My Top 5 fiction books of 2009

If you know me, you know I like to read. I figured it was natural to make a top 5 fiction books of 2009 blog as my next post in the series. Unlike my other reviews, these will be the best books that I’ve read in 2009; not necessarily ones that were published in 2009.

I’ll soon be posting my top non-fiction books of the year, but until then you can tell me what you think of this list, and what your list would look like.

NUMBER FIVE

White Tiger

I only picked The White Tiger up because I had a gift certificate to Chapters; that and it looked interesting of course. I believe this was Aravind Adiga‘s first book, and it was published in 2008, so right off the bat we’re not talking about books from this year. Honestly I had seen a few people reading this on the subway so when I went in to Chapters it caught my attention. Contrary to what the book cover said, White Tiger won the 2008 Man Booker Prize. Recognition for books isn’t a big selling point for me, but seeing others read it is, so I’m sure having the exposure it got from the award went a long way to seeing it on my bookshelf.

On to the story: The protagonist Balram Halwai spends the entire book writing a letter to a Chinese official named Wen Jiabao, who is set to visit India. Balram explains the true side of India, not the one the officials will boast about, and to do so he writes about his past and how he got to where he is today.

My biggest issue was the connection to the Chinese official. I Adiga could’ve come up with something better to tie in Balram’s recollections. Otherwise it was a great book and it shows the extreme class difference in the country, which isn’t something people are generally exposed to.

NUMBER FOUR

Schindler’s List

When I bought Schindler’s List I’d obviously heard of it’s great success as a book and movie (which I have still not seen) and I wanted to join the club. I was a little skeptical about how the book would read. I thought it would be page after page of sad stories and an overall depressing book, given the subject matter. Surprisingly I found it to be extremely engaging and getting to know Oscar Schindler was a great experience. That being said, it wasn’t a book for the feint of heart. It had some pretty graphic situations and it made me appreciate what everyone went through in those exceedingly tough times that probably couldn’t even be put into words.

NUMBER THREE

Any Known Blood

Any Known Blood was the second book by Lawrence Hill that I’ve read, but it was published 10 years before his more recognized book “The Book of Negroes”, in 1997. This book is different from The Book of Negroes, but Hill’s writing style is equally captivating. Set in Toronto/Oakvlle and Baltimore this book follows Langston Cane the fifth on his quest to find his family’s history and write a book about it. The book travels back through 5 generations of Cane’s (all named Langston) and tells their story; each unique to the era they lived in. I really enjoyed the generational jumps and thought that was very unique. The only issue I had with that was since all shared the same name, at times it was a bit hard to differentiate who was who. Overall it was an excellent read and had strong characters, which I always try to look for in books I read.

NUMBER TWO

Three Day Road

I previously blogged about Three Day Road after I read it. It was a late-comer to the top five list, but a fast riser making it to number two. I’ll keep this review short. It’s a great book with amazing character development and a not-often-told perspective on Canadian history. Though the book was fiction, it was based on real events and as a reader, I felt a part of what author Joseph Boyden was trying to convey.

NUMBER ONE

The Book of Negroes

I can’t remember why I picked The Book of Negroes up, but I’m glad I did because it became not only my favourite book of 2009 but one of my favourites of all time; possibly the top spot, but I haven’t decided yet (there are many that are top-spot quality and I’ll eventually blog about this!).  I cant say enough how extremely well written this novel is. It blends fiction with the harsh reality of the time. I really felt like I was reading the life story of Aminata the protagonist as she was ripped from her village in Africa, sold into slavery in America and her many travels from then on back to Africa and the UK. This one book made me a Lawrence Hill fan for as long as he keeps writing.

Three Day Road: A great Canadian novel

I’m happy that “Three Day Road” by Joseph Boyden is the first of my many book reviews on this blog. I’m generally not into the whole ‘Canadian history’ genre, but I was referred to this book on Twitter. It looked relatively interesting and the next time I went to Chapters, I decided I’d pick it up. After reading this one,  I’m ready to explore the genre a little more.

It tells the story of Xavier, a Cree from Moose Factory, and his experiences with his lifelong friend Elijah, in the First World War fighting for Canada against Germany, or ‘Fritz’ as it’s soldiers so often referred to. The book also chronicles the journey of Xavier’s Aunt Niska, an Oji-Cree medicine woman who shunned the residential school life as a child and returned to ‘the bush’ to live the only way she knows how, as a “bush Indian” in Northern Ontario.

I really enjoyed the parallel stories. Each character’s story had left me wanting more whenever they switched. I was eager to know how Xavier was handling the war and his issues with Elijah. The same eagerness followed me while reading Niska’s story, and her issues of living alone and dealing with a world that was far different from that of her childhood.

Boyden was originally going to write the novel chronologically. He explains in the Q&A at the end of the book, his reasoning for the parrallel storyline/jumps in time.

“I thought about what is important to the Cree and Ojibwe. Life evolves around a circle,” he answered. “And so I decided to begin this story near the chronoligical end and then trace through the circle around to where I started.”

Strangely no criticism is coming to me for this book. There’s usually something that gets to me, but not this time.

I give “Three Day Road” a 5/5.

If you’ve read this book please let me know what you thought of it!

I look forward to eventually reading “Through Black Spruce“, Boyden’s followup book and 2008 Scotiabank Giller Prize winner

%d bloggers like this: