Monkey Grip by Helen Garner

We’ve all known a couple that breaks up and gets back together over and over again. As teenagers, that sort of relationship drama seems to be part of the adolescent experience, but once you’re in your twenties and thirties the debriefings and speculation over what has been said and done wears thin.

Helen Garner’s Monkey Grip unpicks the relationship between Nora and Javo. It’s predominantly a story of addiction – Javo has a drug habit and Nora has a ‘Javo-habit’. As frequently as Javo says he is giving up drugs, Nora says she’s done with Javo. Neither stop and that is essentially the beginning and end of the story. Continue reading

Royals by Emma Forrest

Imagine if Jeanette Winterson wrote episodes of Made in Chelsea, and set them in the eighties? You’d have Royals by Emma Forrest.

Royals opens with 18-year-old Steven, preparing for a street party to celebrate the wedding of Lady Diana and Prince Charles. Steven is obsessed with fashion, and dreams of leaving behind his working-class upbringing to become a designer. Steven’s mum is his greatest supporter, and his father is a violent alcoholic.

He was jealous of me and Mum. It upset him that I made her happy. He wanted her to be happy, but he didn’t know how to do it himself. He bought her perfume on her birthday and he hit her. He got her kitchen remodelled, and he hit her. Continue reading

Bookish (and not so bookish) Thoughts

01. The 2019 Miles Franklin Award goes to Melissa Lucashenko for her novel, Too Much Lip. Check out Lisa and Sue’s reviews.

02. This job in Maldives has come up again… I’m thinking I’ll apply in seven years (when my kids have finished school) – it can be my middle-aged gap year… Continue reading

The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce

Four elements in The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce stood out (and will leave me feeling fondly toward the story) –

01. It’s a book version of The Castle – local shop owners on Unity Street (somewhere in London) battle a property developer, who wants to demolish the existing buildings and replace them with apartments. Furthermore, Frank, who owns the music shop, only stocks vinyl. As CDs begin to take over the music market, Frank holds out.

“CDs aren’t music. They’re toys.” Continue reading

Machines Like Me by Ian McEwan

Ian McEwan sure does have the corner on the middle-class-white-men-having-existential-crises market, doesn’t he?

In Machines Like Me, McEwan conjures a world not quite like the one we know. It’s the eighties in Britain – the Falklands War has been lost, Margaret Thatcher battles Tony Benn for power and Alan Turing achieves a breakthrough in artificial intelligence. Continue reading

The Van Apfel Girls Are Gone by Felicity McLean

The Chamberlain case was the background to my entire childhood. Outside, we had smiling Safety House signs screwed to each letterbox in the street. Every house safe. Every house a refuge. While inside, the court case of a mother alleged to have murdered her child played out each night, in prime time, in the lounge room.

Yes, this is my memory too. And that adults all had an opinion about Lindy Chamberlain. However, The Van Apfel Girls Are Gone by Felicity McLean is not an account of the Chamberlain case. Instead, the case provides an interesting parallel to the fictitious part of this book –  the disappearance of the three Van Apfel sisters, Hannah, the beautiful Cordelia and Ruth. Continue reading