Best Fiction of 2017

Last year, I managed to read 111 books. It was actually closer to 120 but there were a few I didn’t include on my big list, either for personal reasons (self-help or psychology books), or because I bailed less than halfway through. But I wanted to take a look back at my favourite titles and compile a Top 10. So here are my 10 favourite fiction books from 2017…

1. The Lonely Hearts Hotel
Heather O’Neill
This was perhaps the most breathtaking book I’ve read all year. It had gangsters, nightclubs, masochistic nuns, millionaires, twists of fate, junkies, rollerskating, imaginary bears, bejeweled apples, a pair of young star-crossed lovers and… clowns. A dark, gritty story about a pair of children who meet in an orphanage and discover they have special talents, who are then parted and have to find each other again. O’Neill’s descriptions are gorgeously vivid, her metaphors like bits of poetry. Her female protagonist Rose kicks ass throughout the whole story, and I love that O’Neill has made her so strong, such a great survivor. I so want to see this made into a film.

2. The Napoli Novels
Elena Ferrante
Counting these (as one entry) because I read 2 of the 4 in 2017. They’re fighting with The Lonely Hearts Hotel for 1st place, honestly. 
Read full review.

3. Men Walking On Water
Emily Schulz
An exquisitely woven story about Detroit-Windsor rumrunners near the end of prohibition. Schulz offers robust character development, a logical yet intricate plot, and a well-written, well-researched novel. Great flow makes it a quick read, even at over 500 pages.

4. Lily and the Octopus
Steven Rowley
Read full review.

5. Modern Girls
Jennifer S. Brown
I am so ready for a sequel to Brown’s first novel. She does a magnificent job of contrasting new and old world interests when a Jewish mother and daughter both find themselves pregnant in 1935 NYC. Rose speaks little English and is still mourning the loss of a son to polio, while her daughter Dottie is young, naive and trying to determine her future. Lots of good suspense here, plus a bit of an uncertain ending that definitely needs a follow-up.

6. The Wonder
Emma Donoghue
If it feels as if The Wonder gets off to a slow start, give it time. The slow burn as fasting girl Anna O’Donnelly wastes away and her nurse Lib tries to save her — from both her family and herself — builds to a crescendo that is satisfying and beautifully executed.

7. Design For Dying
Renee Patrick
I loved this mystery set in 1930s Hollywood in which the main character works with costumer designer Edith Head to solve the case of a dead starlet — based on the clothes she’s wearing, of course. Super sharp writing, witty dialogue, and so many cameos from Bob Hope to Barbara Stanwyck in a fabulous car chase. There’s a second book in the series and I can’t wait to read it.

8. The Dollhouse
Fiona Davis
Switching back and forth from present day to 1952, this novel set in the famous Barbizon Hotel in New York tells the story of a mysterious recluse who has been living at the hotel since the 1950s. Full of fashion, jazz, food, and enough twists to keep things interesting.

9. Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk
Kathleen Rooney
A love letter to New York City as an elderly woman, once a famous ad exec, spends New Year’s Eve of 1984 wandering the city and remembering bits of her past. Uneven in a few spots, but generally quite a charming and intriguing story about female independence. (The character, while fictional, is based on a real person.)

10. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
Gail Honeyman
This book has received well-deserved gushing accolades. The victim of a variety of traumatic events in her childhood, Eleanor is a loner who lacks basic social skills. She has no dreams or aspirations, no desire to improve herself in any way. But then she falls for a local musician and finds herself making changes that ultimately see her evolve. There is a dark undertone to the book, and it could well be triggering for anyone who suffered childhood abuse, but we end with hope and prospects for Eleanor. My one complaint is that Honeyman made Eleanor a little too “Kimmy Schmidt” in her worldview. Eleanor hasn’t been living in a bunker for the three decades of her life; certainly she must have heard YMCA by the Village People while wandering the aisles of Tesco at least once, or have some knowledge — gleaned from books or TV or her beloved crossword puzzles — that people dance at weddings. If the author hadn’t been quite so heavy-handed with the main character’s cluelessness, this would have been a perfect read.