Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan

 

Should I have included e) None of the above? Possibly… Jennifer Egan’s Manhattan Beach was dull. Continue reading

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The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka by Clare Wright

To be perfectly frank, the Australian gold rush history I learnt at school was dull. We suffered through it for the excursion to Sovereign Hill, of which the highlights were having personalised ‘Wanted’ posters printed and spending a vast amount of money on boiled lollies. I’m sure we covered stuff about living conditions, the growth of Ballarat, and the far-reaching effects of the miners’ protests about compulsory licences… I probably filed it under ‘Oh yeah, that was the Eureka Stockade‘, and moved on to Sovereign Hill’s chief attraction – panning for gold.

Imagine if I’d been taught from Clare Wright’s The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka? It’s a spectacular, riveting book that gives an account of the events leading up to the Eureka Stockade from the perspective of individual women on the gold fields. Until Wright’s book, women had been left out of the Gold Rush and Eureka story, despite the fact that they played a significant role and in turn shaped Victorian history. Continue reading

My Movie Business by John Irving

John Irving’s memoir, My Movie Business, is a book that will appeal to the narrowest of audiences: hard-core John Irving fans and/or people interested in screenwriting. Fall outside of those groups and you’ll probably find this book self-indulgent.

My Movie Business is Irving’s account of the long, frustrating process of turning a book into a screenplay, and a screenplay into a movie – in this case, the book/movie was The Cider House Rules. Over the course of its thirteen year development, the movie had two producers, four directors and countless rewrites (which were all done by Irving at the behest of the producers and directors). When the movie was finally complete, it was perfection – that’s my opinion but critics agreed and it won two Academy Awards in 2000 – Irving for Best Adapted Screenplay and Michael Caine for Best Supporting Actor. It was also nominated for Best Picture (but lost to American Beauty). Continue reading

Educated by Tara Westover

Educated by Tara Westover is a memoir about domestic violence (the story about a Mormon girl getting an education is secondary).

I’m unapologetic about that spoiler and feel cranky that publicists and reviewers have failed to mention, or have simply skimmed over, the horrific physical, psychological and financial abuse that dominates Westover’s memoir.

According to the blurb, the book focuses on Westover’s childhood and early adulthood, and her experiences growing up with survivalist Mormon parents in the mountains of Idaho.

I am only seven, but I understand that it is this fact, more than any other, that makes my family different: we don’t go to school. Continue reading

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 Clasp by Sloane Crosley

Last week I visited Canberra, and popped into the Cartier exhibition at the National Gallery. It was spectacular. In fact, it was so sparkly it was obscene (it’s hard to believe that emeralds and rubies as big as golf balls are the real thing).

So it was fitting that my holiday reading was Sloane Crosley’s first novel, The Clasp. Continue reading

Quicksand by Malin Persson Giolito

If you like a crime novel where you know what happens from the outset (and then you rewind to unravel the story), you’ll enjoy Quicksand by Malin Persson Giolito.

The cover proclaims Quicksand‘s status as the 2016 winner of Swedish Crime Novel of the Year, although strictly speaking it’s more courtroom drama than crime. The story revolves around Maja Norberg, who has spent nine months in jail awaiting trial for a shooting in her school. Among those killed were her boyfriend and her best friend. Maja was holding a gun. Continue reading

The Sleepy Hollow Family Almanac by Kris D’Agostino

Nothing is a better barometer of failure than the success of other people.

Calvin Moretti is the reluctant star of Kris D’Agostino’s The Sleepy Hollow Family Almanac, a story about a guy whose life is going nowhere much. Forced to return to the family home in order to pay back student loans, Cal finds himself in a job he hates but with little motivation to change his circumstances.

Back in my parents’ house, it wasn’t long before I started acting like my high school self. I did nothing, just sat around the house moaning. 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

Albert Einstein Speaking by R. J. Gadney

When the best thing you can say about a book is “At least there weren’t bad sex scenes…”, it’s problematic.

Part cutesy novel, part biography, R. J. Gadney’s Albert Einstein Speaking explores the remarkable life of Albert Einstein, with the addition of a schoolgirl, Mimi, who accidentally dials his number. Continue reading