The last of my March books

These are the remaining few books I finished in March.

This was a non-fiction book, my first non-fiction for a while.  I found it extremely interesting and the blurb from the book gives you a good idea of why I found it so interesting.

“I was born into a world that expected very little of women like me. We were meant to tread lightly on the earth, influencing events through our husbands and children, if at all. We were meant to fade into invisibility as we aged. I defied all of these expectations and so have millions of women like me.”

This is the compelling story of Anne Summers’ extraordinary life. Her story has her travelling around the world as she moves from job to job, in newspapers and magazines, advising prime ministers, leading feminist debates, writing memorable and influential books.

Anne shares revealing stories about the famous and powerful people she has worked with or reported on and is refreshingly frank about her own anxieties and mistakes.  Unfettered and Alive is a provocative and inspiring memoir from someone who broke through so many boundaries to show what women can do.

‘It’s the story of a lot of things – Australian politics, feminism, journalism, international intrigue – but most of all it’s the story of an utterly singular woman, who always says “Yes” to life even when it scares her. Her memory for the events, and her frankness about the fear, make this an extraordinary memoir.’ – Annabel Crabb

Anne is perhaps more well known in Australia than the UK or USA but the reading is still relevant no matter where you are.

The Great White Palace was lent to me by a former neighbour who thought I might be interested in the story as I had just returned from a visit to the UK.  She knew I had previously visited Devon and thought this book would suit me.

“This is the story of Tony and Beatrice Porter’s renovation of the near-derelict and long forgotten Art Deco hotel on Burgh Island, after giving up their successful careers as fashion consultants in London’s West End. Up to their necks in debt and with a massive program of repairs and maintenance ahead of them, they gradually labored to restore it to its former glory and into the beautiful, luxurious place it is today.”

This was a super quick read and thoroughly enjoyable. I was interested to see that the hotel was used in the Agatha Christie Poirot series on television.

I would even contemplate making a visit to the island on our next trip to the UK.

I absolutely loved Marcus Zusak’s book.  I could not give a review that would do it justice so I am going to provide a link to a review that I think says it all. It is an expansive, touching saga of an Australian family’s losses and loves.  Interestingly the first few reviews on Goodreads were scathing.  To each his own.

Bridge of Clay Review

Denzel Meyrick is a new Scottish author for me.  I sure am glad that I have found him. I have started with the third instalment in the DCI Daley series but I will have no worries about going back and finding one and two.

“When a senior Edinburgh civil servant spectacularly takes his own life in Kinloch harbour, DCI Jim Daley comes face to face with the murky world of politics. To add to his woes, two local drug dealers lie dead, ritually assassinated. It’s clear that dark forces are at work in the town. With his boss under investigation, his marriage hanging on by a thread, and his sidekick DS Scott wrestling with his own demons, Daley’s world is in meltdown.  When strange lights appear in the sky over Kinloch, it becomes clear that the townsfolk are not the only people at risk. The fate of nations is at stake. Jim Daley must face his worst fears as tragedy strikes. This is not just about a successful investigation, it’s about survival.”

Fast paced crime writing set in Scotland.

“A bus crashes in a savage snowstorm and lands Jack Reacher in the middle of a deadly confrontation. In nearby Bolton, South Dakota, one brave woman is standing up for justice in a small town threatened by sinister forces. If she’s going to live long enough to testify, she’ll need help. Because a killer is coming to Bolton, a coldly proficient assassin who never misses.

Reacher’s original plan was to keep on moving. But the next 61 hours will change everything. The secrets are deadlier and his enemies are stronger than he could have guessed—but so is the woman he’ll risk his life to save.

In his 14th book in the Reacher series Lee Child still gets you hooked.

Another February read

This is a Miles Franklin WInner to add to my 2019 Reading Challenge.  It certainly lives up to the status of winner and depicts Australia in beautiful language.

From the book cover:

“His father dead by fire and his mother plagued by demons of her own, William is cast upon the charity of his unknown uncle – an embittered old man encamped in the ruins of a once great station homestead, Kuran House.  It’s a baffling and sinister new world for the boy, a place of decay and secret histories.

William’s uncle is obsessed by a long life of decline and by a dark quest for revival, his mother is desperate for a wealth and security she has never known, and all their hopes it seems come to rest upon his young shoulders.  But as the past and present of Kuran Station unravel and merge together, the price of that inheritance may prove to be the downfall of them all.”

I loved how so many aspects of Australian history were woven into the story.  I will be searching out other books by Andrew McGahan who had written many books before his untimely death from pancreatic cancer.

I don’t enjoy reading in large print.

The Life to Come by Michelle de Kretser was a very different read for me.  The many and varied characters kept me on my toes throughout the read.“Set in Australia, France, and Sri Lanka, The Life to Come is about the stories we tell and don’t tell ourselves as individuals, as societies, and as nations. Driven by a vivid cast of characters, it explores necessary emigration, the art of fiction, and ethnic and class conflict.”

I had put a reserve in at the library for this book and didn’t realise it was in large print, not my favourite way to read a book I must say.  I kept wishing it was in smaller print.  Apart from that I did enjoy the actual story.

The book is full of so many characters each portrayed in detail and each appearing to intersect in the lives of others in the novel.  I sometimes had difficulty in working out which characters linked with whom.

The descriptive writing is beautiful and the characters are unusual.  If you expect the characters to be lovable and for everything to come out just so at the end then you will be disappointed.  The characters have many flaws but life is depicted realistically.

A great read.

Another terrific Australian novel

Scrublands is a quintessential Australian novel.  I loved this book.

This review by Sue Turnball in the Sydney Morning Herald says all that needs to be said about the novel.

“Scrublands is the epic novel about rural life in Australia that we need right now. In its concern with crime beyond the suburban fringe, it sits right up there with the late Peter Temple’s Broken Shore, Garry Disher’s Bitterwash Road and Jane Harper’s The Dry, even as it extends their focus and reach.

What former journalist and foreign correspondent Chris Hammer has given us is nothing more nor less than the ethnography of a dying town where the op-shop with its window full of dead men’s shoes is only open Tuesday and Thursday, the hotel has closed down for lack of business, and the only place to stay is the Black Dog Motel, “no pets allowed”.

This level of observational detail is hardly surprising given Hammer is the author of The River, a prize-winning non-fiction account of life in the Murray-Darling basin during the millennium drought. He’s done the background research and now woven it into a crime novel that slowly unwraps the layers of complexity that constitute the tightly woven Riversend, a fictional but completely recognisable rural town that is “circling the wagons against drought and economic decline” as the biker gang roars through.. . . . . Scrublands is a rural crime novel with remarkable breadth and depth that would also make a superb TV series.”

From the book cover:

“In Riversend, an isolated rural community afflicted by an endless drought, a young priest does the unthinkable, killing five parishioners before being taken down himself.

A year later, accompanied by his own demons from war-time reporting, journalist Martin Scarsden arrives in Riversend. His assignment is simple: describe how the townspeople are coping as the anniversary of their tragedy approaches. But as Martin meets the locals and hears their version of events, he begins to realize that the accepted wisdom—that the priest was a pedophile whose imminent exposure was the catalyst for the shooting, a theory established through an award-winning investigation by Martin’s own newspaper—may be wrong.

Just as Martin believes he’s making headway, a new development rocks the town. The bodies of two German backpackers—missing since the time of the church shootings—are discovered in a dam in the scrublands, deserted backwoods marked by forest fires. As the media flocks to the scene, Martin finds himself thrown into a whole new mystery.

What was the real reason behind the priest’s shooting spree? And how does it connect to the backpacker murders, if at all? Martin struggles to uncover the town’s dark secrets, putting his job, his mental state, and his life at risk as more and more strange happenings escalate around him.”

A real page turner.  A fantastic read.

 

You must read this book.

The Eye of the Sheep by Sofie Laguna was the Miles Franklin Winner in 2015.

Wow! This book left me moved. Initially I thought it was just another book about a child with Asperger’s Syndrome but it was so much more.

It was heart breaking. I felt so deeply for the young boy I just wanted to take him home so he could be looked after.   The book is very real.  I loved it.

“Meet Jimmy Flick. He’s not like other kids – he’s both too fast and too slow. He sees too much, and too little. Jimmy’s mother Paula is the only one who can manage him. She teaches him how to count sheep so that he can fall asleep. She holds him tight enough to stop his cells spinning. It is only Paula who can keep Jimmy out of his father’s way. But when Jimmy’s world falls apart, he has to navigate the unfathomable world on his own, and make things right.”

This is a book you need to read.

Latest reading update

Not so many books in the last while as I was reading a couple of books at the same time.

The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff was a book of some 514 pages so it took me a while.  It is a fiction but incorporates many historical facts re the Church of the Latter Day Saints.  The novel is based on the life of Anne Eliza Young, the 19th wife of Brigham Young, prophet and leader of the Mormon Church.  A challenging read.

Meantime I would swap to Extinctions by Josephine WIlson which was the Miles Franklin winner in 2017.Extinctions has the themes of ageing, adoption, aboriginality and extinct species.  I enjoyed this book although some aspects of the story were rather difficult to believe.

At the Water’s Edge by Sara GruenThis particular book was a rollicking tale, set on the shores of Loch Ness, it is a story of a search for the Loch Ness monster.

“Breathtaking . . . . a daring story of adventure, friendship and love in the shadow of WW11.”

The Ludlow Ladies Society by Anne o’Loughlin was a very easy read, one you could finish in a couple of sittings.

“Connie Carter has lost everyone and everything dear to her. Leaving her home in New York, she moves to a run-down Irish mansion, hoping to heal her shattered heart and in search of answers: how could her husband do the terrible things he did? And why did he plough all their money into the dilapidated Ludlow Hall before he died, without ever telling her?

At first Connie tries to avoid the villagers, until she meets local women Eve and Hetty who introduce her to the Ludlow Ladies’ Society, a crafts group in need of a permanent home. Connie soon discovers Eve is also struggling with pain and the loss of having her beloved Ludlow Hall repossessed by the bank and sold off. Now, seeing the American Connie living there, the hurt of losing everything is renewed. Can these women ever be friends? Can they ever understand or forgive?

As the Ludlow Ladies create memory quilts to remember those they have loved and lost, the secrets of the past finally begin to surface. But can Connie, Eve and Hetty stitch their lives back together?”

. . .and a Miles Franklin Winner, Voss by Patrick White.This was the first winner of the Miles Franklin Award.  It was also the winner of the Nobel prize for literature.

This novel was so unlike any other novel I have read.

“The lone rider on his journey to self-realisation, the plot of many westerns, is perfectly suited to the Australian outback, and it gives Patrick White’s monumental novel an archetypal power that still dominates the Australian literary landscape.

Voss is based on the story of Ludwig Leichhardt, the Prussian naturalist who made several explorations of the Australian interior in the mid-1840s. Leichhardt aimed to pioneer an overland route from Brisbane to Perth but he vanished without trace in the infinite vastness of the interior.

White focuses on two characters: Voss, the German explorer, and Laura, a naive and lovely orphan recently arrived in New South Wales, who meet for the first time in the house of Laura’s uncle, the patron of Voss’s expedition. Their complex and passionate relationship, a mutual obsession based on separation, is set against the merciless landscape of Voss’s trek towards oblivion.” (The Guardian, 100 best novels)

Highly recommended.