This story began as a typical Australian history story, but then the story line took off, ending with such an emotional tug. I raced to finish the story! Great descriptions of post war Sydney, highlighting issues of returning soldiers, divorce, attitudes towards women and religion.
Helen Moran learns of her adopted brother’s suicide and returns to her childhood home to investigate, learning about her family, her brother and herself. This is a strange book, funny, disturbing, uncomfortable. Helen is sensitive, oblivious, well-meaning, disastrous, cringeworthy and compelling.
Maria, Niall and Celia are brought up together, two step-siblings, one half-sister, with their famous, eccentric, and not very attentive parents. Nearing forty, and have just been called parasites, they look back on their lives. None of the three are very likeable; one has realised none of her potential, two have an obsessive, destructive sort of relationship, and have exceeded expectations in many ways, and now they must all account for themselves and look ahead. Not as compelling as I had hoped, The Parasites was still a fascinating look at creativity, fame, privilege, selfishness and the bonds that tie people together.
The landscape of Tasmania is hostile and early colonial life there is also harsh. Bridget is a convict who walks out on a bad situation, becomes lost in the Tasmanian wilderness, and is found by a gang of bushrangers. It is incredible to read what she has to do to survive in the wilderness. There is not a lot of hope here, but that did not stop me from reading the story. The short, sometimes shuffled, chunks of the story helped create the feeling of harshness and grittiness.
It’s always a bit disappointing when you don’t enjoy the latest novel as much as earlier ones. The Sparsholt Affair begins in 1940s’ Oxford, then jumps forward in blocks of time, and changes perspective, until it gets to the current day. I was certainly sorry to leave Oxford behind, a favourite setting of mine, and I don’t think my interest was wholly recaptured. It reminded me a little of The Heart’s Invisible Furies, as it follows the lives of gay men across this period of history, but without the depth of understanding, and attachment, that comes from having one protagonist. It’s about complicated relationships, art, London, and secrets. I didn’t love it, but I did enjoy it.
This was a fun escapist read. It reminded me of many Hollywood movies where an ordinary person is thrust into very dangerous situations and manages to beat the bad guys. And of course there is some hot romance as well. Sarah was an interesting character who was strong and determined and then silly and undecisive, making me alternatively cheering for her or rolling my eyes.
Eleanor Oliphant is an island. She lives a quiet, regimented life, working in an office and drinking vodka all weekend. One day, she and a colleague perform an act of kindness and Eleanor’s life changes; she needs to remember what she drank to forget. This book is quirky, funny, thoughtful and gently romantic, and it is also pretty dark. It’s a bit like A Man Called Ove or The Rosie Project, but set in Glasgow, and with a very hard edge.
Sofie Laguna is very good at writing about children who are very badly let down by their families, schools and society. The Choke is the story of Justine; abandoned by her mother, she lives with her Pop, who has his own demons, and is occasionally visited by her criminal father. Justine quietly tries to make sense of a confusing, and hurtful world, finding solace in nature. The book starts slowly, but then captured my heart. It’s dark, disturbing and very sad, but not without beautiful moments of love, kindness, and hope.
I think I liked this book mostly because in it, the author does something I would very much like to do; she takes a year off work and regular life, to travel. The title makes it sound like she just floated on the wind, which isn’t true. She had plans for where she was going, but while she was there, she learned to relax and be open to adventure, friendship and love. It’s about a journey to rediscover self, but it isn’t preachy or new agey, neither is it about the destination. It is certainly a dreamy journey that I am glad to have shared.
Caitlin not only covers her work at a crematorium, but also how societies view and deal with death. Although covering a morbid subject it was interesting and engaging.