by Juhi Singhal Karan and Rachel Leal
“How does one attempt to grasp the incomprehensible? Through lists,” says Umberto Eco. To help you stay afloat amidst the deluge of end-of-year best-books lists, we bring you, well, yet another list. Here are five Bloomers who made appearances on—where else—an end-of-year best-books list.
Kate Atkinson’s approach to writing is to focus on the question, “How do I make this work?” as opposed to, “What’s that character going to do next?” Perhaps that’s what helps her write, as The New York Times put it, “critically admired family sagas that are not really family sagas; crime novels that are not really crime novels; and . . . a science-fiction novel, in the loosest possible sense, that is nothing of the sort.” Atkinson’s 2013 publication Life After Life has not only made it to several best-of-2013 lists, including The New York Times Book Review and NPR, but also garnered accolades like the Novel of the Year at the Costa Book Awards.
Working as a journalist, Jane Gardam gave up her career to raise a family. Even so, “I just knew I would be a writer,” she told The Guardian. “It just seemed the only sensible thing to do.” She began writing once her children went to school and published her first novel at 41 years old (as our very own Lisa Peet wrote, here at Bloom). Last month NPR’s “Book Guru,” librarian Nancy Pearl, chose four books as “picks from the past” to recommend and named Jane Gardam’s A Long Way from Verona as one of these picks. “A Long Way from Verona was one of Jane Gardam’s earliest books, and I have to think—on no knowledge—that it’s highly autobiographical,” says Pearl, “[t]here’s just wonderful parts in this book about growing up.”
“With The Stud Book, I liked granting expression to aspects of what it means to live in a female body, even when that’s amazingly hard, or a mess, or awkward,” Monica Drake says of her newest novel, which centers on a cast of female characters “of a certain age” residing in Portland, Oregon. Roxane Gay at The Rumpus said of The Stud Book, “There are few novels this year that are as intelligently observed.” Drake’s sophomore novel has garnered much praise from the literary community, landing on several best of lists, including Flavorwire’s “15 Best Book Covers of 2013”.
Ross Thomas wrote his first novel in his 40s in only six weeks. He went on to write over 25 books before his death in 1995. He was a writer of political thrillers who wrote across class lines, and Stephen King called him “the Jane Austen of the political espionage story.” Said Nancy Pearl, who chose Thomas’s Briarpatch as another Past Pick for NPR, “He was always known, when he was alive, as kind of an inside-the-Beltway writer. You’re with a man who has no illusions about the way the world works.” Regarding the keen inside political knowledge in his novels, Thomas once told an interviewer, “I do use the fact that I’ve been in the back rooms where the deals are being cut.”
It was only after Louise Penny felt, in her own words, “buffeted and bruised and hurt enough by life,” that she published her first Chief Inspector Armand Gamache novel at the age of 48. “I started to empathise with and feel the pain of others. I understood loss and sorrow and aching loneliness. . . . And what it felt like to be forgiven. . . . And to love with all my heart.” Washington Post called How The Light Gets In, her ninth in the Gamache series, “a magnificent mystery that appeals not only to the head, but also to the heart and soul,” and featured it as one of its top five fictions of 2013.