Brontë, Juvenilia, Literature, Poetry, Reviews

Reading Challenge 2020: The Results

What a year 2020 has been. It’s safe to say that nobody was expecting anything quite like it. At the start of the year I had a lot of resolutions for 2020; things to do, places to see etc., however, like most bookworms I also had some reading resolutions. Following a mainly successful 2019 Reading Challenge I devised a new set of challenges for 2020 which you can find below. You can also find a total list of all the books I’ve read this year with ratings. I don’t think I’m alone in turning to classic crime this year. 

I also set myself another Goodreads challenge which was to read 35 books this year.  I was pretty confident about achieving it and with lockdown I think it’s safe to say I smashed it. Once again I did not include any re-reads in the total end of year count. With the exception of the last entry on the list, I was aiming for books that were new to me in 2020.

  1. A  Book Published in the year 2020
  2. A Book by a Well Known Author Whose Work You Haven’t (but Really Should Have) Read Before
  3. A Book Published Posthumously
  4. A Book Featuring an Amateur Detective
  5. A Retelling of a Classic
  6. Two Books that Share the Same Title
  7. A Classic of Children’s Literature
  8. A Debut Novel
  9. A Piece of Non- Brontë Juvenilia
  10. A Piece of Brontë Juvenilia
  11. A Brontë Biography
  12. A Piece of Brontë Inspired Fiction
  13. 3 Old Favourites: Jane EyreThe Tenant of Wildfell HallWuthering Heights
  • A Book Published in the Year 2020 

I’ve read a few books in 2020 that have been re-issued this year but I’m not including them. I’ve actually managed to read a few titles that were published in 2020 though: Sorry I Missed You by Suzy Krause, Stealing the Crown by T.P. Fielden, There Was No Possibility of Taking a Walk That Day by various authors and edited by Kay Kay Adkins, The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman, I Know That Ghosts Have Wandered the Earth by various (including myself) and edited by Kay Adkins, Murder Most Festive by Ada Mincrieff, and Anne Brontë ‘Amid the Brave and Strong’ by Ann Dinsdale and others. 

  • A Book by a Well Known Author Whose Work You Haven’t (but Really Should Have) Read Before

I finally read a book by P.L. Travers. Not familiar with the name? She was the author of the Mary Poppins books. I read the first one back in March this year. Enjoyable enough but very different to the screen version most of us will be familiar with. I also read the first two Peter Wimsey books by one of the Queens of Crime, Dorothy L. Sayers this year too. Wimsey is likeable enough but I wasn’t overly impressed. For me, Queen Agatha Christie is unrivalled. Although everyone knows the character of Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne, few have read the books, including myself. That didn’t change in 2020 but I did read the only murder mystery Milne wrote, The Red House Mystery. Prior to 2020 I’d also neglected modern master of crime Martin Edwards but keep reading for more on him. 

  • A Book Published Posthumously

I debated for a long time over this one and I had lots of suggestions but found I’d already read them all. In the end I went for Virginia Woolf’s posthumously published Between the Acts. Like other Woolf books, not a lot happens and there is no real plot but it was an interesting enough read considering I haven’t gotten along very well with her works in the past. Having said that, it was only when reading a new book about Poirot that I realised that the Miss Marple novel Sleeping Murder by Agatha Christie was published posthumously. I’m still glad I read the Woolf though.

  • A Book Featuring an Amateur Detective

I ticked this off easily thanks to my hunger for crime fiction this year. I’m classing an amater as someone who doesn’t receive payment for their services or efforts so no Poirot. Amateur detectives I’ve encountered include Miss Marple in Agatha Christie’s Murder at the Vicarage, The Body in the Library, and Sleeping Murder. The Mysterious Mr. Quin also by Christie features the enigmatic Mr. Quin and his associate Mr Satterthwaite, a fussy little socialite who snoops enough to qualify as an amateur detective in my opinion. Richard Osman’s The Thursday Murder Club also features a group of amateur sleuths as does Anthony Berkeley’s The Poisoned Chocolates Case. Milne’s The Red House Mystery and Ada Moncrieff’s Murder Most Festive have their own wannabe detectives on the case as does Christie’s Crooked House. Finally (I think) Martin Edwards’ excellent Gallows Court and Mortmain Hall feature the enigmatic Rachel Savernake and the rather loveable Jacob Flint. 

  • A Retelling of a Classic

I’ve read two titles this year that could qualify for this. First there was Murder at the Old Vicarage by Jill McGown which is a sort of retelling of Miss Marple’s first adventure discussed above. The other book that could qualify for this is a strange retelling of Charlotte Brontë’s 1853 novel Villette (2016), a play by Linda Marshall Griffiths. I admit, I really didn’t enjoy or understand this one though. I will also include Frances Hodgson Burnett’s A Little Princess which is quite possibly inspired by one of Charlotte Brontë’s unfinished novels called EmmaYes, I know Emma can’t really be considered a classic but I love it and I love Charlotte Brontë. 

  • Two Books that Share the Same Title

The titles discussed above could both technically qualify for this one. The slight change of wording of the Jill McGown book means I’ll opt for the Villette retelling to tick this one off my list.

  • A Classic of Children’s Literature

A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett is just so magical. It’s such a wonderful tale that had me enchanted. I can’t believe I waited so long to read it. The Brontë connection makes it extra special to me. Mary Poppins could also be included here. 

  • A Debut Novel

I’ve managed to get through a few debuts this year. Christian Hayes’ The Fat Detective was the first debut I read this year and is a bit of a modern twist on the classic Private Eye literature of years gone by. I also read The Manual of Detection by Jedidiah Berry. It’s a bit Kafaesque as a clerk wakes up one day to find himself promoted within a mysterious organisation after the disappearance of one of his superiors but is then accused of the murder of another. Other debuts include Osman’s The Thursday Murder Club and Moncrieff’s Murder Most Festive. The House Without Windows is a charming piece of juvenilia written and published in 1927 by Barbara Newhall Follet when she was just 12 years old; I began the year with this one and it was just beautiful. The Mist on Brontë Moor by Aviva Orr was an unexpected delight. 

  • A Piece of Non- Brontë Juvenilia

The House Without Windows by Newhall Follet was the first non-Brontë juvenilia I read in 2020. I would highly recommend this one. A bit like Hodgson Burnett’s A Little Princess, it’s just enchanting. It’s a beautiful story about a child named Eepersip who runs away from her parents’ house to live in the natural world (the house without windows), making friends with animals and living on berries and roots as she travels from place to place. It’s magical and poignant as she must outwit her parents and other adults, and strangely relevant to 2020 as the main character just wants to be free from the restrictions of a society in which she feels the walls are closing in on her. Additionally, I also read The Gipsy Dancer & Early Poems by Australian author Dorothy Hewett. It’s a magical and whimsical collection that gives a glimpse into a child’s view of Australian culture in the first half of the twentieth century.

  • A Piece of Brontë Juvenilia

I’ve read a few pieces this year by Charlotte Brontë that I hadn’t yet read or had only flicked through for research purposes. The first one was Lily Hart (1833). Part of her Glass Town world, the tale features a poor but respectable mother and daughter who come to the aid of a wounded soldier after his friend leaves him in their care. Most recently I read and wrote about The Enfant by Charlotte Brontë from 1829. More of the same next year and more of Branwell’s works too.

  • A Brontë Biography

I’ve started a few this year but the only I’ve actually finished is Anne Brontë ‘Amid the Brave and Strong’ by Ann Dinsdale and others. Published by the Brontë Society it’s a nice little booklet which discusses the wonderful and often overlooked Anne Brontë during the year of her bicentenary celebrations. You can purchase it as I did from the Brontë Parsonage Museum’s online shop. 

  • A Piece of Brontë Inspired Fiction

Earlier this year I read Glass Town by Isabel Greenberg, an adaptation of the Brontë juvenilia. It has the most glorious artwork and is true to the spirit of the original stories.  As wonderful as the concept of Glass Town as a graphic novel is, as a purist, the additions/changes/embellishments were difficult for me to read with pleasure (the voice in my head was screaming what actually happened in the Brontës’ world every time there was a change). Having said that, it is a very enjoyable read that I hope will introduce more people to the wonderful worlds of Glass Town, Angria, and Gondal. Hodgson Burnett’s A Little Princess also gets another nod here too because of Charlotte Brontë’s Emma. I also really enjoyed Aviva Moor’s The Mist on Brontë Moor. Finally there was Restless Spirits by Tracy Neis, a wonderful mash up of Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey.

  • 3 Old Favourites: Jane EyreThe Tenant of Wildfell HallWuthering Heights.

This was a complete and utter failure as I never even picked them up. Shame on me. Next year I will mainly be focusing on re-reading some of my favourite novels so I aim to carry this task over into 2021.

Full List of Books Read in 2020

I smashed my Goodreads target of 35 books by reading 58 books this year. Full list and ratings below for those who are interested. Stay tuned for details of my 2021 Reading Challenge. You can find some of these titles reviewed over on my other blog The Classic Crime Chronicle. All spoiler-free. 

The House Without Windows by Barbra Newhall Follett – 4 stars

Wakenhyrst by Michelle Paver – 5 stars

Glass Town by Isabel Greenberg – 3 stars

Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie – 4 stars

Murder at the Old Vicarage by Jill McGown – 3 stars

The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald – 4 stars

Charlotte Brontë’s Villette Re-Imagined by Linda Marshall Griffiths – 1 star

Hercule Poirot Complete Short Stories by Agatha Christie – 5 stars

Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers – 3 stars

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie – 4 stars

The Mystery of the Blue Train by Agatha Christie – 4.5 stars

Peril at End House by Agatha Christie – 4 stars

The Manual of Detection by Jedidiah Berry – 3 stars

The Greatest Gift by Philip Van Doren Stern – 4 stars

The Fat Detective by Christian Hayes – 3 stars

A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett – 5 stars

The Gipsy Dancer & Early Poems by Dorothy Hewett – 4 stars

Lord Edgeware Dies by Agatha Christie – 4.5 stars

Sorry I Missed You by Suzy Krause – 2.5 stars

Appointment with Death by Agatha Christie – 4.5 stars

The Mysterious Mr. Quin by Agatha Christie – 4 stars

Three Act Tragedy by Agatha Christie – 4 stars

A Sicilian Romance by Ann Radcliffe – 4 stars

Sleeping Murder by Agatha Christie – 3 stars

Death in the Clouds by Agatha Christie – 3 stars

Murder is Easy by Agatha Christie – 3.5 stars

Parker Pyne Investigates by Agatha Christie – 4 stars

By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept by Elizabeth Smart – DNF – 1 star

Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayers – 3 stars

Clouds of Witness by Dorothy L. Sayers – 2 stars

Stealing the Crown by T.P. Fielden – 3.5 stars

Murder in Mesopotamia by Agatha Christie – 4 stars

Inspector French’s Greatest Case by Freeman Wills Crofts – 4 stars

Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie – 5 stars

The Red House Mystery by A.A. Milne – 3 stars

The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie – 3.5 stars

There Was No Possibility of Taking a Walk That Day by various – 4 stars

The Clocks by Agatha Christie – 2.5 stars

Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell – 4 stars

Corpse at the Carnival by George Bellairs – 3 stars

Death of a Busybody by George Bellairs – 4 stars

Evil Under the Sun by Agatha Christie – 5 stars

Gallows Court by Martin Edwards – 4 stars

The Poisoned Chocolates Case by Anthony Berkeley – 4 stars

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman – 2 stars

Mortmain Hall by Martin Edwards – 4.5 stars

I Know That Ghosts Have Wandered The Earth by various (including myself) – 4.5 stars

Restless Spirits by Tracy Neis – 4 stars

The Mist on Brontë Moor by Aviva Orr – 4 stars

Crooked House by Agatha Christie – 5 stars

The Progress of a Crime: A Fireworks Night Mystery by Julian Symons

The Opening Night Murders by James Scott Byrnside – 3 stars

Duplicate Death by Georgette Heyer – 3 stars

The Floating Admiral by The Detection Club – 2 stars

Murder Most Festive by Ada Moncrieff – 4.5 stars

Between the Acts by Virginia Woolf – 3 stars

Anne Brontë ‘Amid the Brave and Strong’ by Ann Dinsdale and others – 4 stars 

Anne Brontë: 200 Artists 200 Pages by various – 5 stars

In Loving Memory of Bob the Bichon (2007-2019)

A lover of life, the Brontës, and Haworth who knows that I’m just going to write because I can’t help it.

By Nicola F. a.k.a. The Brontë Babe. 

Thanks for reading. I’d love it if you stopped by The Journal of Juvenilia Studies where you can read my essay, “Autobiography, Wish-Fulfilment, and Juvenilia. The ‘Fractured Self’ in Charlotte Brontë’s Paracosmic Counterworld”.

Please do not copy, share, or use the images from this post without seeking permission first.

kofi

3 thoughts on “Reading Challenge 2020: The Results”

  1. It is so satisfying to be able to relatively comfortably complete a reading task one’s set oneself, especially with specialist categories. The Frances Hodgson Burnett title is on my Classics Club list and I’ll definitely be reading that this year, by hook or by crook! Congratulations on setting up and maintaning your new crime fiction blog, I’m glad you drew my attention to it!

    Liked by 1 person

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