Review: The Weekend by Charlotte Wood

9781760292010The Weekend is a perfectly balanced encapsulation of the human condition, its melancholy truths set to a delightful melody only Charlotte Wood — one of our greatest writers — could devise.

It charts the complex, resilient relationship between three friends, all in their seventies, who’ve just lost a member of their quartet. The sudden death of Sylvie brings Jude (former restaurateur), Wendy (acclaimed public intellectual) and Adele (once renowned, now out-of-work actress) to Sylvie’s isolated beach house over the Christmas weekend to purge the home. But the passing of Sylvie has destabilised the bond between these women; rocked the very foundations of their lifelong friendship. As the trio handle their personal grief, it quickly becomes clear Sylvie was vital to the group’s equilibrium, and they’ll have to re calibrate as a trio in order to retain what they once held so close.

Charlotte Wood’s ability to render complex emotions with incredible lucidity and sympathetic intelligence is exceptional. The Weekend is sometimes heart-wrenching, sometimes joyous, and never anything less than sharply poignant and true. It’s a book that has lingered in my memory, and alongside the new Strout, Patchett and Parrett, ranks among the best books I’ve read this year.

ISBN: 9781760292010
Format: Paperback / softback
Pages: 272
Imprint: Allen & Unwin
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Publish Date: 15-Oct-2019
Country of Publication: Australia

Review: Beware of the Dog by Peter Corris

9781760110154Middling among the distinguished author’s score of mysteries, but even the most routine Peter Corris novel offers incidental pleasures, and as a historical document of early-nineties Sydney, it’s well worth tracking down a copy of.

This tale of an affluent family’s murderous dysfunction sees Cliff Hardy’s gun stole and wanted by police in relation to a shooting. Corris wires together every cliche of the private eye genre electrifyingly; he treads familiar ground, but with such relish, it’s impossible not to be swept away.

Solid, unspectacular, but utterly engrossing.

ISBN: 9781760110154
Format: Paperback
Number Of Pages: 200
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Country of Publication: AU

Review: Clyde Fans by Seth

71jymu9d0olGregory “Seth” Gallant is a sublime cartoonist and Clyde Fans is his opus; a graphic novel twenty years in the making, clocking in at close to 500 pages. It captures the key moments in the lives of two middle-class brothers from a broken home, Simon and Abe Matchcard, who detest each other, and the gradual collapse of their deserter father’s once-booming oscillating fan business, established in the 1930s, but unable to compete with the invention of air conditioning. The art is phenomenal; the thick lines intricate and expressive, the blue and grey colours accentuating the book’s melancholic tone. And the pacing is exquisite; there’s a cadence to Seth’s cartooning that compels readers to slow down and savour every page and panel. Anyone who questions comics as literature needs to read it.

ISBN: 9781770463578
Format: Hardcover
Number Of Pages: 488
Published: 30th April 2019
Publisher: Drawn and Quarterly
Country of Publication: CA

Review: Expectation by Anna Hope

9780857524911Anna Hope’s Expectation is a profound and poignant portrait of the idealism of early adulthood and the lofty expectations attached to it, and what life subsequently does to undo it, or at the very least change our barometer for success and accomplishment.

We meet Hanna, Cate, and Lissa as university students on the brink of graduation; young and vibrant, bestowed with the confidence and dreams of youth. Then we travel forward, to almost a decade later (and eventually beyond) and witness what these women have become. Expectation reminds us  life is a journey, full of tough times, hard lessons and big decisions, but also replete with things to savour, cherish and love, always. And while it lacks the devastating subtlety of Sally Rooney’s work, it is a remarkably proficient novel that addresses the expectations, intentions and consequences of everyday lives.

ISBN: 9780857524911
Format: Paperback / softback
Pages: 336
Imprint: Doubleday
Publisher: Transworld Publishers Ltd
Publish Date: 11-Jul-2019
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Review: Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout

9780241374597In Olive, Again Elizabeth Strout once makes exquisite fiction from the stuff of ordinary lives, as the Pulitzer Prize-winning author addresses mortality in thirteen anecdotes set in Crosby, Maine, linked by the presence of Olive Kitteridge.

It occurs to me that, in fiction, old age  is sometimes treated with acrid sentimentality or totally ridiculed. Rare is the writer capable of examining the inevitability of the human condition with gracefulness and astuteness. Ageing is both a rite of passage and a process of discovery, and through the experiences of Olive, Strout evokes trenchant of insights from the most nuanced of interactions. As Strout charts a decade in Olive’s life we witness her evolution, from the notoriously thorny matriarch to, well, as Olive puts it,  “just a tiny—tiny—bit better” of a person. But still Olive. Always, Olive.

In a year of brilliant literary fiction — Patchett’s The Dutch House, Parrett’s There Was Still Love, Whitehead’s The Nickel Boys — Strout’s latest sits among that echelon. A book to love, and to be returned to, and loved again.

ISBN: 9780241374597
Format: Hardcover
Number Of Pages: 272
Available: 5th November 2019
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd

Review: Some Lucky by Jane Smiley

some-luck“Something had created itself from nothing — a dumpy old house had been filled, if only for this moment, with twenty-three different worlds, each of them rich and mysterious.”

Since it arrived in bookstores in 2014 — my first year as a bookseller (I know, late bloomer, right? — I’ve been meaning to read Jane Smiley’s Some Luck. But you know how it is; life (by which I mean other books) finds a way to intrude on your best laid plans, and suddenly that novel you meant to read in 2014 is still unread in 2019.

Well, there was no way I could let this turn into a Wolf Hall debacle (still unread more than ten years later), so demonstrating the kind of roguishness I’m known for, I finally shunted aside my piles of proofs (they toppled like dominoes; some stacks are still falling) and began reading the first book in the Last Hundred Years trilogy, praying it would live up to my expectations (that had only enhanced as the wait lengthened). And, oh boy, it did.

Some Luck begins in 1920 and ends in 1953 (each year is a chapter), and relays the story of The Langdons. Walter Langdon, recently returned from WWI, and his wife Rosanna have settled on a remote Iowa farm to commence their lives together. The novel charts their family’s lives through seismic events — the Great Depression, World War Two, the beginnings of the Cold War — but it’s the ordinary moments, those sacred times we only truly appreciate in hindsight, family gathered together, laughing around the dinner table, that gives Some Luck its profundity. Smiley’s prose is clean and unobtrusive, and brings to live the heterogeneous personalities of her cast as she moves round-robin style from one character to the next. Epic in scale, this is a trilogy I’ll read slowly to savour as long as I possibly can. Is there a better feeling than discovering a sublime novelist?

ISBN: 9781447275602
Format: Paperback / softback
Pages: 640
Imprint: Picador
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Publish Date: 26-Feb-2015
Country of Publication: United Kingdom


Review: Bitcoin Billionaires by Ben Mezrich


In Bitcoin Billionaires Ben Mezrich is less concerned with analysing or prophesying the future of bitcoin and cryptocurrency than turning the story of Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss’ gamble on cryptocurrency and its incredible payoff into turbo-charged, rollicking and riveting entertainment. Rest assured, Mezrich acknowledges the ideological struggle within the Bitcoin community  but the narrative never gets lost in the weeds of this argument. Much like John Carreyrou did in last year’s Bad Blood — turning the Theranos scandal into a non-fiction narrative that read like a thriller — Mezrich’s account of the twins’ astounding speculation and accumulation will earn a wide readership thanks to its accessibility and sheer pace.

ISBN: 9781408711897
Format: Paperback / softback
Pages: 288
Imprint: Little, Brown
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Publish Date: 21-May-2019
Country of Publication: United Kingdom