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Posted on 17 Dec 2020 in Fiction, Non-Fiction | 2 comments

NRB readers’ top 10 for 2020

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We’ve crunched the numbers and come up with the ten most popular reviews we’ve run this year, based on reader views. Is your favourite book among them? Here’s a chance to catch up on some you may have missed, or to revisit books that have resonated with you this year.

This is our final post for 2020. As always, it’s been a privilege and a pleasure to work with so many fine reviewers and to get your comments and feedback. We’ll be back with more reviews mid-January. In the meantime, a happy, relaxing and book-filled summer to you all.

Evie Wyld The Bass Rock

Reviewed by Linda Funnell

The Bass Rock opens with a small girl, who we will shortly meet as the grown-up Viv, finding the body of a woman in a suitcase on the beach. As her mother cries, ‘Come away, come away,’ the child sees inside the suitcase …

[This is] an absorbing, and disturbing, account of three women’s lives and the violence that surrounds them.

Read the full review here.

Anna Downes The Safe Place

Reviewed by Ashley Kalagian Blunt

The Safe Place begins with a dreamlike escape. A young Londoner in a Ramones T-shirt and worn sneakers boards a private jet and arrives in France, where a chauffeur escorts her to a secluded luxury estate on the coast. …

How exactly the elegant estate is unsafe provides the first driving question of this compelling psychological thriller.

Read the full review here.

Jasper Fforde The Constant Rabbit

Reviewed by Robert Goodman

It is not very far into The Constant Rabbit that readers familiar with Jasper Fforde’s work will know, without doubt, they are in a Fforde novel. And it does not even take the appearance of a human-sized talking rabbit. No, it is the group of local English villagers… [who] ensure that the library can be effectively open for its regulation six minutes. Of course, it is the appearance of Connie the rabbit … that gets this whole bizarre plot rolling.

Read the full review here.

Steven Conte The Tolstoy Estate

Reviewed by Paul Anderson

Yasnaya Polyana is the setting for The Tolstoy Estate. It is the Tolstoy estate, the former family home of the Russian writer Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy, where he wrote War and Peace. It’s October–November 1941 and (no spoiler) very cold …

The Tolstoy Estate is an intelligent blockbuster, a clever historical fiction and an illuminating novel.

Read the full review here.

Lauren Chater Gulliver’s Wife

Reviewed by Sally Nimon

There’s an old saying: behind every great man there’s a great woman. But in 18th-century England the struggles of women, no matter how hard, dangerous or heroic, count for little when set against the exploits of men. … This is the proposition that Chater explores ... [in] a story packed full of the trials, tests and tribulations readers associate with the name Gulliver, just not the Gulliver you know.

Read the full review here.

Sophie Hardcastle Below Deck

Reviewed by Ann Skea

Below Deck is a remarkably ambitious novel. Its chapters span an arc of emotions, people, landscapes and lands. And Oli, who tells her own story, tells it in language which is often poetic, imaginative and allusive. The title, too, suggests not only Oli’s sailing experiences but also the hidden psychological depths which come from those experiences.

Read the full review here.

Robert Dessaix The Time of Our Lives

Reviewed by Ann Skea

The Time of Our Lives is, by turns, philosophical, down-to-earth, sad and funny. For Dessaix, an abundant inner life is what will sustain us ‘right through to the end’ … It is shaped, he says, ‘by an unending playful curiosity about the world’, and this is exactly the approach he demonstrates in this book.

Read the full review here.

Donna Ward She I Dare Not Name

Reviewed by Shelley McInnis

She I Dare Not Name is a superbly crafted memoir composed of 27 personal essays, each of which could stand on its own as a meditation on, for example, silence, solitude, friendship, or the meaning of life. Altogether, it shows how [Donna Ward], a learned woman whose childhood was unusual but whose aspirations were not, arrives at a spinsterhood she finds surprising, challenging and, ultimately, rewarding.

Read the full review here.

Arnold Zable The Watermill

Reviewed by Suzanne Marks

In his quartet of stories, based on real people and events, Arnold Zable travels to places whose histories feature, within living memory, genocidal regimes that visited unimaginable atrocities upon their victims … Zable bears witness to survivors’ experiences of suffering and loss, and how they have transcended tragedy and forged new paths of meaning, wisdom and love.

Read the full review here.

Anne Scrimgeour On Red Earth Walking

Reviewed by Kathy Gollan.

In 1946 Aboriginal workers on the remote sheep stations of the Pilbara walked off the job in support of better wages and conditions. It was the start of a three-year battle against pastoralists, police and the punitive Native Administration Act that, against all the odds, the strikers won. Skilfully blending official documents with newspaper accounts, letters, and her own interviews with the participants, historian Anne Scrimgeour tells the story of this long-running strike. 

Read the full review here.


  1. Thanks for the terrific reviews. Look forward to reading more in the new year.

    • Our pleasure!