My 20 Books of Summer List is Finalised!



20 books

I have finally managed to come up with my reading list for 20 Books of Summer – always my favourite part of this challenge. I’m excited to read these books now, but you can sure as hell bet that by August I’ll be sick of them!

From 1 June to 3 September, I’m going to attempt, for the fourth year, to read my 20 Books of Summer. That’s 7 books a month, which is pretty daunting, but I think I can do it. I managed it last year, although reviews were shorter than usual!

As always, I had great fun putting this list together, although, this is about the sixth version since I started planning. I’ve tried to go for a broad range of genres, eras and styles so that there is always something I’m going to want to read! There are factual books, memoirs, short stories, a very short story and some classic and more contemporary novels.

As with last year, I’ve done a page count, so I have 6128 pages to read over 95 days, meaning I have to read 65 pages a day to complete my challenge. If I could just stop playing Jelly Crush and watching Line of Duty that would be completely do-able…

So, here are my 20 Books for summer 2017, you can click on the titles read their descriptions on Goodreads:

the hunters

1. The Hunters by Claire Messud

I adored The Woman Upstairs when I read it a few years ago, so I’m looking forward to this collection of two novellas. And yes, the phrase ‘novella’ is always attractive when putting together my 20 Books list.

blue tango

2. The Blue Tango by Eoin McNamee

I’m a sucker for true crime and really loved Resurrection Man by Eoin McNamee, which is filled with beautiful writing despite the harrowing subject matter. The Blue Tango is a fictionalised account of a real life murder in Northern Ireland in the 1950s.

yellow wallpaper

3. The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

This one is a little bit of a cheat as it’s a short story rather than a book, but I need to cut myself some slack here! I’ve been meaning to read this feminist classic for some time now, and at 26 pages, this seems like the perfect time to read it!


4. Calf by Andrea Kleine

Calf was a birthday present from my husband, so won’t be one of the 746, however I’m intrigued by the description of it as being a cross between Are You There God It’s Me, Margaret and Taxi Driver. Taking the real life assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan as her inspiration, Kleine fictionalises the story of John Hinckley and Leslie Deveau and tells it through the eyes of a 12 year old girl.


5. No one Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July

I’m a fan of Miranda July’s movies, particularly You, Me and Everyone We Know so I’m looking forward to this collection of short stories.

sundance kids

6. Sundance Kids: How the Mavericks Took Back Hollywood by James Mottram

This is one choice I may well regret, as it is a BIG book, but I do love a book about the movies. Here James Mottram charts the rise of the indie filmmakers in the 1990s – Spike Jonze, Paul Thomas Anderson, Quentin Tarantino and Stephen Soderbegh – and explores how their work changed the cinematic landscape.

goat's song

7. A Goat’s Song by Dermot Healy

Dermot Healy died in 2014 and remains one of the most underrated Irish writers. His fans included Seamus Heaney, Anne Enright and Roddy Doyle. A Goat’s Song is considered to be his greatest work, as it chars the doomed love affair between an alcoholic playwright and his actress muse.

london train

8. The London Train by Tessa Hadley

I actually know very little about this novel, or Tessa Hadley’s work but imagine I bought this after it was longlisted for the Orange Prize for fiction in 2011.


9. Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage by Alice Munro

I must have about five Alice Munro books in the 746, so I think this is a well overdue choice. A twitter call out suggested this collection of short stories was a good starting point for her work.


10. The Awakening by Kate Chopin

Another classic I’ve been meaning to read for several years, The Awakening shocked readers in 1899 with its depiction of female infidelity.


11. The Surrendered by Chang-Rae Lee

Here’s another novel I don’t remember buying and know very little about! Anyone help me out? All I know is it’s an epic love story played out against the backdrop of the Korean War!

bad behaviour

12. Bad Behaviour by Mary Gaitskill

This collection of short stories seems to be a love it or hate it kind of book, but edgy, creepy short stories are just my thing and any book that contains the story that the movie Secretary is based on gets my vote!


13. Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

Like Alice Munroe, I’ve bought loads of Murakami books and never got round to reading them. I really hope I like this, as I think I’ve got about five more to get through once I’m finished!


14. Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson

It was a toss-up between Housekeeping and Gilead, but I thought I would go for Robinson’s first book for my first reading of her work. I’ve heard rapturous praise for Housekeeping, and Robinson’s work in general so this should be a good one.

half blood

15. Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan

I started Half Blood Blues last year and gave up after a few pages for no good reason, so I’m putting on the list to try and finish it this time round.

dead stars

16. Dead Stars by Bruce Wagner

I have a feeling this is going to be a strange one. A satire on Hollywood, it sounds less La La Land and more Maps to the Stars. Featuring drug addicted American Idol contestants, failed celebrity photographers and Michael Douglas, I could be in for a treat here, or I could want to throw it out the window.


17. Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

Is I just me, or has Elizabeth Strout been everywhere for the last few years? Having read all your glowing reviews for My Name is Lucy Barton and Anything is Possible, I was delighted to find a copy of Olive Kitteridge lurking, forgotten in my iBooks.


18. Theft: A Love Story by Peter Carey

It’s been a long time since I’ve read Peter Carey, but have always enjoyed his books, particularly Oscar and Lucinda. As a former Art gallery manager, I’m always drawn to books about art and artists, so should enjoy this tale of an old famous painter whose life is turned upside down by a mysterious young woman.


19. Duplicate Keys by Jane Smiley

Jane Smiley is another writer I haven’t read for a long time and I like the sound of this character driven thriller.


20. Gig: The Life and Times of a Rock Star Fantasist by Simon Armitage

Anyone who knows me, will know my love for Simon Armitage, so he fills this year’s music memoir slot as he explores the importance music has had on his life and career.

So that’s my 20 books, however this year I’ve allocated two ‘spares’ just in case one of my 20 isn’t working for me and they are:

1. Zone One by Colson Whitehead

The Underground Railroad is getting rave reviews and Zone One has been on my TBR for ages now. I’ve tried to read it quite a few times now, which it why it’s a possible replacement rather than a firm choice. I’m just not sure that it’s for me, although I do love a good zombie story…

2. Human Croquet by Kate Atkinson

Kate Atkinson hasn’t let me down yet, from Life After Life to Behind the Scenes at the Museum. The only reason this isn’t on the main list is because I’ve read a lot of Atkinson’s work over the last couple of years and would like to try some other authors this time round.

So, what do you think of the choices? Any I should start first? Any you think I’m mad to include? Does anyone think my spare reads should be in my main list?

I’ll be keeping a pinned Master post on the blog from 1 June, with a Linky where you can share your lists if you are taking part.

Remember, if 20 seems too daunting, then there are the 15 and 10 options also!




Just take the Books of Summer image, pick your own 10, 15 or 20 books you’d like to read and link back to my Master post so I know you’re taking part.  I’d love your support and as anyone who has taken part before will know, I am wonderfully slack with my rules!

I’ll be tweeting my way through the challenge as well using the hashtag #20booksofsummer. Do let me know if you will be joining in and don’t forget to link up your lists on Thursday when it all kicks off!



A Book for Every Year…

I got the idea for this post primarily from the brilliant Christa over at A Voluptuous Mind who posed a list earlier in the year of her favourite movies from every year she has been alive.

I got to thinking what my favourite books would be and inspired by the 1951 Club, I thought I would list my choice for the best books of 1971 to 2015! The reason I’m stopping at 2015 is because I didn’t read any notable new releases in 2016 or so far this year given my on-going book ban. Some years were easier than others – 1971 was pretty tough, but I had to debate between several books for 1993! Some were read at the time (although obviously I wasn’t reading John Berger on my first birthday!) and some only recently, but they represent a selection of some of my favourite books!

So, let’s kick off and see if any of your favourites are here too!

1971 – 1980

1971: The Dead Zone by Stephen King

1972: Ways of Seeing by John Berger

1973: Deenie by Judy Blume

1974: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M Pirsig

1975: American Buffalo by David Mamet

1976: Will you Please be Quiet, Please by Raymond Carver

1977: Dispatches by Michael Herr

1978: Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin

1979: The Executioners Song by Norman Mailer

1980: A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

1981 – 1990

1981: Good Behaviour by Molly Keane

1982: The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ by Sue Townsend

1983: Fool for Love by Sam Sheperd

1984: Money by Martin Amis

1985: Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

1986: Perfume by Patrick Suskind

1987: The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster

1988: Libra by Don DeLillo

1989: A Prayer for Owen Meaney by John Irving

1990: Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates

1991 – 2000

1991: Seeing Things by Seamus Heaney

1992: The Secret History by Donna Tartt

1993: Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha! By Roddy Doyle

1994: The Skriker by Caryl Churchill

1995: Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson

1996: Reading in the Dark by Seamus Deane

1997: The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

1998: Birds of America by Lorrie Moore

1999: Plainsong by Kent Haruf

2000: The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

2001 – 2010

2001: Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

2002: Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

2003: We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

2004: Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

2005: The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

2006: The Arrival by Shaun Tan

2007: Remainder by Tom McCarthy

2008: A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz

2009: A Scattering Christopher Reid

2010: A Visit from the Goon Squad – Jennifer Egan

2011 – 2015

2011: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

2012: Wild by Cheryl Strayed

2013: Tenth of December by George Saunders

2014: A Girl is a Half Formed Thing by Eimear McBride

2015: Tender by Belinda McKeon

Any of these take you back to a specific year? Or is anyone else tempted to make a list of their own? I’d quite like to do the same for music and movies, if I can find the time!

A 3rd Birthday and a Giveaway!

Today is my Blogversary!


Yep, it’s been three long years since I counted up all those books, almost had a heart attack and planned to cut down the TBR.

So, it’s another year done and how far on am I? I’m so close to the 500s I can taste it! Hopefully by the end of the year I’ll have reached that milestone. 146 books in 3 years isn’t great, but it’s better than the pre-blog days and if I keep up the momentum, 746 books will be done and dusted by 2028. Go me!

Despite having made it through another year without buying myself a book, I have acquired books through other means. My use of Net Galley has risen and I did receive quite a few books from publishers this year. I have tried to stick to my (very loose) rules and only read new books by Irish writers, but this little habit has definitely slowed my progress in my challenge. I may have read 71 books this year, according to Good Reads, but I only reduced the 746 by 47.

Reading aside, I’ve had another great year on the blog. According to my friends at WordPress, I’ve had over 23,000 views and 11,500 visitors. I was also delighted this year to pass my 1,000 follower mark, so thanks to you all for continuing to read.

Highlights this year have been the second annual Reading Ireland Month back in March which generated over 100 posts.


Plans are already afoot for 2017, which I will again be co-hosting with my pal Niall of Raging Fluff fame, so if you have any books by Irish authors lurking in your TBR why not save them until March and join in the craic. This year I’ll be focusing entirely on Irish women writers, but there will be lots of other fun posts and giveaways.

20 Books of Summer also went down a treat this year, with over 120 fantastic bloggers participating and as a bonus, I actually managed to read all 20 of my books! This feature will certainly be back in 2017 as it gives my reading a real kick up the butt mid-year!

Once again I was delighted to make the finals of the Irish Blog Awards for the best Books and Literature blog – getting that far never ceases to amaze me! Plus I clearly take every opportunity throughout the year to show off about it….


On a personal level, 2016 has been both a difficult and an amazing year. Since this time last year I had the real pleasure of interviewing Nuala O’Connor and Dame Fiona Kidman for the Belfast Book Festival and of course, I started a new and wonderful job at the Seamus Heaney HomePlace in Bellaghy. Leaving the job I had done for 17 years was frightening and daunting, but I have to say that I have never been happier. I adore my new job, surrounded by books, poetry and writers all day; it feels like it was made for me!

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The intensity of my new position and some health issues this year meant that I haven’t blogged as much as usual. I am trying to rectify that and make some time for this lovely little corner of the blogosphere I call home and I just hope I can continue with the same enthusiasm next year.

I’ve never really been one for a year round up, but this year I am picking my five best reads of 2016. Of course, these haven’t been published in 2016 but you all know what I mean!

  1. The Republic of Love – Carol Shields

For sheer enjoyment, Carol Shields wonderful, heartwarming, sprawling tale of love in all its forms tops my list of the year. I didn’t read another book that made me as happy as this one.

  1. Mrs Dalloway – Virginia Woolf

I didn’t get to join in with Heaven Ali’s Woolfalong as much as I would have liked, but I am so delighted that it nudged me to read this luminous, wonderful book, that was everything I hoped and more

  1. Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha – Roddy Doyle

Roddy Doyle makes it into my Books of the Year list for the second time. Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha was nothing like I imagined. It was simply magnificent.

  1. The Rose Garden – Maeve Brennan

Maeve Brennan was my author of the year, with both this collection of spiky short stories and her wonderful novella The Visitor. She’s undergoing a bit of resurgence here in Ireland and next year I plan to read her biography by Angela Bourke and her collected works from the New Yorker, which have just been published by Stinging Fly

  1. Behind the Scenes at the Museum – Kate Atkinson

Can Kate Atkinson do no wrong? Ruby Lennox stayed with me long after I closed this book which is wonderfully plotted and beautifully uplifting.

I’m looking forward to a positive 2017. With Reading Ireland Month and 20 Books of Summer planned, I also hope to start a feature called ‘The Books that Built the Blogger’ where my favourite bloggers chat about the books that made them into the readers and bloggers they are today.


Each month I plan to chat about a book which has formed and influenced my reading life as well. If you’d be interested in taking part, drop me an email, I’d love to hear from you.

Finally, as it’s a birthday and a birthday needs presents, I’m hosting a little giveaway today. Up for grabs is a paperback copy of Mike McCormack’s critically acclaimed one sentence novel ‘Solar Bones’


Winner of the Goldsmiths Prize and Novel of the Year at the Irish Book Awards this year, Solar Bones has been called ‘an extraordinary hymn to small town Ireland’ by The Guardian. To win a copy, just comment below. I’ll draw a winner on Monday 12 December and will post world-wide.

Good luck and thanks, as always, for reading


No 629 Behind the Scenes at The Museum by Kate Atkinson

I don’t know if this happens to anyone else, but sometimes when I read a book that I have loved, I find it very hard to write a review that I feel will do it justice. As always with Reading Roulette, you picked an amazing book for me to read and I only hope I can capture a hint of what I loved about it.


In Kate Atkinson’s wonderful family epic, a character is reading À la recherché du temps perdu by Marcel Proust and Ruby Lennox, our narrator notes,

‘I see it is about ‘the metaphysical ambiguity of reality, time and death and the power of sensation to retrieve memories and reverse time’. Exciting stuff – but how can time be reversible when it gallops forward, clippity-clop and nobody ever comes back. Do they?

It’s a good question, because in between these pages, people do come back. Vividly and evocatively a whole family of Lennox women appear to exist simultaneously in the mind of Ruby, who narrates her own tale of growing up in 1950s York in between ‘Footnotes’, artfully arranged vignettes of the lives of the women who have made her. The reader doesn’t follow the path of the Lennox family, rather we are taken on a grand waltz, swirling and dancing with different partners but always brought back to Ruby.

It’s a perfect marriage of form and narrative as this family saga of four generations reminds us that we are where we have come from, the past is always closer than we think and family secrets have a way of resurfacing no matter how well we believe them to be buried.

Ruby is an all seeing narrator. Echoing another child of York, Tristram Shandy, the book opens at the moment of her conception. The youngest child of unhappy Bunty and adulterous George, Ruby is silent and watchful, at the mercy of sisters Gillian and Patricia yet able to see through everyone. She recounts her story , from birth, through childhood and school, significant world events and on to adulthood. Laced in and out of Ruby’s tale are other stories from her family history, condensed tales that often could be novels in their own right. We learn of her grandmother Nell’s attempts to find a husband in WW1, her great-aunt Ada’s death from diphtheria aged just 12 and her own mother Bunty’s attempts to make something of her life during WW2, only to be continually and perpetually disappointed. The story of Ruby’s great-grandmother Alice, who runs off to France with a travelling photographer is particularly poignant. Years later, searching the streets of York for the family she gave up, she is killed in a bomb raid, clinging to the photograph of the family she has never forgotten.



The depth and emotive power of these footnotes and the sheer amount of detail they contain could be overwhelming, but Ruby’s arch, all-knowing narrative takes this saga of births, deaths, abandonments and mysteries and makes it exhilarating – an anarchic, messy cacophony of characters and voices that make up the reality of family life.

It is a vast, complicated narrative, dense with detail and rich with life. It should be depressing, but the underlying joy of Ruby’s narrative voice, replete with tragi-comic knowing and black comic irony keeps a cool, humorous, unsentimental tone throughout much of the book. There are some fantastic set-pieces – a family wedding that ends in the ignominious death of Ruby’s father; an ill-advised holiday to Scotland and in particular, the recounting of Gillian’s death following a pantomime on Christmas Eve results in Patricia and Ruby eyeing up Gillian’s presents under the tree and wondering just how long they need to wait before they can open and reapportion them.


Kate Atkinson

Death is everywhere in a novel that spans so many generations and is celebrated for its capriciousness. When a soldier gets a posting looking after sniffer dogs during the War, you just know things aren’t going to end well. In the space of one short paragraph, Ruby’s grandmother Nell gains and loses a fiancée courtesy of appendicitis.

Atkinson writes incredibly well about war and how it affects those directly and indirectly involved. Scenes of trench warfare are vivid and heartrending and the toll taken on those waiting at home is also delicately handled.

Frank found himself unexpectedly tongue-tied. He had through there were a lot of things about the war he wanted to tell them but was surprised to discover that the neat triangles of bread and jam and the prettiness of the little blue forget-me-nots somehow precluded him from talking about trench foot and rats, let alone the many different ways of dying he had witnessed.

The dichotomy between the expectations of war and the realities it brings are teased out. For Bunty, the war was a chance to become someone else but that does not happen and for others it brings survival where death was expected.

As with the depictions of war, the deceptively naïve humour often gives way to some really affecting moments – Alice passing one of her long-lost children in the street without knowing him and Ada trying to come to terms with the disappearance of her mother during her short, unhappy life are beautifully poignant.

Amongst these deaths, missing mothers, fallen soldiers and lost children, there is one final death, unforetold that Ruby cannot brush off with the unsentimentality of youth. It is a death that retells her entire life. Despite her narrative omnipotence there is one secret she doesn’t know and her exploration of the Lennox family life feels at times like she is diving into her past for the one nugget of truth that will explain everything.

And my heart is breaking, breaking into great jagged icy splinters. I breathe in bug noisy gulps because I’m drowning on air, and if I could cast a spell to stop time – suspend it for ever and ever, so that the cobwebs grew over my hair and the ducks stopped in the middle of their circles and the feathers lay still on the air, drifting through time for ever – then I could do it.

But Ruby knows that time cannot be stopped and life, or death cannot be explained and that is the crux of this book.

Behind The Scenes at the Museum could be seen as the story of women through the generations. The choices of Ruby’s great grandmother Alice, who gives up a job for a drunken husband and eventually chooses to abandon her family aren’t all that different from those of her daughter, or even her grand-daughter Bunty. They are all trying to find their place in the world through the men they chose, or the men who chose them and they all find that place lacking.

She pushed her hair back from her forehead in a centuries-old gesture of suffering. The life of a woman is hard and she’ll be damned if anyone is going to rob her of her sainthood

And yet, there are women here who make their own choices – Great Aunt Lillian who won’t name the father of her illegitimate baby and the wonderful Patricia who never does what is expected of her. The timelines may be confusing, but Atkinson sets up beautiful echoes that ring back and forward through the years of these women ‘lost in time’.

It is as if she is trying to find them again, these lost women, to reclaim them – their lives, their stories – and preserve them for our posterity. She creates a museum of lives, where items take on talismanic worth. A rabbit’s foot, a button, a silver locket, a set of photographs that make their way around the world and back. A child’s teddy bear. Belongings convey meaning and history.

Ruby’s friend is saving items for her ‘bottom drawer’ and Ruby muses on what she would include in hers.

What would I put in my bottom drawer? I would put the horizon, and some snatches of birdsong, the blossom-like snow in the garden of the Treasurer’s House and the white ruined arches of St Mary’s Abbey below, like petrified lace…

I have been to the world’s end and back and now I know what I would put in my bottom drawer. I would put my sisters.

The emotional investment in things, in places and ultimately in people creates millions of personal museums, countless bottom drawers of the mind where the minutiae and memories of our lives become the greatest artefacts we have.

A breeze ruffles the grass in the cemetery and moves the clouds faster across the stretched canvas of the sky above. Patricia lifts her face up to the pale sun s that for a second she looks almost beautiful.

‘I don’t think the dead are lost forever anyway, do you, Ruby?’

‘Nothing’s lost forever, Patricia, it’s all there some-where. Every last pin

Kate Atkinson has taken every last pin in this story and infused it with warmth, humour and a sense of exhilaration that is as ambitious and assured as it is moving and true.

Thanks to everyone who cast a vote for this fantastic book, I enjoyed it so much.


Read On: Book

Number Read: 118

Number Remaining: 628








Kate Atkinson triumphs (in Reading Roulette!)


So, I have a winner!

reading roulette

Kate Atkinson won this month’s Reading Roulette, so my next read is Behind The Scenes at the Museum.


It was a close race with The Age of Innocence looking like the favourite for a few days. Bogeywoman rallied briefly (thanks Melanie!), as did Empire Falls, but the Atkinson won out in the end – just!

I quite liked this month’s selection so I think they will all appear on my 20 Books of Summer list next month. Except maybe Empire Falls. It’s long. Very long. It may have to wait until the autumn…

Thanks to all who voted!


Reading Roulette for May!


Master Image

So, it’s been a full 6 months since I last did a Reading Roulette, which means it’s time once again to put my literary fate in your capable hands and ask you to pick one of my May reads from the 746!

You’ve picked me some great winners in the past – Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt and Eventide by Kent Haruf. Who will join them this time round? I’ve got six possibilities for you to choose from so have a look at the options and cast your vote.

Maybe you’ll choose a book because you loved it? Or because you still have to read it too? Or even because you hated it?!

I don’t really mind. I’m in your hands! Let’s see if you can pick me my new favourite book….

Reading Roulette April

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

I only came to Wharton a few years ago and she hasn’t let me down yet. I doubt she will.

Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson

She may not have been shortlisted for the Bailey’s Prize, but can she be the big winner in Reading Roulette?

Bogeywoman by Jaimy Gordon

I don’t remember buying this. I don’t know what it’s about. I read something positive about it recently. Vague, I know but it could be a hidden gem…

Empire Falls by Richard Russo

The New York Times calls him ‘one of the best novelists around’ and he’s won the Pulitzer Prize. Not bad. Plus there’s a movie adaptation. With Aidan Quinn. AIDAN QUINN. Why did I not know this before??*

The Diving Pool by Yoko Ogawa

I’ve enjoyed everything else I’ve read by Ogawa, so I think this collection of three novellas will have that same quiet power that I love in her work.

White Noise by Don DeLillo

I call myself a DeLillo fan and I haven’t read White Noise? Shame on me.



You’re very welcome.

I’ve linked the titles to their Goodreads page just in case you want some more details on the books and I’ll keep the voting open until April 20th.

I’m not quite sure why these books have lingered on the TBR as I’d be quite happy for any of them to win. As a consolation prize, the losers might just find themselves on my 20 Books of Summer pile (once I double check the word count!).

So, have you read any of these? Which do you think will win? I have no idea! Get voting

Top Ten Tuesday – Get yer own book!

top ten tuesday
WARNING: This weeks post contains spoilers, particularly for Rebecca!

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is Top Ten Characters You Wish Would Get Their OWN Book. I think most books would be interesting told from another character’s viewpoint, but these are the ones I’d be most interested in reading.

  1. Rebecca DeWinter from Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
The unseen titular character, from Daphne Du Maurier’s classic novel could more than hold her own in a spin –off book. Maybe a prequel? A stunning beauty, who appeared to be the perfect society wife, was actually a cruel promiscuous liar, taunting her husband with her various affairs, faking a pregnancy and eventually driving her husband to shoot her so she doesn’t die of cancer. Mrs Danvers can stand aside; Rebecca DeWinter is the true villain of this tale and the most interesting character!

2. Lolita from Lolita by Nabokov
The fact that we never get to hear anything from Lolita’s point of view in Nabokov’s novel makes her all the more intriguing. Is she a shallow and manipulative young girl, using the men around her to get what she wants, or a confused, lonely victim of all the adults who are supposed to protect her? An attempt has been made in the critically mauled Lo’s Diary to give her a voice, but it reimagined the events of the book. How great would it be to hear the same book from Lolita’s point of view?

3. Miss Havisham from Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Ah, Miss Havisham. That wedding dress, the banquet, those stopped clocks. Miss Havisham is less a character and more a walking manifestation of the pain of grief and the ravages of time. Her character is supposedly based on an Australian woman who left the wedding feast on the table and the door ajar in case her fiancee should return and her story is an intriguing one that captures the imagination.

4. Lucky from Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett
While there is probably no point in hoping for back story in a play by Beckett, Lucky is one of the most intriguing characters in theatre. He speaks only 2 lines in the whole play, the trick being that one of those lines is over 700 words of gibberish. Why is he slave to Pozzo? Why can he only think when a hat is placed on his head? Why Lucky?

5. Kevin from We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
The central question in We Need to Talk About Kevin is this. Is Kevin born evil which makes his mother unable to love him? Or does Kevin become evil because of a lack of love from his mother? Only Kevin can answer that and I for one, would love to read what he has to say.

6. Melquíades from One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
It takes a great character to stand out in a book covering seven generations of the one family, but the gypsy Melquíades has no problem doing so. He travels the world all year round, coming to Macondo once a year with the marvels he has discovered. He dies twice but still returns to guide the generations of the family whose lives he has foretold in prophecy. Yep, he’s a pretty cool guy.

7. Sick Boy from Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh
Of all the addicts in Trainspotting, Sick Boy is the one who seems to be using heroin as a lifestyle choice rather than due to addiction and when his mate Renton tries to kick the drug, Sick Boy does it too, just to show he can. He’s amoral, charming and cool and he knows a lot about Sean Connery but who can say how much the death of his daughter influenced his later scams?

8. Gertrude from Hamlet by William Shakespeare
Everything in Hamlet is Gertrude’s fault. She kicks off the entire story by marrying her brother in law shortly after her husband’s death and we never hear any reasoning for her choices. What do we make of her? Domineering, incestuous mother or victim of the men around her? I’d be intrigued to hear about the State of Denmark from her point of view.

9. Julian Morrow The Secret History by Donna Tartt
This enigmatic, charismatic and brilliantly intelligent teacher of ancient Greek comes across less like a professor and more like a cult leader to his hand-picked students. He is like a pastiche of the perfect university teacher – unconventional and cosmopolitan, friend of the famous (the Sitwell’s and Marilyn Monroe) and high priest of learning.

‘I hope we’re all ready to leave the phenomenal world and enter into the sublime?’

I know I am.

10. Sylvie Todd from Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
I found Sylvie to be quite an intriguing character throughout Life After Life, but it wasn’t until the end that I realised quite how interesting she might be. Is Sylvie time travelling as well as her daughter Ursula? All it takes is one little line in the final chapters of the book to make us rethink her entire character. ‘One must be prepared’.

Is there any character you would like to get their own book? Or a book you think would be improved by being from another viewpoint?