Books To Love

(Other Than Mine!)

Something Favourite – Book Reviews by a Reading Aficionado

I thought I would share with  you some of my favourite books as well as review some of the new novels I’ve devoured.

Welcome to the Book Reviews!

This is where we will share our interest in a wide range of works of fiction. I invite you to become a guest reviewer too. The focus will be on new books with a preference for books written by Australian writers. However, we will also explore oldies and favourites.

Brand Spanking New Book:
The Eye of the Sheep, by Sofie Laguna

  • Forgotten working class Australia is brush stroked in every shade of chemical colour akin to the hues emitted in the plume belched from the oil refinery.
  • I was fascinated with Jim’s (main character 11 year old boy) descriptions about what he believed was within people’s bodies. He likened bodies to machines with internal organs, wires, tentacles, senses and goings on, more like a living breathing alien city landscape than a human.
  • Sofie creates an accurate rending of the pre-technology era of the eighties.
  • The writing is deliciously descriptive and perceptive. Jim is a boy beset by undisclosed challenges and yet the reader can feel, hear and see the world through his unique ‘eye’.
  • Her writing is unsentimental and this is revealed in the stark conversations of the children in the foster home, where Jim is placed for a short while.
  • Her prose is mesmerising and lyrical: ‘Thousands of road particles that didn’t know my foot was coming were forced into a different position.’
  • I loved the pared back dialogue and the authentic voices of the mother, father, brother and uncle, of Jim.
  • It is a simple story evocatively written and peppered with some uncomfortable truths.
  • Jim’s journey, original view of the world, and his vulnerability during a most difficult time in his life, has made this a book I thought about long after I put it down.

 

A Recently published book by another great Australian writer but not brand spanking new:
Useful, by Debra Oswald

  • Debra is another author with an authentic voice and an unromantic lens which makes for real connections with the reader. Don’t we all love to see flawed imperfect specimens, not too dissimilar to ourselves, become the champion of their own lives?
  • Simple words pin down the light in ordinary moments so that they shine like our opaline blue Australian sky. Her narrative captures the beauty of seemingly insignificant moments and renders them poetic. A skill which is a real gift in a writer.
  • I liked Mack the dog; a lumbering, slobby, one eyed kelpie cross. His character is set amongst a cast of similar ordinary individuals who lead inglorious lives but whom we cheer on as they rise and plummet through the course of the story.
  • The main character, Sullivan, forty, overweight and pretty depressed, intends to be cavalier about proffering his organ for others. However, he has to embrace life and change some habits in preparation for this magnanimous gesture so that his organ is not chucked on the ‘not useful’ tray. It is this transformation which provides the nexus for the plot.
  • My favourite minor character is Gordana, a sturdy Croatian lady with a penchant for cooking, sex and blunt speaking. She becomes Sullivan’s neighbour when he inhabits a deceased estate, rent free. ” ‘Natalie,’ she said. Every word Gordana spoke landed on the floor between them like an unapologetic lump. ‘I must ask for your help.’ ” What happens next is quite funny.
  • Natalie is the next significant character after Sullivan and they encounter each other on and off throughout the book. She is another very real and accessible character.
  • This is an entertaining novel that will be in my ‘re-read’ pile and summer holiday recommendation list. I hope you enjoy it too.

 

Lastly and happily,
Big Little Lies, by Liane Moriarty

  • Even though it has been a much lauded novel, I had to do an overview just in case some of you haven’t had a bit of fun reading this wonderful book.
  • I love it because the writing is cleverly original and the words are all delicious. The characters are fascinating and well rounded and the reader hears and sees everything through her exquisite dialogue.
  • I love how she accesses women in their ordinary daily lives as mothers, daughters, friends, aunties and grandmothers. She captured the soul of Madeline, the main character, with her quirks and foibles so that you couldn’t help but want to have her as your own best friend.
  • Liane has a talent for laying bare the pain of divorced parents and illustrates the constant toll of guilt perfectly in Madeline’s response to her daughter’s fluctuating loyalties.
  • Liane has brilliant laugh out loud moments made all the funnier because yes, I can see me making the same mistakes and being just as silly, pompous, ridiculous and vain, when confronted by my own flaws and idiosyncracies.
  • All is not fluff and light, the one thing Liane does well is to convey the reality of the lives of women in her novels, and for that alone, I am grateful. The dark issues of domestic violence and bullying are transmitted in a tension mounting tour de force. She also tackles the lesser evils of classism and snobbery.
  • I adore how she gives children an intelligent and deserving voice, as she does in all of her novels, and shakes off a lot of myths surrounding childhood in the process.
  • I will go back to re-read this novel because quite simply I enjoyed the plot, adored the characters and loved the writing.

Let me know which of these you enjoyed! Happy reading.

Something New:

I recently completed reading the book, Relativity, by Antonia Hayes, set in modern day Sydney. Antonia’s prose is light and luminous and she has written an extraordinary new novel. It is easy to enter the world of her very believable characters and I soon began to empathise with both Claire, the young mother, and Ethan, her twelve-year-old son. The other main character is Mark, Claire’s ex husband and Ethan’s father. Mark has not been present in Ethan’s life and the cause of this becomes the hub of the narrative.

Ethan appears to be gifted with an advanced understanding of astrophysics and physics generally, and this greatly impresses university professors. However, neurological issues come to light that reflect another side of Ethan’s brain, suggesting that Ethan’s gift may not be what it appears. Ethan tries to reunite with his father to discover the truth about his family.

This is a story essentially about the redemptive power of love and forgiveness. Her novel addresses some unpalatable issues and raises questions about guilt and blame and she handles the morality of the subjects she explores without judgment. The foray into the field of astrophysics and physics generally, was delivered through the eyes of a young boy in an engaging and refreshing manner. However, there were a few moments in the narrative where I stood before the wonder and dazzle of science a bit like a startled faun. It was an enjoyable read and I would encourage you to try it and let me know what you think.

 

Something Old (which is still not that old):

The book, Now that I’ve found you, by Ciara Geraghty, is a wonderful read, set in a suburb of contemporary Dublin. Ciara is an Irish writer but there is an Australian connection in her writing. It is a novel with romantic and comedic tones written about ordinary people. Ciara creates sensitively drawn characters with their foibles and quirks that make them both endearing and believable.

She writes from two perspectives throughout the text and alternates this in the chapters. The first perspective is that of a reclusive professional lady who has suffered an emotionally and physically debilitating accident. Her voice is recorded through a diary she keeps.

The second perspective is that of a taxi driver, forty-two-year-old Vinnie, who has a lovely Dublin accent. His children, his friends, his mother, and his dog, combine to paint the story with a fresh and exciting mix of both the funny and serious predicaments of family life. The love and warmth of the clan around Vinnie is in stark contrast to Ellen’s more quiet life. Vinnie is Ellen’s taxi driver and they gradually come to understand more about each other as the year progresses.

Vinnie’s wife makes an appearance and threatens to disturb the reasonable order Vinnie has established in his life. I will leave out the details because it will be interesting to hear what you think. I completely loved reading it and will read it again in the summer.

 

Something Different:

The book Lottery, by Patricia Wood was a joy to read. It was published in 2008 and set in a small town in America. Perry L Crandell, the main character, is a cognitively challenged person with a very low IQ. However, he was fortunate to grow up surrounded by the grounded love and common sense of his grandparents. His quirky insights and plain understanding offer uncomfortable pictures of how ordinary people behave in the presence of those with intellectual differences.

Throughout the book, Perry refers to his condition as being ‘slow’. His Gram teaches him everything he needs to know, specifically that there is nothing wrong with being a little slower than everyone else.

When Perry wins the Lottery, his siblings and other family members drop into his life like rats from a rafter. In fact, a wide-ranging group of petitioners seek him out for donations and cash, and this unsettles Perry for a while. His Gram provided the groundwork for a common sense approach to life so he uses that to figure out what he should do. Throughout it all, he continues to work in the marine store. His employer Gary, and his closest friend Keith, (a troubled Vietnam vet who lives on a boat in the harbour close by), watch over him.

Love and friendship are the two powerful forces that save Perry and guide him over and above any limitations. It has some laugh out loud moments and tender situations. It is a book that invites you to walk with the very likeable Perry and bear witness to life viewed through the lens of kindness, simplicity and the essence of knowing what is right.

Would I read it again? Absolutely. Try it out and let me know what you think. I loved it.