Benedict Cumberbatch, better known as Dr Strange and Sherlock Holmes, was asked in an interview once what would be his dream character to play, to which he replied Patrick Melrose. Two years later he’s made the series. Patrick Melrose is the main character of Edward St Aubyn’s unforgettable series, beginning with Never Mind, and ending with five books later with At Last. Mother’s Milk, the fourth, was short-listed for The Booker Prize and is my favourite. We currently have all five books in a two volume format.
Loosely based on St Aubyn’s own life, these books are acclaimed for their caustic wit, viciousness and intensity. A quick warning that at times the books deal in unflinching terms with drug taking and child abuse (both of which St Aubyn himself experienced) while at the same time skewering fancy upper class parties with Princess Margaret. That may sound like an impossible mix but St Aubyn does it effortlessly in some of the most cutting prose you are likely to read. Once read, they are not easily forgotten and definitely worth investigating before watching the TV series.
With Eurovision over for another year, why not take a trip to another country while not leaving your armchair. First lets head to one of Eurovision’s Big Five, France with the award winning French author Pierre Lemaitre. Primarily known for his crime novels, Lemaitre has won the Prix Goncourt, France most prestigious literary award for The Great Swindle. My favourite books of his are the crime trilogy – Irene, Alex and Camille featuring the Commandant Camille Verhoeven, a man who’s mind is as sharp as his stature is short (four feet eleven). Great characters and fabulous twists and turns, this series has picked up two International Dagger Awards from the Crime Writers Association.
Next we head to beautiful Italy with Elena Ferrante‘s Neopolitan Novels. A publishing sensation around the world, the series is seen as a modern masterpiece. Beginning with My Brilliant Friend follows Elena and Lila growing up together in a poor neighbourhood of Naples and is a honest portrait of a longstanding friendship between two girls becoming women. The Australian reviewed it best as ‘fierce, unsentimental glimpses at the way a woman is constantly under threat, her identity submerged in marriage, eclipsed by motherhood, mythologised by desire’.
And last heading to Japan with Haruki Murakami, not a country that’s in Eurovision but seeing Australia is, anything is possible and Haruki used to run a jazz club! An intriguing author, his books are worth picking up for the titles alone. His first novel Norwegian Wood was a massive success and he has gone on to win prizes all around the world for such books as The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and Kafka on the Shore. His works have been translated into fifty languages and have sold in the millions.
It is always great when one of your favourite authors comes out with a new book. Julia Donaldson is a superstar of the rhyming book world with classics such as The Gruffalo, Stick Man among others. The Detective Dog is another great addition for the library. Detective Dog Nell shares her house with six-year-old Peter, ‘a very nice child but he could have been neater’. Will the two of them be able to find all the missing books from the school?
Jon Klassen has produced fabulous books such as his hilarious Hat series, here he is teaming up again with Mac Barnett in the second of their series on Shapes. This is the story of Square who is discovering that sometimes it is hard to make something as perfect as Square’s friend Circle.
And as exciting as it is to see new books, its also lovely to see old friends. A beautiful 40th Anniversary edition of the masterpiece Each Peach Pear Plum by Janet and Allan Ahlberg. Perfection in a book and this comes with a Limited Edition Print and a letter from Allan Ahlberg.
Where did we come from? Where did the World, Suns, Galaxies come from? Fundamental questions that have been asked since people could look up and see the stars at night. Since the beginning, answers were supplied by Myths, Religions, Fairy Stories and more recently by Science. But we still don’t know!! English writer Terry Pratchett, quoted in this book, puts it as well as anyone: ‘‘In the beginning, there was nothing — which exploded.’’
Science can tell us with some certainty that the known Universe is about 13.8 billion years old when a vast explosion of energy erupted and provided the building materials and enviroment for stars and planets to form, in unimaginable numbers.
Tim Flannery, in the Australian, writes “David Christian’s Origin Story is history written at the largest scale possible: from the big bang 13.8 billion years ago to the end of all structure 10,100 years into the future.
What existed before the big bang? Even armed with the latest science, we have no better answers about the ultimate beginning than earlier societies had. Yet quantum physics tells us that space is never truly empty, but instead is full of possibilities.
The book tries to distill nearly 14 billion years into a series of important threshholds, the last of which is only 50 yrs old – The Anthropocene Era – Humans changing the world and beyond. The enormous subject is explained in simple terms and is an absorbing read for all enquiring minds. $35 Paper Back. Due Out 14th May
What mum wants is to curl up with the perfect book in her brand new paid of fluffy slippers and we’ve got suggestions for every one. Circe by Madeline Miller is her long awaited follow up to her brilliant The Song of Achilles. Breathing life into the ancient world, this is an intoxicating tale of gods and heroes, magic and monsters, survival and transformation. For lovers of myths and literary fiction alike. For history lovers there is Mrs M by Luke Slattery following the life of Elizabeth Macquarie, and Elizabeth Macarthur: A Life at the Edge of the World by Michelle Scott Tucker, two extraordinary books about two extraordinary women. The Last of the Bonegilla Girls by Victoria Purman follows a young refugee girl making her way in Australia in the 1950s and is a tribute to female friendship and a celebration of finding a home in Australia.
Alexis Wright recently won the Stella Prize for her incredible tribute to the visionary Aboriginal leader Tracker Tilmouth. Simply titled Tracker it has been described as required reading for all Australians. Also in non-fiction the fabulous and fashionable Allanah Hill has just released her memoir Butterfly on a Pin. Known for her glamour, this book is a surprisingly real and raw read, funny and sad. Best-selling author Lisa Genova is back with another great medical drama. The protagonist of Every Note Played, Richard is an accomplished concert pianist when he is struck down with motor neurone disease. The book explores not only the affect on him but also his ex-wife Karina who becomes his reluctant career.
Mother’s Day can be a difficult time for some women. If At First You Don’t Conceive by ex-netball superstar and media personality Liz Ellis is a medical, emotional and financial guide to infertility. Written with her trademark empathetic and humorous manner, this book is designed to help those navigating these bewildering, and sometimes devastating waters.
What do Booksellers do when they’re not selling books?
In my case I’m writing them. My first novel All These Perfect Strangers is literary crime fiction and was published in Australia, U.K. and the U.S. It was longlisted for both ABIA’s Book of the Year and the Voss Literary Prize. My next book Second Sight comes out in July.
All These Perfect Strangers focuses on Pen Sheppard, who leaves her country town to head to university. Within six months, three of her friends are dead and only Pen knows the reason why. College life had seemed a wonderland of sex, drugs and maybe even love. Full of perfect strangers, it felt like the idea place for Pen to shed the confines of her small home town and reinvent herself. But the darkness of her past clings tight and when the killings begin and friendships are betrayed, Pen’s own secrets are revealed.
‘This is about three deaths. Actually more, if you go back far enough. I say deaths but perhaps all of them were murders. It’s a grey area. Murder, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. So lets just call them deaths and say I was involved. This story could be told a hundred different ways.’
If that sounds like your sort of book, pop into the store on Monday and Tuesdays and I can even autograph it for you!
We love being Fairfield Village’s local bookshop, but can’t help thinking that the only thing better than a community with a bookshop is a community with FIVE bookshops. This quaint little town in New York State, population 500, has just that.
It’s one of a number of book villages around the world, a trend that started with Hay-on-Wye in Wales and, delightfully, continues to grow. If you’re keen to visit a book town a little closer to home, you can’t go past Clunes which, as well as hosting a book festival every year, has a bottle museum, so you can really drink up the atmostphere. Har har har.