I requested this book belatedly after seeing it pop up in a few places. It’s got one of those interesting titles and alluring covers and, though I didn’t entirely know what I was going to be reading, the notion of disappearing girls seemed to be something that sat firmly in my reading comfort zone.
This book by Australian author Karen Viggers took me out of my comfort zone a little as it’s a departure from my usual crime fiction / suspense genre. Having said that I do read quite a bit of general fiction nowadays but usually shy away from books showcasing all-things-fauna and flora, knowing that my mind skims detail and descriptions that normal people would find enticingly beautiful.
But of course I had no need to worry. It actually irks me that I am increasingly wrong about books and my reading taste. I’m not even judging them by the cover (as per the age-old adage) rather I get mislead by the blurb and / or title, so it’s a reminder that we need to nudge those boundaries some of us (ie. me) establish from time to time.
I mentioned in my review of The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart I was reading a couple of books I’d missed out on reviewing during the year prior to putting together my ‘favourite books of 2018’ post. I was keen to read books that others had consistently loved. Lost Flowers was one. And this… Trent Dalton’s Boy Swallows Universe was another.
I put a call out a week or so ago on my Facebook page, asking people about books they’ve loved this year. I explained I was starting to plan my ‘favourite novels of 2018’ post and wanted to check if I’d missed out on something I REALLY should have read. I used The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart as an example. It wasn’t a book I requested for review but I’d read nothing but AMAZING things about it.
Of course, people said the same about Gone Girl and Big Little Lies and (for me) both of those turned out to be somewhat anti-climactic so it was with some trepidation I borrowed Lost Flowers from a friend.
But… Oh. My. God. For the most part this book was amazing and I was hooked from the beginning.
When this book arrived I noted it was by Tania Blanchard, the author of The Girl From Munich – a book I’d heard of (of course as it was very popular), but not read. And it wasn’t until I started reading I discovered it listed in Goodreads as The Girl From Munich #2.
I had no idea what to expect going into this book. I’d seen some reviews around but most really only touched on the fact that John Purcell (who’s well-known and heavily involved in the book / publishing industry here in Australia) had offered us an insider’s view into that world. Almost all reviews I’d seen though, were overwhelmingly positive.
As someone who tends to spurn Literary fiction (with a capital L) because I don’t usually understand what the f*ck I’m reading, I was intrigued about this book which kinda centres around the perception there are two extremes to publishing…. the sell-out prolific commercial fiction author who makes lots of money vs the Literary fiction author, who’s somewhat esoteric and learned, who wins literary prizes but makes no money.
I probably should start this review by confessing that I haven’t read the much-lauded The Book Thief (regular readers of my reviews will know how I feel about historical fiction!). I did see the movie however and yes, know it’s not the same thing, though it did give me a sense of the book’s themes.
I was happy to receive an advance copy of Markus Zusak’s Bridge of Clay, but it wasn’t until I read this interview with him the weekend before its release that I REALLY wanted to read this book which was 13 years in the making.
And I was most certainly not disappointed.
This is a really hard review to write. For most of this book I was blown away by Kate Van Hooft’s writing and her metaphorical and bewilderingly beautiful prose.
I was waiting for the climax – which I knew was coming from the backcover blurb – but it was very late in eventuating. And then the book finished. And I have no f*cking idea what happened.
Although I’ve read quite a few books lately by Australian authors – most set in outback or rural Oz – there was something quintessentially Australian about this novel by Belinda Castles. I suspect the sense of place she offers via the beachside setting combined with the purposely lazy and languid language has something to do with that.
The novel perhaps didn’t (ultimately) quite get to where I would have liked, but – for a range of reasons – resonated strongly.