In the High Peaks

Monday, August 29, 2022

Elizabeth Finch by Julian Barnes and The 20 Books of Summer Finale

 I'd originally intended to put Julian Barnes's new book, Elizabeth Finch, on my list back in May. But the August release date was late enough that I figured I'd never get it from the library in time. But it worked out. The narrator meets the most enigmatic, charismatic, and life-changing teacher when he takes a Culture and Civilization course. The students are mostly in their late twenties, as is the narrator. His inner life is transformed, but is it the middle-aged Elizabeth Finch that transforms him, her ideas and strategies of inquiry into religious and philosophical controversies of the past three millenia, or his academic relationship with her? This is a fascinating "novel of ideas," as many critics have pointed out.  In the hands of another writer, I would have given this novel a pass, but I am an admirer of Julian Barnes and find his novels tremendously thought-provoking. If this one doesn't sound like the book for you, do try his novel The Sense of an Ending, his Man Booker Prize winner. It's one I'll reread again and again.

My final 20 Books of Summer List is as follows. I really enjoyed almost all of the books I read. Participating definitely made this a much more interesting summer than it would have been otherwise. I hope to do it again next year. I had to replace 7 books. Based on this experience and my practice since 2021, I can see that pre-planning what I read really works for me. I tend to balance the subjects and genres of what I read more than ever before, and think through ahead of time what I want to read. A nice bonus.

1.     All the Lovers in the Night by Mieko Kawakami  (trans. fr. Japanese)  ck

2.     Outside by Ragnar Jonasson  (trans fr. Icelandic)  ck

3.     Trailed: One Woman’s Quest to Solve the Shenandoah Murders by Kathryn Miles (NF) ck

4.     The Tsarina’s Daughter by Ellen Alpsten  ck

5.     Ashton Hall by Lauren Belfer  ck

6.     This Time Tomorrow by Emma Straub  ck

7.     The Midcoast by Adam White  ck

8.     Flying Solo by Linda Holmes  Replaced by: The House across the Lake by Riley Sager  ck

9.     The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill  ck

10.  The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy  Replaced by The Half Life of Valery K by Natasha Pulley  ck

11.  Fellowship Point by Alice Elliott Dark ck

12.  Daisy Darker by Alice Feeney  Replaced by Writers and Lovers by Lily King  ck

13.  The Wild Hunt by Emma Seckel  Replaced by  A History of Present Illness by Anna DeForest

14.  I Will Die in a Foreign Land by Kalani Pickhart (2021) Replaced by Rumer Godden: A Storyteller's Life by Alice Chisholm  ck

15.  The Disinvited Guest by Carol Goodman  ck

16.  The German Wife by Kelly Rimmer  Replaced by:  Elizabeth Finch by Julian Barnes ck

17.  Atomic Anna by Rachel Barenbaum   Replaced by: The House at Riverton by Kate Morton  ck

18.  After the Romanovs: Russian Exiles in Paris by Helen Rappaport (NF) Replaced by: The Uninhabitable Earth: Life after Warming by David Wallace-Wells  ck

19.  The Serpent Pool by Martin Edwards  (Lake District #4)  ck

      20.   In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden  ck (Classics Club Spin)



  1. From your list I have only read In This House of Brede, and that was back in 1975 I think. Will you be reading After the Romanovs sometime?

    1. I may be. Have you read it? I've read several histories by Helen Rappaport and they were both excellent. Did you enjoy In This House of Brede, by the way? Also, the vast majority of the books on my list were published in 2022.

  2. After reading The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes, I am ready to try anything else he has written. I enjoyed that one so much. So I will be getting a copy of Elizabeth Finch for sure.

    I am glad you found 20 Books of Summer was good for planning your reading. I did too, but I only read 12 of my books, although I am working on #13 now. I hope to read the rest of them before the end of the year.

    1. I agree--The Sense of an Ending makes me willing to try all of Julian Barnes's other novels and nonfiction works. He also wrote a cooking memoir of sorts, Pedant in the Kitchen, which JoAnn recently read.

  3. You had an excellent summer reading fest Judith. I actually have All the Lovers of the Night checked out of the library right now and a copt of Breasts and Eggs by the author in eBook format. I'm not familiar with Elizabeth Finch but. I loved A Sense of an Ending - 5 stars for me. The Disinvited Guest and Outside were (2) DNF for me this year. They just worn't working for me. Fellowship Point is on my fall list.

    Here's to some excellent fall reading picks.

    1. I totally agree, Diane! The Disinvited Guest and Outside were my two least favorite books on the list I read. There were two others that I tried to read and ditched after page 70. But basically, it was such a happy reading summer--who could ask for more?
      And The Sense of an Ending! 5 stars for sure--ten stars even! I need to reread this one.
      I definitely think you will enjoy Fellowship Point and will look forward to hearing your thoughts about it.

  4. I really liked the first Lake District mystery - the second one not as much but I will definitely continue with the series. Thanks for the recommendation. I also suggested my book group read The Woman in the Library for September.

  5. I got a kick out of The Woman in the Library. Definitely a likable, really enjoyable read, to my mind.

  6. Emma Straub's father just died. She was quoted in several outlets.

    1. Thanks for letting me know. I'm so sorry to hear about this, especially given the subject and themes of her most recent novel.

  7. You have a long book list. Good luck with it.

  8. Good luck with your book list, a long one!