Other People’s Houses by by Kelli Hawkins is an intriguing and bittersweet tale of loss, grief and obsession. It could be akin to breakdown porn as readers get a front-row seat to the disintegration of someone’s mental health. However Hawkins handles lead character Kate with respect and sensitivity. This book is being compared to Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train and I suspect it’s due to the similarities between Kate and TGOTT’s Rachel. Not only are both heavy drinkers, but they indulge in risky and obsessive behaviour… even though they know better. Both authors however, treat their leads sympathetically.
The Valley of Lost Stories by Vanessa McCausland arrived wrapped with a gold bow and handwritten note from the author. It was a lovely gesture from Vanessa and Harper Collins and an acknowledgement that 2020 has been pretty shitty for almost everyone and we should grasp any glimmer of light and joy we can get.
I read McCausland’s The Lost Summers of Driftwood last year and enjoyed it though took umbrage at a couple of references to the fact a character in her late 30s must have felt like a failure because she didn’t have a partner or child.
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.
It’s been a while between books set in psychiatric facilities. There seemed to be a spate of them for a while. Books about current or former ‘institutions’ featuring some of horrific practices of the past and those remaining today (well, at least in the more sordid settings popping up in crime fiction and thrillers).
The Patient by Jasper DeWitt is written as if a first-hand account (via online forum) by a Ivy League graduate who—for various reasons—accepts a posting at an old and obscure mental health facility in Connecticut.
This book by journalist and Sydneysider Vanessa McCausland came as a bit of a surprise. Its cover is beautiful but implied more whimsy than is on offer in the book. Which is a good thing for me as I struggle with ‘lightness’. It’s a hard book to describe in many ways… there are elements of romance, some meaning-of-life navel gazing and certainly some suspense.
Irish-born Aussie-dwelling Dervla McTiernan’s debut novel, The Ruin, was warmly received last year, winning hearts and accolades.
Her fans will be happy to know that its sequel, The Scholar, most definitely does not disappoint and we pick up with Irish detective Cormac Reilly where we left off.
There was a moment or two after I started this book that I worried it was one by Lisa Unger I’d already read – one, in fact, I’d heard her introduce at a writers festival I attended in Brisbane in 2008 or so (ed: which I later discovered was Die For You).
I knew I’d read a recent book of hers with a similar name (ed: which I’m now assuming was In The Blood, #blood #skin #whatevs) and wondered if this was a re-release though it seemed different enough that I didn’t remember it in enough detail to have read it before.