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Showing posts with the label Novel

Book review: The Choke by Sophie Laguna

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The Choke tells the story of a young girl raised by her war-ravaged grandfather in a beat-up house near the fictional Victorian town of Nullabri on the banks of the Murray River.

Nullabri may well be located across the water from fictional Bellington and Riversend from Chris Hammer's Scrubland as we find ourselves in another rendition of dystopian rural Australia where the river (or lack of) is a silent presence.

Author Sophie Laguna has again given her child heroine Justine and the other young characters a warmth and vulnerability so easily observable in children and it is part of the growing tension of the book as to how this will be ripped apart by the mostly dysfunctional adults in their lives. Or by the eroding process of simply growing up in poverty and ignorance.

There is something dangerously criminal about Justine's father who is mostly absent yet longed for by Justine and her step-brothers. The depiction of his return, his dismantling of his sons' fragile confide…

Book review: The Shepherd's Hut by Tim Winton

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Fifteen-year-old Jaxie urgently flees his motherless home and what is left of his abusive father, taking his chances on foot in the vast and desolate West Australian desert, hoping for the solace of an unlikely reunion with the girl he loves.

With the undaunted, brutalised but majestic voice of a teenager on a desperate journey and the dust-in-your-eyes realism of Tim Winton's landscapes, there comes a god, not so much in the machine, but in an unlikely hut on the edge of seemingly endless salt plains.

Is the hut's occupant Fintan MacGillas saviour, or anti-saviour, we are not quite sure, and similarly unconvinced is Jaxie who reluctantly accepts sustenance but only after anger and threats and a degree of ongoing suspicion.

It turns out MacGillas is a banished priest and Jaxie perhaps not unfairly assumes incorrectly he must be a pedophile but with the relentless terrain a merciless (or merciful) leveller, a steady truce and growing companionship come to carry the story forwar…

Book review: Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

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This is one of the saddest books I've read in a long time although most popular literary books I've read of late make a good effort at being reasonably depressing.

Which is not to say Everything I Never Told You is a poor read. On the whole it is eminently readable but I found myself constantly trying to peel back my own experience of family to see if secrets, silent shame and unspoken fear are as prevalent.

Perhaps I wouldn't know but I think not, hope not. But then I haven't experienced being in a multiracial family 40 years ago amidst the racial angst of the US.

With blue eyed Marilyn seeing her daughter Lydia through her missed opportunity for independence and career, and her black haired Chinese father James content with signs of her daughter's popular normality neither can see, or want to see, so much that is unspoken, or deliberately hidden abut Lydia, their middle child.

While we know the outcome from the start - the what - it is the gradual revealing of the…

Book review: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

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The comparisons for The Girl on the Train and Gone Girl are coming thick and fast and will do sales of the former no harm as it is published in Australia this month.

And there are plenty of similarities - the gradual denuding of all of the main characters in The Girl on the Train, so that their worst (and perhaps for some, their best) is gradually and in some cases terrifyingly revealed recalls the gradual descent into evil and despair so evident in the main relationships of Gone Girl.

The psychological double and triple plays ensure that even with the rapid fire chapters, the (slightly generous) reader will find themselves well and truly hooked. I read it in a day or two, for example.

The Girl on the Train plays on the fears and curiosity many of us would find familiar from modern life where we are thrust together randomly with people - often in close quarters - in trains, traffic, buses and housing, affording us the opportunity to be mutual voyeurs and wondering what night happen if …

Book review: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

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Theo Decker, a 'god of layers' perhaps, and that is what he is, surviving a bomb blast that kills his mother, comforting a dying antique trader and following his delirious urging to take hold of a treasure that takes hold of him in so many layered ways.

There are times this book infuriates when characters fail to do what 99 per cent of people would do - what you the reader are urging them to do - and so end up in several long chapters of chaos.

And then there are the thousands of sweeping words that carry you forward, heart racing. Or the long ragings at the world or detailed vivisections of meaning that cut so close to the doubts of your own heart.

As a title, The Goldfinch suggests a stuffy but polite story of manners and it is a story of manners but never stuffy or polite and not what you would think at all.

It tells of the world we all might nearly belong to if our deceptions were allowed to fester a little longer. A world just beyond ours, that world we wonder about when …

Book review: The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

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The Rosie Project's lead character, Don Tillman, would be satisfied that I read on the Kindle platform of his project to find a wife. While reading I was informed of what percentage of the book had been completed and also was given the estimated time in the current chapter so I could adjust my optimal reading speed.

Despite these and other efficiencies I found my reading broke into my sleep allocation such that I finished the book at 4.13am. I determined not to adjust my daytime schedule but to increase by 29.7 per cent my intake of caffeine.

But seriously... it is perhaps a tribute to the steadiness of voice and rhythm of author Graeme Simsion and the sympathetic, human and lifelike characters that he has written, that I now find myself thinking and talking like Don, who is apparently non-the-wiser of being well and truly on the autism spectrum.

A professor of genetics, he undertakes to find a wife through the mechanism of a fool-proof 16 page questionnaire and as a res…

Book review in brief: The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan

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For an Australian author like Richard Flanagan, there is material enough for a great novel just telling of the lives and suffering of Australian prisoners of war during World War 2.  Even more so considering his father was just such a prisoner on the Burma railway, something Flanagan speaks of 'imbibing' while growing up.

Instead he settles for a broader and more difficult panorama. Alongside the adept before and after descriptions of Australian soldiers - of love affairs and guilty confusion - we are also taken into the minds of Japanese officers and Korean soldiers and dystopian post-nuclear Japan.

Somehow it all rings as true as his depictions of Melbourne society and Tasmanian poverty. The heat of Adelaide is pitched against the humidity of Siam and the unresolved heroics of an Australian surgeon against the inconclusive brutality of Japanese prison commander.

It is not a triumphant book or a cheery one, and it offers little hope except that sometimes people survive, des…

Book review: The Tournament by Matthew Reilly

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Probably the most interesting thing about The Tournament is how I received my copy.
Which is not to say Reilly's departure into historical fiction is bland or boring, but that fact is often stranger then fiction, even when the fiction is by one of Australia's leading action authors.

Returning from my favourite Sydney CBD coffee shop, Vella Nero on Clarence St, I saw relaxing in the sunshine on Druitt St, a young man, with all the indications of being homeless, and with this copy of The Tournament sitting next to him.

He was hoping people would drop a few coins in a hat, as I recall, and as I did I asked what he thought of the book.

'It's a great read,' he said. I got it last night and have been reading it ever since. Just finished it.'

'That's good to know,' I replied and before I could move one, the young man continued our conversation.

'Would you like to read it? Here, take it.'

I hesitated for a moment and will admit to wondering just wher…

Book review: Longbourn by Jo Baker

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Although Jane Austen may be known as a writer who cut through the veil of manners that surrounded English landed gentry, she was still a woman of her time and is unlikely to have ever imagined a book such as Jo Baker has written.

Longbourn covers the same set of events as Pride and Prejudice but from a firmly 'downstairs' perspective - although we should also include the attic where the servants seem to sleep.

Mr and Mrs Bennet and their five daughters are still recognisable, as are their balls, dinners and rendezvous with numerous gentlemen or soldiers of slowly determined character.

Getting wet and having a fever, being too slow to show your interest in a visiting clergyman, or too feisty to receive his offer, are all unfolded in Longbourn along with occasional glimpses of Mr Bingley, Mr Darcy and more detailed interaction with the constantly menacing - from the servant's perspective - Mr Wickham.

But this is much more than a retelling of Pride and Prejudice, although it …

Book review: I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes

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Receiving the kindle version of I Am Pilgrim as part of a bloggers book tour, I settled into read the novel without researching the author or any broader publicity for the book.

The brief blurb I had read set it up as interesting thriller and to be honest, I wasn't even aware the author was Australian although references through the book, such as Dr Sydney, convinced me this was the case.

After turning the last page (or more accurately tapping the last screen) I read the book's credits and was impressed with Terry Hayes lengthy and stellar career as a journalist and screen writer which, by then, fitted well with my admiration for his first novel. (click cover to purchase)

I Am Pilgrim starts at a suitably rapid pace with a shocking crime scene, steamy sex references, fast-talking New York cops and a mysterious, intelligent, brooding figure from whose eyes the story is told.

Briefly I was worried it was going to be a trashy tale of blood and guts and tits and guns but after the…

Jan Austen's Pride and Predjudice meets Downton Abbey in Longbourn

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'Jane Austen was my first experience of grown-up literature. But as I read and re-read her books, I began to become aware that if I’d been living at the time, I wouldn’t have got to go to the ball; I would have been stuck at home with the sewing. Just a few generations back, my family were in service. Aware of that English class thing, Pride and Prejudice begins to read a little differently.'

Author Jo Baker explains her motivation for writing Longbourn*, a novel  to be published later this year that tells Pride and Prejudice from the servants point of view, giving it a resonance with Downtown Abbey

'While Longbourn brings to life a different side of the world Austen first created, I was impressed even more by the way this novel stands as a transporting, fully realised work of fiction in its own right,' Diane Coglianese, an editor at publisher Alfred K Knopf, said in a statement.

Alfred A. Knopf is the flagship imprint of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, which is…

Book review: Zoo by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge

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"All over the world, brutal attacks are crippling entire cities."
I began reading action novel Zoo within a few hours of reading Sweet Tooth and after a few pages was wondering if I could go on.
After the tight, intense characterisation of Ian McEwan's new novel I was feeling unconvinced by the almost clumsy attempts to build the central character of Zoo, Oz.

I've had this experience before. A few years ago after being captivated by the prose of Hilary Mantel in Wolf Hall I picked up Ted Dekker'sEmmanuel's Veins. To be honest (sorry Ted) I couldn't read past the first few pages.

Here I go again, I thought, and this time it involves one of the world's top-selling and most prolific authors, although admittedly, I was a Patterson virgin. But I lay back and thought of the readers of Cread (Creaders?) and turned another page.

After a few more pages I began to accept the kind of NCIS approach to characterisation - American individualistic, swashbuckler, no…

Many of the world's biggest authors join avalanche of new books

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There's no doubt the world of publishing is in turmoil with no-one quite sure where the future lies so perhaps that's why so many big name authors have all come out with new books this Spring.

JK Rowling, Tom Wolfe, Salman Rushdie, Junot Diaz, Zadie Smith and Michael Chabon are just some of the award winning, best selling authors to compete for shelf space while Australian authors such as Bryce Courtenay and Kate Grenville are also in the mix but perhaps in danger of being somewhat overwhelmed.

Then there are the celebrity releases such as Justin Bieber's Just Getting Started and Kylie Minogue's new book Fashion. And let's not forget the Navy SEAL's first hand account of the killing of Osama bin Laden. So let's hope electricity bills aren't too high and we've all got plenty of reading money. In no particular order, here's a (partial) wrap-up of a particularly literary spring...

Back to Blood by Tom Wolfe is due for release in Australia on October …

Final novel, masterclass for Bryce Courtenay

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A new Bryce Courtenay novel and writing masterclass have taken special significance after the celebrated author's revelation last week that he may only have months to live.

The South African born Australian made public the news that he is suffering from terminal gastric cancer  in an interview with Channel 9's A Current Affair.

Courtenay told Tracy Grimshaw that his novel Jack of Diamonds – to be released in November this year – will be his last. He also discussed the impact of his prognosis on his own state of mind and that of his family.

The sometimes controversial Courtenay has written 21 books in his impressive career, but when asked what he was most proud of his answer was “having a family.” He also gave some insight into his writing and critics' claims he had not always been straight-forward with the facts of his own life.

“...you bet I exaggerate!... I do a Fred Astaire with a fact, but I never ruin a fact... I just give it life.”
The last hands-on masterclass In thi…