I’ve had the same list of top books since I was about eighteen: Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Catcher in the Rye, Dahl’s The Witches, Jill Murphy’s The Worst Witch (I know, bit of a witch theme going on there), The Enemies by Robin Klein, Wild Magic by Tamora Pierce, Zigzag Street by Nick Earls, High Fidelity by Nick Hornby, Bridget Jones’ Diary and Alice in Wonderland.
Even though I’ve read many great books since then – Looking for Alaska, A Brief History of Montmaray and all the subsequent novels by Earls, Hornby and Pierce (as well as my guilty Joanna Trollope pleasures) spring to mind – no book has seriously troubled my top ten.
Until last week.
I’ve been a huge fan of Steven Herrick since I heard him speak when I was about fourteen. It was after this author talk that I decided to become a writer. Steven was so fiercely talented and yet so approachable and “real” that it made me believe that even a kid from the sticks in Tasmania might have a shot at being an author. Of course, it took me ten years to get up the guts to give it a crack, and a further three before I got published, but I still remember sitting there listening to Steven Herrick’s spellbinding talk as the moment that started it all.
Since then, the release of every Herrick book has been an event. I’ve bought most of them the day they came out; lapped them up and been delightedly hungry for more.
They were all five-star books, in my opinion, each as impressive as the last. But my top ten was a pretty hard fortress to crack into. Then along came Black Painted Fingernails.
And … holy moley.
My dad (also a Herrick fan) got there first and told me he inhaled the book in two sittings (the first ending only because he started late at night and had to go to bed). I reckon I would have got there in one had I not started it on a late evening car trip. Fading light thwarted me, otherwise I would not have put it down.
You can go to the publisher website (http://www.allenandunwin.com/default.aspx?page=94&book=9781742374598) if you want a blurb or more info. I find myself almost unable to encapsulate the story in a few words – or, indeed, many, because what seems like a simple road-trip plot is, in fact, so rich and deeply layered and heart-breakingly beautiful it almost seems like an injustice to try and summarise it. All I can say is, it’s lovely. It’s funny and warm and real and true and so absolutely sublime it’s broken through the granite walls of my top ten.
So, which book gets the boot? That, I can’t decide.
I was thinking of making it a top eleven, anyway. Top tens are so last year.