The best books we read in 2016


Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence


I’ll be honest: I expected to hate Sons and Lovers. I wanted to finally read D.H. Lawrence for the first time, but a 19th century novel about a young man who is emotionally stunted by his overbearing mother sounded far too pseudo-Freudian for my taste. But I was surprised to find that within the first fifty pages, all of the characters were meticulously drawn at a nearly Jamesian level of psychological nuance, and that the “overbearing mother” was the most sympathetic and fascinating character of the piece. Sons and Lovers is, ostensibly, the story of a young man’s coming-of-age, but really, it’s a story about the fallibility of family bonds, in which they are as fragile yet sticky as strands in a spider web.

Acquired: at a flea market in Iceland, where Sons and Lovers was the only Lawrence novel they had. Continue reading →

Hilary Mantel’s Characters

A commotion at the door. It is Christophe. He cannot enter in the ordinary way; he treats doors as his foe.

When it became de rigueur a few years back for every book club to sweat over the first two installments of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall trilogy and its dense prose about Thomas Cromwell and Henry VIII, I had no interest in joining the crowd. (This was mostly due to a general lack of interest in history about which I should probably feel more guilty than I, in fact, do.) But an article in the NYRB excerpting Hilary Mantel’s directions to the actors in the stage adaptation changed my mind.

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