Review for All the Beautiful Girls by Elizabeth Church by BB reviewer Cathie C from advanced reading copy given (8th March release $29.99rrp HarperCollins Books Australia)
Elizabeth Church is without a doubt a writer of feminist stories. She writes stories about women for women that tackle issues experienced by many of us. In her new novel, All the Beautiful Girls, Church tackles domestic violence and the objectification of women. Church follows the story of Lily Decker, aka Ruby Wilde, as she experiences exploitation of one sort of another at every age. Some of this exploitation Lily/Ruby accepted and in the short term benefited from. But her story shows the trajectory of such manipulation in a woman's life and how it scars us in the long run. Using the world of a showgirl was a fantastic tool with which to illustrate this. Church shows how the initial exploitation and abuse experienced by Lily/Ruby as a child primed her to accept her objectification, even if as a showgirl on the stage she felt in control. This control was clearly short-lived, as at some stage a showgirl has to leave the stage and the casino, and this was where Lily/Ruby felt the long-term effects of her manipulation, despite her strong and spirited nature. Lily/Ruby was primed for the grooming that occurs in an abusive relationship.
I didn't have quite the same exquisite emotional response to some parts of this book as I did with Church's first book Atomic Weight Of Love, partly because the life of a showgirl is so removed from me everyday experience. But other parts of Lily/Ruby's experience from both her childhood and her life of a showgirl resonated with me painfully. The experience of exploitation and manipulation is universal and socioeconomic status is no barrier to its experience. Church's writing hinted at the darkness under the bright, shiny, facade of a showgirl's life, so that while I was enamoured with this life to a certain degree, I never really coveted it
While the ending was a bit too neat in some respects, it contrasted with the tragedy at the beginning of her life. I think the story would have been a bit too dark if terrible tragedy book-ended her life, considering the challenges she faced throughout her life. I did enjoy the book very much and would heartily recommend it. Some of her writing is heartbreakingly beautiful, especially those passages relating to Lily/Ruby's early childhood. This would make a good bookclub choice as there’s lots to talk about in it.
The Naturalist’s Daughter by Tea Cooper
The Naturalist’s Daughter by Aussie Tea Cooper was a fascinating read as we switch from 1808 to 1908 where 2 women’s obsession with the natural world and the discovery of the platypus draws them into unknown worlds and mysteries. I was thoroughly absorbed by the descriptions of place – the harsh colonial world by the river with Indigenous friends, faraway bustling patriarchal London, life within the 1908 Sydney library, the novelty of the new invention ‘the automobile’ and the classic outback country town where all the secrets will be discovered. I also really loved the care that Cooper took to create two distinct voices in different time periods as our protagonists. Tamsin (1908) is trying to understand through a sketchbook of illustrations the events of 100 years prior and find out why Charles Winton (father of Rose) had not been recognised for his knowledge about platypus which was almost 50 years before other findings were recognised and lauded. Rose and Tamsin are both strong willed, talented girls, one more limited than the other by societal expectations and protocol for women but both with spunk and tenacity to see their different missions accomplished. Both stories contain a dash of romance but not overly soppy thank goodness. There is a plethora of history and mystery which showed incredible research and the whole structure of the story was very well paced. Plus what’s not to love about the platypus – apart from their deadly spurs! I thought the happy coincidence at the end could have been avoided but this wasn’t enough of a grumble to distract from how much I really enjoyed this work from an author who has written quite a few books but was new to me. This is perfect for those who love split narratives, great historical writing, and indeed the immensely popular and loved The Birdman’s Wife.
Out now $29.99rrp.
Blazing hot weather over summer can hinder what you want to cook – you want something scrumptious but easy. This season I often turned to my new favourite cookbook Hummus and Co for summery inspiration. When the many fans of Kepos Street Kitchen and Kepos & Co. asked co-authors (and husband and wife) Michael and Kristy for the recipes they cook at home this was the result and it is AMAZING.
I’ve made has made the spinach & pine nut scrolls three times so far they are so delicious. The eggplant moussaka is the best I’ve has ever tasted. And there was a lot of love for the persian love cake which we made for our reps at Xmas time.
In the picture you can see an entree of Fig, Haloumi and fresh leaves (we used oregano as suggested in place of zaatar as suggested in the book). The drizzle of honey on the cheese and warmed up figs was perfectly offset by the walnuts. Easy and so yummy as a starter. Great if friends saying they’re dropping by in 15-20 minutes!
The other pic was the main; a Tunisian Tuna Salad with potatoes, black olives, tomatoes, cucumber, eggs & coriander. The simple harissa dressing (combined with olive oil and red wine vinegar) adds a pleasant kick, lifting and combining these vegies so well together. There is a linked recipe for preserved tuna but we just use tinned as suggested.
Another great thing about this cookbook are the variation ideas.
There are so many yummy things to make in this book, I’ve has marked about every 3rd page and plan to make them all over the year!
Restless Souls by Dan Sheehan (Hachette $29.99)
What grabbed my attention first for Restless Souls by Dan Sheehan (Hachette $29.99) was the cover, which illustrates comedy, road trip and tragedy in a Venn diagram and the various intersections that the story may hold upon reading. But what was surprising was that Dan Sheehan’s debut novel actually balances all these components in an exhilarating, humourous yet sorrowful and grim way – it has its Irish and almost dark, self-deprecating humour, and it has a road trip narrative to and through California to a destination where the tragedies of these men will be faced up to and ultimately, hopefully, overcome; by making them aware that although time, tragedy and circumstance have taken a toll on them and proven they are not invincible beings, they are still alive and still have each other. I was pulled into this friendship and into the past lives of each of these young men. I was shocked by their reality, burdened by suicide and PTSD and the foster-care system as well as the destructive youth of males and the lack of adequate mental health services. Tom’s recount of his years in Bosnia although absolutely horrendous also has a beauty and sincerity to it, the siege so real and full of suffering. Sheehan explores dark and relevant issues with a reverence and intelligence.
This novel is more about what happens at their destination than the adventure these young men go on, but for me it was the journey of it all, of each of their lives that made the book meaningful and incredibly impactful.
Love, Hate and Other Filters (Hotkey $19.99)
In Samira Ahmed’s unforgettable debut teen novel, Love, Hate and Other Filters (Hotkey $19.99), Maya Aziz, an Indian-American Muslim teen is torn between two worlds. She is the good Indian daughter of two dentists who want her to study medicine or law at a university close to home. She is also an amateur filmmaker, desperate to study at NYU, nowhere near her family. In addition to these challenges, Maya also has to decide between two boys, one she has pined over most of her schooling life, who almost seems within reach, and one who is both charming, funny and the perfect suitor in the eyes of her parents. Despite this, Samira Ahmed has created a novel that’s about more than just another YA romance. Ahmid interweaves an intricate second storyline throughout the novel that greatly impacts the narrative. Ahmid interweaves an intricate second storyline throughout the novel that greatly impacts the narrative. Issues regarding racism, bigotry and social justice are explored in depth throughout the text. What follows is an emotional and unique story, as Maya questions love, life and identity in this moving coming of age novel.
Macca the Alpaca by Matt Cosgrove (Scholastic Australia Feb release) is an adorable picture book story depicting an alpaca’s journey to convince a nasty llama that he should stop being a bully. Macca the Alpaca is a sweet looking alpaca that is innocent, bubbly and full of fun and adventure. When Macca meets Harmer (a bully of a llama), he undertakes the task to teach Harmer the true meaning of kindness and friendship. But will Macca succeed with such a daunting task?
This story is absolutely lovely; the moral story of preventing bullying and to be kind to others is well executed within this book. The drawings of Macca and his adventures are cute and fun. I really love the character of Macca, his bright big eyes remind me of my little pup, and the innocent adventures of splashing in puddles and chasing butterflies mimics my dog’s own behaviour. This sentiment and adorableness causes the whole book to become a must read. For “Pig the Pug” fans and lovers of all things alpaca, this is definitely a book all children should read, cherish and enjoy.