Sharing this short story I wrote a while ago, in honor of Woolf’s birthday today (January 25).
Well, what a year it’s been. It’s far too easy to focus on the bad and the strange year that 2016 was, but it’s always nice to look back and recap some of the things I enjoyed about the year, as well as personal achievements and more. In the first post of this series, I’m going to look at some of the books that I enjoyed in 2016 – not necessarily things that were published this year, although there’ll be a mix of both.
It’s funny looking back at my diary and notebooks from earlier in the year. I was so full of hope and optimism at the beginning of the year, for the way that things might go for me personally. I need to find that positivity and optimism again.
- The Elena Ferrante Neopolitan series
- I wrote about this earlier in the year, but I utterly fell in love with this series when I read it back in March and would recommend it to anyone.
- Vanessa and Her Sister by Priya Parmar
- I loved this take on Vanessa’s relationship with Viriginia and those around her. It was a really enjoyable, gripping novel. I love novels like this, which take real events and reimagine them.
- A Gathering of Shadows/This Savage Song by V.E. Schwab
- Victoria was on fire again this year, publishing two very different novels, and i loved them both. Can’t wait for the next installments in each series.
- What’s a Girl Gotta Do?/And A Happy New Year? by Holly Bourne
- The end of the Spinster Club series, and it certainly went out with a bang. These books brought a smile to my face and also made me both emotional and empowered.
- The Sleeping Prince by Melinda Salisbury
- It seems like a lifetime ago that I went to the launch for this at Waterstones Picadilly back in February, but I adored this. I can’t wait for the next installment!
- Ride by Lisa Glass
- I adored this series set in Newquay, Cornwall, and this was a fitting conclusion to the story. Take me back there!
- The Graces by Laure Eve
- I love the mix of magic in this story and I galloped through this and deeply loved it.
- Charlotte Bronte: A Life by Claire Harman
- I certainly didn’t know as much about Charlotte Bronte as I thought I did and this year was the 200th centenary of her birth so a fitting time to read this. Fascinating and very enjoyable.
- Eat Sweat Play by Anna Kessel
- A bit different, but in a year of Olympics and empowering sport, a wonderful, passionate look at why more women don’t take part in sport.
- The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson
- This was one of those perfect summer stories, best enjoyed on a long, lazy summer day. I love everything Morgan writes.
- A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson
- I loved Life After Life and this was a great companion novel, asking questions that I think a lot of us always do!
- A Writer’s Diary by Virginia Woolf
- I’ve been engrossed in learning about Virginia Woolf this year and loved this selection of her diaries, edited by her husband Leonard Woolf, with a focus on writing.
I read so much good non-fiction this year, with a lot of it about Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell, and I’ve loved engrossing myself not only in their lives, but in plenty of other fascinating women from early twentieth-century history. Non-fiction has definitely stolen my heart this year.
I’m sure there are plenty of things I read that I missed off and I’ll be kicking myself later!
What was your bookish highlight of 2016?
My trip to Monk’s House seemed to arrive with the beginning of spring. The sun was in the sky, it was warm, and the daffodils were all out. Monk’s House is a beautiful and idyllic village called Rodmell, hidden between Brighton and Lewes. Since I began discovering more about the Bloomsbury group, I’ve known about Monk’s House, but I didn’t know how wonderful it was until my visit.
Monk’s House was the country retreat of Leonard and Virginia Woolf, seen below, commemorated in sculptures in the garden.
Stepping into the garden at Monk’s House was like stepping into another world and place. The garden was beautifully organised and arranged, divided into sections and bursting with daffodils, primroses, and other spring flowers. It was easy to imagine how inspiring and calming a place this would be.
There was a lawn too, where they used to play Boules and this was easy to imagine.
It was amazing to think that Virginia used to walk from Monk’s House, across the countryside to Charleston Farmhouse, where her sister, Vanessa Bell lived.
Of course, one of my favourite parts of the garden was the amazing writer’s hut, situated at the end of the garden, with a stunning view of the South Downs.
The house too was light and inviting, full of flowers and books, and it was easy to imagine it being a wonderful place to live and work.
I love writer’s houses. I love discovering the places that they worked and lived and inspired them. It was evident that Monk’s House was an inspiring place- and I wait to go back there in the summer when all the trees are in bloom! The gift shop was packed full of wonderful Woolf inspired books and gifts, and another trip will definitely be in order…
We finished off our day with a detour via Berwick Church, to take a look at the paintings by Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, which was another stunning location.
You can find out more about Monk’s House here. If you’re ever in Sussex and/or intrigued by the Bloomsbury group and Virginia Woolf, then I definitely recommend a visit!
The interwar years and WWII have always fascinated me. I’ve always loved reading books set in this period, and my first ever “novel” when I was thirteen was a WWII story (I never finished it).