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Best contemporary novels of 2021

We continue the wrap-up lists of 2021 with a brief foray into the best novels I read that were both written and set in contemporary times - a fancy way of saying books that were written in 2020-2021, and take place in the twenty-first century.

As always, I'm going to keep this brief - it's still the holidays and nobody really wants to read an in-depth blog post. So, without further ado, please enjoy this selection of the best modern novels I've read this year.

Olympus, Texas, by Stacey Swann: A very interesting psychological mystery that has grown on me the more I've thought about it. Reviewed in full here.

Fake Accounts, by Lauren Oyler: A book that was so good, it almost made my top of 2021 list and then ended up being booted out because of all the excellent books I've read this year. A scathing critique of modern-day dating and social media; an absolute gem of a novel. Reviewed in full here.

This Must Be the Place, by Maggie O'Farrell: A bit Shakespearean in scope - a family saga that takes in a lot of themes, from tragedy to second chances to fame to addiction, all treated with empathy and compassion and fully-realised, truly wonderful characters. I discovered O'Farrell last year with Hamnet, and this just convinced me that she's an author whose backlist I want to read the entirety of. Highly recommend.

Hot Stew, by Fiona Mozley: An updated take on a Dickensian novel, this time centred around a brothel in Soho. Very funny, very witty, and very well-written - everything is incisive and precise without being too broad or overwhelming.

Tout les hommes n'habitent pas le monde de la même façon, by Jean-Paul Dubois: The winner of the 2019 Goncourt prize in France; it's a very moving exploration of how a man's life falls apart after the death of his wife, and how even seemingly mindless acts of violence come at the tail end of a long, slow burn of disenchantment and anger. Dubois writes with some very finely-dosed cynicism that still manages to be somehow both hopeful and funny, and his characters are beautifully complex, nuanced people whose heads (while not always pleasant to be in) feel very real and fully realised. Available in an English translation here.

Beautiful World, Where Are You, by Sally Rooney: Her third novel and an other excellent piece of writing. I adore Rooney's prose so much that I'd be willing to read just about anything she publishes, and luckily for us her characters and her stories are equivalently fun to be a part of. Reviewed in full here.

So there you have it, folks - hope everyone had a generous visit from Father Christmas and is enjoying working through the Christmas leftovers!

Happy reading,

Amélie xx

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I’m Amélie, I love books and reading, and I also love talking about them.

I’m incredibly lucky to be bilingual, so I read books in both French and English, and will talk about both of those on here – although I will do more in English, since I know that’s probably what the majority of the people who ever find this blog will be interested in!

I also like history, traveling, Shakespeare, coffee, cheese, musicals, Italian Baroque art, the ballet, Mock the Week and Have I Got News For You, flowers, makeup, high heels, and baking. Yes, I’m a walking cliché. I am aware.

Please do tweet at me with any suggestions/book recommendations/thoughts.

In case you’re curious – yes, Pride and Prejudice is my favorite book of all time.

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