Lizzie Benson, the narrator of Jenny Offill’s latest novel Weather, is a failed university student, librarian, surveyor of life and lives, and enthusiastic amateur psychiatrist. She is busily absorbed in managing the everyday: her relationship with husband Ben, a laid-back IT specialist, caring for her worryingly bright son, religion-obsessed mother…
“The baby is dead.” It’s a confident author who opens with the end. Particularly an ending so shocking, so visceral, that it might repel the reader. But Lullaby by French-Moroccan writer Leila Slimani does the opposite. The description of the scene surrounding the baby’s death, is so devastatingly succinct, that…
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…
The Final Murder is the second in Anne Holt’s crime series starring senior Norwegian police Superintendent Adam Stubo and psychologist Johanne Vik. The two met in the series debut, Punishment which was released in translation earlier this year, and quite apart from working well together they obviously hit it off socially in a big way.
When The Final Murder opens they are now married and Stubo is on paternity leave after the birth of their daughter, Ragnhild. It’s a sad commentary on the marital skills of many factional cops, that he flatly refused, even when ordered, to return to the back in the office due to a particularly high-profile killing of an attractive TV presenter. Stubo is a refreshingly normal character. Humane and caring. Apart from the occasional forbidden cigar and glass of wine to assist contemplation, he’s devoid of the traits that tend to single out the modern crime buster. He’s a good father both to Ragnhild and to the strangely quirky Kristiane, Vik’s daughter by an
Katherine Brabon’s The Memory Artist, which won The Australian/Vogel Literary Award for debut novelist for 2016, is the story of Pasha Ivanov who grew up in the 1960s in the small Moscow apartment where his dissident parents and their friends gathered. They were determined to find out and circulate information about the Stalin government’s ruthless repression, perpetuated by subsequent regimes, long after his death. Tens of millions had been murdered, exiled to brutal remote gulags, placed in mental institutions or, simply disappeared. Control over information, even thought, brutally enforced. Fear as powerful a censor as a prison cell or a man with a gun.
In the 1980s, following Brezhnev’s death, new leader Mikhail Gorbachev has ushered in fledgling glasnost, an increased openess about the activities of
For a debut novel, in fact, for any novel, The Widow by Fiona Barton is a staggering success. It grabs you in the first few pages and just doesn’t let go. In theory it’s the relatively straightforward story of a crime and the ensuing police investigation, albeit dealing with a deeply harrowing subject. A toddler, Bella, has gone missing from her garden during the few minutes she had been left unattended. A media frenzy engulfs the country. In the absence of any immediate breakthroughs, speculation and gossip become the main currency. But slowly, painstakingly, the police begin to piece together shards of evidence which takes them into the dark world of on-line hard-core sex and pedophilia and, finally, a suspect.
It’s been more than five years since the publication of Julian Barnes‘s highly acclaimed last novel, The Sense of an Ending, which won the 2011 Man Booker Prize, so expectations of his new novel are inevitably high. The Noise About Time is about composer Dimitri Shostakovich and his attempts to navigate the iron web that has been woven around every aspect of life within Russia first under Stalin then Khrushchev (Nikita the Corncob). Intellectuals, particularly those in the arts were particularly vulnerable, elevated to great heights for providing pride, solace and inspiration to the masses, then sent crashing to earth or worse, for unimagined infractions.
The awarding of the Order of Australia to Geraldine Brooks as part of the national Australia Day celebrations this week was a fitting start to the new year for one of the country’s internationally celebrated authors. She received the OA not just for her writing but also her work as Ambassador for the Indigenous Literacy Foundation which aims to put books in the hands of indigenous children in remote areas.
The comes as Brooks enjoys great critical acclaim for her latest book The Secret Chord, a rich reinterpretation of the life of one of the most famous historical characters. If King David were alive today he would be a superstar of the political world. A slayer of giants (real and metaphorical), the second King of the Jews. Admired and feared. A unifier and a divisive force. Modest yet carelessly arrogant. Sympathetic yet cruel. A character who looms large over the foundation period of religious history.