Sisters by Lily Tuck

Lily Tuck’s latest novella, Sisters, opens with a quote from Christopher Nicholson’s Winter“First and second wives are like sisters.” The quote sets the scene for the unnamed narrator’s story, who describes life with her new husband, his two teenagers, and the unbanishable presence of his first wife, ominously known only as ‘she’.

A partnership that stems from a betrayal is on uneven ground from the outset – history is on the side of the ex; there will always be nagging doubts about trust; and comparisons will be made. Continue reading

Our Magic Hour by Jennifer Down

There’s grief-lit aplenty at the moment. Honestly, you can’t scan a bookshelf without YA novels about parents or best friends dying; memoirs about cancer battles; suicide stories; and generally just loss, loss and more loss. But if you only read one bit of grief-lit this year, make it Our Magic Hour by Jennifer Down.

Audrey, Katy and Adam have been friends since high school—a shared history of inside jokes, sneaky cigarettes, ‘D&Ms’ and looking out for each other –

Katy’s family ate dinner together every single night. Her parents umpired at weekend netball matches, took orange quarters for the girls in their pleated skirts. Audrey’s parents destroyed each other.

Now in their twenties, they juggle the pressures of adulthood – relationships, work, their families. When Katy takes her own life (within the first few pages), Audrey and Adam are left to deal with their grief. The story explores the ripple-effect of Katy’s death rather than the reasons why she took her own life. Continue reading

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

There’s pride, there’s prejudice, and there’s also text break-ups, reality tv, ‘hate sex’, Bitcoin, jogging, and Ivy League schools in Eligible, Curtis Sittenfeld’s fabulous, frothy take on the Austen classic, Pride and Prejudice.

The brilliance in Sittenfeld’s rendering of Pride is that she stayed absolutely true to the story (a ridiculous social-climber plots to marry-off her five daughters to suitable, wealthy men), and yet made it very much her own.

All five  girls had then gone on to private colleges before embarking on what could euphemistically be called non-lucrative careers, though in the case of some sisters, non-lucrative non-careers was a more precise descriptor.

The story is set in Cincinnati (Sittenfeld’s hometown) and we find Liz as a magazine journalist; Jane, a yoga instructor; Mary doing her third online masters degree; and Kitty and Lydia gadding about eating high-protein meals and attending CrossFit. Continue reading

Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks

Here’s the thing about Geraldine Brooks (because I’m totally qualified to comment on Geraldine Brooks, obvs) and Caleb’s Crossing (which, according to many aggrieved Goodreads members, should be called Bethia’s Crossing) –

01. Stating the obvious but she knows how to write historical fiction. I reckon Brooks tests every single word for authenticity – it’s meticulous.

02. Even the emotions her characters are feeling are ‘historically appropriate’ (tricky, right?) and yet, she manages to create these wonderfully strong females who both make a mark on their time and offer something for the present.

Is it ever thus, at the end of things? Does any woman ever count the grains of her harvest and say: Good enough? Or does one always think of what more one might have laid in, had the labor been harder, the ambition more vast, the choices more sage? Continue reading

The Light of Day by Graham Swift

One thing that irritates the bejesus out of me is protracted suspense. It’s probably why I don’t read many thrillers or mysteries. Can you see where I’m heading with Graham Swift’s The Light of Day?

Ex-cop-turned-private-detective, George, reflects on past events that bound him to Sarah, a woman he visits in jail.

And sometimes it’s at the very moment they learn the worst that they most become your friend. They thank you for it – they even pay you for it. Continue reading

Mrs Fletcher by Tom Perrotta

Without bringing up the whole Lionel Shriver debate again (and Bill has the best summary of that), I fear Tom Perrotta was writing about stuff that he probably should have left alone in his latest novel, Mrs Fletcher.

In brief, it’s the story of Eve Fletcher, divorced, mother to Brendan and director of a seniors centre. Note that Brendan is a sexist, homophobic jock, who has no intention of changing his party-hard ways as he begins college. Continue reading

The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney

It doesn’t seem quite right doing a literary mixtape for a book that I loved so much. Because I should be telling you why I loved it, and urging you to read it. Read this review and also this one – they sum up why it’s ace. Now off you go and read it.

5/5 Magnificent. Continue reading

Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney

When you’re twenty-one years old, you think you’ve got relationships down – you’re not as susceptible to shallow or fleeting infatuations (or rather, you accept infatuations for what they are – shallow and fleeting); you’ve probably had you’re heart-broken; you ‘know what you want’ and ‘commitment’ seems a reasonable proposition. But actually, there’s still a lot to learn on the relationship front. A lot. Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney demonstrates exactly that.

Frances is 21 – a university student, aspiring writer, idealistic, and aloof. Her best-friend Bobbi, is charismatic, opinionated and beautiful. Once lovers, the two women now perform poetry together. They’re discovered by Melissa, an established writer in her mid-30s, and are quickly drawn into Melissa’s world, impressed by her sophistication, her beautiful home and her handsome actor husband, Nick. Continue reading

Berlin Syndrome by Melanie Joosten

Melanie Joosten’s fresh-to-the-big-screen thriller, Berlin Syndrome, is a story about Stockholm Syndrome. Set in Berlin, obvs.

Australian photographer (with an interest in former Eastern Bloc architecture), Clare, meets native Berliner and English teacher, Andi.

He was not really following her, he told himself, he was just curious to see where she was going. An anthropological study of a foreigner in Berlin.

There is an instant attraction and suddenly a holiday fling turns into something more sinister than Clare could have anticipated. Within days, Clare realises that she is trapped in Andi’s apartment and although she initially tries to escape, her attitude changes and she becomes a compliant prisoner. Continue reading