It’s always entertaining and enlightening to have your current world reflected back to you through fiction. Which is exactly what the novels in my final ‘best of’ list for 2017 do – contemporary fiction.
For me, an excellent contemporary fiction novel has all the general elements of a good novel – compelling story, great writing and characters you can stand to follow around for 300 or so pages. It also tends to make a statement about how we live.
The 3 contemporary fiction novels I’ve given 5-stars to this year are very different from each other in subject matter, but they all pull you in from page 1, they’re all well written and they all made me look at my world just a little differently.
1. The Gulf, by Anna Spargo-Ryan
Skye is sixteen years old. Her ten-year-old brother, Ben, soaks up every fact about everything and never ever stops talking:
Ladybirds bleed from their knees when they’re stressed.
Skye and Ben live in a tiny flat in Adelaide with her mother. Life is okay, until her mother brings home her new boyfriend, Jason. Then Jason moves them all out of Adelaide into Port Flinders – a tiny town in the middle of nowhere.
Jason is really bad news. As things get worse and it becomes clear Skye’s mother is not willing – or able – to protect her own kids, Skye hatches a plan to get her and her brother away from Port Flinders.
In the meantime, she has to find a way to protect herself and her brother from the locals, the deranged dog tied to Jason’s clothesline, her mother and – most of all – from Jason.
This is a brilliantly written book that reminded me of Tim Winton’s That Eye, The Sky. With the same microscopic lens it meanders along and then sucker punches you with universal truths.
The Gulf shines a light on those parts of our society which plenty of people would prefer to sweep under a carpet and shut the door on altogether. It tells the story of kids who don’t have the level of protection that they should from the adults in their life.
I loved the character of Ben – his random interjections and gorgeous innocence which Skye tries to preserve. Skye is such a strong, forceful character when she needs to be, but the effort comes at a great personal cost to herself.
2. The Mummy Bloggers, by Holly Wainwright
This is pure voyeuristic fun from Holly Wainwright – a name you may recognise from Mamamia, especially if you listen to her fabulous podcast, This Glorious Mess.
Take 3 bloggers – a full-time working mother (with a stay-at-home husband), an anti-vaxxer, hippy mother (whose kids are secretly immunised) and a super-fashionable wife and mother (whose entire life is curated for the cameras) – add a blogging competition with $500,000 at stake… and stir.
Cue lies, truths, chaos and a stalker.
3. Friend Request, by Laura Marshall
Friend Request is a psychological thriller set in London. Louise is sort of winning at life – she has a freelance design business and a 4-year-old son. But sort of not – she also has a failed marriage, enjoys a few too many wines and is haunted by guilt over her treatment of Maria Weston at high school.
But Maria is dead. Except that in the lead-up to Louise’s 20-year high school reunion, Louise receives a friend request on Facebook from Maria.
This is a rollicking good read that left my heart pumping and made me consider staying off Facebook more often… for a few days, at least.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.