Last week, I presented you with my bookish year in numbers. This week, it’s time to list my ten favourites of 2021. With 4 five-star-reads and 20 books that received four stars, the choice was tough. Let’s go!
First of the Tudors by Joanna Hickson *****
Joanna Hickson takes us to the Wars of the Roses and focuses on the perspective of the early Tudors. In this book we meet Jasper Tudor and his fictional Welsh niece Jane Hywel. It offers a whole new perspective on the known events and a human Margaret Beaufort (which is quite an accomplishment). In my opinion this is Hickson’s best book so far. I’m looking forward to read the sequel ‘The Tudor crown’ in 2022.
The Romanov empress by C.W. Gortner *****
The ideal winter read. This extensive novel covers the life of Dagmar of Denmark, better known as tsarina Maria Feodorovna. Wife to Alexander II and mother of Nicholas II, we discover the last decades of Romanov rule through her eyes. This is a fascinating book about a tragic end to a dynasty.
A thousand ships by Nathalie Haynes *****
I read this one during my cancelled holiday and enjoyed it a lot. This is the Trojan war trough the eyes of the women, girls and goddesses who lost everything. Their home, their family and their body. It’s my favourite Greek myth retelling so far and I discovered some new stories that I didn’t know yet.
World without end by Ken Follett
The long anticipated sequel to ‘Pillars of the earth’. In World without end we again follow four youngsters during their life in Kingsbridge. They are bound by secret in which even the king and queen are interested. The cruel 14th century is the setting this time, so poverty and disease are all around. These really are the Dark Ages.
The burning chambers & The city of tears by Kate Mosse ****
2021 was the year in which I discovered Kate Mosse’s books. Both books take place in 16th century France during the Huguenots Wars. Minou Joubert receives a mysterious letter and at the same time helps the Huguenot Piet flee the city. In ‘The city of tears’ the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre is one of the key events and it’s still so important to create awareness around what happened there. I’m looking forward to the third part in this series and hope to start more books from Mosse in 2022.
The color purple by Alice Walker ****
This modern classic is about the black sisters Celie and Nettie growing up in early 20th century America. The book talks as much about racism as about feminism. Apart from Nettie and Celie, there are some other black women that are part of the main cast. The novel mainly consists of letters from Celie to God, written in poor English. This all contributes to the general atmosphere. A book every woman should read at least once.
Cecily by Annie Garthwaite
Am impressive debut novel from a new voice in historical fiction. Garthwaite writes about the life of Cecily Neville. Wife of Richard, duke of York, and mother to both Edward IV and Richard III. Garthwaite takes us to the sparks of the Wars of the Roses during the Hundred Years Wars. The book opens with Cecily being witness of the burning of Joan d’Arc. I’m looking forward to her next novel, a sequel perhaps?
The scarlet contessa by Jeanne Kalogridis ***
Do you know that feeling that sometimes a book stays longer with you than you thought when you finished it? That’s why there are some three stars reads in this top ten. ‘The scarlet contessa’ tells the story of Catherina Sforza, one of my favourite historical persons. Although the book certainly has its flaws (too much magic and a high focus on Dea, Catherina’s maid), this was the only book I read set in renaissance Italy. Because of it, I again began reading about that period a lot. So, it deserves a spot here.
Winter pilgrims (Kingmaker #1) by Toby Clemens ***
Another three star read that stayed with me much longer. And yes, again about the Wars of the Roses. Thomas and Catherine, are two ‘normal’ people trying to make sense of this conflict and survive. This is an action-pace novel that focuses on the battle (also the smaller ones, which I appreciated). Clemens is no Conn Iggulden nor Bernard Cornwell, but he writes in the same tradition. However, I must admit that I liked the second part in this series ‘Broken faith‘ a lot less. I will continue this series in 2022.
The tenant of Wildfell hall by Anne Brönte
My first book of the year and also the first classic I read. This epistolary consists of letters from Gilbert to his brother-in-law. He tells the story of his new neighbour Mrs Graham who has come to live at Wildfell Hall. Gilbert immediately takes a liking to her, but Mrs Graham carries with her a conflicted past and dares not to open up to him. A lovely Brönte novel.
Have not made it to the top ten, but deserve a head ups: Revelation by C.J. Sansom (Matthew Shardlake never disappoints), The true queen by Alison Weir (finally again a Weir novel that I did like) and Protector by Conn Iggulden (for introducing me to such a fascinating period).
What was your favourite book in 2021?