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Digital Subscriptions > Writing Magazine > December 2016 > BOOKS OF THE YEAR

BOOKS OF THE YEAR

Make room on your Christmas list as Writing Magazine highlights our favourite reads of 2016

THE GLORIOUS HERESIES

Lisa McInerney (John Murray)

Before she was the author of one of last year’s most powerful and original debut novels, Lisa McInerney wrote an invective-laden blog called Arse End of Ireland. The winner of the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction 2016 and the Desmond Elliott Prize for Debut Fiction, The Glorious Heresies is an exuberant, hilarious, foul-mouthed story where living in the arse end of Ireland (a rundown estate in Cork) overshadows the life of five misfits who get caught up in a messy murder. At its heart it begs serious questions about morality, faith, sex and family relationships, but it rollicks along at a cracking pace, fizzing with energy and sweeping up the reader in its idiomladen prose and pitch-black comedy.

THE LONEY

Andrew Michael Hurley (John Murray)

There’s folkish, Wicker Man-esque quality to Andrew Michael Hurley’s widely acclaimed debut that marks it out as being a particularly English kind of gothic. A sinister set up involves a murdered child, a dead priest and a group of oddballs on a Catholic pilgrimage in the countryside, but readers anticipating a spookfest have been disappointed: this is a slow-burning, literary chiller that is more about creating a deep sense of unease than a white-knuckle ride on the ghost train. It’s a relentlessly bleak story, recounted by Andrew Smith as he looks back on the events surrounding a childhood retreat to a grim coastal pilgrimage site. Involving religion, family, folklore and a sinister vision of the English countryside, it’s also endlessly dark, with horror lurking on every page – not gore, but the creeping, mounting sense of something unspoken and dreadful.

THE GIRLS

Emma Cline (Chatto & Windus)

The summer’s standout debut was US author Emma Cline’s reimagining of the Manson Family, The Girls. In Cline’s hands, it’s a tense, febrile imagining, told through the voice of Evie as she recalls the events she got caught up in during the hot, bored summer of 1969, when she falls under the spell of a group of slightly older teenage girls whose wild, almost feral behaviour draws her like a magnet away from the stifling conventionality of her home life. One in particular exerts a hold – Suzanne – as they take her to The Ranch, where they orbit round the charismatic Russell as events spiral towards catastrophe. Conveying the fault lines caused by peer pressure, impressionability and the allure of slightly older teenagers, it evokes the way teenage time either stretches out endlessly or passes in a frenzied rush. Concentrating more on the in-group culture of Russell’s teenage acolytes than on the inner circle of the Manson family and the murders, The Girls is a subtle, restrained and beautifully textured telling of one of pop culture history’s most luridly hideous moments, with a heightened, dreamlike quality that tips irrevocably into nightmare.

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About Writing Magazine

The UK's bestselling writing magazine • Beat writer's block: Busting the myth and dealing with the reality • Revealed: WM's books of the year • Star interview: Stef Penney – intimate emotions, epic landscapes • 20 packed pages of Writers' News: win £50,588 in writing prizes; opportunities to get published; insider know-how and much more...

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