Common People by Alison Light (Fig Tree, £20) is a shot in the arm for family historians like me. Her wise, wide-ranging interpretations of her family’s past elevate our dusty grubbings to the status of ‘real’ history. Sebastian Barry’s A Temporary Gentleman (Faber, £17.99) stood out amongst novels about Irish drunkenness, or drunken Irishness, because the grandeur of the prose made it soar.
The most satisfactory re-reading of the year was Siegfried Sassoon’s Great War trilogy, Memoirs of a Fox-hunting Man, Memoirs of an Infantry Officer and Sherston’s Progress. An interesting little find was E. Nesbit’s childhood memoir, Long Ago When I Was Young. The title suggests misty nostalgia, but the book is tough, frightening, devoid of sentiment and atmospherically illustrated by Edward Ardizzone.
Finally, my disappointment of the year: John Williams’s Stoner. I just didn’t get it.