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.

Another Peter James bites the dust.

It is a while since I last read a Peter James novel, 2014 to be precise, but this one was a real page turner, so much so that I found myself another of his books to read when I finished this one.

From the cover:

“Virtual romance becomes a terrifying obsession in Want You Dead . . .

Single girl, 33, redhead and smouldering, love life that’s crashed and burned. Seeks new flame to rekindle her fire. Fun, friendship and—who knows—more maybe?

In Peter James’ Want You Dead, thirty-year old Red Cameron meets handsome, charming and rich thirty-five year old Bryce Laurent through an online dating agency, and is instantly attracted to him. But as their love blossoms, the truth about his past begins to emerge, and with it his dark side. Everything he has told Red about himself turns out to be a tissue of lies, and her infatuation with him gradually turns to terror.

Within a year, and under police protection, she evicts him from her flat and her life. But far from being over, her nightmare is only just beginning. For Bryce is obsessed and besotted with her. He intends to destroy, by fire, everything and everyone she has ever known and loved—and then her, too. It’s up to Detective Superintendent Roy Grace to stop him before it’s too late…”

A great crime fiction read.

I’ll Keep you Safe

How lovely to read a book set in the Outer Hebrides and find mention of places with which you are familiar. . . .Stornaway, The Digby Chicks, the library, the Lion Hotel and many of the place names on the island of Harris, it was like a revisit of our recent holiday there.

The book is I’ll Keep You Safe by Peter May, renowned for the Lewis Trilogy among others.

I had this book on my reserve list at the library and finally it became available.  I read it in a couple of days.  Terrific book.  His descriptive writing brings the island of Harris to life.

From the book cover:

“Niamh and Ruairidh Macfarlane co-own the Hebridean company Ranish Tweed. On a business trip to Paris to promote their luxury brand, Niamh learns of Ruairidh’s affair, and then looks on as he and his lover are killed by a car bomb. She returns home to Lewis, bereft.

Niamh begins to look back on her life with Ruairidh, desperate to identify anyone who may have held a grudge against him. The French police, meanwhile, have ruled out terrorism, and ruled in murder – and sent Detective Sylvie Braque to shadow their prime suspect: Niamh.

As one woman works back through her memories, and the other moves forward with her investigation, the two draw ever closer to a deadly enemy with their own, murderous, designs.”

This Peter May book did not disappoint.  There is a particularly good review on Goodreads by Jeffrey Keeten

About my 2019 Reading Challenge

This year I have decided to reduce the number of books on my challenge and instead of 104 my challenge is 80.  For part of my challenge I would like to read as many books as I can from the previous winners of the Miles Franklin Literary Award.

In 1957, the first winner of the Miles Franklin Literary Award was announced: Patrick White, for his novel Voss. Over the years, the prize has been awarded to novels describing life in suburbia, compulsive gamblers, Australians abroad – but always true to the terms of Miles Franklin’s will: ‘[the] prize shall be awarded for the Novel for the year which is of the highest literary merit and which must present Australian Life in any of its phases …’.

I have read a few of them already but I will now endeavour to read some of the remaining books on the list.  Those I have read are:

All that I am by Anna Funder

Truth by Peter Temple

The ballad of Desmond Kale by Roger Mcdonald

Dark Palace by Frank Moorhouse

Jack Maggs by Peter Carey

The Well by Elizabeth Jolley

Cloudstreet by Tim Winton

Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey

Bring Larks and Heroes by Thomas Keneally

There are 47 books on the list so I still have a few I can choose from.  I think I will start with Voss by Patrick White as I have a copy here at home.