Previously known as The Orange Prize and The Baileys, the recently christened Women’s Prize is one of our favourite shortlists of the year. It has helped establish some amazing authors and past winners have included some of my personal favourites over the last few years – Madeline Miller’s Song of Achillies, Naomi Alderman’s The Power and one of our favourite bookclub recommendations last year’s winner Kamila Shamsie’s Home Fire. This year is no exception with six great titles: Anna Burn’s Booker winner The Milkman, Pat Barker’s The Silence of the Girls, Oyinkan Braithwaite’sMy Sister, The Serial Killer, Diana Evans’ Ordinary People, Tayari Jones’ An American Marriage and Circe by Madeline Miller. We have read about half the shortlist and are keen to tackle the second half this autumn. So if you are looking for a read to snuggle up with as the days get shorter and colder, pick up one of them in the store. A winner will be announced in June.
May’s Opening Pages promises to be a beauty with two incredible books centred on Melbourne’s fascinating history. Enza Gandolfo‘s The Bridge follows the story of Italian migrant Antonello working as a rigger on the West Gate Bridge the October morning it collapses killing 35 of his workmates. It also focuses on Jo about to finish high school twenty years later when one terrible mistake changes the course of her life. Drawing on the events of Australia’s wost industrial accident – something that still scars Melbourne – The Bridge is profoundly moving as it explores moral culpability, forgiveness, redemption and resilience. It has found plenty of high profile fans and was shortlisted for The Stella Prize this year. Joining Enza, is Loretta Smith with one of the most fascinating Australian memoirs of recent times. A Spanner in the Works follows the extraordinary (and I mean extraordinary) life of Alice Anderson and Australia’s First All-Girl Garage which was based at Kew in 1920s. Alice Anderson was an incredible entrepreneur and pioneer. She grew up in rural Victoria, was a natural athlete and something of a daredevil. At twenty, she founded Miss Anderson’s Motor Service during World War II without any family or husband to financially back her. She was also an adventurer taking solo car trips across Australia in a Baby Austin. Her inspirational life was violently (and mysteriously) cut short. An amazing book that has been getting plenty of media attention thanks to Loretta’s fabulous book. Both of these books would be great Mother’s Day presents so why not come along for a drink with us Wednesday and get the authors to write a personal message to Mum.
Our good friends Northcote Library are running a free event on May 7th 7pm with Toni Jordan, one of Australia’s most loved authors. She has written five novels which have won and been shortlisted for prizes all around the world. Her latest The Fragments follows Brisbane bookseller Caddie who thinks she just might be able to solve one of literature’s enduring mysteries – what happened to the beautiful author Inga Carlson and her remaining work. Critically acclaimed, this clever literary thriller was reviewed as Toni’s best book yet which is high praise indeed as her other books, Additon, Our Tiny Useless Hearts, Nine Days and Fall Girl are all fabulous. Toni has appeared on television and radio and is a also an acclaimed writing teacher. You can book online at darebinlibraries.vic.gov.au or by ringing 1300655355.
Oliver Phommavanh is an author, primary school teacher and stand up comedian – the perfect skill set to produce a great series of books for kids. They begin with Thai-riffic which follows Albert otherwise known as Lengy who is a fake Aussie – he looks Australian but smells like Thai food (delicious!) because he lives in a Thai restaurant. Unfortunately his favourite food is pizza. Lengy starts a new high school, makes new friends and a wacko teacher. It’s a crazy stir-fry adventure with lots of laughs. Other titles include The Other Christy, Thai-no-mite, Con-Nerd, and the latest Natural Born Loser. The perfect pick off the kid’s menu for those who have read all Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Tom Gates and Tom Weekly. This week’s chef’s special is Thai-riffic at the bargain price of $5 only. Get them while they’re hot!
Tonight is one of the most important dates in the Australian literary awards – it’s almost time to find out who has won The Stella this year. Established in 2013 by a great group of publishing and literary women, it was designed to address the fact that women authors and their books tend to get overlooked in published reviews and literary prizes. Past winners include Carrie Tiffany, Charlotte Wood, Clare Wright, Heather Rose, Emily Bitto and Alexis Wright. In the words of Chair of the 2019 Judging Panel, Louise Swinn, “The books on this shortlist inform and entertain, and while they speak absolutely to our moment, their insights are timeless.” Those shortlisted books are Axiomatic by Maria Tumarkin, Pink Mountain on Locust Island by Jamie Marina Lau, Little Gods by Jenny Ackland, The Erratics by Vicki Laveau Harvie and finally The Bridge by Enza Gandolfo. Enza will actually be joining Loretta Smith in store for our next Opening Pages event on 1 May. Congratulations to all the shortlisted authors and may the best book win!
And just in time for the school holidays a brand new Wimpy Kid book from Jeff Kinney. Titled Diary of an Awesome Friendly Kid, this time Greg’s best friend and much cheerier person, Rowley Jefferson is writing his diary but Greg soon manages to convince him to write his biography instead. Over 200 million copies have been sold in the series because they are just a perfect blend of words and pictures. I could always tell when Wimpy Kid was being read by my children from the chortles of laughter. We keep all the series in stock. Highly recommended for readers 8 and up.
Just a reminder for Opening Pages tomorrow night – Wednesday 7pm. Our guests this month are Stuart Kells, a prize winning author and historian, and Elke Tampe, a writer of historical fiction. Stuart is an authority on rare books and an expert on print culture and will be chatting about his two latest books The Library – A Catalogue of Wonders and Shakespeare’s Library – Unlocking the Greatest Mystery in Literature which will be fascinating. Elke is the author of Skin and Songwoman, two works of historical fiction set in Iron Age Britain at the cusp of the Roman Invasion. Like Stuart her work has been published widely overseas and we are delighted that she can join us for what will be a wonderful night of bookish discussion. Its not too late to RSVP either via Facebook or 90174748. See you there!