Quentin Bryce, Australia’s former (and first female) governor-general, wrote over 50 letters a week as part of her official role, to and from school children, prime ministers, sheep (yes, sheep), retired servicepeople, doctors, bus drivers and friends.
This book compiles facsimile letters, transcripts, photographs, and Ms Bryce’s commentaries on the people and correspondents she met. Her tone is warm, and the tone of the letters ranges from sensitive (discussing military history) to hilarious. One child wrote to suggest a lucky dip for prime minister, another wrote to say that their new bull calf had been named after her.
It’s a beautiful hardback edition, with colour photos and facsimiles throughout, and makes a beautiful gift.
Dear Quentin: Letters of a Governor-General – Quentin Bryce – Miegunyah Press – HB – $45
Great news for fans of Matthew Van Fleet! If you’ve read and loved his Tails or Cats, with the push tabs and flaps and furry bits and colours, then you’ll enjoy this one. Little ones can learn to do the Hippopota Hula, the Bouncy Bunny Hop and the Gator Mashed Potater, with demos and tabs to pull. Good for 2 to 4 year olds, in a solid board book.
Dance – Matthew Van Fleet – Simon & Schuster – BB – $30
Just out: a memoir from photographer (and partner of neurologist Oliver Sacks), Bill Hayes. Peppered with his own street-life shots from his adopted city of New York, Bill writes about his move to the Big Apple from San Francisco, and his relationship with the very private Sacks. You can read an excerpt here, including a visit to Björk, and experience a bit of vicarious glitterati living. It’s getting rave reviews already, and is a lovely hardback with a gorgeous photo-cover under the dust jacket.
Insomniac City: New York, Oliver, and Me – Bill Hayes – Bloomsbury – HB – $30
And since the year is getting into its prize-giving swing, a couple of weeks ago the longlist for the 2017 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction was announced. Awarded for literature written by a woman (in English and published in the UK), the 2017 is peopled with many well-established authors — Margaret Atwood, Annie Proulx, Rose Tremain — as well as several up-and-comers. (No Australian writers, sadly.) There’s 16 books to choose from, so you’ll be very well-read by the time the winner is announced on 7 June (UK time).
Green Start, the maker of this cool Banana Splitz toy, is one of our favourite toy manufacturers. Always in great colours, made from sustainable materials, well designed and of good educational quality to boot, what’s not to like? This fun toy lets little ones (aged 1 to 3 years) put the different parts of an ice-cream sundae together by sliding them onto wooden poles set in the base. Each piece is sturdy and reversible, perfect for little hands to play with!
Banana Splitz – Green Start – $33
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
And the winner of the Indie Book of the Year is… Jane Harper’s The Dry: for the best Australian writing of 2016, as chosen by Australian independent booksellers. Our congratulations to Jane — we’ve barely been able to keep her book in stock since it came out!
Other prize winners this year:
* Fiction: The Last Painting of Sara de Vos by Dominic Smith
* Debut fiction: The Dry by Jane Harper
* Non-fiction: Everywhere I Look by Helen Garner
* Children’s: Circle by Jeannie Baker
* Young Adult: Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley
All titles in-store now, or on order in desperate haste if we’ve sold out! Let us know if you want any of the prize-winners put aside for you, and come enjoy some great Australian writing.