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Melbourne Library Service | 139 comments Five Book Club Picks to Get You Talking

Jo Case, program manager of Melbourne Writers Festival, recommends five books from this year’s Festival just perfect for your book club.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Big Little Lies
Liane Moriarty

What it’s about

Big Little Lies is that rare thing: a darkly funny novel about the serious subject of domestic violence, and the grey areas where ‘yes’ becomes ‘no’. It’s set in a sparkling beachside suburb of Sydney, amidst playgrounds, coffee catch-ups, playdates… and a primary school trivia night that ends in the death of a parent. Liane Moriarty takes the reader inside the households of a repartnered mother sharing custody of her teenage daughter, a young single mother haunted by her past, and a golden-haired beauty with a seemingly perfect life that is anything but.

Why your book club will love it

You’ll be thoroughly entertained, but left with plenty to talk about: schoolyard politics, mothers judging and supporting each other, shared parenting, domestic violence, and what makes a good marriage.

Skin by Ilka Tampke
Ilka Tampke

What it’s about

Set in Iron-Age Britain, on the cusp of Roman invasion, Skin is a thrilling, full-blooded novel about the collision of two worlds, and a young woman torn between two men … and on the rise to power. Abandoned at birth, Alia is not permitted to marry, excluded from tribal ceremonies and, most devastatingly, forbidden to learn. But she embarks on an unsanctioned journey to attain the knowledge that will protect her people from the most terrifying invaders they have ever faced.

Why your book club will love it

Blending fantasy with historical fact, this terrific Australian novel tells the story of one woman’s journey in a society whose structures of inheritance exclude her. But it’s also a world where women were powerful, and one deeply connected to the natural world. There’s plenty to talk about in terms of the way women are valued in different societies, and you can pick over the historical detail. Plus, there’s an enthralling love triangle to follow and angst over…

Second Life by S.J. Watson
Second Life
SJ Watson

What it’s about

Double lives. Parenting a teenager. Addiction. Second chances. A murder mystery. And the lure and traps of the internet. After her sister dies in a Paris alleyway, Julia investigates the death herself, moonlighting in internet chatrooms in an attempt to ensnare her sister’s killer. But she discovers as much about herself and her own desires as anything… and ends up endangering her marriage, her sanity and her hard-won comfortable life.

Why your book club will love it

This book will keep you wide awake, reading ahead to discover the next twist, until you finish it. It’s also rich with book club conversation fodder. How much can your trust your partner? Do we trust strangers too easily in the internet age, when intimacy can be quick and easy, but so can subterfuge? And what’s more important in a marriage: comfort or desire?

A Year of Marvellous Ways by Sarah Winman
A Year of Marvellous Ways
Sarah Winman

What it’s about

Marvellous Ways is eighty-nine years old and has lived alone in a remote Cornish creek for nearly all her life. Drake is a young soldier left reeling by the Second World War. When his promise to fulfil a dying man's last wish sees him wash up in Marvellous' creek, broken in body and spirit, the old woman comes to his aid.
A Year of Marvellous Ways is about the magic in everyday life and the pull of the sea, the healing powers of storytelling and how we carry on when grief comes snapping at our heels.

Why your book club will love it

This beautifully written book dips into magic realism, and revels in the magic of storytelling itself. It’s also a thoughtful meditation on love, as Marvellous tells the stories of the three great loves of her life. The starring role of an 89-year-old woman is notable too, providing the perfect platform for reflecting on ageing and whether we could value older women more than we do.

The Lost Swimmer by Ann Turner
The Lost Swimmer
Ann Turner

What it’s about

Archaeology professor Rebecca Wilding is sure that her husband Stephen is having an affair. When she’s accused of serious fraud in her career, it seems that the truth is turning against her. She leaves, with Stephen, for Greece, Italy and Pairs, to uncover the conspiracy against her and win her husband back… but he disappears, off the Amalfi coast. As she deals with fresh allegations, she uncovers the secrets at the heart of her marriage.

Why your book club will love it

They’ll be among the first to read a book that’s following in the footsteps of Gone Girl and Girl on a Train as the next big literary thriller. UK rights to this book were just sold, and the producer of Rosalie Ham’s The Dressmaker (soon to be a film starring Kate Winslet, Nicole Kidman and Judy Davis) has just bought the film rights.

Liane Moriarty, Ilka Tampke, SJ Watson, Sarah Winman and Ann Turner will all be appearing at Melbourne Writers Festival’s Reading Now – a day of chinwagging about books, just like you would with your book club – on Sunday 23 August.

For the full Festival program, visit

message 2: by Nerissa (new)

Nerissa Marcon | 1 comments I was fortunate to visit the MWF this year to hear Hannah Kent speak about Burial Rites; a book which I love! Kent is a young Australian author who was an exchange student to Iceland when she was younger, where she hear about the last woman to be executed, Agnes Magnusdottir. After researching this woman more, and hearing her painted as a witch and a callous murderer, Kent sent out to write BR to offer an alternate interpretation of her and what may have transpired, showing her in a more human, complex light. It a beautiful piece of work.

Melbourne Library Service | 139 comments Hello Nerissamarc,

Thank you for sharing your enjoyment of the Melbourne Writers Festival! Hannah Kent is a fabulous young Australian writer isn't she? We are glad that you enjoyed Burial Rites and hope that you get to read another novel by her soon!

Melbourne Library Service

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