A Mad and Wonderful Thing by Mark Mulholland
A Mad and Wonderful Thing inspires a sense of pure delight. Set in the swirling mists of Ireland, we follow the story of Johnny Donnelly, a wild, compassionate young Irish lad who is the epitome of all that is good about Ireland with his quick wit, his love of books, song and philosophy, and the abundant sense of joy he feels for his friends and family. He feels that he wears life lightly and nothing harsh will ever happen to him – he is blessed. But he has a dark, hidden private side known to only a very few. He is an IRA sniper. When he falls helplessly in love with the beautiful Cora, his two worlds crash and collide. Despite some dark themes, this riveting novel manages to be one of the great uplifting reads of the year. RRP: $29.99.
Review by Nicole @ Great Escape Books
Carthage by Joyce Carol Oates
Sibling rivalry and tension weave through this gripping thriller. Missing girl Cressida is presumed murdered by Kincaid, a damaged and dangerous war veteran. Joyce Carol Oates explores the dark side of grief, anger and revenge. A page turner with unexpected twists and turns. I really enjoyed this thriller and my first read of this great author. Definitely want to read more of her work.
RRP: $27.99. Review by Sue @ Great Escape Books
All the Birds Singing by Evie Wyld…
Longlisted for 2014 Miles Franklin
All the Birds Singing is a beautifully crafted, suspenseful read that moves with an unsettling force. Living on a desolate island off the English coast, Jake is fiery and fiercely independent, shunning all company except for her loyal dog. She has severed all ties to both happier and bleaker times in Western Australia – she has been extremely careful to cover her tracks. In a complex series of flashbacks, as we start to unravel why she is so deeply emotionally and physically scarred. Then when something or someone, animal, human, or perhaps supernatural, starts brutally picking off her beloved sheep on her remote farm, we wonder if the ghosts from her past will ever cease to prey upon her. Beautifully yet simply written, with a mounting sense of the tension building page upon page, this is an utterly compelling read.
Australian-born, London-based writer Evie Wyld was recently named as one of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists for 2013. She was longlisted for the 2014 Stella Awards.
RRP: $32.99 Review by Nicole @ Great Escape Books
Little White Slips by Karen Hitchcock
The perfect read for any one who is remotely time-poor is a selection of short stories. Just like novels, short stories come in all shapes and sizes and two great examples of this are the very different collections from Karen Hitchcock (Little White Slips)and Robert Drewe (The Local Wildlife).
Little White Slips is the first collection of stories from Karen Hitchcock and it certainly packs a punch! The fictional stories here look unflinchingly at life as a modern woman – the stress of balancing study and family life, struggles with body image, marriage troubles, the loneliness of first time motherhood and more. It’s in-your-face writing that is powerful and thought-provoking, while displaying a sharp wit and good humour at the same time. Karen Hitchcock is a doctor, writer and lecturer in Medicine at the University of Newcastle. RRP: $29.95.
Karen Hitchcock is one of 30 writers and presenters at this year’s Lighthouse Literary Festival, 25-27 April 2014. Visit http://www.lighthouseliteraryfest.com.au for all the details.
RRP: $29.99 Review by Andi Lawson Moore @ Great Escape Books
The Collected Works of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin.
Long title, great book. This highly engaging novel about a cranky bookshop owner (reminiscent of Bernard Black out of ‘Blackbooks’) who has recently lost all he has to live for – not only his beautiful wife, but a rare book more valuable than the shop itself. But fate intervenes when a quirky and charming Sales Rep, Amelia calls, and a child is left with a note to him in his bookstore- young Maya, who wriggles her way with ease into his heart. A book about how love and community can rescue you, this novel is perfect for fans for fans of ‘The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society’ and ‘Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand.’
Review by Nicole @ Great Escape Books
The Local Wildlife by Robert Drewe
Reading Robert Drewe’s latest collection is like sitting ’round with an old friend for a chat – especially for an avid reader of his regular Saturday Age columns for whom many of these characters and stories will be familiar. These very short stories are little humorous anecdotes about daily life in the Northern Rivers area of NSW, where the ‘local wildlife’ of the title is everything from the ever present cane toads and brown snakes to the warring pet dogs of Macadamia Lane to the sometimes unusual human inhabitants of the area. You’ll laugh out loud at Drewe’s witty yet lovingly portrayed quirky characters – the skimpily-clad freeloaders from Melbourne, the Russian mail-order bride-seeking Norman, the angry alpaca-owner or even the author himself, covered in green zinc putting pen to paper while half submerged in water!
Tall tales from one of Australia’s master novelists – but this time these short stories are true. ’Excuse me, mate,’ he asked the fluorescently green, bespectacled, half-submerged man, who was trying to put pen to paper while sitting in water, flicking ants off his work, and wincing as he shifted his buttock position. ‘Is that how writers do writing?’ ’Yep.’ I frowned verdantly over my glasses. ‘It’s a very complicated job.” RRP: $29.99. Robert Drewe will be a guest at this year’s Lighthouse Literary Festival, courtesy of the Wheeler Centre, 25-27 April 2014. Visit http://www.lighthouseliteraryfest.com.au for all the details.
Review by Andi Lawson Moore @ Great Escape Books
The Lost Child by Suzanne McCourt
This bittersweet debut novel by one our festival authors, Suzanne McCourt will both charm and devastate you in equal terms. The novel’s narrator Sylvie is only five years old at the opening of the story, and with the charming innocence of the very young she tries to please everyone, but fails to understand the complexities of her parents and their marriage. The backdrop of the novel, the wild coast of the Coorong is magnificently drawn and almost like a character in itself. This coming of age story is a fabulous offering by an author to watch. RRP: 29.99.
Suzanne McCourt will be a guest at this year’s Lighthouse Literary Festival, 25-27 April 2014. Visit http://www.lighthouseliteraryfest.com.au for all the details.
Review by Nicole @ Great Escape Books.
A Love Like Blood by Marcus Sedgwick
An elegant thriller in the tradition of Sherlock Holmes …’I’ve chased him for over twenty years, and across countless miles, and though often I was running, there have been many times when I could do nothing but sit and wait. Now I am only desperate for it to be finished.’
In 1944, Charles Jackson, a Captain in the Royal Army Medical Corps enters in a newly liberated Paris, while celebrating a subdued independence, decides to visit the Chateau de Saint-Germain-en-laye with his Commanding Officer. The Chateau had been Germany Army Headquarters during the war years, but had previously been a museum, which his CO is keen to see. Meandering around gardens, Charles comes across a bunker. Without any idea how life altering his movements will be, he steps inside and sees a man drinking a woman’s blood – whom when disturbed looks up at Charles with a coolly amused expression. Fleeing the bunker, Charles quickly gathers enough courage to go back in, but both the man and woman have vanished. He is unsure that he really witnessed. Stumbling across the same elegant man years later in a French café, he discover he is the enigmatic Count Verovkin. For the next twenty years and throughout several countries, Charles Jackson discovers love, is threatened, disbelieved and becomes both the hunter and the hunted. RRP: $29.99
Review by Nicole @ Great Escape Books
One Boy Missing by Stephen Orr
Small town Australia, wheat belt life with all its charms and failings. Detective Bart Moy returns to Guilford, his childhood home to work the usually boring crime and to help his ailing father. A boy is found and a boy is lost or taken and it’s Bart’s job to solve this dilemma. He becomes attached to the boy, Patrick who won’t leave his side or speak. Dark and confronting, this case challenges Bart and his ideas of fatherhood, love and family. Bart’s father unlocks Patrick’s secrets and gets him to speak again and help solve this mystery. Readers of Bereft and The Broken Shore may find a similar voice as at its core it is the Australian narrative that keeps us spellbound.
RRP: $29.99 Review by Sue @ Great Escape Books.
The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman.
From the author of The Dove Keepers, a mesmerising tale of New York and Coney Island in the early 1900’s. Gothic and extravagant it tells of Coralie, young, beautiful, trapped by her cruel manipulative father into performing alongside the unfortunate, deformed oddities that make up the Museum ,it’s purpose to shock and thrill the cruel public for money. Coralie, as a ” mermaid ” swimming in the Hudson River meets the man that will help set her free. She finds love with Eddie and the shocking truth of her past and the depth of cruelty her father is capable of. Loved the storytelling and the marvellous ending. A great read. RRP: $29.99
Review by Sue @ Great Escape Books
The Pure Gold Baby by Margaret Drabble
Those fortunate to have seen Margaret Drabble when she was in Geelong recently, will know of her extensive back catalogue of acclaimed novels. Her latest, The Pure Gold Baby, tells the story of Jess, a charismatic anthropology student in 1960s London who falls pregnant after an affair with her married Professor. Suddenly her life is turned around. Not only will there be no more research trips to Africa, but with the birth of her special Anna, Jess realises she will be a mother for life. Anna is not a normal child and she will be the most incredible blessing to Anna, as well as a life-time burden.
The Pure Gold Baby explores ideas of parenting, responsibility, friendship, community and family life in a touching and often humorous way. Drabble has chosen not to tell the story of Jess and Anna from either of their perspectives and instead a friend, somewhat removed from the heart of the special mother/daughter relationship, is the protagonist. This serves to remove sentimentality in the story (which could easily creep in given the subject matter) and also allows for a great deal of honesty and even judgement about Jess and her role as Anna’s carer. The book is written now, looking back on the 1960s and 1970s, and this also gives it a different perspective – the protagonist has the benefit of hindsight and modern life with which to judge how the world was for Anna and Jess.The Pure Gold Baby is a very moving story about motherhood and its challenges – and ultimately its incredible rewards. RRP: $29.99
Review by Andi Lawson Moore @ Great Escape Books
The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan
Dedicated to “prisoner san byaku san ju go” (p.335), the identification number of Richard Flanagan’s father, the late Archie Flanagan, who died aged 98 earlier this year and twelve years in the writing, Richard Flanagan wanted to get do justice to his father’s haunting story of his time on the death railway- the Thai Burma railways. But this is also a the tale of passionate love story as the narrative crosses from sleepy Tasmania, to the pre-war years where the central character of Dorrigo Evans as he becomes a student surgeon engages in a forbidden affair. In the war he is captured and selves selflessly as a doctor to other POW in the Japanese death camps and book then travels full circle back to his uncomfortable journey as he celebrated as a hero back home when so many others have fallen. This is a beautifully constructed story that asks the central question what makes a man a hero, a leader of men in their darkest hours and can a man be a hero when he is wracked with self doubt and guilt?
RRP: $32.95. Published by Random House
Review by Nicole Maher@ Great Escape Books
I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes
Can a person possibly commit the perfect crime? From the first, seemingly-perfect murder, I Am Pilgrim is an unstoppable thrill-ride deep into the world of international espionage and terrorism. Once an adopted son of a wealthy family, ‘Pilgrim’ is the codename for a faceless man who doesn’t exist. Once a top field agent, he purposefully vanishes off the face of the planet after writing an obscure book under a pseudonym about the forensic background to the perfect crime- his final memoir. Unbeknown to him, the book falls into hands of a brilliant young woman who commits an unspeakable murder in New York; erasing the features of a person in a bath of acid, pulling their teeth and deleting their fingerprints.
On the other side of the globe, a young boy in Saudi Arabia witnesses his gentle intellectual father’s public beheading and swears vengeance on the Saudi royal family and all who uphold it’s callous regime, including America. This is the birth of a terrorist called Saracen, a fundamentalist Islamic loner with the medical knowledge to wipe life off a continent. These two seemingly unrelated events lead Pilgrim on an epic journey from France to Mecca, the deserted ruins in Turkey, to the wilds of the Hindu Kush in Afghanistan to stop another perfect crime, that in the eyes of its perpetrator is an act of God. Superbly plotted, this wild thriller will leave you guessing to the cataclysmic end.
Australian Terry Hayes began his career as a journalist for The Sydney Morning Herald, when as foreign correspondent in the US he covered Watergate and the resignation of President Nixon. He became a successful screenwriter – having written over 20 screenplays including Mad Max 2, Dead Calm, Bangkok Hilton, Payback & many more.
Published by Random House. RRP: $24.95
Review by Nicole Maher @ Great Escape Books
Barracuda by Christos Tsiolkas
Danny is the ‘Barracuda’- the shark, the swimming legend, the psycho in the pool. Only in the water does he truly feel that he knows who is, “He asked the water to lift him, to carry him, to avenge him. He made his muscles shape his fury, made every stroke declare his hate. And the water obeyed; the water would give him his revenge. No one could beat him, no one came close.”
Danny is offered a full swimming scholarship at a prestigious private college – widely rumoured to have been based on Wesley College. Loved by his old Reservoir friends and initially loathed and mocked by his peers, this aggressive coming of age story rings startling true. Barracuda is also a savage dissertation on equality and the hidden class distinctions that divide and conquer schools. Despite his best intentions, half Greek, half Scott Danny struggles to maintain his sense of identity and integrity, with even his father questioning his intentions. Only his mother holds steadfast in her support for her son. You are venturing into classic Christos Tsiolkas territory- nothing is sacred- sexuality, family, race- but the intensity and beauty of the writing is stunning and more importantly the central character of Danny with his Olympic dreams, his hopes, his confusion and his fears is perfectly portrayed. A searing, magnificent novel that isn’t afraid to roar.
Published by Allen and Unwin. RRP: 32.99.
Review by Nicole Maher @ Great Escape Books.
The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon
This has been the big new fabulous sci-fi to emerge this year out of Britain. The Bone Season is set in 2059 where the Rephaim have arrived two centuries previously after the then prime minister unleashed a tear in the heavens releasing both them- an mythical eternal race that treat humans like chattel, but nevertheless protect them from far darker and more savage forces still. Britain has become a repressive locked down police state. Young Paige Mahoney- a human- is a voyant. She possesses extra sensory abilities to enter people’s minds, to twist and enter their dreamscape and potentially sent them to the brink of madness and beyond. To escape both the Rephaim and the police she disappears from civilised society- dropping out of school and joins Jaxon Halls gang of voyants- who although a complete sociopath, under his care, they all survive and live their own way, by their own rules. However the novel really takes off when she is captured by the outer-worldly Rephaim and comes under the exclusive tutorage of the most masterly powerful and fearsome Rephaim of them all, Arcturus. With complicated politics, Hebrew references and a glossary of terms that can’t be goggled, this is very grown up version of The Hunger Games’ Due to be part of a seven book series, The Bone Season will leave you utterly wishing for more. Published by Bloomsbury. RRP: $29.99. Review by Nicole Maher @ Great Escape Books
The Gallery of Vanished Husbands by Natasha Solomons
Juliet Montague is a beautiful young mother of two children whose husband George has mysterious vanishes with her back account and worse still, a much-loved portrait of her as young girl. Devastated, she holds her family together with strength and pride. But it is the late 1950’s and she is in a traditional English Jewish community, which has strict taboos on the behaviour of abandoned women. Slowly she feels that she is starting to disappear, to literally vanish from the landscape. While saving each day for a new refrigerator, on the day of her birthday, as she goes off to replace her old meat safe, she decides to treat herself to visit to her favourite art gallery, as she does adore art and all things beautiful. Wandering through an artist colony beforehand on the way to the gallery, she spies a stunning portrait of a young girl. It for exactly 21 guineas- the same amount of money as the refrigerator. Does she dare to spend every last cent on a piece of art? In a moment of impulsiveness she offers to buy the piece, but the petulant artist refuses to sell. Instead he offers to paint her portrait for the same amount, never having seen a face like hers before- little does he know that at the age of 21, he about to paint the masterpiece of the career. The Gallery of
Eyrie by Tim Winton
A novel from great Australian writer Tim Winton is always something to look forward to and anyone after a different summer read should get their hands on Eyrie.
Unlike his previous novel Breath, which so eloquently described the power and allure of the ocean and beauty of sweeping coastal landscapes, Winton’s latest novel is very urban. Set in Fremantle in the stiflingly summer, it has a claustrophobic feel to it that ties in expertly with the characters trapped in their lives and their troubles.
Tom Keely is the anti-hero of Eyrie. A once successful environmental activist he finds himself divorced, unemployed and having lost faith in everything he once believed in. He hides away from the world in his seedy flat overlooking the Port of Fremantle, relying on booze and prescription drugs to get by. But Keely comes from a family of rescuers and without meaning to he finds himself dragged into this role when a woman from his past comes back into his life. With the arrival of this damaged woman and her anxious and unusual little boy, Keely once again has a sense of purpose and a reason to engage with world.
What follows is a gripping narrative that although at times takes on the cynicism of its protagonist, is extremely funny – thanks to the self-deprecating, caustic wit of Keely.
The Guardian described Eyrie as a novel of “disillusionment and redemption, loss and beauty, the taking of responsibility and the overcoming of disappointment” and with so much in it, it makes for a rewarding summer read. RRP: $45.00 Published by Hamish Hamilton.
Review by Andi Lawson Moore @ Great Escape Booksnds is a simply fabulous novel; I have barely touched the tip of all it has to offer. Read it and become lost in the world of Juliet. Published by Hachette Australia. RRP: $29.99. Review by Nicole Maher @ Great Escape Books