Our favourite books of 2021 – selections from 3 reviewers

The Page Turner, Janet Gordon and I all review best books for women throughout the year so I asked both of them for their two favourite books of 2021. I have also selected some of my own highlights from 2021 and some books that I am hoping to read in the upcoming year.

MY OWN CHOICES:

MISS DIOR: A STORY OF COURAGE & COUTURE by JUSTINE PICARDIE: I didn’t have to think long and hard to know which was my favourite book of 2021. It had to be Miss Dior. Not only is this the story of Catherine, the beloved younger sister of Christian Dior, but it is also a social history of France during the first half of the 20th Century.

We learn what it was like to live in Occupied Paris during WWII. A time when Christian was learning his skills to become one of the most famous couturiers of the 20th Century even though he only lived until 1957. Meanwhile Catherine was dedicating herself to the French Resistance. She was eventually captured by the Gestapo, tortured and finally deported to the German concentration camp of Ravensbrück.

With unparalleled access to the Dior family homes and archives, Justine Picardie’s research into Catherine’s courageous life shines a new light on Christian Dior’s legendary work, and reveals how his enchanting ‘New Look’ emerged out of the shadows of his sister’s suffering.

It is a biography that transports you to another era whilst the contrast between the beautiful world of couture and the world of the terrifying Nazi rule is extraordinary but handled masterfully by Justine Picardie.

FOR MORE INFO CLICK HERE

THE MIDNIGHT LIBRARY by MATT HAIG:

Books to curl up with and be transported

This has been an international bestseller which is completely understandable as it is gripping from the first page. Nora’s life has been going from bad to worse. Then at the stroke of midnight on her last day on earth she finds herself transported to a library. There she is given the chance to undo her regrets and try out each of the other lives she might have lived. Which raises the ultimate question: with infinite choices, what is the best way to live?

The book leaves you questioning about your own life when you finish reading this book. A great book for a book club choice.

FOR MORE INFO CLICK HERE

THE LIGHT IN HIDDEN PLACES by SHARON CAMERON

THE LIGHT IN HIDDEN PLACES begins in 1936 in the small town of Przemyśl, Poland, where 13-year-old Stefania Podgórska is thrilled to leave the family farm and work for the Diamants, a Jewish family who keep a store in town. In a few years, she’s practically family, and indeed she and Izio, one of the sons in medical school, are in love — something they keep to themselves because she’s Catholic and he’s Jewish.

Then the Nazis take over the town, leaving her alone in their house as the Diamant family Is dragged off to the ghetto.

I was captivated and pulled into this story from page 1. However, nothing could have prepared me for the enormous risks that Stefania took to protect those the Nazis targeted and victimized. Could I have been this brave at 16 years? I doubt it. Stefania was an exceptional young woman, and I am so glad her story is being told. It is also remarkable that Israel has recognised her as one of the ‘Righteous among the nations‘.

Sharon Cameron only met Stefania once when she already had dementia. However, with the help of Stefania’s memoirs and her son, Ed, Sharon was able to retell this incredible story.

FOR MORE INFO CLICK HERE.

THE PAGE TURNER’S CHOICES

AMNESTY by AVARIND ADIGA: The novel is set over a 24-hour period in Sydney, Australia. Danny, a Sri lankan illegal alien, has been happy to lead a low-key life staying below the political radar as a cleaner. He became illegal as a result of dropping out of college and therefore the lapse of his student visa.

Danny is confronted with a moral and political dilemma. Danny needs to decide whether to risk deportation and report the perpetrator of a crime he has witnessed or to keep himself safe away from the authorities.

Throughout the novel Australia’s hypocrisies and contradictions are highlighted.

Avarind Adiga is well placed to write this novel as he has been the Times Asian Correspondent.

FOR MORE INFO CLICK HERE

THE ISLAND OF MISSING TREES by ELIF SHAFAK Set in 1974 on the island of Cyprus, the story is about two islanders who fall in love; Kostas, a Greek and Christian, and Defne, who is Turkish and Muslim can only meet at a taverna where there is a fig tree growing up through a cavity in the roof. Their story is also magically told through the ‘eyes’ of the fig tree as the tree witnesses the illicit love affair between Kostas and Defne. The tree was also there when war breaks out on Cyprus in July 1974 and it sees the destruction of the island and many of its inhabitants.

This is also one of my favourites

FOR MORE INFO CLICK HERE

JANET GORDON’S CHOICES:

DEAD GROUND by M W CRAVEN The fourth and latest in the Washington Poe series. Poe is called up to Carlisle. He is supposed to be investigating what should have been a straightforward case of a man found beaten to death in a side street.  But why Poe? Poe doesn’t do straightforward anything.   Couple this with the fact that it turns out he’s about to appear in court to fight an eviction order challenging him to return his sheep shed back to nature, and Poe and Tilly are facing their most complex case yet.

The humour in his writing is wonderful, as is the depth of feeling between Poe and Tilly.  I adore this duo, and if you haven’t yet discovered M J Craven’s novels, you don’t know what you’re missing.

FOR MORE INFO CLICK HERE

THE DUCHESS by WENDY HOLDEN:

After reading Wendy Holden’s fantastic faction novel “The Duchess” I’m now in two minds about Wallis, although not about the Abdication.  

Wendy Holden has written an absolutely enchanting novel featuring such a mixture of actual fact and imagined fiction that it’s almost impossible to think of Wallis as anything other than a lonely and misunderstood woman, whatever is her ‘truth’. Coming over to the UK after extricating herself from an abusive marriage to a drunken airman, Wallis marries Ernest Simpson, a sweet and retiring head of a family shipping firm, but who has no inkling of how lonely Wallis is, looking in on the outside at all the giddy young things enjoying cocktails at the Café Royal, whilst she seems doomed to spend her time with her nose metaphorically pressed against the window.  Exhorted by Ernest to visit London’s free attractions (since they are chronically broke) Wallis, standing outside St James Palace is stunned as the Prince of Wales’ car passes by and she glimpses what she thinks is the “real” prince, seemingly cutting a lonely figure in the back of the car. From then on, she becomes obsessed.

FOR MORE INFO CLICK HERE

AND THE ONES I AM PLANNING TO READ:

THE WOMEN OF ROTHSCHILD by NATALIE LIVINGSTONE:

The story of the family who rose from the Frankfurt ghetto to become synonymous with wealth and power has been much mythologized. Yet half the Rothschilds, the women, remain virtually unknown.From the East End of London to the Eastern seaboard of the United States, from Spitalfields to Scottish castles, from Bletchley Park to Buchenwald, and from the Vatican to Palestine, Natalie Livingstone follows the extraordinary lives of the English branch of the Rothschild women from the dawn of the nineteenth century to the early years of the twenty first.

FOR MORE INFO CLICK HERE

THE BIRDCAGE by EVE CHASE: I loved her last book The Glass House and The Birdcage is out at end of April 2022.

When half-sisters Kat, Flora and Lauren are unexpectedly summoned to Rock Point, the remote Cornish house where they spent their childhood summers, it is the first time they have been there together since their artist father painted them in the celebrated Girls and Birdcage.

Since then they have drifted apart into wildly different lives, each one determined to forget the fateful summer of twenty years ago.

But when they arrive at Rock Point it is clear they are not alone.

Someone is lurking in the shadows, watching their every move. Someone who remembers what they did, and has been waiting for their return.

As the events of that summer rise closer to the surface, will the three sisters escape unscathed for a second time? Or are some secrets too powerful to remain under lock and key?

An emotional mystery full of dark secrets and twists, transporting the reader to the rugged remote landscape of north Cornwall.

FOR MORE INFO CLICK HERE

Check out our Reviews section for more recommendations

5 Comments

  1. Hi Grace and Annabel happy New Year to you both.I would like to recommend a book I have just finished 29Seconds by T M Logan it is a great edge of the seat read with many twists and turns.It the story of a University lecturer that is given a way to end her unhappy experience at work by a ruthless Russian guy.I really recommend it turn off the phone and prepare for a really rollercoaster.Kind regards to you both
    Mary Leahy

    • Thank you so much Mary. We love receiving recommendations from our readers. We will definitely put that on our list to read in 2022, A&G x

    • Hi Annabel I have read all T M Logan’s books, all being great edge of the seat books. Am looking forward to his next one out in March.
      Lily

  2. Thank you for all of the recommended books. This has really encouraged me to start reading books again. I normally prefer watching films but I will definitely be reading The Light In Hidden Places and The Maid. I also can’t wait to visit the cinema to watch Belfast on the big screen.

Leave a Reply