Posted by: Lisa Hill | December 29, 2021

2021 A Year in First Lines

First Lines woodcut by Kent Ambler

With thanks to Brona from Brona’s Books as the catalyst, here is my year in first lines.  The rules are that we should post the first line of the first post from each month, but as you will see, some months, I posted twice on the first day.  Plus, I have my own additional rule: if the first post was #6Degrees which always begins the same way, I add the second line as well.

January

Six Degrees of Separation: from Hamnet to….

This month’s #6Degrees starts with the winner of the 2020 Women’s Prize for Fiction, Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell.  Which (as predicted) I did not find time to read during the festive season.

February

A Close Run Thing, by David Treweek

I’ve been reading some sombre books lately, so I was pleased to turn to this light-hearted romp, authored by one of the librarians at my local library.

March

Present Darkness, (Detective Emmanuel Cooper #4), by Malla Nunn

It’s Southern Cross Crime Month at Reading Matters, and my choice of Present Darkness by Swazi-born, Sydney-based author, screenwriter and film-maker Malla Nunn is an apt choice, if I do say so myself, because it’s set in South Africa where (except in Spring) they too can see the Southern Cross in the night sky!

April

Six Degrees of Separation: from Shuggie Bain, to…

This month’s #6Degrees starts with the 2020 Booker Prize winner, Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart.  Just this week I read a review of this which compared it to a thinly disguised misery memoir, evoking memories of Angela’s Ashes.

Baho! by Roland Rugero, translated by Chris Schaefer

Once again, a recommendation from the Johannesburg Review of Books has turned out to be excellent reading.

May

The Watermelon Boys, by Ruqaya Izzidien

The review of The Watermelon Boys in the Asian Review of Books was intriguing: a retelling of WW1 from an Iraqi perspective.

June

Announcing 2021 Indigenous Literature Week at ANZ LitLovers

2021 is the 10th anniversary of ANZ LitLovers Indigenous Literature Week: a virtual event that has always been about encouraging Australians to read and learn from Indigenous authors and to celebrate all forms of Indigenous Writing.

July

The Dialogue of Two Snails, by Federico García Lorca, translated by Tyler Fisher

It’s Spanish Lit month over at Winston’s Dad, so it’s time to venture into the work of the avant-garde poet Federico García Lorca (1898-1936).

August

Triangle, by Katharine Weber

The 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire with its eerie resonances to 9/11 and a recent documentary to mark its anniversary, is well-known in New York.

September

His Only Wife, by Peace Adzo Medie

The cover of my edition of His Only Wife by Ghanaian author Peace Adzo Medie includes comments from Wayetu Moore that it’s ‘hilarious, a gem of a debut’ and from Kirkus Reviews that it’s ‘a Crazy Rich Asians for West Africa, with a healthy splash of feminism.’ 

October

Book Giveaway winner: The Sweetest Fruits, by Monique Truong

It’s time to draw the winner of the giveaway offer from Upswell Press.

November

The Disinvent Movement, by Susanna Gendall

To kick off Novellas in November (#NovNov), let’s start with a very interesting novella from New Zealand that nods to the real problem that underlies COP26.

December

The Sentimentalists, by Johanna Skibsrud

There was lively discussion at the blog of the late Kevin From Canada when The Sentimentalists was nominated for the 2010 Giller Prize, much of it focussing on the difficulty of Skribsud’s poetic prose and her way her layered text often demands re-reading.

 


So…

What do these first lines reveal about my blog in 2021?

While none of us expected that 2021 would be pretty much like 2020, it was.  For some of us, the stoicism began to falter a bit.  To counter that, I did pretty much what I have always done, but I did it with renewed purpose.  Yes, I kept on reading, writing my reviews, and joining in memes and other litbloggers’ ‘weeks’ and ‘months’.  I reported on the virtual festivals that I ‘attended’ and I shared whatever bookish news came my way.  But I did this with an awareness that for some people in lockdown or isolation, this little blog could help a bit with loneliness or boredom.  Writing it certainly stopped me from doomscrolling!

These first lines link to ten reviews of books I did read and two that I haven’t read yet.  Two are Australian and one is from New Zealand, and the others are international.  Did I read more international fiction in 2021?  I don’t know.  I’ve reviewed 61 new Australian releases this year, down a bit on the previous year, but still, that’s just the new releases.  Once again I am weighing whether or not to invest time in doing stats for 2021…

As in 2020 you can see #6 Degrees making an appearance because we are supposed to post it on the first Saturday of each month: Thanks to Kate from Books are My Favourite and Best who maintains the meme in all its zany manifestations.  Thanks also to Kim and Stu for hosting their respective ‘months’, and to the contributors at both the Johannesburg and Asian Reviews of Books.

This meme has triggered some observations not immediately apparent.  There are two books that I’d never have come across if not for lockdown.

  • David Treweek’s A Close Run Thing has a special place in my memories because I found out about it from chatting to the librarian at the Click and Collect desk when 2020’s long lockdown eased a bit. (Does it sound crazy when I say that I still remember the feeling of joy at being allowed to go to the library?  Not to other library lovers in Melbourne, it doesn’t.)
  •  The review of Triangle by Katharine Weber came about from references to it in an online course about Yiddish Women writers that I took through the Melbourne Jewish Museum.  Chez nous, we are loving the online #NoTraffic #NoParking opportunities that have come our way courtesy of the pandemic…

October’s giveaway symbolises a remarkable thing.  The giveaway is from a new publishing company started by former UWAP publisher Terri-Ann White..  It’s a brave thing to start a small indie publishing business at any time — but in the middle of a pandemic, it’s heroic!

What do your first lines say about you? 

 


Responses

  1. I love that you bring books to my attention that I might otherwise miss. Thank you, Lisa.

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    • You’re welcome Rosemary:)
      BTW I love the concept behind your blog!

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  2. I remembered the other say doing this post in the past, but while it’s fun to do (and can be illuminating) I’ve decided not to do it again this year – just because I have too many posts coming up.

    BTW I had a different Six Degrees rule last time I did it. I qualified my first lines as being for the first NON-regular post (ie not Six Degrees and not Monday Musings).

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    • LOL I haven’t got anything organised yet…

      Liked by 1 person

      • I bet you will though! You’ve said this before, but I’m thinking that, like me, curiosity gets you in the end? Still you might prove me wrong one year. [smile]

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        • We’ll see. I sometimes see people in our network of litbloggers berating themselves because they haven’t reached some self-imposed target and I remind them that we do this for fun and not as an obligation, so I have to take my own advice.
          But I’m in Do It Yourself Lockdown till my booster takes effect so I should have plenty of time…

          Liked by 1 person

          • Good for you. We had our booster on 14th December, 8 days before going to Melbourne. They refused to let us bring it forward a week so we could feel well-protected, and then on 11/12th December they changed the rules to 5 months. We were DARK about that but too late to do anything about it! Such is COVID life!!!

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            • Yes… I had access to it later than you and The Spouse, because I’m younger. It was only by chance that when I went for my flu shot to the doc, he said that I had been eligible for the first priority release because of various pre-existing conditions, and he printed out the relevant documentation to give to the vaccination centre to prove it. And then, of course, because I’d just had the flu shot, I had to wait another two weeks before having the first Covid shot. I don’t know if this is unreasonable in a busy practice, but I think that doctors could have reviewed their databases and got in touch with folks like me who didn’t realise that not only were we eligible but also a priority because of our health status, as distinct from over 70s who might well have been in perfect health.
              Still, I shouldn’t complain. I consider the entire vaccine program a miracle of cooperation among the international science community, and I’m happy to take whatever I’m eligible for, whenever it’s available.

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              • Actually I’m only a couple of months younger than you and am not 70 yet, but it was back in April, the day after the first big government AZ announcement, and so I just tagged along with Mr Gums who was eligible, prepared to argue that given we live together surely it would be sensible go be vaccinated together, but, though I had to give my clearly not 70 yet birthdate three times, no one batted an eyelid. I think they were pleased to have people rolling up! We went to the government clinic as our GP wasn’t and still isn’t doing I’d vaccinations. We had been signed up for our flu injections that week, so we postponed those.

                And yes, I agree, we can think of all the better ways it could have been handled but in the end, as you say, we are just pleased to be vaccinated.

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                • Oooh, you crafty woman!

                  Liked by 1 person

                • Younger! Not “you get”. That’s what you get for trying to type on a phone in the car!

                  Liked by 1 person

  3. I, too, will run out of time for these sorts of posts this year. Will do my annual wrap of the year in the next day or so, but I was so determined to finish 2021 off with all my read books reviewed, that I’ve had no brain space left for anything else!
    But thanks for reminding me of this one. The link above is to my old blog – here’s a link that will take you to last year’s post and the new blog – https://bronasbooks.com/2020/12/16/a-year-in-first-lines/

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    • Happy new year, Brona… here’s to reading lots of beaut books and good conversations about them on the blog!

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  4. The main take away for me having read all these first lines, is that it shows you read a great variety of books – but then I already knew that :)

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    • Thanks, Karen, happy new year!

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