March is around the corner, and you either feel like the end of winter is in sight, or we’re just getting started. It snowed here yesterday, so I still feel like we’re fully in the grip of winter.
It’s two months in to 2020, but I’m still thinking about books I loved from 2019. I read these three books last year, but they’re perfect for reading with a warm blanket and tea in hand.
Read more about my reading reflections on 2019 and goals for 2020 here!
1. The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
I cannot wait to see what’s next from Stuart Turton. I’m always a little iffy on debut novels—sometimes they’re fantastic, but many times a new author is still discovering their voice, and it shows in the writing. Not the case with this book.
It’s a fascinating premise: Each night, Evelyn Hardcastle will die. And she will tomorrow, and the next day, and the next, each day repeating itself until Aiden can solve the mystery of her murder. But each morning, Aiden wakes up in a new body, with a new perspective. And if he can’t solve the mystery, the whole game starts over from scratch.
This book is like Agatha Christie meets Groundhog Day meets Inception. For a good two thirds of the book, you have to be comfortable with not understanding what is happening. I know for some readers, that’s a dealbreaker, but for me, it propelled the narrative forward and made me anxious to know the resolution. I would have liked a bit more detail in the final chapters, but overall I was satisfied with how the story ended.
2. The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz
The first word that comes to mind when I think about this book is—not murder—clever. Anthony Horowitz has put a spin on the mystery genre before (Magpie Murders is a mystery-within-a-mystery twist on the classic Agatha Christie story), and I expected nothing less in this book. And Horowitz delivered.
In The Word is Murder, Horowitz places himself in the center of the action as a Watson-like sidekick to disgraced former detective Nathaniel Hawthorne. As they tramp around London looking for a killer, the details of the book become so intertwined with Horowitz’s real life that I found myself forgetting that I was reading fiction and not an actual, true crime account. That’s how vivid the characters and mystery became in my mind.
If you’re a fan of classic mystery with a twist, give Magpie Murders and this title a try!
3. The Gown: A Novel of the Royal Wedding by Jennifer Robson
It’s 1947, and the shadow of World War II still hangs over London. But there’s a glimmer of hope in the midst of post-war life: Princess Elizabeth is getting married, and Ann—an embroiderer for Norman Hartnell—will be working on the wedding gown of the century. At her side is Miriam, a Jewish French immigrant making a new life for herself after the war. The narrative flashes between Ann, Miriam, and modern-day Heather, a young woman trying to unravel the mysteries of her grandmother Ann’s past.
These days, I don’t read much historical fiction. I devoured so many historical fiction books when I was younger, that I’ve gotten a bit burned out on the genre. But I kept seeing The Gown recommended on different book lists, so I decided to give it a try (finding it on sale for $2 helped). I’m so glad I did—this book is simply delightful!
The characters were vivid, the atmosphere and sense of place was perfect, and the resolution was everything you hope for in a book about uncovering the past. There’s heartbreak, but there’s also so much love and hope in this story, that I have a feeling I’ll revisit it again.
A great read for fans of The Crown or Downton Abbey.