Having devoured The Secret River, I felt lucky to have this to hand. I am always fascinated by other people’s writing processes, and there were a numbHaving devoured The Secret River, I felt lucky to have this to hand. I am always fascinated by other people’s writing processes, and there were a number of things I really enjoyed about this book. I felt a strong kinship with Kate’s search among archives for pieces of information that would help her put together her story, having just done something similar for Shallow Breath. I thought she did pretty well in not getting the book bogged in details that were probably fascinating to her but perhaps not so much to an outsider – there were only a couple of times I felt I was getting a bit lost in facts and figures.
I really valued the importance Kate placed on visiting the places she was writing about, where possible, to get a feel for them, to try to become a part of the story, and flesh out the small details that would make the book interesting and memorable. I loved envisaging Kate climbing down to stand next to the Thames, and pocketing a bit of old roof tile!
What I also liked very much was how Kate outlines her struggles to find the way to tell this story – the false starts, the realisations, the certainties becoming uncertainties. I think it’s a wonderful thing for all writers to see that a fantastic book comes about through hard work, through being prepared to question your own decisions and change your mind, and that it is not just an effortless slipstream from mind to paper for even the most talented of novelists....more
This is classified as a Young Adult book, but its appeal is much, much broader than that. The simple, precise narrative tells the story of Conor, a yoThis is classified as a Young Adult book, but its appeal is much, much broader than that. The simple, precise narrative tells the story of Conor, a young boy dealing with a terrible event in his life, who has dreamlike episodes where he faces his ‘monster’. It is a book about the horror of loss, the burden of helplessness, the terror of truth, and the insistent voice of hope. A raw, beautiful story....more
From the blurb alone I had a strong suspicion I was going to love this book, and I wasn’t wrong. I’m a big fan of dystopian fiction, I love reading abFrom the blurb alone I had a strong suspicion I was going to love this book, and I wasn’t wrong. I’m a big fan of dystopian fiction, I love reading about alternative societies that are so different in some ways and yet intensely familiar in others. Not only has Hugh Howey constructed an absorbing vision of an intimidating future world, he has also created a fast-paced thriller which will ensure you don’t want to put this book down....more
I was keen to get stuck in to this book after I heard Kate Morton talking about it at Joondalup Library back in November, but I forced myself to waitI was keen to get stuck in to this book after I heard Kate Morton talking about it at Joondalup Library back in November, but I forced myself to wait until Christmas so I had enough time. I loved The Shifting Fog and the Forgotten Garden, and in this, Kate's fourth novel, there are more intriguing characters, a few superb secrets that last all the way through, and effortless shifts of character perspectives, which I so enjoy in stories.
There is a delicacy to Kate's language that I love. She doesn't fill a sentence unnecessarily, but on so many occasions her word choice enhances her descriptions beautifully. As as result it's easy to get lost in her gentle style of storytelling. I was absorbed into the characters' stories - I went over all the options in my mind and so I did guess some of the big twists and turns, but I never settled on anything with too much certainty for it to spoil the intrigue for me. The novel really brings the Blitz to life as well. (I hadn't realised just how many bombs were dropped on London until I read an article in the Daily Mail about a month ago - the word Blitz really does sum it up.)
My only criticism, being very nit-picking, is that I found it extremely convenient that Laurel and Gerry could research so much of their mother's past because everyone involved seemed to have had their diaries and letters placed in museum archives. But this is a very small quibble, and overall I thoroughly enjoyed The Secret Keeper....more
It took me a little while to get into this one, but the characters are superbly drawn. It’s a great mystery combined with a terrifying depiction of aIt took me a little while to get into this one, but the characters are superbly drawn. It’s a great mystery combined with a terrifying depiction of a marriage-gone-wrong – featuring two people who have slowly worn one another down to a point beyond all reason. I loved the unreliable narration, and I found myself swapping sides, rooting for one person then another, never sure who would ‘win’ in the end. Brilliant!...more
Reviewing one's own book always feels a little, er, wrong - and now with the recent furore over authors secretly high-fiving themselves with maximum sReviewing one's own book always feels a little, er, wrong - and now with the recent furore over authors secretly high-fiving themselves with maximum star allocations, I'm not sure this is PC at the moment! However, I hope you'll forgive me this one five-star review, because I love this book just as much as my two previous ones and want to cheer it on its way. I work extremely hard on all my books, but this one was particularly intense - I lived and breathed everything about it for a year, and I'm passionate about the conservation themes that form the backdrop to the family story. I hope that readers enjoy the suspense, become engaged with the wider issues, and feel these characters come to life as much as I did. I am really missing them right now, so perhaps there will be a sequel!
[Shallow Breath will be out in December 2012] ...more
Addie is three years old, and desperately needs a new liver. Her mother, Camille, is used to dealing with the relatives of organ donors through her woAddie is three years old, and desperately needs a new liver. Her mother, Camille, is used to dealing with the relatives of organ donors through her work at the hospital, but this is something altogether different. Caught in the nightmare of a critically ill child, Camille’s emotions begin to splinter, her marriage is tested to the point of fracture, and in her desperation to save Addie she is forced to question where the boundaries of her own morality lie.
One of the only distractions for Camille is the opportunity to curate a retrospective of her father’s sculptures. But as she compiles the notes for this exhibition, she is also drawn back into the lives of her parents, who both died when Camille was young. Her mother Alix had been one of the first female heart surgeons in Australia, but the details of her death have always been indistinct to Camille. As she learns more about her mother and father’s relationship, Addie’s condition continues to worsen, and the family begin a heart-wrenching wait to see if a donor will be found in time.
I was a big fan of Natasha’s first book What is Left Over, After, which won the TAG Hungerford prize, and I have been looking forward to reading If I Should Lose You for quite some time. In this poignant story, one person’s death might offer the chance of life for another. With tremendous emotional acuity, Natasha explores the complex contradictions of what this means in a world that is at once wretched, beautiful, agonising and sublime. The narrative deals with the many responses to loss, and the meanings we ascribe to our bodies, which both represent and hinder the essence of us. It is a book that draws you in on so many levels, and will leave you questioning, What if the unthinkable happened to our family? How would I react, and who might I become?...more
I love this little gem. It shows that a few words can pack enormous meaning. It’s a beautiful book when you’re feeling up, and a comforting one when yI love this little gem. It shows that a few words can pack enormous meaning. It’s a beautiful book when you’re feeling up, and a comforting one when you’re down. The illustrations are superb, and it would make a great gift for someone going through a tough time....more
It is great to see Ferney being re-released in the UK. HarperCollins published this book not long before I began working there back in 2000, and I knoIt is great to see Ferney being re-released in the UK. HarperCollins published this book not long before I began working there back in 2000, and I know the publisher felt that it should have had more attention than it got. I read it over ten years ago, and the ending is still particularly vivid. The love story is absolutely original – a forerunner to The Time Traveller’s Wife – with a beautiful English countryside setting. I won’t give any more away, but if you can find it, read it!
NB: There’s also a sequel, called The Lives She Left Behind, which I’ll be looking out for. ...more
*This review applies to all three books of the Hunger Games trilogy*
This mega-selling trilogy is down as YA fiction (as is Lauren Oliver’s Delirium, a*This review applies to all three books of the Hunger Games trilogy*
This mega-selling trilogy is down as YA fiction (as is Lauren Oliver’s Delirium, another of my Book Loves), but I definitely want to read more if this is where YA is at these days. I refrained from this series for a while as I thought the premise sounded pretty macabre. And it is, but after a few recommendations from trusted reader friends, I shook off my reservations and I’m glad I did. From the first chapter, I was completely absorbed in Katniss Everdeen’s journey. I’ve obviously got a thing for dystopian fiction – I love these vivid re-imagined worlds, the fast-paced action, and the exploration of control and subversion. I’m obviously not alone. Why do these stories appeal to so many people, and teenagers in particular? Perhaps it is because there is obvious and terrible injustice in the real world as to how powerful people control and manipulate others, and in these books there is an opportunity of redress by an everyday, ordinary person. The story of Katniss Everdeen might belong to a fantastical world, but I found one of its strongest themes was that there is hope to be found even in the most powerless, grotesque and overwhelming situations. ...more
In Am I Black Enough for You, Anita Heiss directly tackles the belittling idea that there is only one identity to be found within a specific culturalIn Am I Black Enough for You, Anita Heiss directly tackles the belittling idea that there is only one identity to be found within a specific cultural or ethnic background. With her trademark humour and razor-sharp insight, Anita gracefully explores her identity as an Aboriginal woman, and the intersecting lines of sameness and difference to the people around her. Through her own story, Anita raises numerous questions great and small as to how we all respond to this idea of ‘otherness’, and makes a succession of hard-hitting, challenging points about the narrow-minded assumptions still embedded in western society, which affect everything from the way that history is taught in schools to assuming Anita has a natural affinity for camping (and I think it’s safe to say she doesn’t!).
Anita also talks about the well-known court case where she and eight other applicants took on Andrew Bolt, who had written an article in the Herald Sun suggesting these women had used their Aboriginality to gain professional advantage. The case was won, but that was not the end of it for Anita. When Am I Black Enough for You? came out in April, I was on lockdown trying to finish my novel, but I didn’t miss what happened next. Anita was attacked on various online sites, with racist and derogatory comments, some of which I had the misfortune to read. What struck me most was the suggestion that with this victory, Anita had somehow denied the notion of free speech, when nothing could be further from the truth. In the promotion of free speech as a universal ideal, there is now, ironically, a platform for slander and misrepresentation on a staggering scale. I’m so glad that Anita and her fellow applicants didn’t allow these assertions to go unchallenged, and that they stood up for who they are and everything they have achieved. The Australian book industry wouldn’t be the same without Anita doing all she can to close gaps of communication and understanding, and telling stories to make us think and make us smile....more
This was originally given to me as a University text to study, but I’ve returned to it under my own steam countless times since. It was first publisheThis was originally given to me as a University text to study, but I’ve returned to it under my own steam countless times since. It was first published in 1986, over twenty-five years ago, but its themes are timeless, and Livesay’s writing is seamless. There is a definite focus on female concerns, but the poems go much further. There are commentaries on places and people Livesay knew or observed, and on events that caught her eye. In her Foreword she describes her thinking as being dominated by poverty, racism, and war, but this is not a downbeat collection – perhaps because of what Livesay describes as her overarcing theme: ‘Whether a leap is possible, a miracle of changed feeling, changed thinking’. She also says she hopes that this is the collection she will be remembered by. I can see why, and this is one book I’ll never part with....more
This wonderful piece of fiction won the Pulitzer Prize in 1995. It chronicles the life of Daisy Goodwill, which spans most of the twentieth century. EThis wonderful piece of fiction won the Pulitzer Prize in 1995. It chronicles the life of Daisy Goodwill, which spans most of the twentieth century. Each chapter jumps forward a decade, through her childhood, marriage, motherhood, and later life, combining reflection on these broader themes of her life with insight towards the other banal moments that also make up living. The narrative is interspersed with photos, letters, even shopping lists, and we see Daisy through the eyes of those around her, providing fascinating insight into the notion of identity. If you want to study a master of inventive narrative and character construction, read this book!...more
We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom.
We lived in the gapsWe were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom.
We lived in the gaps between the stories.
Set some time in the future, the main character, Offred, has been designated a Handmaid, and her function is to endure mating rituals in order to bear a child for the couple she belongs too. The Gilead society is cruel and swift to exact punishment on those who disobey its rules. But Offred remembers a life before this, where she had a husband and daughter. Unable to forget the freedom she has known, she makes dangerous choices, and is slowly drawn towards disaster.
This book is right at the top of my all-time favourites, and just writing about it makes me want to go and find it again. I haven’t read it for years, but I can still hear those names called out in the darkness at the end of the first chapter, the brave reassertion of identity under a monstrously repressive regime. Atwood’s writing is mesmerising, and the dystopian world that she has built, where women have no rights and have become classified according to their purpose in relation to men, is both terrifying and heartbreaking. I could contemplate many of the sentences in this book for hours. I was so disappointed when I saw the film – but I think it’s just because there’s no way to translate Atwood’s writing, you need to read this story in its purest form....more
This is a story about friendship, fate, and impossible choices, and it had me ignoring everything I should have been doing until I’d finished. The chaThis is a story about friendship, fate, and impossible choices, and it had me ignoring everything I should have been doing until I’d finished. The characters and their circumstances were so vivid (I loved the teenage Grace), and the slow unravelling of the chain of secrets was beautifully crafted. I’m looking forward to reading more by Diane Chamberlain....more
"They [the elephants] taught me that all life forms are important to each other in our common quest for happiness and survival. That there is more to"They [the elephants] taught me that all life forms are important to each other in our common quest for happiness and survival. That there is more to life than just yourself, your own family, or your own kind."
This is one of the most remarkable stories I’ve read in my life, and has been inspirational to me over the past year. Lawrence Anthony’s retelling of the rescue of a herd of traumatised elephants moved me from the first page to the last. I’ve spent some of the last year writing about elephants for my new novel, and I’d planned to contact Lawrence and tell him how much his book had inspired me. When I came out of my writing haze, handed my book in, and looked up his details on the internet, I found he had died a few weeks earlier, in March 2012, aged 61.
His death was terribly saddening and shocking, and appears to have been unexpected, as he had forthcoming plans to promote his new book The Last Rhinos. He is a great loss to the conservation world, but the most touching tribute does not seem to have come from his fellow man, but from the elephants he saved and loved, who apparently, inexplicably, made the long journey from the bush to his house, and stood for two days in mourning (http://delightmakers.com/news/wild-el...).
Vale Lawrence Anthony. The world will miss you....more
What a sensational debut by ML Stedman! Even the strapline is one of the best I’ve read: This is the story of right and wrong, and how they sometimesWhat a sensational debut by ML Stedman! Even the strapline is one of the best I’ve read: This is the story of right and wrong, and how they sometimes look the same. I loved so much about this book. The central dilemma is absorbing, and I found myself alternately rooting for (and sometimes angry with) each of the characters as they struggle to find resolution. Throughout the story, the descriptions are mesmerising. My favourite lines are 96 pages in: ‘In a place before words, in some other language of creature to creature, with the softening of her muscles, the relaxing of her neck, the baby signalled her trust. Having come so close to the hands of death, life now infused with life like water meets water.’ I did find the beginning a little bit slow, but it’s well worth persevering. ML Stedman manipulates her narrative like a master, and I’m looking forward to finding out what she does next. NB: This book has been optioned for a film too, and I hope it gets made. It would be great to see a story based in Western Australia on the big screen....more
Should I be allowed to rate my own books?!! Then again, if I can't send Beneath the Shadows on its way with a farewell hug and one five-star rating thShould I be allowed to rate my own books?!! Then again, if I can't send Beneath the Shadows on its way with a farewell hug and one five-star rating then that seems a bit of a shame! I have given it five stars because I am so proud of it and love my heroine Grace, her feisty sister Annabel, and even some of the more suspicious characters you'll come across while reading about Grace's search for her missing husband. I hope that its readers thoroughly enjoy the ride....more
I don’t read much in the way of gory crime at the moment, but in the days when I did I thought this book was one of the best. The small town claustropI don’t read much in the way of gory crime at the moment, but in the days when I did I thought this book was one of the best. The small town claustrophobia is brilliantly done, the narrator is fascinating, and the whole thing gave me the creeps all the way through. It’s been some years since I read it and I can still remember the chilling last few lines. Don’t read it on your own at night!...more