The winner of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction has been announced, and it’s Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad. It’s a magical-realist take on one woman’s escape from chattel slavery in the American South. Cora flees a Georgian cotton plantation, in what is both a historical indictment and a thrilling adventure.
As for the 2017 Pulitzer Prize in Biography/Autobiography, it’s been awarded to Hisham Matar for his Return. In this biography, Matar tells of his father’s kidnap and detention in a secret Libyan prison, from which he would never come home.
We have copies of both prizewinners on their way, so get in touch if you want one put aside!
The Underground Railroad – Colson Whitehead – Sphere – PB – $19.99
The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between – Hisham Matar – Random – PB – $25
Min Jin Lee’s second novel, Pachinko, is a sprawling exploration of the lives of Korean migrants living in Japan over the course of the 20th century. For those who don’t know, pachinko is a Japanese gambling game which is kind of a cross between pinpall and poker machines, a combination of luck and chance could see you win. (For those who like visuals, try this Youtube video.)
Japan annexed Korea in 1910, and the following year the match-maker visits Hoonie’s surprised parents in their village outside the port-city of Busan: though Hoonie is responsible and kind, he has a club foot and a cleft palate, and was never expected to marry. The novel follows the course of Hoonie’s one surviving child, daughter Sunja, through her relationship with a married yakuza (gangster) at 16, the marriage to Christian Isak from North Korea which saved her family’s reputation, their time in Osaka, and through the lives of her children Noa and Mozasu as they separately become scorned pachinko-parlour managers, and Mozasu’s son Solomon as he gets a first-class American education and later returns to Japan. It is a generational rags-to-riches story as Sunja’s family fights against facing the prejudice and repression which is the fate of all Koreans, stateless migrants who cannot claim either Korean or Japanese citizenship.
The book is well written and gives emotional insight into Korean and Japanese history, as well as the toll taken by the Koreans’ sub-citizen status in a biased nation. (You can all draw your own contemporary parallels, I’m sure.) A good read for those who like the long-term absorption of the family saga, with the added knowledge from two cultures most Australians aren’t familiar with.
Pachinko – Min Jin Lee – PB – Apollo – $33
This book came as a very pleasant surprise. I’ve long been a fan of Holly Throsby’s music, so I was happy to hunker down with her first novel, Goodwood. Set in a fictional NSW town of the same name, the story follows one sad and unusual summer in the sleepy town’s life. Seventeen-year-old narrator Jean tells us about fishing, the high school assembly, Davo’s sleazy uncle from Albion Park, and what happens when Rosie from the chip shop and Bart the much-loved butcher both disappear in one short week in 1992… and all the secrets that are revealed until they are found.
Goodwood is a laid-back, loving portrait of a small town, where each individual has their place be they good or bad. Each character is well-drawn, the early ’90s are realistically described, and Jean’s voice is just spot-on. Less a crime novel than an untangling of relationships, despite the untimely disappearances, Throsby’s plotting and portraiture make this a great, easy read. And since she’s a good feminist (Happy International Women’s Day, everyone) all the wife-beaters and slimeballs get treated with the respect they deserve.
I whipped through most of this in one read, and highly recommend it to those seeking some sensitive Australiana (as The Age thought) or a light-but-deep read. The book is also shortlisted for the Debut Indie Award, due to be announced in a couple of weeks, so fingers crossed for Holly. Enjoy!
Goodwood – Holly Throsby – TP – Allen & Unwin – $29.99
PS And if you’re interested in Aussie crime, don’t miss out on the event at Northcote Library tonight!
The longlist has been announced for the 2017 Stella Prize, awarded each year to great writing by Australian women. This year, out of a dozen titles chosen, there are four fiction (three novels and one short-story collection) and eight nonfiction books (five of which are memoirs).
The shortlist will be announced on International Women’s Day (Wednesday 8 March) and the winner of the $50,000 first prize will be announced on Tuesday 18 April.
We currently have half of the list in-stock, and by next week we should have the full long list. The Stella link to each title below has a plot summary, an author bio and a Stella judges’ report — so you can find out what all the fuss is about. Do get in touch if you want a longlister put aside.
Between a Wolf and a Dog by Georgia Blain (TP, Scribe- $30)
An Isolated Incident by Emily Maguire (TP, Picador – $33)
The High Places by Fiona McFarlane (TP, Hamish Hamilton – $33)
The Museum of Modern Love by Heather Rose (PB, Allen & Unwin – $28)
Victoria: The Queen by Julia Baird (HB, Harper Collins – $50)
The Hate Race by Maxine Beneba Clarke (TP, Hachette – $33)
Poum and Alexandre: A Paris Memoir by Catherine de Saint Phalle (TP, Transit Lounge – $30)
Offshore: Behind the Wire on Manus and Nauru by Madeline Gleeson (PB, NewSouth – $30)
Avalanche by Julia Leigh (PB, Hamish Hamilton – $25)
Wasted: A Story of Alcohol, Grief and a Death in Brisbane by Elspeth Muir (TP, Text – $30)
Dying: A Memoir by Cory Taylor (HB, Hachette – $25)
The Media and the Massacre: Port Arthur 1996-2016 by Sonya Voumard (PB, Transit Lounge – $30)
Steph’s best books
Clancy of the Undertow – Christopher Currie – PB – $20
Convict Tattoos: Marked Men and Women of Australia – Simon Barnard – HB – $40
His Bloody Project – Graeme Macrae Burnet – PB – $20
The Turner House – Angela Flournoy – TPB – $33
Words in Deep Blue – Cath Crowley – PB – $19
That’s our best books for 2016, all wrapped up. Why don’t you comment or post to let us know your favourites?
Jodie’s best books
Botanicum – Kathy Willis & Katie Scott – HB – $39.95
Hello! – Tony Flowers (ill.) – HB – $25
The Last Painting of Sara de Vos – Dominic Smith – TPB – $33
Welcome to Country – Aunty Joy Murphy & Lisa Kennedy – HB – $25
Where the Trees Were – Inga Simpson – TPB – $30
Stay tuned for our final set of favourites tomorrow, this time from Steph…
Fiona’s best books
Commonwealth – Ann Patchett – TPB – $30
The Glorious Heresies – Lisa McInerney – PB – $20
The Hate Race – Maxine Beneba Clarke – TPB – $33
LaRose – Louise Erdrich – TPB – $33
Our Souls at Night – Kent Haruf – PB – $20
Stay tuned for Jess’s best books tomorrow…