My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent, a book I can’t leave 2017 without talking about


He doesn’t want to hurt me. He loves me more than life itself.  He’s not a perfect person sometimes. Sometimes he’s not the person he wants to be. But he loves me more than anybody else has ever been loved. I think that counts for everything. (p. 254)

Turtle believes this about her father. That he loves her more than anything. Children believe what they want to believe, when everything points to a truth they don’t want to believe.

Everything about you, kibble, is perfect. Every detail. You are the platonic ideal of yourself. Your every blemish, every scratch, is inimitable elaboration on your beauty and your wildness. You look like a naiad. You look like a girl raised by wolves. You know that? (p. 268)

In the same way that A Little Life made me gasp and cringe and read compulsively onward, My Absolute Darling carries a similar effect. It is gorgeous and sorrowful and courageous all at the same time, and unlike any other book I’ve read this year.

No, she thinks. No, it cannot be that at the end of it all, I am like you. That cannot be. Those parts of you I turn from, I will turn from forever and I will not at the end of it find that I am like you. She makes a wedge of her hands, fits it between her thighs, sits clenching them. (p. 267)

When her father leaves quite suddenly, for weeks and weeks, Turtle catches up with her friend, Jacob. He is a boy whose normalcy throws her off guard, and strengthens her during her father’s absence. Yet even their friendship is fraught with danger. She has taken severe beatings from her father for even wanting to  befriend Martin; she has almost died with Jacob when they were caught unaware by a tide and stranded, wounded, on an island.

Jacob does not understand the severity, or the complexity, of Turtle’s relationship with her father. He does not have any idea about the fragility and desperation of her life: loving her father, and slowly dying because of his violence, at the same time.

We long for Turtle to find the strength to live independently. We know how brave she is, despite her terror and confusion. But, we don’t know who will emerge victorious in this terribly dysfunctional relationship.

How can I say that such a horrifying book is one of the best I’ve read in 2017? Because it speaks of courage and strength and an indomitable spirit in the face of terrible circumstances. Because it skitters around the edges of a life I once shared with my first husband, an unpredictable and sometimes frightening man, who was also someone I loved.

My Year in Reading; The Best of The Best

What makes a book one of the best of the year? How it stays with me. How it makes me think. The extent to which I can relate to what the author is saying as truth; the extent to which the characters live and breathe.

I have read books for the Man Booker International Prize, The Man Booker Prize, German Lit Month, Spanish Lit Month, Women in Translation Month and my own Japanese Literature Challenge 11. Therefore, some of these books might be obscure to you. But, all of them are worthy.

Here are the ten books of 2017 which stood out most prominently in my mind, which will stick with me far past this year and into the next:


1. A Quiet Place by Seicho Matsumoto (“A master crime writer…Seicho Matsumoto’s thrillers dissect Japanese society.” -The New York Times Book Review; special thanks to Dorian at Eiger, Monch & Jungfrau who sent it to me last year.)

2. Thus Bad Begins by Javier Marias 

3. The Unseen by Roy Jacobsen (shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize 2017)

4. The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro (by the British author who won the Nobel Prize in Literature this year, this is a mesmerizing, unforgettable book)

5. Solar Bones by Mike McCormack (longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2017, won the Goldsmiths Prize 2017, named Irish Book of the Year 2016)

6. Days Without End by Sebastian Barry 

7. Autumn by Ali Smith (shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2017)

8. Dunbar by Edward St. Aubyn 

9. My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent (a Times book of the year, a Guardian book of the year)

10. Fish Have No Feet by Jon Kalman Steffansson (longlisted for the Man Booker International Prize 2017)

A list of all the books I’ve read this year, and the challenges in which I’ve participated, will be forthcoming.

The link to each book above takes you to Bookwitty, a source which delivers books with free shipping worldwide.