Standard Issue’s writers are a well-read bunch. Here’s some of their top picks for 2014.
Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans
I was going to write about The Goldfinch – semi-feral Boris was my year’s literary crush – until this sly, clever little book snuck in at the last.
It tells the story of orphaned 10-year-old Noel, grieving his clever godmother Mattie, and evacuated during World War II to stay with Vee, whose eyelines are “like peg-marks on a dried sheet”, and who lurches from one failed semi-criminal scheme to another.
Initially the two are suspicious of each other, antagonistic even, but slowly form a bond which proves to be funny, clever and moving enough to make me weep on the 10.07 to Guildford. Which, I can tell you, is really not a place to start crying. It’s also beautifully written, and one of those deceptively simple ideas that makes you think: Oh, I wish I had written that.
Any Other Mouth by Anneliese Mackintosh
When we unanimously picked Anneliese Mackintosh’s debut novel as the winner of this year’s Green Carnation Prize for LGBT literature, we knew it was a very important book from a writer of raw and breath-taking talent.
Any Other Mouth is a novel composed of interconnected short stories which are semi-autobiographical, building up a picture of a young woman’s life. It’s a life that is full of struggle and trauma, the pain and heartache of growing up, losing loved ones, and of trying and often failing to find oneself. Yet, not only does Mackintosh find the joy and humour in the life of her protagonist, Gretchen, but she has also found an original and powerful way of writing about adolescence.
2014 has been an important year in the debate about women, feminism, sexuality, mental health and abuse, all of which Mackintosh tackles head on, with a candour that is, at times, brutal. She holds nothing back and her honesty is both brave and harrowing, and ultimately redemptive.
In both its form and content, Any Other Mouth will challenge you, shock you, provoke you and surprise you. Mackintosh’s style is so easy it’s almost deceptive – it’s not difficult to race through the stories – but that makes the sucker-punch of the book’s emotional impact all the more powerful.
The Legacy of Elizabeth Pringle by Kirsty Wark
Vivid descriptions transport you to the Scottish island of Arran. There begins the intriguing tale of how, (and why), local spinster, Elizabeth Pringle, bequeathed her beloved cottage to a passing stranger she once encountered more than 30 years ago.
Bottom line, I was so hooked by the outline on the cover, I missed the fact it is the debut novel from one of our most respected journalists and broadcasters. Beautifully written, I felt the need to slow down, just to savour it, right from the start.
It’s perfect for readers who love quality fiction with a strong sense of place, and those who relish the joy of discovering a great new novelist.