Hello there, and welcome to the thrilling final installment of my books of the year - it's time for fiction! Hurrah! A good year, all in all, Booker mishaps aside, I'd say. It was also a good year for novels by my contemporaries - there was Ivo Stourton's slick The Book Lover's Tale; Anna Stothard's warm and vivid The Pink Hotel, and Jonathan Lee's inventive and accomplished Who is Mr Satoshi?, not to mention Leo Benedictus' post-modern The Afterparty.
1. At Last by Edward St Aubyn
|Beware the teeny martini|
2. The Tragedy of Arthur by Arthur Phillips
|King Arthur: Real?|
3 The London Train by Tessa Hadley
What a novel should be - well-observed, beautifully written, surprising, funny and moving, this diptych shows two marriages in disrepair. Hadley's prose is filled with light; her eyes are keen, and her heart is clearly warm and open.
4. My Former Heart by Cressida Connolly
|A Parrot. Possibly psychotic.|
5. Gods without Men by Hari Kunzru
6. The Champion by Tim Binding
This funny and highly acute satire of middle English life was somewhat overlooked this year; I highly recommend its tale of a Kent boy done good who wreaks havoc on his home town, to the detriment of its professional classes, it's full of insight and wit.
7. Ragnarok by A S Byatt
A numinous and powerful retelling of the myths of Asgard and the ends of the gods, it also works as part memoir and part ecological warning. More of a between novels stopgap, it's still worth reading to watch a master of prose at work.
8. By Nightfall by Michael Cunningham
A married middle aged man falls in love with a beautiful young man; Cunningham perceptively and feelingly dissects the fallout of despair.
9. A Kind Man by Susan Hill
Taut and tense, this tale of the miraculous seeping into the everyday brings with it wisdom and strength.
10. Ransom by David Malouf and The Lost Books of the Odyssey by Zachary Mason
These both came out last year but they are marvellous: Malouf retells the last book of the Iliad, delving into the concept of ransom - Priam himself was ransomed as a boy, and he gained his name from that - it's a beautiful, eerie, poetical work. Mason's is dreamlike - he relates, in kaleidoscope fashion, different versions of the Odyssey; in which the latter's identity is subsumed; where Ariadne becomes Calypso; where Achilles is a robot. It's great fun.
11. The Hunter by Julia Leigh
So a Happy New Book Year to you all, and I look forward to seeing you in 2012. Now, another martini?