“Books to the ceiling, Books to the sky, My pile of books is a mile high. How I love them! How I need them! I’ll have a long beard by the time I read them.” – Arnold Lobel
Beard aside, I completely relate – I love books, I need them, and there’s not enough time in the world for me to read everything I want to.
Lately, I’ve been reading more than writing, and due to some sad family circumstances, I’ve tended towards books that ask little of me, other than my attention. Do you ever do that? To me, it’s a bit like small talk. I don’t usually like it and I’d rather talk about deeper, more meaningful topics, but sometimes, small talk is welcome because it’s all I can manage.
Right now, my head feels blank and I can’t even think of all the titles I’ve read this month – fortunately I made a list of the books I wanted to review. What would I do without lists?
The Shouting in the Dark by Elleke Boehmer is one of four books I have read in preparation for the Perth Festival Writers Week later this month. This story of a fraught relationship between a daughter and her domineering father enthralled me with its often dark, often sad treatment of the migrant experience and the ghosts of the past. It’s a slow burner about survival, with language at times as beautiful as the chapters are bleak; it’s not an easy read, but I found it an evocative and thought-provoking one because the subject matter hits close to home in many ways.
I’ll be chatting with Elleke along with Monica McInerney and Balli Kaur Jaswal at this event.
The Lost Girls by Jennifer Spence is a new release reminiscent in some ways of 1998 movie Sliding Doors, but with a darker, more urgent tone. The central question asks, “What would you do if you had the chance to change a pivotal moment from your past?” The protagonist, Stella, finds herself twenty years back in her past – in her old house with her younger family – and adopts the identity of her long-lost aunt. Armed with disturbing knowledge about her family’s future, she grapples with wanting to change and influence things so the outcome is different. But is that the right thing to do? The Lost Girls tackles the moral dilemma cleverly and insightfully, providing the reader with not only a compelling story, but plenty of what-ifs to mull over.
After you’ve read this, why not check out Jennifer’s contribution to my A Letter to my Unpublished Self series?
What a pleasure it was to receive a special edition of the classic novel Mary Poppins, illustrated by current Waterstones Children’s Laureate, Lauren Child. This book is one to treasure, whether for yourself as a reminder of childhood, or for some lucky gift recipient in your life. I read this book with a smile on my face, not only for the timeless narrative about the magical (if a little stern) nanny, but also for the gorgeous illustrations that bring this abridged version to life. There’s a delightful chapter featuring Jane and Michael’s younger twin siblings, which was probably my favourite of the entire book. I loved the way they were able to understand “the Starling and the Wind” and “what the trees say and the language of the sunlight and the stars” until their first birthday, after which they forget because “there never was a human being that remembered after the age of one”. All up, it’s a magical book and one day, I hope there’s a little one in my life I can read it to.
Here’s a sample of a double page:
Available from Harper Collins and other good bookstores.
Finally, I was fortunate to receive an advance copy of The Scholar by Dervla McTiernan, which starts with a hit and run, and keeps up a twisty-turny pace with every turn of the page. Like her first book, The Ruin, this upcoming release is atmospheric and tightly plotted, with some great central characters grounding the series. While it’s a crime novel on the surface, set in the complicated and (in this case) corrupt world of big pharmaceuticals and research, at its heart it digs deep into the human experience, into love, family ties, and protection. That means, for me, it ticks all my boxes when it comes to great crime reads. Dervla weaves a tangled web that is a pleasure to get stuck into and if you haven’t checked out her books yet, I’d highly recommend them.
I’ll be chatting with Dervla at Stories on Stage at Koorliny Arts Centre on March 26 and again at AH Bracks Library in Melville on April 7.
Other books I’ve been reading include The Happiness Paradox by Richard Eyre (a thought-provoking look at how the things we think will make us happy – control, ownership and independence – paradoxically make us the most unhappy), The Fireflies of Autumn by Moreno Giovannoni and The Trip of a Lifetime by Monica McInerney (re-read in preparation for the Perth Festival Writers Week).
How about you? What have you been reading?