Reading the Stella Prize shortlist – The Golden Age by Joan London


“What had been temporary had become settled. What had seemed like the end of the world had become the centre.”

I described Joan London’s The Golden Age to a friend as a ‘quiet’ book. And it is. Quietly brilliant.

This isn’t a book with a plot that knocks you over or language that demands your attention. Instead, the characters creep into your heart, win your admiration. London’s words are plain but poetic – I found myself re-reading passages and thinking, “Isn’t that just perfection?”.

“His parents had stood like this at the railing on the deck of the ship to Australia, backs turned to him, slender drifts of smoke curling up above the horizon like the thread of their own thoughts. There was something lonely yet resolute about the way they stood there. It was not quite hope.” Continue reading

Pretty Ugly by Kirker Butler

If you don’t laugh/snigger within the first chapter of Kirker Butler’s Pretty Ugly, put the book down. Please don’t plough-on and then carry-on about politically incorrect humour. Because that’s just boring for everyone.

The story is about the Millers, your typical dysfunctional American family. There’s Miranda, the social-climbing stage mom; nine-year-old pageant queen, Bailey; Ray, the philandering husband who works around the clock as a nurse to keep Miranda and Bailey in pageants and to keep his 17-year-old girlfriend, Courtney, happy; and the crazy grandmother, Joan, who has a hotline to Jesus.

The core of the story pokes fun at the kid-beauty-pageant-circuit. Is the joke overworked? Maybe. Then again, no – the circuit is beyond ridiculous.

“After eight and a half years and three hundred and sixty-three pageants, Miranda was pretty sure she’d thought of everything, but this had never even occurred to her… If she’d overlooked something as fundamental as her nine-year-old daughter’s sex appeal, what else had she missed?” Continue reading

Bookish (and not so bookish) Thoughts

1. I’m back from Hawaii. It was ace. Don’t worry, I’ll bore you with a long show-offy holiday post soon.

2. The Baileys Prize shortlist has been announced. And the thing I love most is that London baker, Biscuiteers, iced the book covers. Brilliant.baileys-prize-shortlist-2015-in-cake Continue reading

Reading the Stella Prize shortlist – The Eye of the Sheep by Sofie Laguna


I reviewed Sofie Laguna’s The Eye of the Sheep last year. Actually, it wasn’t a review… just a little lament. And my position remains unchanged. This is a brilliant and heartbreaking story about a family and a boy named Jim Flick.

4/5 Laguna has created an unforgettable character in Jim. Prepare to cry.

Will it win the Stella Prize? Front-runner.

Bookish (and not so bookish) Thoughts

1. The Stella Prize shortlist book group is up and running. We go crazy on Twitter every Monday evening. #fun

2. Read my first 5/5 book for the year – Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum. Get on it peoples.


3. The Baileys Prize 2015 longlist was announced recently. I’ve only read one… Poor show, me.

4. Related: Why the eff wasn’t Hausfrau on that longlist? #travesty Continue reading

Reading the Stella Prize shortlist – Foreign Soil by Maxine Beneba Clarke


I hardly feel qualified to review Maxine Beneba Clarke’s collection of short stories about refugees and immigrants, Foreign Soil, given my white-bread, picket-fence life. Anything I say, will (to my ears at least), sound off-hand in light of the horrors and the deep sadness that Clarke exposes in her fine stories. Continue reading