Last year I did a Top 5 Books of 2017 Countdown and kind of assumed all the way through 2018 that I would do the same thing again this year. Then I sat down and looked at the books I have read this year and more importantly how many books I have read this year (at the time of compiling my Top 5 I was reading my 96th book of the year) and realised I had well and truly made a rod for my own back.
The thing is, I have read a lot of great books this year and according to Goodreads have given 36 five star reviews and 47 four star reviews, so how on earth was I going to narrow those down to just five books? The answer? With great difficulty.
I’ve chosen my Top 5 from the books which were published in 2018 which I have given five stars to. This did reduce the list somewhat, although didn’t make it any easier. It took me ages to choose just five, but I am happy with the ones I have chosen, because they are incredible books which have moved me, kept me engrossed, been an absolute joy to read or have stayed with me long after I have read the final sentence.
So, without further ado, here is the book which came in at number 4 in my Top 5 Books of 2018. I announced the book that took the number 5 spot last Thursday and over the next three Thursdays will be counting down to my top book of the year which will be announced on the 20th December, I do hope you check back to see my final list. 😀
OK then, drumroll please…..
Book 4 is Bitter by Francesca Jakobi
Confession. I had an advanced copy of this book on my Kindle for months and months and didn’t get round to reading it at all. I then read a review from a fellow blogger (Anne over at Random Things Through My Letterbox) and I kicked myself because it sounded brilliant so I bumped it up the list and I am so pleased that I did. This is one of those books that slowly creeps up on you, gets under your skin and finds a place in your heart. The writing is careful and considered and the protagonist, Gilda, is one who will stay with me forever.
About The Book
It’s 1969, and while the summer of love lingers in London, Gilda is consumed by the mistakes of her past. She walked out on her beloved son Reuben when he was just a boy and fears he’ll never forgive her.
When Reuben marries a petite blonde gentile, Gilda takes it as the ultimate rejection. Her cold, distant son seems transformed by love – a love she’s craved his entire adult life. What does his new wife have that she doesn’t? And how far will she go to find out?
It’s an obsession that will bring shocking truths about the past to light . . .
Bitter is a beautiful and devastating novel about the decisions that define our lives, the fragility of love and the bond between mother and son
Bitter by Francesca Jakobi is one of those books that burrows its way under your skin and deep into your heart leaving an impression long after the last page. It is a startling and accomplished debut novel; subtle, nuanced and exquisitely drawn with a flawed protagonist who is deeply damaged and utterly compelling.
Gilda is a complex woman. A German jew who was sent to a boarding school in England and married off to her Father’s business associate just before the outbreak of World War 2, she is troubled and carries the scars of her past deep in her psyche. Her son, Reuben has recently married Alice and she is profoundly jealous of their union and of the easy way in which he shows love to his new wife. His and Gilda’s relationship is fractious, he holds her at arms length and she seems to be permanently trying to bridge the gap between them.
It is the relationship between Gilda and her son that is at the heart of this book. Francesca Jakobi writes movingly and affectingly about their complicated and multi-layered relationship. He has never forgiven her for abandoning him as a child but as we discover through the compelling and engaging flashbacks that things were not quite as straightforward as they appeared to be.
I really enjoyed the flashbacks and glimpses into Gilda’s life as a child, teen and adult. The descriptions of an affluent household in pre-war Germany allowed us to see a part of social history that isn’t always examined, especially the impact on German jews who fled the country. It is through these moments that we come to understand Gilda and put the pieces together. On the surface she appears to be a complicated woman but in reality she is the opposite needing only one thing from life; love.
It takes an incredibly skilled writer to write a character like Gilda and make her both likeable and believable. Francesca Jakobi weaves a quietly unsettling tale which explores Gilda’s determination to be involved in Reuben and Alice’s life. Her behaviour is obsessive and uncomfortable but heartbreakingly sad and emotionally affecting. It is a compelling read with a quiet power and a plot which quietly draws you in. I know that I won’t forget this book in a hurry.
Bitter was published in paperback on the 4th October and can be be bought here.
Check back next week to see which book took the number 3 spot on my Top 5.