An Ordinary Epidemic explores the impact of a pandemic through the experience of one family in suburban Sydney.
When a few people die from a mysteriousAn Ordinary Epidemic explores the impact of a pandemic through the experience of one family in suburban Sydney.
When a few people die from a mysterious illness within a few days, Hannah starts stockpiling food. She keeps her son home from school and begs her husband not to go into the office. When the government declares a state of quarantine, what looked at first like hysterical paranoia begins to seem like good sense.
Hannah is not an easy character to like but, as a parent myself, I find her behaviour understandable. She is determined to take whatever measures are necessary to ensure that her family will survive the epidemic. But as the death toll rises, her sense of right and wrong are called into question. Should she have to share her precious food with neighbours who didn't bother to prepare in time? Can she leave a young child to fend for herself, or should she take her in at the risk of infecting her own family?
An Ordinary Epidemic is a tense, gripping, claustrophobic story of human nature in desperate times, which had me stocking up on beans and rice....more
Let Her Go is an intelligent and emotional fictional exploration of how infertility and surrogacy affects families.
Using the psychological insight drLet Her Go is an intelligent and emotional fictional exploration of how infertility and surrogacy affects families.
Using the psychological insight drawn from her background in psychiatry, Dawn explores the complexity of our family relationships - with children, siblings, step-siblings and step-parents, and with spouses, and how these can be further complicated when people struggle to have children. The issues are explored with sensitivity and compassion and without judgement.
This is a page-turning story that will be relatable to so many readers: I read it in a single sitting.
*I'm not rating it because Dawn and I are members of a writers' collective so a rating might be perceived as bias....more
Sometime in the not-too-distant future women have become extinct. The privileged few live in The Colony, forming all-male families and raising test-tuSometime in the not-too-distant future women have become extinct. The privileged few live in The Colony, forming all-male families and raising test-tube babies. When Callum is kidnapped by bikies he sees a different world. While escaping, he meets Bo and together they cross the country looking for Callum's fathers. Along the way they face danger and adventure and their bond is tested. Together, they discover The Colony is not all it seems.
Bo & Callum are likeable characters - gutsy and tenacious. The social structures of the new world order are well-though out, plausible and interesting. Unlike much YA fiction, Vulture's Gate did not spoon-feed the reader. But I had the same problem with this book that I have with almost all YA novels - I wanted more depth. Murray has obviously thought deeply about every facet of the world she's created in Vulture's Gate, and I wanted to walk through it, savouring every nuance, rather than just skimming the surface, taking in only just enough to whet my appetite....more
When a book receives a giant advance and that advance is made very public, it can be difficult for the book to live up to expectations. To me, a bookWhen a book receives a giant advance and that advance is made very public, it can be difficult for the book to live up to expectations. To me, a book deemed worthy of a $1 million advance should be so amazing it makes my eyeballs pop out. So in measuring my initial response to Burial Rites against the hype, I would have to say I was underwhelmed. It was well-written, but the language was not beautiful enough to have me busy underlining, as I am wont to do. The story was interesting but not strikingly original, in fact, it felt strongly reminiscent of Atwood’s Alias Grace. I also found the pace a little slow, especially in the first half.
But a couple of days after finishing, the story and characters have stayed with me. With more time to ponder it, I am impressed with the way Kent filled the gaps in the story. The details of everyday life in Iceland were fascinating and embedded into the story so seamlessly the research felt invisible, though it must have been extensive. The relationship between Agnes and Toti was intriguing and the details of Agnes’s relationship with Natan and the events that led to the crime were rendered suspensefully. Also, the end, though you knew it was coming, was deeply moving. ...more
With prose that is simultaneously gritty and sublime; this book grabbed me by the throat from the first paragraph.
The point-of-view is startlingly oriWith prose that is simultaneously gritty and sublime; this book grabbed me by the throat from the first paragraph.
The point-of-view is startlingly original, the writing so visceral and real I could almost hear the sound of the horses' hooves on the mountain, and the story of Jessie's plight and escape is gripping. The two men who are pursuing Jessie, for reasons that they hide from each other and are not entirely clear to themselves, are also wonderful, well-rounded characters.
I'll definitely be reading whatever Collins writes next....more
Kirsten Krauth's 'just_a_girl' is a tense, edgy and compelling insight into adolescence which I read in a single sitting.
The central character, LaylaKirsten Krauth's 'just_a_girl' is a tense, edgy and compelling insight into adolescence which I read in a single sitting.
The central character, Layla is 14 years old. Seemingly streetwise and social media savvy, she has the terrifying overconfidence of the young and puts herself at tremendous risk with her sexual behaviour, which includes meeting up with older men she has connected with online. Her recklessness creates a sense of ongoing dread in the reader, which contributes to the suspense of the novel.
Though she may not be aware of it, Layla is searching for connection. Her parents are separated and she rarely sees her father. She falls out with her best friend and does not seem to have other friends her own age. Her mother, Margot, worries about her, but doesn't know how to talk to her.
Margot is also seeking connection. Struggling with depression and unable to move on from the failure of her marriage to Layla's father, she seeks support through an evangelical church. Layla's disinterest in the church serves to further disconnect mother and daughter, but they both fall under the spell of the charismatic pastor and this triangle creates a dramatic focus for the novel.
Gritty and confronting, this is a disturbing and perceptive portrait of a generation who are growing up too fast, perpetually 'connected' through social media but struggling to find true connection. ...more
A really enjoyable psychological suspense story which centres on the complex relationships between two families over two generations and takes place aA really enjoyable psychological suspense story which centres on the complex relationships between two families over two generations and takes place against a backdrop of animal conservation which I found very interesting (and also at terms disturbing). I read it in a couple of settings and loved the way the mystery unfolded. ...more
Fractured is the first novel I've read which deals with the issue of post-natal psychosis - an issue which is often sensationalised and misrepresentedFractured is the first novel I've read which deals with the issue of post-natal psychosis - an issue which is often sensationalised and misrepresented in the media. Fractured explores the tragic implications of this illness with sensitivity, in a page-turning story which I read in a couple of sittings.
Dawn Barker captures very accurately the bewilderment and sense of being completely overwhelmed that new mothers feel, as well as the emotions of a new father, who is aware that his wife is struggling but unsure how best to support her.
The novel begins on the day of Anna's breakdown, but Anna is so unwell she can't remember where she has been or what has happened. Her husband Tony is left to piece it together while he also deals with the repercussions of her illness. There is a great deal of suspense as the narrative moves between the novel's present, and the day of the breakdown, with the full picture of events revealed only gradually.
I think one of the best things about this novel was the way other characters responded to Anna's illness, and her actions while she was affected by post-natal psychosis. Her husband and his parents are conflicted, on one hand wanting to support her, and on the other, blaming her for something she had no control over. It is an insight into how people with mental health issues are often treated.
This is a page-turning psychological drama on a topic which needs to be written and talked about more in order to be better understood.
*I am not giving it a rating because I'm in a writer's group with Dawn and any rating I gave might be perceived as biased. ...more
Debris is the first novel in "The Veiled Worlds' trilogy, set in a world that resembles both the future and the past.
The most striking thing about thDebris is the first novel in "The Veiled Worlds' trilogy, set in a world that resembles both the future and the past.
The most striking thing about the novel is the central premise around which the world of the book has been built, which is that humans have evolved to be able to manipulate matter, by which I mean that they can control aspects of the physical world, simply through the power of their minds. I don't think I've ever read a speculative fiction built around a principle of physics, and since I am not very good with abstract concepts, i was a little worried that I wouldn't be able to understand it. But Anderton's world-building is skillful - she introduces the concepts around working with 'pions' at just the right pace to keep the reader intrigued and informed, while also ensuring they are a seamless part of the storytelling.
The plot is a classic riches to rags or fall from grace story in which an 'accident' changes Tanyana's status from one of society's elite to a member of an almost untouchable caste. What gives the story interest is that Tanyana knows her accident was no such thing: there is a conspiracy involved and she is determined to get to the bottom of it. In the meantime, she must adjust to her new status, and attempt to get along with the other outcasts who are now her companions, as well as coming to terms with and learning to manage the unexpected new powers that come with her new role as a debris collector.
There was an interesting cast of characters, and Tanyana is a strong protagonist who it is easy to relate to and root for. There was one aspect of her circumstances in which I found her naivete implausible, and the romance element of the book struck me as a little cheesy at times (although I know how hard it is to write romance) but on the whole I found this a fascinating and pacey read with some dramatic action scenes and plenty to interest a reader in the sequel.
I'm not naturally drawn to historical fiction, but I was utterly captivated by the story of 'Fish Meggie' - a girl born into a poor fishing village onI'm not naturally drawn to historical fiction, but I was utterly captivated by the story of 'Fish Meggie' - a girl born into a poor fishing village on a remote coast of Scotland in the 1890s and the many unexpected turns her life took.
The novel is in the form of a diary, written by Meggie, in her old age, for her granddaughter. Often I find the trope of an older person looking back on their life distancing, but occasionally (think 'The Blind Assassin') it really works and this is the case with Meggie's story, mostly because of Meggie's voice, which is so gutsy and singular.
Meggie is a woman ahead of her time, even as a child, chafing against the reduced place of women in her community, vowing never to marry, and certainly never to endure the indignity of wading through the freezing ocean, carrying a man on her shoulders so that he might stay warm and dry for a night's fishing.
I particularly loved the section in which Meggie, aged fifteen, left her village for the first time to be a 'gutting girl'. Despite the privations of the job, Meggie revels in her newfound freedom and the joys (and dangers) of exploring the wide world. The phenomenal detail about a now lost way of live make this section absolutely riveting to read, and there is a gorgeous love story to boot.
There is a great deal of tragedy in this novel, and a sense of lessons learned the hard way, but these are always balanced by the joy of community, and hope, and also by Amanda's beautiful prose:
'When things change, something new enters the space you live in, something you must move with, turn to, chafe against, until you ease a new shape for yourself. But something is lost, too, in the changing, some small piece if your world gone for good.'
*I know Amanda as a friend and writing colleague so I am not rating this book....more
A historical novel with a murder mystery at its heart, set in a fictitious and richly imagined country town in the 1800s; there was much to enjoy abouA historical novel with a murder mystery at its heart, set in a fictitious and richly imagined country town in the 1800s; there was much to enjoy about this quirky, original novel.
In its evocation of the time period the voice was perfect - moral, precise, restrained - but it also had a seam of tongue-in-cheek humour running through it that gave it a contemporary zing.
The characters too were beautifully drawn - complex, diverse and invested with foibles and back stories that made them wholly believable.
The mystery, culminating in a courtroom drama, was sufficiently tricky to keep me guessing until the end.
And yet, despite all these things, I never felt completely consumed by this book. I could put it down for days at a time without even thinking about it - I just never fully engaged.
I'm not sure if this is perhaps because there were too many characters and it was hard to get to know Ivorie enough to be really rooting for her. or if the language, much as I enjoyed it, had a distancing effect. I can't put my finger on what it was, but there was definitely some element missing for me in this novel.
Having said this, I think Preston is an exciting new voice in Australian fiction and I'll be interested to see what she writes next.
*This review is my first for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2013...more