The Rest of Their Lives (by same author as Reader on the 627) by Jean Paul Diderlaurent $29.99 (Macmillan)
I was beyond excited to hear that Jean Paul Didierlaurent had a new book coming out called The Rest of Their Lives, and even more excited to get this advanced reading copy in the post thanks to my new Pan Macmillan Australia rep Emily.His previous novel Reader on the 6.27 was in my top 5 for 2015 and this new one has won its way into my heart just like that one. Whereas his first novel was about a book pulp worker meeting a train traveller, this one is about an embalmer Ambroise meeting an elderly home help aide named Manelle. What I love about Didierlaurent’s writing is that, similar to Sarah Winman, he cuts to the chase with carefully worded depictions of life in our two central characters so that we immediately feel a part of their lives. Ambroise, estranged from his Nobel Prize winning father, lives with his grandmother and takes wonderful care of the dead as they are prepared for funeral viewings by families. These intricately described passages, far from being macabre, treat the dead with respect and dignity and opened me up to this private and previously unknown world. Similarly, Manelle’s life tending to the needs and quirks of her elderly resident patients is considerate and goes above and beyond the realms of her duty tasks. Yet both are lonely and looking for connection with someone their own age (and living!). How they come together, and the journey they go on is simply delightful. I loved every word and visual image in this under 300 page novel and loved the ending for both characters. Highly recommended for those who love French charm, and heartfelt books of whimsy.
Natasha’s other book review
Little Secrets by Anna Snoekstra Harlequin Books $29.99rrp
This second novel by Aussie author Anna Snoekstra builds up a great sense of the claustrophobic small town and its impact on its inhabitants, especially central figure 20 something Rose Blakely and her best mate Mia who work in the local pub – the more desirable of the two drinking holes in town. Pursued by unwanted attentions by the local creepy cop, Frank and hounded by her mother and step father to finally leave the family home despite she has limited funds and options to really do so, we see Rose trying to manage all these things alongside her desire to become a journalist. A recent courthouse and shop fire that has caused the death of a small boy gives the novel an immediate sense of edginess, and this is heightened by the arrival of a mysterious pub lodger Will and further complicated by the sinister appearance of dolls on family doorsteps. Snoekstra has cleverly crafted the circumstances around her central figure Rose to initially endear our sympathies and then feel upended and unsure about her intentions and ethics as these mysterious events start to reveal themselves in the story. The chemistry between Rose and the lodger Will was palpable and added an exciting layer to the narrative, and the growing friction between Rose and Mia was authentic as their friendship strains under the weight of their changing ambitions. More of a slow burn novel than say The Dry or Girl on a Train of which it is drawing comparisons but nonetheless a good read where the second half was the most gripping and the twist at the end unexpected yet realistic.
Danger Music by Eddie Ayres Allen & Unwin $32.99 adult memoir
“Living in Afghanistan was like living inside a poem. It was always open to interpretation. And I would never understand.”
Eddie Ayres’s memoir is a brave, endearing and incredible read – and the same can be said for his life. Danger Music follows Eddie’s battle against depression and journey to self-discovery amidst the brutal yet beautiful landscape of Kabul. As a teacher of cello at the Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM) Eddie experiences the daily horrors of war-torn Afghanistan but also the joys of the place and its people, a spectrum of experiences shared with and reflected in the boys and girls he comes to know through his teaching. And in a society that years prior banned all instruments and music, this book is made even more intriguing.
“I could never reconcile the contrast between Afghanistan’s gracious music, manners and kindness, and the brutality of its reactive behaviour.”
Eddie’s personal discovery, his transition from Emma to Eddie, takes a backseat to the respectful and fascinating recount of the tens of children at ANIM and the people he had come across during his year-long stay in Kabul. Each person’s story is told with honesty and intimacy – I wanted to know more about these children, wanting the best for them in their future endeavours, wherever they may find themselves yet also feeling their sorrow for their various personal and political situations. In Danger Music Eddie teaches us that beauty can be found even the most ugliest of places. As a reader, I learnt a lot about Afghani culture through Eddie’s insightful and informative writing. I highly recommend this memoir.
If you’d like to know more about Danger Music as well as hear Eddie speak about his life I highly recommend listening to Richard Fidler’s podcast with Eddie on ABC. Or better yet, purchase the book.
Nasty Women: Feminism, Revolution and Resistance in Trump’s America $24.99 Picador 14th Nov
Nasty Women is a collection of essays from a list of renowned feminist writers. From Cheryl Strayed to Jessica Valenti, the book details a diverse number of topics relating to feminism leading up to, during and following the 2016 election. From reproductive rights to Indigenous writes, each essay is unique, and makes the reader think about the true impact of a Trump administration, with policies affecting more than just American citizens. The inclusion of intersectional voices was especially important to me. Each woman writes with such eloquence, and passion on topics they are clearly well versed on. Writers like Nicole Chung and Alicia Garza focus on resistance and what citizens of society can do to fight these injustices and move forward. Even though some of these issues don’t apply directly to Australia, majority of them can be applied on both a nationwide and global scale. Seeing the repercussions of policy change and legislation is especially frightening. If you want a book that inspires you to think and perhaps to do something more, you should pick this up and start reading! I’m glad to say it didn’t disappoint. Resist!
Magnus Chase Book #3 The Ship of the Dead
Norse mythology paired with the mastermind of Rick Riordan creates an incredibly gripping read of magic, violence and humour. Loki has escaped his eternal prison cell and is planning on creating an early Ragnarok in the hopes of destroying the universe. It is up to quirky Magnus Chase and his rag-tag teams of einherjar to defeat the trickster god/giant and save the worlds from collapsing.
I absolutely love this series; Rick Riordan is an all-time top ten favourite author of mine. He creates sarcastic and unexpected heroes with impossible challenges and daunting tasks; all coinciding with pagan mythology and actual Viking events and beliefs. It is simply phenomenal. This time the cast is even more diverse, with Sam fighting in the middle of Ramadan; Alex coming to terms with her fluidity, and all sorts of species as well. This book includes all types of human, demi-god, elf and dwarf.
With the upcoming release of the new “Thor” movie as well, it will be good to see the Norse gods in their proper form and with a different personality that pairs with the origin of all things Thor and Loki. Instead of the incredibly buff and blonde Chris Hemsworth, we see Thor as the mannerless redhead who enjoys unnecessary violence and loud toilet- humour. An incredible read with an amazing cast full of wit, snark and friendship. Rick Riordan honestly just keeps getting better and better; I cannot wait to get my hands on the next book! 8/10