionist just to get the blood test to confirm the diagnosis. And so, in July I was diagnosed with Hashimotos Disease, an autoimmune disorder which causes an underactive thyroid. I was placed on life-long, daily medication, and thankfully, for me, the effects have been life changing. I finally can focus and concentrate again, I have energy to perform everyday tasks and play with my children, my memory is improving, my hair is growing back where it was thinning and my outlook on life is much improved generally. If I compare how I feel now to twelve months ago, I feel like a different person. And it’s frustrating that I waited so long to finally seek the help I needed.

It was this sense of frustration with myself that a few months later had me calling my GP once again when a black mole suddenly appeared on my leg, and over the course of a few weeks, grew. I cannot fault my GP who saw me quickly and referred me urgently to the dermatology specialist at the hospital and I was seen within three days. Happily, it was removed and it was nothing to worry about, but the fear I felt in those few days of waiting is the worst thing I’ve ever experienced. Looking at my children and wondering how we would tell them if the news was bad. Wondering what the future held.

And so, I, with all this renewed vigour and fresh perspective, am clutching to the tiny light at the end of COVID tunnel, and I’m hugging those (that I’m allowed to, anyway) close, and thanking the NHS for being there for me this year.

Anyhow – I’ve prattled on enough about me for one year! You’re here for the books – and without further ado and in no particular order (as I’ve agonised enough just to whittle it down to eleven….ten was a step too far!)

The Almost Mothers by Laura Besley. It may be short in length, the stories even shorter – but this is a flash collection I adore and which inspires me so much.

Three Hours by Rosamund Lupton was just brilliant and I loved every nail biting second of it!

Immortal by Jessica Duchen tells the story of Beethoven, but from the perspective of the women who loved him. Beautiful and delivered so much more than I thought I was getting.

I have a love/hate relationship with short story collections, I want to love them, but so often feel disconnected and unable to ‘get’ them. The Goddess of Macau by Graeme Hall was a marvel however, and falls firmly in the ‘love’ category (and I’m currently hooked on his new novel too!)

In the summer, I fell in love with Hubert Bird of All The Lonely People by Mike Gayle – a new author for me, and I’m eagerly waiting for time to read Half a World Away, which I had bought about 3 seconds after finishing this one!

I absolutely loved Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams – if you haven’t already read it – please do!

A book I wish had been written when I was suffering with PND – this was so refreshing to read, so witty and warm despite the subject matter. I felt so seen. What Have I Done by Laura Dockrill is a book that is firmly planted on my forever shelf.

I love Beth O’Leary. Loved The Flatshare, loved The Switch – I want more, and with a new novel due out in April there is no doubt that I’ll be pre ordering! The Switch by Beth O’Leary

The latest in a series that I never thought would be my cup of tea – but it turns out it very much is! Roots of Corruption by Laura Laakso – and the series just keeps getting better and better!

The First Time I Saw You by Emma Cooper was a book I loved so much that I’ve recommended it widely since. I read another by Emma Cooper later in the year, and it cemented for me that she is a newly found go-to author for me!

If I was forced to choose my book of the year however, it would be this one. The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow. Told through the eyes of Mary Bennet, this novel begins with the well-known events of Pride and Prejudice, before moving the story beyond. This book was an absolute joy to read, and despite its chunkiness it was one I raced through.

So, that’s it! 2020 is all wrapped up. Thank you to everyone who has liked, commented, shared or engaged with me in some way this year, it is so appreciated.

I’m raising a virtual glass of fermented grape juice to hope, health and happiness for all in 2021. Happy New Year everyone.

Emma R x

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