Friday, December 18, 2009

My Book of the Decade

I have always been a voracious reader.
These days, I'm very fussy.
I don't want to waste my valuable reading time on books that don't come up to my exacting standards - and some of the bestsellers fall a long way short IMO.

But there are some wonderful books out there.
I've reviewed many of them on this blog before.
So you'd be forgiven for imagining it would be difficult to come up with one worthy of the title of

... triumphal horns and drumroll ...

Book of the Decade.

And the winner is ...

The Killing Jar
by Nicola Monaghan.

Dear blogmates, I have to tell you it wasn't a hard decision at all because this book stands out for me as not just a book of the decade but one of the best books I've read - ever.
Every aspect filled me with respect and admiration for the author.

At first glance, it seems a simple book with a first person linear narrative.
No clever frills.
No obvious literary devices.
Just the most compelling voice, spot-on pacing, vivid characterisation and gritty grimy realism.

Nicola shies away from nothing, refusing to romanticise the poverty and violence that define life on the grim Nottingham housing estate where the action takes place.
She shines her unflinching spotlight onto the lives of marginalised people too often dismissed - or simply feared - by 'respectable' folk.

Kerrie-Ann, the narrator of The Killing Jar, lives a drug-fueled life of crime and violence as both victim and perpetrator. The book begins when she is five, the daughter of a junkie single parent who soon disappears, and continues through her struggles through adolescence, including a desperate and lethal kind of love, to a bittersweet, life-affirming ending.

At times the book feels so painful, it is almost hard to carry on reading, yet, at the same time, I was unable to put it down. Kerrie-Ann haunted me and I know she will remain with me always.

But don't get the idea that this is a hard book to read. In these pages you will find humour and energy and a zest for life that you rarely see in the written word.

Nicola has done well with The Killing Jar and its successor, Starfishing (a different demographic but, in its own way, an equal triumph). Sales have been steady and respectable. She has won awards.
Yet her name is not on everybody's lips and she's not at the top of the bestseller charts, where she deserves to be.

I wonder why this is.

I suspect it may be because many people don't want to know about the people she has depicted. It's too hard, too confusing. Easier to maintain preconceptions, batten down the hatches and take refuge behind high fences, peeping out from behind net curtains.

Take up the challenge.
Read the book and then let me know if it failed to enthrall you.


Queenie said...

Too late - I read it ages ago (and Starfishing, too) and agree 100%.

Niki M said...

Wow. I sitting here all choked up now Debi. I'm so glad the book spoke to you in this way. Thanks so much for writing this post.

Niki xx

Tania Hershman said...

I couldn't agree more, I read the book straight through in one sitting, was knocked sideways by it. It is just amazing!

Liane Spicer said...

What an amazing review. This book is going straight to the head of my wish list!

Debi said...

Queenie and Tania - glad you both agree it's one of those very special books that will always stay with you.

Liane - I know you won't be sorry.

Niki - the pleasure really is all mine. Thanks so much for writing this book. It feels ... important.

L-Plate Author said...

Hi Debi, it's Mel S, I've just befriended you on facebook. I have to read this book, it is a must for me. I write crime books, set on a notorious social housing estate, as yet unpublished but I live in hope.

Thanks for bringing it to my attention, it's great to get a recommendation and one for the decade too.

Debi said...

Hi Mel! Great to see you here. Let me know what you think about the book. Mine are set in similar places on the margins of society, but Niki has shown us all how it should be done.

Christian Steven said...

I totally agree, I like her tone and the message went directly through me.

Debi said...

Thanks, Christian. It's rare for me to say anything that so many people wholeheartedly agree with.

Baby said...

Good choice. Love this book as well.

transporte de carros said...

I love this read, my Auntie offered this.

Debi said...

More people agreeing with me! I have Nicola to thank ...

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