So many books. So little time. As another year comes to a close it’s time for a some literary accounting. Discounting January, when my focus was entirely on uni text books, I read 69 books in 2017, including four non-fiction and one play. I did not count books that I…
Jon McGregor’s much anticipated novel, Reservoir 13, has all the ingredients for a thriller: mysterious disappearance of a 13-year-old girl, mesmerising but brooding landscapes, close-knit community, dodgy characters, illicit relationships. And of course: Secrets. What he delivers is an elegant, almost poetic rendering of the evolving impact of a tragedy, not just on…
Rug up when you settle down to read The North Water, or strongly defend your spot in front of a blazing fire. Author Ian McGuire has created a world so physically, emotionally and psychologically bleak that, from the first few pages, you know you’re going to be in for a chilling time.
It is the 1850s and former army surgeon Patrick Sumner has signed up for a six-month voyage on a whaler, The Volunteer, out of Hull, a town on England’s north east coast that was once the heart of a booming whaling industry. But Volunteer is putting to see, heading into the treacherous Arctic waters in the twilight of an industry overtaken by new fuels like coal oil and paraffin.
“The women who led us so magnificently into our own modernist age in Australian literature are lost to time,” argues Natascha Robinson in The Australian. And this means that fine authors like Eleanor Dark, Stella Miles Franklin, Katherine Prichard and Rosa Praed are under-appreciated, if known at all. Read the full article.
Flood of Fire, the final part of Amitav Ghosh’s Ibis trilogy is set between 1839 and 1841 and it would have been easy to have got the reader lost in the rich historical events that were unfolding during that period; the growing tensions between China and British-ruled India over the opium trade that eventually triggered war, the eventual seizure of Hong Kong and what Beijing saw as its humiliating defeat.
But Ghosh’s literary world is populated by such a gallery of diverse and vivid characters that it is they who capture the reader. Some will be remembered from his first two books, Sea of Poppies about opium production and River of Smoke about the opium ship Anahita travelling to Canton in China. However, while Flood of Fire provides continuity it is equally enthralling as a stand-alone book.
The story unfolds through the lives of three main characters: Zachary Reid,
Even taking into account that hundreds of thousands of books are published each year it is always surprising to come across one so enjoyable that you wonder why it is that you haven’t read any of the author’s work before. This was recently the situation with Romesh Gunesekera whose second…
Stevie, the protagonist in Rachel Seiffert’s new novel The Walk Home, is too young to be so self-possessed. Too young to be on his own. Having run away to work in London while still in his teens he has returned to his native Glasgow, Scotland, and lives in the large empty house the team of Polish tradesmen is renovating. He is geographically close to his family; close enough to know he cannot go home. At the beginning, everything had been so different: so hopeful. Stevie’s parents, Graham and Lindsay, were young then too. But they were in love and, when Lindsay found she was pregnant, had set up home together in a neglected apartment on the rundown Glasgow housing scheme. Undeterred, they clean it up, give it a coat of paint, and it was their own place.
Lindsay sees it as the beginning of their journey out of the tenements: a future. But Graham increasingly feels the tug of the insular world in which he grew up, particularly membership of the Orange Lodge band, symbol of the pervasive sectarianism that divides Glasgow almost as rigidly as Belfast where its roots lay.
At 104 pages, The Testament of Mary by Colm Toibin, seems too slight to do justice to the enormity of its subject. Yet emotion vibrates from the pages with such intensity that the book’s impact lingers long after you have finished. Based on Toibin’s stage play, Testament, it reveals the tangle of emotions overwhelming Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, in the period leading up to and directly following her son’s death.
It peels away the religious dogma and leaves the anger, frustration and terrible loss of a loving mother who could not protect her son from a looming danger to which she had become increasingly alert. Compounding this is her shame that
Women have scooped the pool in the American National Book Foundation’s 5 under 35 list of top writers aged under 35. The winners are NoViolet Bulawayo for the Booker short-listed We Need New Names, Amanda Coplin for The Orchardist, Merritt Tierce for Love Me Back, Molly Antopol for The UnAmericans and Daisy…