Underwhelmed…

Two books, high expectations for both – unfortunately I was underwhelmed… Continue reading

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The Near Miss by Fran Cusworth

Fran Cusworth’s domestic-drama, The Near Miss, tells the story of three strangers, brought together by an ‘almost’ accident (hence the title).

Grace is an exhausted mother, who is plagued by a ‘…smorgasbord of worries’, from money, work, and her temperamental daughter to her husband who spends more time inventing things than focused on his job.

Continue reading

Making Laws for Clouds by Nick Earls

Nick Earls (who I think of as Australia’s Nick Hornby) branches into YA fiction with Making Laws for Clouds.

It’s a simple story set over one hot summer. Eighteen-year-old Kane meets new-girl-in-town, Tanika Bell.

She looks like Kylie Minogue to me, or as good as you get round here. Kylie Minogue from around the time of ‘Locomotion’, but with much more original teeth.

Although he has Tanika on his mind, Kane is also managing his job (he’s in charge of road verges in the local council maintenance crew) and his family. Kane’s father left years ago and his mother has ‘bad days’ (not helped by large quantities of rum). Continue reading

The Trauma Cleaner by Sarah Krasnostein

This book. Wow.

Harrowing. Courageous. Repulsive. Compelling. Heartbreaking. Uplifting. Fascinating.

The Trauma Cleaner, like its star, Sandra Pankhurst, is genre-defying. Author Sarah Krasnostein shadowed Sandra over a number of years, observing her day-to-day activities and recording the story of her life before she was a cleaner. And that story is remarkable – Sandra was a husband and father, drag queen, sex reassignment patient, sex worker, businesswoman, and trophy wife. As a ‘trauma cleaner’, Sandra cleans places others dare not go – homicide, suicide and death scenes; meth labs; homes of hoarders; and places ravaged by water, mould and filth.

Sandra knows her clients as well as they know themselves; she airs out their smells, throws out their weird porn, their photos, their letters, the last traces of their DNA entombed in soaps and toothbrushes. She does not, however, erase these people. She couldn’t. She has experienced their same sorrows. 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

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

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

Questions of Travel by Michelle de Kretser

If you have a neat row of Lonely Planet titles on your bookshelf – their bright blue spines and bold white lettering proclaiming exotic locations – then you ought to read Michelle de Kretser’s novel, Questions of Travel. Anyone who has sought an ‘authentic experience’, ‘immersed themselves’ in the culture of another country or thought they were ‘off the beaten track’ is likely to squirm –

“…the fraudulence of souvenirs that suggested pleasure while commemorating flight.”

“France – well, France had always been blighted by the necessary evil of the French. But if only Laura had seen Bangkok before the smog/ Hong Kong before the Chinese/ Switzerland before the Alps/ the planet before the Flood.” Continue reading