#Bookvent – Celebrating my top reads of 2021
Day twenty four of my #bookvent countdown and this is where it gets serious. Every year I have a bit of a mental struggle to pick a top book, and this year has been no exception. The three books that make up my top three reads of 2021 really could be run in any order. I loved them all for very different reasons. They run the full range of the kinds of literature that I have read this year. Thought provoking, tense, full of love, full of emotion. A new range of wonder and joy, and in some cases anger, with each and every turn of the page. I did eventually settle on a book of the year, but take it as read that anything I bring to you today could easily be number one and that all three of them should most definitely be on your to be read list.
My first pick of day twenty four of #bookvent 2021 is by an author who has been a little bit greedy this year. Not only has he brought readers a new instalment of a long running series, a favourite of mine and many of my fellow crime fiction lovers, but at the very start of the year he treated us to something completely different. I say treated, but in reality it was a story so raw, so emotionally impactful that although only a couple of hundred pages long, I felt like I needed to take a break halfway through to get my anger and emotions in check. It left a mark, on me and many others, and has featured as a top read on many a list this year. Making his second appearance in my bookvent countdown this year (told you he was being greedy), my first Christmas Eve pick is …
Three Hours By Rosamund Lupton
He is her husband. She is his captive.
Her husband calls her Jane. That is not her name.
She lives in a small farm cottage, surrounded by vast, open fields. Everywhere she looks, there is space. But she is trapped. No one knows how she got to the UK: no one knows she is there. Visitors rarely come to the farm; if they do, she is never seen.
Her husband records her every movement during the day. If he doesn’t like what he sees, she is punished.
For a long time, escape seemed impossible. But now, something has changed. She has a reason to live and a reason to fight. Now, she is watching him, and waiting . . .
I struggled to sum up my feelings before and it hasn’t gotten any easier with time. Thinking about the nature of this story still makes my blood boil and my pulse quicken. It as dark, intense, emotional, challenging, anger inducing and utterly, utterly compelling. I had to take a break while reading it, and there are few books that elicit such a visceral response in my, and yet I couldn’t stay away that long. I had to know what happens. Had to see if ‘Jane’ would ever escape the brutal tyranny and ill treatment of her ‘husband’. Had to see if Will Dean would allow his character even a small semblance of peace or freedom. Now I knew that Will Dean was an excellent writer, that he could conjure up that sensation of atmospheric tension that could make the skin crawl and the hairs on my arm stand on end, but I really was not prepared for or expecting this book. This is not a warm a fuzzy book. Not in the slightest. Don’t get me wrong, it does end on a positive, and hopeful note, but, as a reader, you have a long, dark and often brutal path to travel in order to get there. It is scarily intense in its authenticity and it is so bloody good, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
Using Jane’s voice as the narrator, Will Dean has played a very canny game. Even as she experiences the very worst treatment that I think any of us could imagine, as readers we are spared the darkest moments of fear and pain as we are able to benefit from her finely tuned ways of blocking out her own torment. The moments of escapism in which her mind wanders to a different time and space preventing her abuse becoming too graphic and the depiction too dark. it is still intense, still deeply disturbing as there is no question over what happens, but it is carefully balanced between the needs of the story and using gratuitous violence as a form of entertainment. It’s not and it is never presented as such. But it doesn’t mean it doesn’t hit home. That Jane’s pain doesn’t become our own. That we don’t feel every moment and every loss, because we do. I did. Her husband, Lenn, could easily be dismissed as a monster, and yet the story forces us to question that judgment and examine the age of question of nature versus nurture. It would never allow me to forgive his actions, but brief moments of humanity show that the truth is ever simply so black and white.
Jane’s determination is incredible, the tension palpable and the changes in mood of the story really do drive a fast pace. When her life takes a very unexpected turn, that also marks a key shift in the story too. This is the beginning of the end for this story, the first steps on the path to a conclusion of a story that is dramatic, emotional and unforgettable. A remarkable and important story that is sadly all too plausible. So easy to see what this has been optioned and I wonder how the intensity and brutality of the story will feel when brought to life on screen. If you haven’t read this book yet, you should. Just prepare yourself for a really tough and remarkable ride.
You can read my full review of The Last Thing To Burn right here.
Happy #bookvent reading all