The Passage - Justin Cronin
There is a quote from Stephen King about The Passage, where he says ‘read this and the ordinary world disappears’. Nothing I could ever say about Justin’s writing would sum up this book so perfectly. I remember reading it in bed and feeling the hot, dry Californian atmosphere on my skin. I cowered behind the tall walls of the Colony, and became anxious when reading at night in dim light. It truly felt like I was living in another world.
I don’t think I’ll ever forget the heartbreaking story of Amy’s beginnings and her mother, of Carter and of course Wolgast, who proved to surprise me more than anyone else in the book. It’s gripping and epic and impossible to stop reading. To me, this is 963 pages of perfection.
The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
Despite loving this book, it was also deeply disturbing for me. Atwood’s dystopia was just close enough, and just realistic enough to make me think, ‘could this happen to me?”. I had dreams about this book, about going to try and buy a coffee, or the paper, and finding I no longer was able to access my own money. About no longer having the right to do as I wished with my own body. About no longer having free will.
It’s a book that has moments of violence, but overall everything is very subtle, and gentle, and it’s this quiet tone that makes it so creepy. Even the ending is gentle.
I’d also like to give a quick shout out to Louise O’Neill’s Only Ever Yours, which has been described as a modern The Handmaid’s Tale and only just missed out on this list. Whilst the themes and story of these two books are similar, in contrast Only Ever Yours has a violence to the writing that affected me very deeply. I couldn’t remember the last time I felt so miserable after reading a book and I’ve pushed it into everyone’s hands that I possibly could. Louise is a star of an author, and I can’t wait to see what she does next.
American Gods - Neil Gaiman
This was the first Gaiman that I read, and I think it’s the perfect place to start if you’ve never read him before. The use of ancient myth in modern fiction is often done poorly, or relegated to a certain sort of romance novel, so it was so refreshing to see them given life in such an amusing and believable way. I couldn’t get enough of the ‘new age’ Gods and even though the novel was originally written in 2001, they still feel fresh and relevant to our world now. Usually, I cannot stand humour in novels, but I loved the relief the humour in this book gave to the serious narrative.
I CANNOT wait for the TV adaptation, and the chance to live through it all! (Ian McShane will be the PERFECT Mr Wednesday).