Jackie French, recently announced as Australia’s new Children’s Laureate for 2014-2015, has just released the third novel in “The Matilda Saga”. The newest — entitled The Road to Gundagai – follows A Waltz for Matilda and The Girl from Snowy River. It is set during the Depression in rural Australia and traces Blue Laurence’s escape from her aunts’ mansion to become a mermaid in the Magnifico Family Circus. But somewhere there is a murderer, waiting to strike again…
We have all three books in the Saga in store, best for readers aged 11 and up, as well as numerous other books French has written for all ages.
The Road to Gundagai – Jackie French – PB – HarperCollins – $20.00
We now have in store the fourth and newest in the “Grimstones” series: Music School. Martha Grimstone heads off to the famous Queen’s Music Academy to study the Epithium. Asphyxia uses her standard format of drawing and puppetry to give us a story of new friends, wrong names, uncooperative bats and a Grimstone in a traditional school.
The Grimstones: Music School — Asphyxia — PB — Allen & Unwin — $15
We are very lucky in Fairfield to have so many authors living in the area. A lot of them write for children but Fran Cusworth writes for adults. She writes about relationships and families, and children always feature prominently in them. Her new book, Sisters of Spicefield is about a family who after having four children with the help of IVF, donate an embryo to a couple, whom they have met, but don’t really know. All is fine until their youngest child dies, and then the child born from the donated embryo turns up at the same school. Jessica, still grieving from the loss of her youngest child is suddenly confronted with the gorgeous Mia, who looks so much like her other children that she can hardly bear it. Mia’s mother Carolyn has separated from the husband who had been part of the package when the donation was made, and is now involved with a souped up ex sports star, and is emotionally fragile. All of which makes Jessica even more interested in the welfare of Mia.
All of this is against the background of the busy lives of modern families. Work, children, school committees and all the usual aspects that make up our day to day lives are here, some of which make dealing with the bigger picture very difficult. The embryo donation quandary is given a new twist in this book, and together with Kylie Ladd’s latest book Into My Arms, bring up some interesting issues on the topic.
We will be having both Fran and Kylie at an event at Northcote Library on Thursday 25th July at 7pm where they will talk about their books, and how they came to write them. Come along to listen, buy a book and meet the authors. Bring your book group and get the conversation going.
Hannah Kent has produced an astonishingly good first novel, Burial Rites, based on the true story of a woman who was sentenced to be executed in Iceland in 1829 for her part in a murder. The book opens with the murder in the past and the trial having been held and with the culprits awaiting execution. The woman, Agnes is sent to stay with the family of the District Officer while she awaits her execution. The members of his family are all horrified by the news, but have to accept her presence, and as the winter wears on they variously make do with the situation. Agnes’ story is tragic, and as the time for her execution draws near, the question is still hangs in the air: did she or didn’t she commit the murder?
The bleak Icelandic winter landscape is as much a character in the story as the Edinburgh of Ian Rankin’s Rebus books and you will be reaching for a warm hoodie or blanket as you read it. It’s hard to find a redundant word in this book. It is seriously very good. Paperback, $33
Jo Case is a writer and mother whose son Leo was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome after some time of social problems. Jo views the news with a mixture of feelings, which isn’t surprising. Relief at a final diagnosis but also some fear about what it means for Leo and his future. As she throws herself into reading about Asperger’s, she recognises aspects of herself, her father and her brother in the literature. She comes to the view that they are all within the Asperger’s spectrum. She is reluctant to get a definitive diagnosis for herself her main fear being whether she can be a good mother if she really has Aspergers. Jo writes really well, and isn’t afraid to paint herself warts and all. She is at different times irrational, moody and fearful, but she tells it like it is. I think this is a very good contribution to the available literature on Aspergers.
Love and Hunger is by Charlotte Wood, who is a well known writer of fiction with some very good novels under her belt. She is also a keen cook and has had a food blog for some time called howtoshuckanoyster where she posts recipes and her thoughts on food. Her latest blog post is on being a dinner party guest, how to be a good one and pitfalls to avoid.
Love and hunger has chapters that cover why Charlotte enjoys cooking and sharing food, food fashions, musings on different aspects of food culture as well as plenty of recipes. One surprise to me was that Charlotte rarely uses butter. She keeps some in the freezer for the times when she needs it, but doesn’t use butter as a matter of course. My life would be much the poorer without butter, but maybe that partly explains why Charlotte is slim and I am not.
There is a chapter about picky eaters and phobia’s and another where Charlotte confronts something she was not comfortable with, offal. I dislike offal intensely, but her thoughtful words on the subject were very interesting, as well as entertaining. I am still not, and never will be an offal fan though, her writing isn’t THAT good.
Love and Hunger would be the perfect book for someone who is interested in food, but for whom you don’t necessarily want to give another cookbook. $30
The Tides are a family with some secrets which during the course of the book are revealed. It’s a slow reveal, and there are some surprises in store. At different times I was a bit concerned that the book was going to go too far with the pulling of heart strings, but never fear, the issues are dealt with very well.
Secrets of the tides covers quite a lot of territory, but it is all around guilt and the causes of that guilt. Two sisters are the main characters, Dora who is pregnant, in a happy relationship, but not quite allowing herself to feel she deserves such happiness because of an incident during childhood. Dora feels her mother has never forgiven her for it, and the ramifications lead to Dora’s sister, Cassie leaving home and shutting herself off from the rest of the family, and for the most part, the world.
The background is a fractious relationship between the girls’ parents who have had trouble dealing with the tragedy. Before that had happened however, there were already difficulties between them. One of the main causes of that is the house they live in, which carries the burden of the husband’s family history. Again, secrets are involved.
I don’t want to give away the plot, but be assured, you will want to keep reading, to find out what happened, and what happens next.
Secrets of the Tides is a debut novel, but it shows a lot of depth, and the writing is very good. This would be a good book group choice.
If I had only three words to describe Paddy O’Reilly’s The Fine Colour of Rust, they would be warm, witty and wise. The tone is wry and while it has it’s laugh out loud moments, Loretta who is a single mum with two children living in a dusty town called Gunapan, is fighting battles on various fronts. She is trying to protect her children from her hopeless ex, save the school, find a real man amongst her fantasies and not give in to the urge to dump the kids at the orphanage.
Norm, an older neighbour who has been her rock since the husband left has fingers in every pie and reminds her of the basic goodness of people. But when a favourite lush green bit of bush near the town is suddenly cleared, Loretta becomes involved in finding out what dodgy dealings have been going on. This involves another ill-fated committee, and anyone who has ever served on a committee will recognise the participants. There is the firebrand, the organiser, the pessimist, the optimist and those who are there just to eat the biscuits. All SO familiar.
The book is deceptive in that it manages to cover so many ‘issues’ but with such a light touch that you never feel preached to. Apart from no-good husbands and corrupt councillors there is school bullying, refugees, illness and death and petty crime. All in a small town struggling to survive.
The book is an absolute delight. Highly Recommended. $25
Jodie Garrow has a very carefully constructed and controlled life. She is married to Angus, a successful solicitor and has two children. She dresses well, has the right friends, plays tennis and all is safe. Until her daughter Hannah breaks her leg while on an unauthorised escape from school and is taken to a small hospital for her treatment. The same hospital where Jodie was a patient many years before while young and frightened. Unluckily for her, a nurse makes a connection because of a minor genetic abnormality in Hannah and Jodie’s world starts unravelling.
The role of the media gets a serious run in this story, and it is interesting to look at just how a news item can become a juggernaut with far reaching consequences. I’m being a bit cryptic because it would be easy to spoil the ending, but there are really no right or wrong answers to Jodie’s predicament. Her ‘friends’ take sides and her life will be changed. The book is quite thought provoking, and a good read. Paperback, $29.95
Sweet Old World by Deborah Robertson is told from the point of view of David who has found himself on an Irish island, living alone when he is at a time of life when he wants his own family. He has come to the island because his sister’s marriage has broken up, she has three young boys, is running a guest house and needed David’s help and investment. David is happy to do it, and he adores his nephews but is wondering why a family of his own hasn’t happened. A chance meeting with a young woman who is travelling alone and who has an accident presents an unusual situation. Because she is alone and in a coma, David feels the need to stay by her bedside until her mother arrives. When the mother does arrive, she is suspicious of his motives, suspecting an inappropriate relationship between her daughter and David. She is wrong, but the thought lingers, even as her own relationship with David develops.
There are some lovely tender moments between David and his nephews and the depiction of an angry exhausted mother trying to do her best for her boys is well done. The relationships are all a bit messy, as many really are, and the ending isn’t a ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after solution, and it is all the more realistic for it. A book that makes you feel involved in the characters lives. I enjoyed it.
The author dropped into the shop a few days ago, and so we have a pile of signed copies. Come in and grab one soon. Paperback, $32.95