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Favourite Fiction of 2020


Our staff pick their favourite fiction titles from 2020. Sink into a chair and revel in some of the best fiction we've come across so far. For nonfiction staff picks, award winners and more, head over to our Recommended Reads page.

Tyce, Harriet.
Blood orange

This psychological thriller is, as the form would suggest, dark and deeply unsettling. All the elements of domestic noir are present: spousal abuse, gaslighting and a highly flawed, although professionally successful main character. As a debut, the novel reads very well - former barrister Harriet Tyce knows her subject inside-out, and there are enough clues in the book to point the reader in the right direction. But it's not perfect, by any means. The motivation of the characters didn't always ring true to me and I wasn't convinced by some of their choices. That said, I found myself unable to put this book down - which is about as good a recommendation as I can give. (Susan, Queen's Square)

Waxman, Abbi.
The bookish life of Nina Hill

So I read this book and loved it so much, I instantly put every other book we had by this author on hold AND I BOUGHT another book by her. And normally I never buy books. This book is just so entertaining, amusing, page-turning and awesome! Bookstore and trivia junkie Nina is used to being a loner but then she finds out she had a whole family she never knew about. She has very mixed feelings about this and is worried she may have to actually speak to actual people! Great fun! Leah (Queen's Square)

Patrick, Phaedra.
The library of lost and found

I've adored every heartwarming and delightful book that Phaedra Patrick has ever written. This book is no exception. Middle-aged librarian (and possible hoarder) Martha Storm often feels invisible and that she doesn't connect with anybody. When a mysterious book of fairytales with a link to the beloved grandmother that she thought was dead turns up, staid but sweet Martha plunges into a life-changing journey. An inspiring and thoughtful tale of one woman finally taking control of her own destiny. Leah (Queen's Square)

Serle, Rebecca.
In five years

Could it really be possible to dream your future? Dannie seems to have done just that. She awakes from a dream on her wedding engagement night to find out it is actually happening 5 years later. This is an interesting concept that at first glance seems to be about marriage but ends up being a beautiful story about a lifelong friendship. Tina (Preston)

Mantel, Hilary
The mirror & the light

The long-awaited final novel in the Wolf Hall trilogy is finally here and it is another masterwork of historical fiction. As a skilled administrator and politician, Thomas Cromwell has risen through the ranks of Tudor court life by doing Henry VIII’s dirty work, disposing of unwanted queens, traitors and anyone else who challenges the supremacy of the King. After engineering the downfall of his rivals, Cromwell is at the height of his powers, but enemies await on all sides seeking to pull him down. This gorgeous and psychologically complex novel will whisk you away to an age of grandeur and religious strife. The novel covers a lot of ground and isn’t quite as tightly plotted as its predecessors (Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies), but if you’re looking for a vividly detailed, emotionally charged story set in a fascinating moment in British history, this novel is the next best thing to jumping into a time machine. Meghan Casey (Queen's Square)

Muir, Tamsyn
Gideon the Ninth

This is a space fantasy with a dark sense of humour and plenty of imagination. Necromancers and their knight companions face off in battle to win eternal life and the favour of their galactic emperor. When competitors start to die under suspicious circumstances, the wizards must work together or face a gruesome fate. Gideon, a duelist from the Ninth House, is a fun protagonist, rebellious, scrappy and ready to take down bone constructs, possessed corpses or demons. Put Dune, Dungeons & Dragons and The Graveyard Book into a blender and the result would look like this book. If you can appreciate a fantasy tale with horror elements, this may be the perfect story to rocket you off to distant galaxies haunted by undead legions. Meghan Casey (Queen's Square)

Joshi, Alka
Henna Artist

Set in India in 1955, this story of family, betrayal and rebirth is unforgettable. Lakshmi Shastri left her abusive arranged marriage and ran away from her village thirteen years ago. Having been disowned by her parents, she makes a new life for herself as a henna artist. Her clients are rich, and pay her well for her skill, wisdom, and insight. Lakshmi's life is turned upside down, however, when a thirteen-year-old girl turns up on her doorstep claiming to be her sister. Radha, a miniature version of Lakshmi, travelled barefoot for miles to get to her sister after the death of their parents. This book is about both the journey that they take on foot, as well as the journey they take into their souls, to finally find their true home. It’s about the parentless child who longs to be cared for, and the childless adult who longs to parent, and how sometimes the stars align in mysterious and wonderful ways. A remarkable read, especially if you enjoyed The Birth House by Ami McKay or Lion by Saroo Brierley. Jennifer (Clemens Mill)

Brown, Karma.
Recipe for a perfect wife

Recipe for a Perfect Wife falls into that category of books that are not what they seem at first. Author Karma Brown draws you in initially with cozy recipes and idyllic scenes of gardening and pitchers of lemonade, but as the story progresses it's clear she has a much darker agenda. The dual narrative toggles between Nellie in the 1950s and present-day Alice, both of whom are trying to live up to societal expectations of home-making and - perhaps - motherhood. Both women see themselves as having lost control of their lives, and without financial independence they have few options. When Alice finds Nellie's stash of letters and old Ladies' Home Journal magazines, she thinks she has found the secret to happiness in her new role. But Nellie has a few surprises in store for Alice and the story moves along rapidly to its rather satisfying conclusion. Susan (Queen's Square)

Mandel, Emily St. John
The glass hotel

This ingenious novel unravels two mysteries: a sinister threat appears on the window of a luxury hotel - years later, a woman disappears from a cruise ship as it sails in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Unwinding the connections between these events takes us on a journey from Vancouver’s East Side to a Wall Street investment firm. An intoxicating blend of suspense and deep characterizations, The Glass Hotel will keep you up reading until the wee hours. Meghan (Queen's Square)

McBride, James
Deacon King Kong

When an elderly church deacon guns down a former baseball prodigy turned drug dealer, everyone in their Brooklyn housing project knows more violence is coming. As cops and gangsters hunt for the shooter, everyone in the neighbourhood prepares for what could be a long and bloody game of cat-and-mouse. Part crime novel, part jazzy love song to NYC in the 1960s, this is a book full of indelible characters who feel as multidimensional as real people you might meet at a local bar or barbecue. Funny, poignant and ultimately hopeful, the snappy dialogue also makes this novel one of the most quotable books I’ve read this year. Meghan (Queen's Square)

Clarke, Susanna.

Dream-like and mysterious, this is a novel unlike anything else you’ll read this year. Come into the House, a stone labyrinth of statues and stairways, a place of a thousand riddles. Prepare to be puzzled and dazzled by this peculiar and lovely story. Meghan (Queen's Square)

Harrow, Alix E.
Once and Future Witches

Three sisters take on the patriarchy as they fight for the vote and endeavour to restore the age of witchcraft. It’s not an easy thing to be a woman in New Salem in 1893: Witchcraft has been all but wiped out after the last witch uprising, and the men who run the city want to keep it that way. But when the long-estranged Eastwood sisters – bookish Beatrice, maternal Agnes, and firecracker Juniper – are reunited, they discover that together they might have the power to bring witchcraft back. “The Once and Future Witches” is an extremely fun ride, with rich world-building and writing as gorgeous as its cover art. By the end, you too will want to put on a pointy black hat and fly away with the Eastwood sisters. (Jessica, Preston)

Schwab, V. E.
Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

An engrossing Faustian story for a new age. In the 1700s Addie LaRue makes a deal with the devil: In exchange for immortality, the devil will have her soul when she doesn’t want it anymore. The catch? Nobody can remember her once she is out of sight. For three hundred years she travels the world alone, her only legacy the art she has inspired along the way (even though the artists don’t remember their muse). Then, in 2014, she shoplifts from a New York City bookshop ... and the shop clerk doesn’t forget her. Their budding romance is almost as captivating as the story of Addie’s long life. Addie LaRue is such a remarkable character – resilient and brave and full of wonder – that by the end of the book, three centuries doesn’t seem like enough time with her. I cannot recommend this beautiful, heart-wrenching novel enough. (Jessica, Preston)