Every once in a while you come across a book that is so captivating that you immediately want to search out and read everything and anything the author has ever written. Unfortunately for me, The Son is only Phillip Meyer’s second book so I’ll have to wait a while. The novel is nothing short of epic, spanning the vast and bloodied history of Texas from the Comanche raids of the 1800s up until the politics surrounding big oil money in the present day. Meyer’s story beautifully captures the social upheavals sweeping through Texas, but never at the expense of his characters. Each protagonist, Eli, Peter and Jeanie, is distinctly and refreshingly human; fallible, flawed and struggling with their own nature, the pressures of Texan life and the expectations of others. While Eli’s kidnapping by a raiding band of Comanches is the most riveting (and horrifying) vein of the novel, all three characters portray something of the complexity of life on a frontier. Meyers has a wonderful talent for drawing out big questions of what is right and wrong in a way that forces you to re-evaluate any preconceived notions about nature, nurture, strength, kindness and weakness. All in all, The Son is a masterpiece and I have no doubt that Meyer is fully deserving of the praise, ‘a modern day John Steinbeck’. Highly recommended
Category Archives: Fiction Reviews
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.
Larger format $ 30.00
Set in Sweden, this is a really funny novel; intriguing, warm and a bit whimsical and with oblique references to history and politics.
Allan Karlsson is in a nursing home in his old age and wants it to be his last stop – he’s bored in his hundredth year of life.
For his 100th birthday, a big celebration is planned with the mayor, the press, TV and all the nursing home staff. But Allan, wanting more freedom and more grog, climbs out of the window in his slippers without a plan and accidentally starts out on an hilarious and unexpected journey.
While waiting at a bus station, on a whim, he steals a suitcase which surprisingly is stuffed with cash! So the story unfolds with a few thugs, some deaths, a very friendly hot-dog stand operator and an elephant!
This would be the adventure of a lifetime for anyone else, but not for Allan. During his long life, he has been part and parcel of some of the most important events of the twentieth century. As an explosives expert, he was involved in the development of the atom bomb, and has travelled throughout the world, rubbing shoulders with VIPs including Stalin, Churchill, Truman and Mao, Franco, and De Gaulle.
The deaths excite the interest of the local police and a care worn investigator chases Allen and friends across the countryside, adding tension to the humour and culminating in a funny confrontation in a remote farmhouse.
Nick Place is a former resident of Fairfield and he still lives not too far away from us. His first novel for adults is a bit of a crime caper featuring policeman Tony Laver, whose shooting of a criminal came at a bad time in the history of Victoria Police. As a result, he has been shunted out of Major Crime and off into a cycling police patrol. To say that he isn’t happy is something of an understatement. But he dons the lycra and after some time of screaming thigh and sore bum syndrome, he gradually starts to see some value in what he is doing, and is soon solving crime with the best of them. The setting will be known to locals, as Fairfield, Alphington, High Street and Heidelberg all feature. It’s a hoot, and I hope there are more Tony Laver adventures to come. $24.95
As part of our “Meet the author in May” Nick Place will be here in the shop on Saturday May 25th from 11-12.30. Come along, buy a book, meet Nick and get your book signed. It should be fun.
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
Meet Kylie in person here on Saturday 11th May 11-12.30. But check this out in the meantime
Kate Atkinson is one of my favourite authors, so a new release from her is always exciting! She has taken a break from her popular series of crime novels featuring Jackson Brodie to write this extraordinary and thought-provoking novel. The premise of the novel is simple, and is right there on the back cover:
“What if you had the chance to live your life again and again, until you finally got it right?”
This is what literally happens to Ursula Todd.
Ursula is born on a snowy night in February 1910. The first time she is born, she dies before she has even taken a breath. The second time she is luckier and survives. Ursula is born, lives and dies under different circumstances as she experiences her life over and over, through the turbulent events of the 20th century. In many lives she faces the same turning points and a different choice she makes, or her reaction to an occurrence, changes the outcome for her and those around her. She doesn’t consciously remember her earlier lives, but often has strong “premonitions” when faced with a situation that has ended badly in a previous life. Despite Ursula often facing the same crossroads moments, the story never feels repetitive and is always satisfying – a testament to Kate Atkinson’s inventiveness. Some lives are subtly different, and others radically so, but the characters and the bonds between them are convincing and immediate.
Original, inventive and engrossing, this is a book about family, love, war, history, hope and possibilities. After all, who amongst us hasn’t ever wondered “what if”? A wonderful novel, thoroughly deserving of it’s place on the shortlist of this year’s Women’s Prize for Fiction. Trade paperback, $32.95
Local author Graeme Simsion has produced a gem of a first novel with The Rosie Project. This warm and engaging tale centres on the charming yet awkward narrator, Don Tillman, and his quest to find a perfectly-suited partner. He calls this his Wife Project, and he has created a 16-page questionnaire to help him narrow the field to select the ultimate life partner. Surely a professor of genetics has the skills to create a logical template for finding the most elusive and illogical element of all- love!
The very scientific and slightly Asperger’s Don thinks he has it all planned, till he meets the erratic, whimsical and feisty Rosie. She is not Don’s type and clearly doesn’t fit his Wife Project-criteria, so why indeed do their lives and stories become intertwined and determined?! Like a screwball 1930s comedy on the page, Don and Rosie’s ‘opposites attract’ schtick and their slowly learning, adapting and changing to discover true love is available to us all is a winner.
Even though this is a genuinely hilarious and laugh-out-loud story, at its core it explores and questions the very nature of human companionship and our longing to find that certain someone. Finally, an intelligent, clever and romantic novel for adults.
In store now, enjoy!
$30 in large paperback
Every five years, graduates of Harvard are asked to fill in a questionairre giving details of the last five years of their lives. The information is then published in ‘The Red Book’ and sent out to them all. It is up to the respondent to be truthful but often, who would know if it’s the truth or not?
The author is a Harvard graduate herself and her novel is centred around the 2oth year reunion of the class of 1989. Clover, Addison, Mia and Jane are the main characters and were room mates. They have been in contact with each other but many of the other people at the reunion have not. The book works around the entry each person has put in, and goes from there. As with any reunion, some people have done well and are happy to talk about it, others are more reticent about their bad times, and some are not doing nearly as well as their spouses think. Many of the old antipathies are still there and renewed, some are healed.
It is an easy read and a book that lots of people can identify with. After all, most of us have a few reunions under our belt. I enjoyed it. $30
It has taken me a while to get through the new JK Rowling because it is not an easy read. It was not a book where I wanted to race off to read it at every spare moment. It isn’t a bad book, in fact the writing is good, but it is bleak. Set in a small town the events start with the death of one of the Parish Councillors, hence ‘The Casual Vacancy’. Class and the class divides are the dominating themes, but also covered are underage sex, prostitution, drugs, child neglect, domestic abuse, truancy, illiteracy and more more more. Get the idea?
That said, I wouldn’t not recommend it, but it’s certainly not one to read if you are feeling a bit low. I think JK Rowling is very angry about a lot of things in the UK at the moment and having got a lot of this off her chest, her next book will hopefully have a bit more light and shade. That was what is missing for me, a bit of lightness. It was just all grim. I watched an interview with JK with Jennifer Byrne, and JK said she thought there were some funny moments in the book. I totally missed them I’m afraid. You will have to decide for yourself!