Water by John Boyne is the first book I’ve read by the respected Irish novelist. And it’s going to be a difficult book to describe because much of made is special is the way its secrets unfold, which means I don’t want to share any here. It was also a deceptive read – slow, meandering between the present and past – but here’s an almost-addictive rhythm to Boyne’s writing and the way this book reveals itself.
I very much enjoyed Days of Innocence and Wonder by Lucy Treloar. It was unexpected in some ways. The backcover blurb made it sound like the kind of mystery I like to read, but it was deeper and more thought-provoking than I expected. A well-told story of loss, grief and guilt and what happens if they’re left to fester.
The Watchful Wife is the latest new release by Australian author Suzanne Leal. She tends to tackle complex social themes in her novels, touching here again on some featured in her first novel, The Teacher’s Secret – around the education system and allegations of misconduct – and that of religion, which featured in her second novel Deceptions. I very much enjoyed this book which takes on the sensitive topic of sexual misconduct but predominantly from the point of view of the wife of a man accused.
I was initially reticent to start My Father the Whale by Gina Perry because I’d just read another book (Tell Me What I Am by Una Mannion) about a young girl being raised by her father amidst secrets about her mother’s fate and I was concerned the two books would become intertwined in my little head. As it happens however, they are (ultimately) quite different though similarly themed around family and relationships. Perry’s book is also set in two distinct timeframes: 1984 and then 2000.
The Yellow House, the debut novel by Emily O’Grady was one of my favourite books of 2018. I adore child narrators if they’re done well and O’Grady was able to bring that balance of innocence and knowing to our 11 year old storyteller. I obviously wasn’t alone in my love for her work as the book won The Australian/Vogel Literary Award that year.
In a Thousand Different Ways by Cecelia Ahern is only the second book I’ve read by the Irish author, best known for PS I Love You. I loved her 2021 novel Freckles, about a young woman trying to find her place in the world.
And in some ways Ahern’s theme here is similar. We spend quite a bit of time with a young then teenaged Alice before she moves into adulthood. Alice has synesthesia – something her older brother calls a gift but she sees (for much of her life) as a curse.
I confess to putting Homecoming by Kate Morton aside every time I’ve opened a new book in the last month or two. Not because I wasn’t looking forward to it. I was and Morton is a favourite author of mine. But because it is huge.
I’m reminded of the meme or joke about someone thinking that a 2.5hr movie on Netflix is too much of a commitment, but they’re more than happy to watch 13 x 1hr episodes of something. I will willingly read a 300ish page book each night for several nights in a row, but picking up a 600 page book seems like a commitment too far. Nevertheless I finally dove in and was relieved (as I knew I would be) that I’d finally indulged.
Toni Jordan’s debut novel Addition, was one of my favourite books when it was released in 2008 and I also loved The Fragments – giving it a rare (for me) five stars. I commented then on her beautiful writing and her ability to develop complex, quirky, likeable and very real characters.
Prettier If She Smiled More features Kylie Schnabel – a judicious pharmacist and a responsible and pragmatic daughter, sister, friend and girlfriend – who’s perfectly content with her lot in life, harbouring no great ambitions for more than she has. Until it starts disappearing before her eyes.
I assumed Lenny Marks Gets Away With Murder by Kerryn Mayne was going to be cosy crime fiction. Given the title. But it isn’t. It’s actually an at-times funny but also bittersweet story about loss, grief and abandonment as well as friendship, joy and acceptance. The book’s namesake, Lenny (Helena), is an absolute delight in the same way Eleanor Oliphant, Grace Atherton and Susan Green all were.