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
The prolific Sulari Gentill has published three books about Rowland Sinclair in the last two years, as well as some books for young adults. I admire her productivity as well as her books.
Rowland Sinclair is the youngest son of a pastoral family living in New South Wales. It’s 1933 and the Great War still casts it’s shadow over his family with his brother Aubrey being a casualty and his mother never having gotten over it. But without his older brother taking responsibility for the family enterprises, Rowland is free to pursue his artistic pursuits and keep rather raffish company. His brother Wilfred gruffly disapproves of Rowland’s activities and friends which cause friction between them. The books are ostensibly a crime series but in the Kerry Greenwood’s Phryne Fisher books style. That is with great attention to detail and considerable research into the period settings. Each chapter has at the start an excerpt from a newspaper of the time, which is relevant to the story.
In this latest book, Rowland, when he isn’t being pursued by thugs, is dispatched by his brother to look for their long serving aboriginal head stockman who has disappeared. The other stockman claim he just went walkabout ‘as his sort does’ but neither Wilfred or Rowland are convinced of that. Rowland’s friends aid him in the search and some rough and tumble adventures ensue.
The first book in the series, A Few Right Thinking Men introduced the character and was set in the politics of the time. The second book A Decline in Prophets was partly set on a luxury cruise liner and involved lots of bodies and the Theosophist Society. The covers of the books are lovely sepia photos or line drawings which fit perfectly with the feel of the stories
The research into the times is there, but with a light touch in all of the books and for an easy but interesting crime read, Sulari Gentill’s books are very good. The latest book is $30, the earlier two are $23
After Kirsten Tranter’s first book was on the long list of the Miles Franklin Prize but didn’t make it to the short list, there was a lot of talk about the state of writing by women in Australia. That is, that there is a lot of writing but not so much review coverage or prize winning by women. Kirsten’s book wasn’t the only book effected, but it helped get the ball rolling in starting the Australian Women Writers Challenge. Many people have signed up to read and review lots of books written by Australian women this year, and this is my second blog to that end.
Kirsten Tranter’s new book is A Common Loss. It is about a group of five men who met at University and who in the years since, meet each other for a trip to Las Vegas. (I can’t imagine wanting to go to Las Vegas more than once personally, but that’s me!) This year the group are going again, but it’s different because one of their number has died. As well as this, a member has decided to bring his girlfriend on the trip. The dynamics are completely different and some of the group wonder why they are there. It becomes obvious that Dylan, the man who has died, was often the buffer between some of the others, and without him, tensions develop. To complicate matters, Dylan has given his brother information about all the group, information that none of them want revealed.
The group all question just what sort of friend Dylan was, and if they knew him at all. All of the characters are believable and It is an engrossing look at friendship and how alliances move and change. It would be a good book for discussion. $30