I read a comment on Goodreads about this book which went something like… “You know you’ve made it as an author when your name is larger than the title of the book on the cover.” They were speaking about Kate Morton of course, the English-dwelling Aussie and very popular author of a number of epic tomes.
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.
I’d had this book for a while before tucking into it Saturday evening in the bath. I wasn’t too sure it was for me, though I’m not sure why. Perhaps some antipathy towards what felt like ANOTHER book about small town or rural Australia? I’m not sure.
But… holy shit, this book blew me away! I was hooked from the get-go. The opening scene (prologue) is great. And kinda dire. The writing is excellent, the plot intriguing and the lead character, Martin is both enigmatic and very (very) real all at once.
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.
I’m not sure why it took me so long to get around to reading The Yellow House by Emily O’Grady. I’d only heard good things about it and of course it won the 2018 The Australian / Vogel’s Literary Award earlier this year.
So I shouldn’t have been surprised when I finally opened it and felt that sensation of knowing I was reading something special. I’ve had similar reactions to a number of books told from a child’s point of view: The Eye of the Sheep by Sophie Laguna (and her subsequent book, The Choke) and Past The Shallows by Favel Parrett and Room by Emma Donoghue come to mind. Not to mention To Kill A Mockingbird, of course.
It’s not an easy thing to nail the voice of a child in a way that’s both authentic and alluring, but O’Grady does just that. From the get-go.
Aussie Sarah Bailey’s debut novel, The Dark Lake published last year was hugely popular and on many a ‘best of 2017’ list. I enjoyed it, though possibly not as much as most but I loved her writing in particular and my review shared a stack of quotes (usually a sign that I made notes of paragraphs and phrases I enjoyed). And I ended that review with the hope of meeting the main character/s again.
And thankfully, that time has come. (Sooner than I probably expected!)
I’ve talked before about the fact that I don’t read historical fiction. It seems however that I DO occasionally read historical fiction… particularly when intertwined with the present, which is the case with Caroline Beecham’s latest novel Eleanor’s Secret.
I read Beecham’s Maggie’s Kitchen in 2016 and realised how little I knew about wartime London. In particular she introduced me (and other readers presumably, though I am probably more ignorant than most!!!) to the Ministry of Food and British Restaurants – set up by government to provide low cost hot meals to residents.
Although Little Gods is – in many ways – a poignant tale of loss, much of book offers an idyllic insight into the lives of children and teens in the early 1980s.
I was certainly sent into many a reverie as our lead characters rode their bikes around town, stopping off at the pool to partake in the odd bomb dive, shared flavoured bubble gum with friends, read macabre books featuring obscure facts, were treated to cheezels while adults indulged in cabana and cheese on special occasions and computers were just becoming a thing. I chuckled also at the memory of having to use carbon paper and the accompanying messiness.
I’m not sure what it is about Western Australia, but for a not-terribly-densely-populated state in Oz, it seems to punch above its weight when it comes to producing quality authors.
Although I should mention that Louise Allan’s actually an ex-Tasmanian and former doctor and has published a range of articles, essays and short stories before this debut novel, The Sisters’ Song. (And yes… for the grammar nazis out there it IS meant to be a possessive plural! And yes, it takes one to know one etc etc…)