National Reconciliation Week 2017 launches today (27 May to the 3 June) as all Australians are invited to celebrate the rich culture and history of the First Australians. These dates mark two milestones in Australia's history, the 50th anniversary of the 1967 referendum, and the 25th anniversary of the historic Mabo decision. The theme for this year is ‘Let’s Take the Next Steps’, focusing on coming together as a nation to take the next great step in creating a country strengthened by respectful relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous peoples. NRW is a chance for all of us to take some meaningful steps, no matter how big or small, to spark change in our school, workplace or community. We have tins at both stores for donations!
His Other House by Sarah Armstrong – $29.99 paperback
I perhaps enjoyed The Girl on a Train more this month but given it is EVERYWHERE including number 1 on the Indies charts, I decided His Other House by Sarah Armstrong was worth highlighting as it is a intriguing Aussie debut about the impact of an affair. The marriage of Dr Quinn and his wife Marianna is suffering from the stress of many years of unsuccessful IVF attempts when he meets Rachel who is caring for her sick mother in a remote Aussie country town where he works a few days a week as a visiting locum. The natural flow of the writing and the structural decision to tell this story from the points of view of the husband, the wife and the mistress gives this commonplace story something different and appealing. You get drawn in to observing their reactions to life, relationships, choices plus their connections with other figures in their lives. The pressures of different goals, the strain of deception, the cost of betrayal, and the impact of guilt all collide and help make these flawed characters raw and fully realised. We share their hopes and their pain, feeling compelled to see it through to the end which we know can only end in heartbreak and not just for one, especially when the stakes get raised in the second half. Ultimately, the novel highlights the importance of truth and it does have a satisfying ending. A great one for bookclubs to discuss given its contemporary setting and topical issue.
The First Rule of Survival by Paul Mendelson – $24.99 Bformat paperback out this month, PLUS Serpentine Road (Book 2) – $29.95 Out April 22nd
Having had my honeymoon in South Africa and the popularity in store of another South African set crime series by Malla Nunn, I was intrigued by this modern set series from Paul Mendelson. It’s 2014, and two bodies are found wrapped in plastic in Cape Town and discovered to be the bodies of white children kidnapped seven years earlier. Detective DeVries who was involved back then and in charge now leads us through the case both switching between this new discovery and back to the older cold case which had no witnesses and very few clues. He finds out secrets about colleagues and enemies that shock him to the core, especially when it arises that these two have been kept alive and abused until only recently. DeVries, along with his sidekick black officer Don February, provide a interesting insight into how determined and focussed you have to be with these kind of savage cases as well as a good sense of place which I could easily visualise. There is constantly something happening especially as we are not sure if the third kidnapped victim is still alive and how will the crime be solved on so little evidence. Note what gets discovered will not be for the faint hearted.
Serpentine Road is the sequel and once again sets itself in modern 2015 with a mysterious killer causing old wounds being exposed from some 25 years earlier.
A Reunion of Ghosts by Judith Elaine Mitchell – $29.99 RRP paperback
A trio of sisters make a suicide pact. Vee’s suffering will be over come New Years Eve 1999, and Lady and Delph will be with her all the way. All the way. The Alter family have a history of suicide, going back generations. The Alter sisters know all about it, they’ve even drawn up a chart. The Alters DO NOT have a history of leaving suicide notes, but this time it will be different. In the their last months, the sisters devote their time to telling the family story, stretching back generations, including their great grandfather contribution to the Nazi war effort during WW2, and the effect on those closest to him and the generations who followed.
While bunking down during Hurricane Floyd, a stranger lets herself into their apartment, shocking the sisters, and so begins the debunking of some long believed stories and The Alter Family Suicide Chart. Light read right?
I adored A Reunion of Ghosts. The writing is clever. Flashbacks (laced with real historical characters and events) are entwined with each of the sisters revealing their own stories. I began to feel like I actually knew these women. I laughed with them, and at them. I groaned at the puns, because that’s what you do, and for all the rather depressing themes, this book was actually full of humor. Rather dark at times, but funny all the same. The Alter sisters are sharp, always with a quick response and a sometimes-strange view of the world. If you enjoy a family saga with a little edge and dark humor, A Reunion of Ghosts could be just what you are looking for.
That’s What Wings Are For by Patrick Guest – $24.95 RRP
A beautifully written book about Bluey the flightless dragon and the search for his true wings. The book was written from the emotional and deeply personal perspective of Patrick Guest who transferred his son’s own experiences with muscular dystrophy to Bluey the dragon. More importantly, the book was inspired by the development of the Duchenne Foundation’s dragon mascot. To me, that really makes the book resonate more deeply to those children with disabilities of some kind or even just kids who think they’re different from other kids, telling them that they are strong and amazing in other ways than just what they lack. The book also has gorgeous illustrations by Daniella Germain. All proceeds go to the Duchenne Foundation to help find a cure for muscular dystrophy.
A Place Called Winter by Patrick Gale – $29.99 RRP
A fascinating historical novel set in the early 1900s that follows the life of Englishman Harry Cane. We first meet Harry as a psychologically traumatised man suffering through the dubious “care” of a mental institution, until a Quaker doctor with an ideology to prove transfers Harry to the “therapeutic community” he runs. Here, Harry’s past is revealed bit by bit, interspersed with his life at the therapeutic community.
Harry’s story begins in 1900s England, where he is shy and stuttering but privileged and “complacently male”, going through the motions of a gentleman’s life. After securing a wife and child, Harry is surprised to find passion with a man. When his affair is revealed, Harry is forced to leave his easy life in England for the unforgiving Canadian prairies.
Harry is a flawed but deeply loveable character that you root for every step of his journey. The hardships he faces in both the face of 1900s society and 1900s Canadian wilderness are at times heartbreaking, but also a call to appreciate how far our world has come in 100 years, and Harry perseveres through it all. I challenge you to read the first two pages of this book and not need to find out the rest of Harry’s bittersweet story.
The World’s Best Brunches: Where to find them and how to make them – $29.99 RRP
A term originally coined for Saturday night carousers who couldn’t wake up for breakfast, brunch has evolved into a sunny, social meal beloved the world over. As a self-confessed brunch-a-holic and avid traveller myself, this book really combines the best of both worlds by suggesting amazing food and amazing places to travel to in order to sample it. The World’s Best Brunches, is a collection of mid-morning meals accompanied by the origin of each dish, the best place to sample a bite, and an easy-to-prepare recipe for cooking it at home (so you don’t have to worry about travelling all the way across the world to try it!). With 100 authentic recipes with simple and clear instructions for perfect preparation and a glossary of exotic ingredients with easy-to-find alternatives, this book is sure to satisfy both your tastebuds and your wanderlust!
Hanna: My Holocaust Story by Goldie Alexander – $16.99 RRP
KIDS HISTORICAL FICTION
As I am very interested in WWII, I chose to read Hanna: My holocaust story by Goldie Alexander. It focuses on Hanna and her Jewish Family, who live in Warsaw, Poland. They are a successful family who own what Hanna’s Papa likes to call not the biggest, but “certainly the best” clothing store in their area. They are financially comfortable, and have everything they could ever need, including Elza, the family’s housekeeper. However after the news of ‘Khristallnacht’, and finally the outbreak of war, they find it is too late to leave their town. The Nazis herd all the Jewish citizens into the ghettos, branding anyone old enough with a yellow star and exposing them to the lowest acts of poverty. The family have to find any way to survive, even if it means hiding money or fleeing to Elza’s family farm. However tragedy is a tight theme in the story, as the reader is exposed to death, desperation and inhumane acts of cruelty.
Alexander creates many amiable characters in the book, especially Hanna, whose love for reading and gymnastics helps her get through hard times. With the simple yet engaging writing, Alexander has created an accurate insight for our younger readers as to what many people really endured through the holocaust and WWII. Despite some quite dark themes, I believe this book is suitable for late primary students (or those of high reading levels) and above.