The Aftermath by Rhidian Brook

Why, why, why have I left my review of Rhidian Brook’s historical novel, The Aftermath, so long? I had so much to say about it when I finished it in July (although, perhaps too much and that’s why my thoughts were a jumble). Anyway, it’s worth a brief review because it’s a book that I think will be among my favourites for the year. Continue reading

The Electric Hotel by Dominic Smith

In 2014, I completed a year-long 1-second-a-day project. My kids still ask to watch the seven minute result, enjoying the flashes of the everyday and odd sound-grabs. I was reminded of it when I read Dominic Smith’s latest novel, The Electric Hotel.

The novel focuses on Claude Ballard, a pioneer of silent films.

Strangers have always interested me, Claude said. The way they illuminate their own sorrows or joys when you least expect it. It might be half a second of staring into space, then it vanishes. Continue reading

There Was Still Love by Favel Parrett

I volunteer with a palliative program as a biography writer. People tell their stories, I transcribe them. People will often say that they have ‘nothing to tell’. That’s never true, although I have learnt that the dates and facts about a person’s life are not that important. Instead, the story is in the small details and their recollections of how they felt at particular moments – that’s where the meaning is found.

Favel Parrett’s third novel, There Was Still Love, demonstrates how detail tells the story. It’s an ode to the life Favel shared with her grandparents – her fond memories are woven through a fictional account of twin Czechoslovakian sisters, separated by World War II. One stays in Prague, the other crams her life into a small brown suitcase and travels to Melbourne.

You must close up tight, protect your most needed possessions – all you can hold. Your heart, your mind, your soul. You must become a little suitcase and try not to think about home. Continue reading

Mischling by Affinity Konar

I vividly recall one of my lecturers responding to a student’s complaint about their mark for an essay – the lecturer said that if the student thought he started at 100% and deducted marks for errors as he read, the student was mistaken – “You start with no marks and earn them as I read…” It comes to mind because like the lecturer, I go into every book hoping for five stars but stating with just one. Half stars and whole stars accrue (and sometimes fall) as I read. By the end, I settle on a score – it’s arbitrary, but is useful measure when I look back on my reading. Continue reading