Dark and brooding, Bereft by Chris Womersley was my introduction to a writer I met briefly in the Green Room at thePerth Festival Writer’s Week wrap up. Aptly dubbed ‘Australian gothic’, this tale of a boy who flees his home town after being accused of murdering his sister, returning years later without really knowing why, is evocative and eloquent. I was drawn in as much by the author’s way with words as the bristling tension between characters and the tale itself. It’s the kind of book where quotes leap out at you and you want to write them down; and where characters stay in your mind long after … I’m still wondering what happened next.
I’m a big fan of gothic-style novels, so this one ticked my boxes and whetted my appetite for more books by Womersley. The sooner the better.
The Rules of Backyard Croquet by Sunni Overend captivated me with its fresh and sassy take on a familiar theme – a woman shaking off past baggage to shine bright. And shine bright Apple March did, as she emerges from a self-imposed cocoon to find new friendships, love, and her zest for what she’s best at – fashion design. This peek into the high-fashion scene, set mainly in Melbourne, made me laugh with its snappy dialogue, dream with its sophisticated setting, and hope as the two love interests navigated their way through countless distractions towards each other’s hearts. Refreshing that the characterisation was, I can’t help feeling that Apple was overshadowed by her lovable co-worker and friend Jackson, that Charlie was almost too saintly (and that Noah seemed more real) … but I still enjoyed the book from start to finish and I’m eager to follow up with Overend’s The Dangers of Truffle Hunting.
It must have been a month for lighter reading – especially the last two weeks – but when that happens, it means that’s exactly what I needed. The other books I’ve highlighted this
I laughed so much reading The Secret Vineyard by Loretta Hill – this warm-hearted romance was engaging from start to finish. It’s one of those books where you’re cheering on the characters all the way (and telling them when to stop what they’re doing because ‘that guy is a sleaze and you don’t want him’). I loved the relationship between Grace and her sons – those ‘I need five minutes’ peace’ feelings while loving your kids to bits are common to most mothers, I’d say. The interactions between Grace and her boys made me laugh out loud more than once … it was refreshing and oh-so-relatable. Then there was the unlikely rock-star meets mum-of-three scenario that completely worked for me in a light-hearted rom-com way. And finally, the setting – Margaret River, one of my favourite places. While I was reading, I just wanted to be there … with my not-at-all-a-rock-star man by my side. Thanks for putting the romance back into a busy week, Loretta!
There’s a lot I could say about Lily Malone as a writer – starting with the fact that I admire the way she crafts characters and plots, drawing them together in an engaging and often sassy romps of the heart. Her latest release, Water Under the Bridge, does all that and more. A story of two people drawn together by the sale of a house, both with different motives for being where they are at when their hearts collide, it’s romantic without being soppy, warm-hearted without being soft. Jake and Ella have chemistry and conflict in spades and their push-pull relationship seesaws throughout the book, making the reader ache for them to get it together as much as … well, as much as they do, deep down.
Their story is set in another favourite setting for me – near the Porongorups in Western Australia – having been there less than six months ago, it felt familiar (which is always a good thing for me). A story of moving on, belonging, and opening hearts, Water Under the Bridge is a novel that I’ve been waiting to read for ages … and it was absolutely worth the wait. I will add that the writer is a good friend and we are in a writing accountability group together. However, this review is my honest response to her final work.
The final book I’m highlighting this month is Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown, a non-fiction book about finding your place in the world. I listened to the audiobook version of this and related to it so much I’ll be buying the print copy. Social scientest Brown talks about true belonging and how hard it is to find and experience in a world where being uncivil is the new ‘politically correct’, and dehumanising those who don’t agree with us is the norm. It’s always bothered me why people don’t listen to each other. Why we write off those who don’t share our views – why we say we can’t possibly be friends with someone who does not view the world through our eyes. Brown articulates the feelings I’ve long held in a way – feelings that it the world as we live it isn’t going all that well, with its factions and sides.
“True belonging doesn’t require us to change who we are. It requires us to be who we are.”
Some argue that it’s easy for Brown to say what she’s saying, that it’s coming from a position of privilege … my take is that she’s calling on all people to stop talking and listen as a gesture of shared humanity.
Other books I’ve read include: The Spare Room by Helen Garner, Blue Lightning by Ann Cleeves, Those Other Women by Nicola Moriarty and The Pleasure of Leisure by Robert Dessaix.
On my to-read list: The Memories That Make Us by Vanessa Carnevale, Sagaland by Kari Gislason and Richard Fidler, Before I Let You Go by Kelly Rimmer, Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny, and Daring to Drive: A Saudi Woman’s Awakening by Manal Al-Sharif.