A decade ago, these fiction books were right up there on nearly every publication's 'Best Books' List for 2005. I have yet to read some of them, but it's interesting to note that some are still being recommended on lists ten years on:
In one of the most memorable novels of recent years, Kazuo Ishiguro imagines the lives of a group of students growing up in a darkly skewered version of contemporary England. Narrated by Kathy, now 31, 'Never Let Me Go' hauntingly dramatises her attempts to come to terms with her childhood at the seemingly idyllic Hailsham School, and with the fate that has always awaited her and her closest friends in the wider world. A story of love, friendship and memory, 'Never Let Me Go' is charged throughout with a sense of the fragility of life.
Saturday, February 15, 2003. Henry Perowne is a contented man - a successful neurosurgeon, the devoted husband of Rosalind and proud father of two grown-up children. Unusually, he wakes before dawn, drawn to the window of his bedroom and filled with a growing unease. What troubles him as he looks out at the night sky is the state of the world - the impending war against Iraq, a gathering pessimism since 9/11, and a fear that his city and his happy family life are under threat.
Later, Perowne makes his way to his weekly squash game through London streets filled with hundreds of thousands of anti-war protestors. A minor car accident brings him into a confrontation with Baxter, a fidgety, aggressive, young man, on the edge of violence. To Perowne's professional eye, there appears to be something profoundly wrong with him.
Towards the end of a day rich in incident and filled with Perowne's celebrations of life's pleasures, his family gathers for a reunion. But with the sudden appearance of Baxter, Perowne's earlier fears seem about to be realised.
Set in New England mainly and London partly, 'On Beauty' concerns a pair of feuding families - the Belseys and the Kipps - and a clutch of doomed affairs. It puts low morals among high ideals and asks some searching questions about what life does to love. For the Belseys and the Kipps, the confusions - both personal and political - of our uncertain age are about to be brought close to home: right to the heart of family.
In a vase in a closet, a couple of years after his father died in 9/11, nine-year-old Oskar discovers a key . . . The key belonged to his father, he's sure of that. But which of New York's 162 million locks does it open?
So begins a quest that takes Oskar - inventor, letter-writer and amateur detective - across New York's five boroughs and into the jumbled lives of friends, relatives and complete strangers. He gets heavy boots, he gives himself little bruises and he inches ever nearer to the heart of a family mystery that stretches back fifty years. But will it take him any closer to, or even further from, his lost father?
Moving, literary and innovative, perfect for fans of Lorrie Moore and Nicole Krauss, Jonathan Safran Foer's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close was made into a major film starring Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock, released in 2012.
Los Angeles, 1991. Maximilian Ophuls is knifed to death on the doorstep of his illegitimate daughter India, slaughtered by his Kashmiri driver, a mysterious figure who calls himself Shalimar the Clown. The dead man is a World War II Resistance hero, a man of formidable intellectual ability and much erotic appeal, a former United States ambassador to India, and subsequently America's counter-terrorism chief. The murder looks at first like a political assassination but turns out to be passionately personal. This is the story of Max, his killer, and his daughter - and of a fourth character, the woman who links them all. The story of a deep love gone fatally wrong, destroyed by a shallow affair, it is an epic narrative that moves from California to France, England, and above all, Kashmir: a ruined paradise, not so much lost as smashed.
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