Golden Boys by Sonya Hartnett

Golden Boys by Sonya Hartnett is a really difficult book to review. There’s nothing ‘feel good’ about it. It will leave you feeling flat, heart-sore and perhaps angry as well. But all the things that Sonya Hartnett does brilliantly are there. So let me begin with those.

Hartnett is the master of writing about Australian suburbia. The way she describes places are so accurately generic (stay with me, I know that sounds ridiculous) that all readers get the sense that she is describing their suburb. In fact, she rarely, if ever, mentions actual places, and Golden Boys is no exception (although I’m convinced it’s set in the Melbourne suburb of Doncaster). How does she do it? I’m not sure – you’re not consciously picking out details as you read however the aggregate of all those details – trips to the milk bar, wheeling in circles on your bike, the ice-crusted block of vanilla ice cream left standing in the centre of the neapolitan tub – sparks something and it all feels very real and very familiar.

“…the side door of the kiosk at the cricket ground, the bottle depot behind the Scouts’ hall, the grassy veins of unowned land that divide houses here and there…” Continue reading

Six Degrees of Separation – from All the Birds, Singing to The Last Banquet

all-the-birds-singing-evie-wyld

It’s time again for my favourite meme. Based on the concept of six degrees of separation, Emma Chapman and Annabel Smith have created #6DEGREES, where bloggers share links between books in six moves. Check out the rules if you want to play along.

We begin with Evie Wyld’s All the Birds, Singing,  this year’s winner of Australia’s most prestigious literary prize, the Miles Franklin. I haven’t read it. Yet. I know, I always read the Miles Franklin winner… Anyway, it doesn’t stop me from participating and my first link is to Mateship with Birds by Carrie Tiffany. Obviously there are birds in both titles, but both books are also Australian prize-winners (Tiffany won the inaugural Stella Prize for Mateship). Continue reading

Dave Eggers at the Melbourne Writers Festival

I managed to get to a couple of events at the Melbourne Writers Festival last week. Ideally I would have shared my thoughts immediately after each session, while all that ace-ness was still fresh in my mind but unfortunately, much of my brain space was taken up with studying for the exam I had on Monday. So, first up, here are my takeaway messages from Dave Eggers.

I love Dave Eggers a bit more than I already did previously when, slightly disoriented at the start of the talk he said he’d only arrived in Australia yesterday and it was “…a million o’clock…” for him. From that statement alone, I’m confident he also recognises eleventy-billion as a number. And just to lock-in the love, there was a baby in the audience, whose nappy he signed. Actually, the whole thing kinda felt like meeting a rock star… Continue reading

Rainey Royal by Dylan Landis

I really don’t like the colour purple. I mean I really, really don’t like it. In fact, it makes me cringe. Which is why I kept passing over Rainey Royal by Dylan Landis – that cover, all purpley and Ishka-ey, everything I hate. But somewhere along the way I read a super review, so I popped over to NetGalley and read the blurb. Okay, it sounded interesting and I figured that as an ARC on my Kindle, I wouldn’t have to look at any purple.

And I’m very glad I did read Rainey Royal. Continue reading

Hungry, the Stars and Everything by Emma Jane Unsworth

There’s lots I want to say about Emma Jane Unsworth’s debut novel, Hungry, the Stars and Everything, including drawing attention to perfect little passages such as this -

“Children aren’t supposed to like dark chocolate. It’s one of those bitter things that you are meant to acquire a taste for later in life, like olives and self-pity. But I was different. I enjoyed the taste of wrongness in my mouth…”

Instead, I’m taking my lead from the book itself, where Helen, the main character and an emerging restaurant critic, is given advice on how to write a review  -

“‘I’ll tell you my bulletproof reviewing technique,’ Keith began… Then, leaning in towards me, a thick tongue of orange liqueur fumes rolling out of his mouth, he whispered: ‘Whenever I leave a place, I ask myself three questions. One: How do I feel? Two: Where did that transport me to? And three: What did I enjoy the most?'”

So, according to Keith’s checklist, this is how Hungry, the Stars and Everything measured up – Continue reading

Bookish (and not so bookish) Thoughts

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I’m doing another speed edition of Bookish Thoughts (hosted by Christine) this week. Because pedigrees and learning eleventy-billion genetic disorders beckon.

1. Exxopolis. Amazing.

2. Sonya Hartnett at the Melbourne Writers Festival – more detail to come. Brilliant. Continue reading