Book review: Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart

Wednesday, December 23, 2020 Permalink

When Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart won the 2020 Man Booker Prize I’d not heard of it. That (on the other hand) is not unheard of because I rarely read books featured on international literary prize lists. It was made more memorable for me because I joked that Stuart reminded me very much of Australian (dislodged from NZ) author RWR McDonald and we joked about it on Twitter.

I wasn’t convinced I would enjoy Shuggie Bain. I’m not a fan of weighty sagas about poverty and the plight of the working man. Particularly in that bleak bread, dripping and beer after a day of toiling in the mines way.

And initially I struggled a little with Shuggie. Well, not Shuggie himself but the book. There was no doubt however, it’s brilliantly written. But Shuggie’s story grew on me and Stuart’s writing enchanted me.

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four-half-stars

Book review: The Miseducation of Evie Epworth by Matson Taylor

Friday, November 27, 2020 Permalink

I’m not sure why I wasn’t drawn to The Miseducation of Evie Epworth earlier. I’m a sucker for a weird book title. Think, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton and We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves. Not to mention almost everything by Swedish writer Fredrik Backman.

One of my friends loved this debut novel by Matson Taylor but it still took me months to get to it and I am so thankful I did. In fact, although I was keen for something light… a good psychological thriller about some murderous psychopath; from the opening lines of this novel I was transported into Evie’s world. It’s written in first person from 16 year old Evie’s point of view and almost akin to stream-of-consciousness thinking. Taylor gives Evie a really delightful voice and this is a quirky and often-funny read. At the same time however, there are moments of poignancy, some of which come as a result of life experience and realising things young Evie does not.

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four-half-stars

Book review: Honeybee by Craig Silvey

Monday, October 26, 2020 Permalink

I didn’t receive Honeybee by Craig Silvey for review but had only seen positive comments about it so leapt at the chance when a friend suggested I borrow her copy.

On contemplating this book I was very much reminded of a comment I made after reading Favel Parrett’s When The Night Comesabout people coming into our lives when we most need them. Here, for Sam it’s ostensibly Vic. But through Vic it’s also nurse by day and drag queen by night Peter / Fella Bitzgerald and Vic’s neighbour, young Aggie.

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four-half-stars

Book review: The Mother Fault by Kate Mildenhall

Saturday, October 17, 2020 Permalink

I must admit I hadn’t requested The Mother Fault by Kate Mildenhall for review. I hadn’t read the blurb so assumed it to be another book about a mother ‘losing’ a child or a child being hurt and – very literally – the mother being blamed, or at fault.

As someone without kids I struggle a bit with all of the books about parenthood and its highs and lows. But I kept hearing amazing things about this book so finally decided to give it a try. And I am soooo glad I did because I loved it and only later realised ‘fault’ was less about blame, than a geological reference. D’oh!

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four-stars

Book review: The Burning Island by Jock Serong

Friday, October 2, 2020 Permalink

I’ve always regretted I didn’t read The Rules of Backyard Cricket by Jock Serong*. It won’t surprise those who know how literarily illiterate I am that – because it came out late in the year – I actually assumed it was one of the Christmas-time sports books aimed at an easy gift for dads. 🙄

I’ve only heard amazing things about it so leapt at the chance to read Serong’s latest release. What I hadn’t realised about The Burning Island however, was that it is historical fiction (which isn’t a favourite of mine) and that it is actually the sequel to his earlier work Preservation.

It meant I probably didn’t appreciate the story on offer as much as I might otherwise have but I could certainly appreciate his beautiful prose and vivid descriptions of the islands of the Bass Strait and harsh coastline and living conditions of the time.

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four-stars

Book review: All our Shimmering Skies by Trent Dalton

Monday, September 28, 2020 Permalink

Trent Dalton’s Boy Swallows Universe was one of my favourite books of 2018. Possibly my favourite book. I’ve long been a fan of Dalton’s writing and though I avoid non-fiction, am generally riveted by his pieces in weekend newspapers. Articles or non-fiction essays about seemingly ordinary people and places, made extraordinary through his telling.

Dalton’s second novel, All Our Shimmering Skies is quite different to his first. It’s far more fantastic and mystical. It’s deeper and requires more intellectual translation in many ways. As my taste is fairly prosaic and comprehension very literal I was probably less drawn to the plot. The characters however, are as bewitching as I expected and (again) Dalton’s writing is beyond beautiful.

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four-half-stars

Book review: The Morbids by Ewa Ramsey

Thursday, September 3, 2020 Permalink

When I first saw The Morbids by Ewa Ramsey I assumed the title reflected something fairly obscure in the way literary fiction sometimes does. It didn’t occur to me it was actually named after people with morbid thoughts. I’m intrigued now, wondering if fatalistic people, or those who assume death is around the corner…. are officially called / nicknamed morbids.

I must admit I love the word morbid and use it far more than I should. I’m not hugely paranoid about death but I certainly used to get on planes or helicopters in obscure dodgy locales (in my previous life in international development) nervously flashforwarding to the ‘Lifetime movie of the week’ about our demise.

Anyway, I digress as I am prone to do. What’s important is whether I liked this book. And yes… I loved it. Really bloody loved it. It’s easily a contender for my favourite book this year.

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five-stars

Book review: Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld

Sunday, May 24, 2020 Permalink

I don’t read non-fiction. On the whole I dislike memoirs intensely. I hear great things about some, such as Michelle Obama’s Becoming or Reckoning by Magda Szubanski. And yet… I avoid them like the plague. I’ve made some recent attempts (Bri Lee’s Beauty and Clare Bowditch’s Your Own Kind of Girl) but they either feel like a university case study or I struggle with their logic and structure. Although, perhaps I’m just too self-absorbed to be that interested in someone else’s life. Who knows?

I would normally have eschewed Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld, assuming it to be yet another memoir. But thankfully a book-blogging friend Simon (Written by Sime) had mentioned this book and his love for it a while ago. So I knew it was fiction. About the road not taken. A reimagining if you like.

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four-half-stars

Book review: The Switch by Beth O’Leary

Monday, April 20, 2020 Permalink

Beth O’Leary’s The Flatshare was one of my THREE favourite books of 2019. Unfortunately – and unfairly for her – it meant she had a lot to live up to with the release of her second book.

Fortunately for her (and thankfully for me), O’Leary certainly didn’t fall into the dreaded second-book trap (ie. in which it’s a disappointment: either an ‘actual’ disappointment, or just in comparison to the debut) as I was absolutely smitten with her new novel, The Switch.

I read it over two nights – which is unusual for me as I’m normally all about instant gratification. However, I had to put it aside on the first night and returned to it the next and….  those who know me would have seen my tweet (below)… I was enjoying it so much that I didn’t want it to end.

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four-half-stars