When I was young, we had family friends that were in a unique situation – two families, each with two girls. The couples then swapped partners (not in a tawdry way, it was just how it worked out…), and then both had two more girls each. My family was friends with both families (pre and post swap) – one family lived down the road, I went to school with the kids from the other. It was this bizarre, fascinating mix of sisters, half-sisters, step-children and parents.
Those that have read Ann Patchett’s brilliant new novel, Commonwealth, will understand why I started with that anecdote. For those that haven’t read it, know that the first line is one of the most appealing I’ve come across in a long time –
“The christening party took a turn when Albert Cousins arrived with gin.”
Hurrah! A story where gin is the protagonist in the first chapter. Continue reading
I continued my theme of reading ‘art thrillers’* with The Muse by Jessie Burton.
The story begins in 1967, in London, where Odelle Bastien, a budding writer from Trinidad, gets a job as a typist at a well-known art gallery. Her boss, the elegant Marjorie Quick, takes a special interest in Odelle and her writing. Meanwhile, Odelle meets Lawrie Scott, a young man who has inherited a mysterious painting – the masterpiece, Quick believes, of a Spanish artist called Isaac Robles.
The history of the painting takes the story to a village in southern Spain in 1936, where Olive Schloss is living with her art dealer father and her glamorous but troubled mother. Although Olive is a painter of considerable talent, her father dismisses women as artists.
“Was the difference between being a workaday painter and being an artist simply other people believing in you, or spending twice as much money on your work? As far as Olive saw it, this connection of masculinity with creativity had been conjured from the air and been enforced, legitimised and monetised by enough people for whom such a state of affairs was convenient – men like her father.” Continue reading
The Wangs vs the World by Jade Chang is presented as a classic road trip story, however, there’s more to this novel than car troubles, backseat squabbles and greasy truck-stop meals.
Immigrant businessman, Charles Wang, is mad at America (or more specifically, its financial crisis). He’s lost his cosmetics empire, his house, and all the trappings of his luxury lifestyle.
“Payback for ancient crimes. Alright, let’s call it that. A karmic kung fu kick to the balls. But you know who’s getting kicked in the balls? Is it the descendants of those missionaries? The Anglo Saxons who profited from that original theft? No, they remain in their Martha’s Vineyard mansions, eating lobster and fighting over who gets to give Bill Clinton handjobs. And who really gets jacked off? ME!” Continue reading
I’ve talked about Ian McEwan and my reading previously. I know some think he writes only one character (that being himself) and that the ever-present moral twist in his stories is predictable – but I’m okay with that. And Nutshell goes on my list of McEwan Worth Reading*.
Slicker, sharper and less sentimental than other books I’ve read by Kaui Hart Hemmings, her latest, How to Party With an Infant, makes for entertaining reading.
Recipe blogger, Mele Bart, is single mum to two-year-old Ellie. When she was pregnant, Mele’s boyfriend, Bobby, announced his engagement – to another woman (an artisan cheese-maker from the Napa valley). Bobby wants Ellie to be the flower-girl in his wedding and Mele reluctantly agrees.
To take her mind off the upcoming nuptials, Mele enters a recipe competition run by the San Francisco Mother’s Club. She uses cooking as therapy – for both herself and her own circle of ‘mummy friends’. As her friend Annie says, “Mele’s going to take your despair and turn it into cupcakes.”
Liane Moriarty’s international bestseller, Big Little Lies, has all the hallmarks of terrific school-gate-lit – the grisly details of PTA meetings, cliques, and passive-aggressive care-packages of vegetarian lasagne. And yet, this book left me feeling conflicted. Continue reading
Firstly, if you haven’t seen Shirley Barrett’s film, Love Serenade, stop everything and see it. It is truly one of the best Australian films. Best. Ever.
If you appreciate the humour in Love Serenade, I’m quite certain you’ll love Barrett’s novel, Rush Oh!.
Rush Oh! tells the story of Mary Davidson, the eldest daughter of a prominent whaling family living in Eden on the rugged south coast of New South Wales. Mary narrates her family’s tumultuous experiences during 1908, a year that brings a tough whaling season (and ultimately the decline of the whaling industry in Eden), as well as drama off the seas.
“I imagine the prospect of having to go out in all weather and row back and forth across the bay in endless pursuit of enraged leviathans must have seemed exceedingly grim…” Continue reading
I’m playing catch-up on my reviews. Continue reading
I read Joanna Murray-Smith’s novel, Sunnyside, while sitting on the beach. Basically, it’s the perfect beach read for a Mornington Peninsula holiday because fictional Sunnyside is a thinly disguised Mt Eliza and scungy Deptford is Frankston.
Anyway, I digress. It’s the story of Alice and Harry Haskins, their children, their flash house, their neighbours, their dinner parties and their friend Molly’s fling with the pool-man.It doesn’t get much deeper than a bowl of smoked salmon dip, which is exactly what you want in a beach read.
“All of them…made a good go of pretending they still led interesting lives. They subscribed to the Guardian Weekly, attended arts festivals, even went on the odd adventure-travel holiday. But was the stirring of the soul really answered by a two-week hike in the Himalayan foothills?” Continue reading
“So much of life seems speculation.”
What Yates does for ‘quietly depressing’, Elizabeth Strout does for ‘deeply sad’. Continue reading