In the mornings, when my thoughts have not yet arranged themselves into their familiar malevolent shapes and the day is still unformed, I wake up before dawn and sheath myself in layer upon layer of coarse, heavy clothing, and walk deep into the woods while my eyes adjust to the velvety darkness.
I hadn’t heard of this novel or the author until Two Dollar Radio contacted me asking if I wanted a review copy. Any book described as ‘witchy’ and ‘unnerving’ which also discusses nature and isolation is bound to be right up my street, so I jumped at the chance to read this – and I’m so glad I did. I’m mainly surprised that this isn’t being talked about more widely; I thought it was an incredible read. It might be the best fiction I've read this year so far.
‘Lie Kill Walk Away’ is a teen thriller, so slightly outside my usual review sphere, but I read (and reviewed) it when I was working as a literacy teacher in a secondary school. I thought it was an enthralling read. It’s a bold story about the importance of family and the pain of absent mothers, about unthinkable decisions and the difficulties of loyalty when your choice will inevitably lead to someone getting hurt.
I don’t read mountaineering novels very often; I suppose I don’t really see the point of them when there’s already so many dramatic factual accounts to read.
I’m really glad I made an exception here. I thought First on the Rope is an exquisite novel. It’s a finely-written love letter to the mountains, perfectly capturing the beauty and magic of long days moving through the mountains balanced against the cost.
A rare bright side of the endless lockdowns is that I read more in 2020 than I have for a few years. I started off the year with a firm resolution to work through my bookshelves and read all the ones I owned but had never actually opened. This started off well for the first couple of months, but when the first lockdown hit I changed plan, needing to read anything that was completely absorbing. Spring was filled with a rather indiscriminate selection of recent titles grabbed from the library in a panic the day before it shut. Over the second half of the year, I spent most of my time reading fantastical literature, veering between myth retellings and magical realism. I also read many short stories this year; some days I didn’t feel I had the energy or attention span to tackle a novel, and short stories slotted in here perfectly. I didn’t keep a list of these though – maybe something to change for next year.
Predominantly climbing/outdoors literature, mountaineering history and nature writing.