Four Quick Reviews

It’s getting to that stage where every spare moment is spent on ‘end-of-year’ stuff, leaving precious little time for writing reviews. I’m taking a short-cut.  Continue reading

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The Top 50 from the Best Books of 2018 List of Lists

This is my annual community service to book-bloggers – a list of the books that appear most frequently on all of the lists (37 of them) I listed on Best Books of 2018 – A List of Lists.

Here it is, the 2018 Commonly-Agreed-by-the-People-Who-Publish-Best-of-2018-Book-Lists-Before-December-31 top 50 books. Continue reading

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

There’s no shortage of Holocaust literature, and yet every so often one story rises to the top of the best-seller lists – why is one story more ‘appealing’ than another? I don’t know. Why does one story capture attention over others? I don’t know. The current critics’ favourite is The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris.

Morris has recorded the true story of Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew who was transported to Auschwitz-Birkenau in April 1942. When the guards at the camp discovered that Lale spoke several languages, he was put to work as a Tätowierer (tattooist), tasked with ‘numbering’ his fellow prisoners.

Day has become night, and still men line up to be numbered for life, be it short or long. Continue reading

A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson

It was a great risk to read Kate Atkinson’s A God in Ruins, so soon after I finished the extraordinary Life After Life. It was a risk that paid off.

A God in Ruins is the sequel to Life After Life, but a sequel in the loosest sense. Atkinson turns her focus to Teddy, Ursula’s beloved younger brother and the family darling.

‘Out of all of them, you are my favourite,’ and he knew it was true and felt bad for the others. (It was a relief, Sylvie thought, finally to know what love was.) Continue reading

Best books of 2018 – a list of lists

It’s that time of the year when newspapers and magazines publish their ‘Best of 2018’ lists.

Last year, lists began appearing early November – this year, editors have shown restraint, so I will keep adding as they appear.

The Best of 2018 According to #ALLTHELISTS will be coming in the next week or so – stay tuned! (See pervious lists here). Continue reading

Heart Berries: A Memoir by Terese Marie Mailhot

I have a weak point when reading – the loss of a child. Stories about losing a child – through death, family separation, to addiction, to crime – hurt my heart more than any other. I’ve mentioned a passage in Yanagihara’s A Little Life that haunts me because it gets to the very core of the issue.

When the loss of a child was revealed at the beginning of Terese Marie Mailhot’s memoir, Heart Berries, I prepared myself for a tough read.

You asked me for my secret. I told you about the son who didn’t live with me. I told you I lock myself in the bathroom to cry when I remember his milk breath… You said you’d be on the other side of the door. That’s how perfect love is at first. Solutions are simple, and problems are laid out simply. Continue reading

Less by Andrew Sean Greer

My thought as I was halfway through reading Andrew Sean Greer’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel, Less, was why the Melbourne Writers Festival team (i.e. Marieke and her off-sider, Gene) were so invested in the book (they were mad for it).

And then I discovered that there was so much more to Less.

It’s the story of Arthur Less, a mediocre novelist who is about to turn fifty (‘Arthur Less is the first homosexual ever to grow old’). When Less receives an invitation to ex-boyfriend Freddy’s wedding, he plans a round-the-world trip to avoid the nuptials. A string of speaking and teaching engagements takes him from New York and Mexico City, to Rome, Berlin, Paris, Morocco, India and Japan.

While snow glistens on Charlottenburg Palace, Freddy is standing beside Dennis in the California sun, for surely it is one of those white-linen-suit weddings, with a bower of white roses and pelicans flying by and somebody’s understanding college ex-girlfriend playing Joni Mitchell on guitar. Continue reading

The Postman’s Fiancée by Denis Theriault

The Postman’s Fiancée by Denis Thériault is a story about infatuation, love, haiku, and identity.

Tania moves from Bavaria to Montreal to fine-tune her French and fall in love. Waitressing at a restaurant frequented by ‘regulars’, she meets Bilodo, a shy postman who writes haiku and who is passionate about calligraphy.

He came through the door every day at noon, impeccable in his postman’s uniform. He was tall, rather thin and not exactly handsome, but his gentle eyes and timid smile made Tania go weak inside. Continue reading

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

I dither writing reviews for books that I absolutely adored. It’s ludicrous. I should be shouting from the rooftops “EVERYBODY! READ KATE ATKINSON’S LIFE AFTER LIFE! IT’S A MARVEL!”

Atkinson’s carefully constructed story follows Ursula Todd, as she lives and dies over and over again. Ursula’s story begins in England, in 1910, when she dies at birth, the umbilical cord around her neck –

The little heart. A helpless little heart beating wildly. Stopped suddenly like a bird dropped from the sky. A single shot. Darkness fell.

And darkness falls multiple times – drowning, slipping off a roof, illness, gas inhalation, suicide. Continue reading