The Shepherd’s Hut by Tim Winton

Sorry in advance – The Shepherd’s Hut by Tim Winton is one of those books that I can’t say much about, for fear of spoilers.

It’s the story of teenager, Jaxie Clackton. Jaxie’s mum died and his relationship with his dad is violent. 

…when everyone went home after the funeral and I finished putting all them casseroles in the freezer I stood in the lounge in my good duds and the Captain sat out on the back patio drinking homebrew and rum. Arm over arm. Neither one of us said nothing. We both knew there was never gunna be anything good again.

Jaxie decides to leave, taking off across the vast saltlands of Western Australia. There he meets Fintan MacGillis, an old Irishman, on his own for very different reasons than Jaxie. What happens next changes both their lives. Continue reading

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The Mint Lawn by Gillian Mears

Phew. I found The Mint Lawn by Gillian Mears intense. And dense. I was expecting to become completely absorbed (as I did with Foal’s Bread) but instead, I got bogged down in heavy prose, the shifting timeline, and emotionally taxing characters.

The story is set in the fictional town of Jacaranda, on the north coast of New South Wales (I believe Jacaranda is based on the town of Grafton). Clementine, aged twenty-five and married to her high-school music teacher, Hugh, is still living in the place where she grew up, bound by memories and her inability to make sense of past events. Told from Clementine’s point-of-view, the story rotates around her sisters, her parents (Ventry and Cairo), her grandmother, Hugh and her lover.

But it is one of those memory stories that has accumulated colours and meanings more potent than the event itself. Continue reading

You make me feel like dancing…(and reading)

Okay, that’s a Leo Sayer song but this post is all about the Gibbs.

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I felt it was time for a Bee Gees literary mix tape (mainly because I’m still sulking about Barry’s cancelled Melbourne tour).

Marvel at the lustrous hair (chest and other) and the magnificent use of solid gold.

01. You Should Be Dancing / Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead Continue reading

Bookish (and not so bookish) Thoughts

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01. A couple of years ago I had a salad epiphany (I’m not overstating it). I realised that there was no such thing as a ‘tasty, simple salad that you could throw together at the last minute’. Instead, all the best salads appear simple but are actually quite complex and/or take time to prepare. I bought a book that became my Salad Bible. Truly, it’s the best. So I was excited to discover that the author, Hetty McKinnon, has a new book out – Neighbourhood. Continue reading

Bookish (and not so bookish) Thoughts

gillian mears

01. There’s already been many wonderful tributes to Gillian Mears. I won’t try to match them but will say that Australian literature has lost a great voice (also: a personal essay from Mears, published in Meanjin; Susan Johnson’s beautiful 2011 piece about Mears; my thoughts on the brilliant Foal’s Bread). Continue reading

Reading the Stella Prize Shortlist – Hope Farm by Peggy Frew

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Okay. Clearly I don’t ‘get’ Peggy Frew.

It’s all ticker-tape parades and celebrations on Goodreads for Frew’s second novel, Hope Farm.  And then there’s my two star rating, sitting alongside the glowing four and five-star reviews. Continue reading

Six Degrees of Separation – From All the Light We Cannot See to Canada.

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It’s six degrees of separation for books. Created by Emma Chapman and Annabel Smith. Check out the rules if you want to play along.

This month’s chain begins with Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See – it has lots of great themes that could be used as a starting point but I’m linking it to Foal’s Bread by Gillian Mears. Both were books that I read in the last few weeks of the year (2014 and 2012 respectively) – too late for me to push them on others as ‘my best book of the year’.

Continue reading

Books for Australian states

Last week, Annabel Smith tweeted a link to a fantastic article, The Literary United States: A Map of the Best Book for Every State. It got me thinking about an Australian equivalent.

Strictly speaking, an Australian literary map isn’t quite as crowded (not as many states in comparison to the US). It would be nice to do an Australian one that reflected cities and regional areas but that’s a big project (and for that matter, actually put it on a map…). For the time being, here are my favourite books set in different states.

Victoria: for Melbourne, The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas. For regional Victoria, Carrie Tiffany captures the Mallee perfectly in Everyman’s Rules for Scientific Living.

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everymans-rules-for-scientific-living Continue reading

2014 Australia Day Book Giveaway Blog Hop

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I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.

I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror –
The wide brown land for me!

These words never date as far as I’m concerned (for non-Aussies, it’s an extract from Dorothea Mackellar’s poem, My Country). I particularly love the bits about jewel-seas and far horizons (to prove it, see my last post). And of course, my professional life has been dominated by ‘droughts and flooding rains’ (I worked in catchment management and hydrology for more than a decade).

So when it came to putting together this post for the 2014 Australia Day Book Giveaway Blog Hop, hosted by Shelleyrae at Book’d Out, my immediate thoughts turned to books that really told a story about the Australian landscape. Here are my five favourites: Continue reading