Stone Yard Devotional by Charlotte Wood is yet another stunning piece of prose from this masterful writer. Her writing is superb. Splendid. Beautiful. And Wood is an excellent storyteller. The strangest thing for me about this book however is that I was waiting to understand what the book was about. Unlike The Natural Way of Things, I didn’t think it was a huge metaphor that eluded me, rather I kinda understood it was about a middle-aged woman undergoing a crisis of identity. Not a mid-life crisis, but one in which she’s questioning her purpose. There’s a part early in the novel where she talks about the nuns constantly interrupting their work each day to attend services in the church. But then realises that IS their work. I think I felt the same way about this book. I was waiting for the story arc to kick in amidst the quiet reverie of life at the retreat and memories of our narrator’s past. But it never did. Her contemplation – of the past and present IS the story.
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.
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.
Loveland is the first book I’ve read by Robert Lukins so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Something terribly literary or esoteric I suspect as I know he writes for a number of literary magazines and journals here in Australia.
As it happened I did not flounder about in a state of bewildered confusion. I absolutely adore/d Lukins’s writing. His ability to craft phrases and sentences in a way that they offer so much more than what’s on the page is extraordinary. And far from an unfathomable metaphor I was unable to unravel, Loveland is a very enjoyable novel. About real people and only on a couple of occasions and at the very end did it dip into something possibly beyond my very literal comprehension.
Happy Hour by Jacquie Byron was a delightful surprise. It very much reminded me of other books I’ve loved, The Other Side of Beautiful by Kim Lock, Everything is Beautiful by Eleanor Ray and Saving Missy by Beth Morrey.
I didn’t get The Girl in the Mirror by Rose Carlyle for review but was hearing a lot about it so borrowed it from a friend. Everyone seemed to find it twisty and had a desire to talk about it after they finished. That’s usually a good sign as it might mean you think you know how it ended but are not quite sure. Of course it’s hard for authors to achieve that balance between…. “WTF just happened?” leaving readers confused with too many unanswered questions; and tying everything up neatly with a bow.
This debut novel by New Zealand author Carlyle was probably a tad more predictable than I had anticipated (given the hype). You know what’s ultimately coming but not how, but it’s certainly enjoyable nonetheless.