Bookish (and not so bookish) Thoughts

01. Woohoo! Can’t wait to start trying recipes from Hetty McKinnon’s new book, Family (her first book, Community, is one of my most-used cookbooks and her roasted beetroot, turnip, edamame, radish and wasabi mayonnaise salad is life-changing). Continue reading

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Mary & O’Neil by Justin Cronin

I was recently asked what sort of books I liked. I replied “Contemporary relationship stories.” I think that made sense to the person who had asked the question!

I like stories that explore relationships, particularly families. I like stories that examine regular feelings – grief, love, loneliness, joy and so forth – in a new way, that puts fresh words around the familiar. Some authors are able to articulate particular emotions with astounding clarity (most recently, Jessie Cole’s memoir Staying took my breath away, and earlier this year Paula Keogh’s The Green Bell did the same) – these are the book I enjoy most.

That’s a long introduction to Justin Cronin’s short debut novel, Mary & O’Neil. The story traces the lives of two characters, Mary Olson and O’Neil Burke. When they meet, both have suffered profound losses (all is revealed in the blurb but if you intend to read this book based on my flimsy review, just dive straight in). Continue reading

The Rich Part of Life by Jim Kokoris

Fairly certain that everyone has a ‘what would I do if I won the lottery’ list. Sometimes it’s multiple lists, adjusted by the size of the prize. I have such a list, which is interesting given that I don’t buy lottery tickets. My list is –

  1. Hire an island and take all my friends on a beach holiday.
  2. Take a world trip that includes Iceland, the Bahamas and the Maldives.
  3. Choose some charities that a big contribution would make a massive difference to (I already have some that are close to my heart).
  4. Buy a seaside shack in the place where I spend summer (McCrae) – nothing fancy because there will always be sand on the floor.

Given the existence of these lists, it’s intriguing when lotteries go unclaimed (as happened in Melbourne this week) – and this is the topic of Jim Kokoris’s novel, The Rich Part of Life. Continue reading

Madame Verona Comes Down the Hill by Dimitri Verhulst

A dense forest; a house on a hill; a beautiful woman pining for her husband and the music they once shared; her story simply told… Madame Verona Comes Down the Hill by Dimitri Verhulst has the hallmarks of a fairy-tale, however, what transpires is a delicate and surprising reflection on grief and the things we do to go on living after losing the person we love most.

Madame Verona and her husband built a home for themselves, tucked away on forested hill slopes above a small village. There they lived in isolation, practising their music, and chopping enough wood to see them through the freezing winters.

Fire was the primary fruit of these trees and warmth was the harvest. After three years’ seasoning, the wood gave them the smell that all gods undoubtedly use as a perfume and heat that makes anything produced by electric devices look like a joke. Continue reading

The Reminders by Val Emmich

You know I hate the term ‘quirky’, right? Anyway, The Reminders by Val Emmich is an quirky off-beat story – not as mad as something like The Portable Veblen but certainly a little odd.

Ten-year-old Joan Lennon Sully has an amazing gift – HSAM (highly superior autobiographical memory). She remembers everything that has happened to her in detail. However, Joan knows that most people don’t have a memory like hers and after watching her grandma suffer from Alzheimer’s, she understands what it means to forget –

Grandma Joan had to throw me out of her brainbox so she could have enough room for the lyrics to all her favourite songs. She remembered those until the day she died (Saturday, October 8, 2011). Continue reading