Review: The Children’s House – Alice Nelson

The Children's House

The Children’s House

Alice Nelson

Penguin Random House Australia

Vintage

RRP $32.99

 

Description:

Marina, ‘the gypsy scholar’, a writer and academic, and her psychoanalyst husband, Jacob, were each born on a kibbutz in Israel. They meet years later at a university in California, Marina a grad student and Jacob a successful practitioner and teacher who has a young son, Ben, from a disastrous marriage. The family moves to a brownstone in Harlem, formerly a shelter run by elderly nuns.

 

Outside the house one day Marina encounters Constance, a young refugee from Rwanda, and her toddler, Gabriel. Unmoored and devastated, Constance and Gabriel quickly come to depend on Marina; and her bond with Gabriel intensifies.

 

When out of the blue Marina learns some disturbing news about her mother, Gizela, she leaves New York in search of the loose ends of her life. As Christmas nears, her tight-knit, loving family, with Constance and Gabrielle, join Marina in her mother’s former home, with a startling, life-changing consequence.

 

Alice Nelson skilfully weaves together these shared stories of displacement and trauma into a beautifully told, hope-filled, outstanding novel.

 

 

My View:

Can a book both be intense and yet subtle? Can it be meditative yet urge you to take action? Can stories of displacement, war and war crimes, isolation and suicide have a more or less happy resolution? This highly complex yet very easy and engaging read broaches many contemporary issues in an eloquent and unassuming voice; this is accessible literary fiction at its best.

 

A fantastic read.

 

 

 

 

 

Review: At Dusk – Hwang Sok-yong

At DuskAt Dusk

Hwang Sok-yong

Scribe Publications

ISBN: 9781925322934

RRP $27.99

 

Description:

In the evening of his life, a wealthy man begins to wonder if he might have missed the point.

 

Park Minwoo is, by every measure, a success story. Born into poverty in a miserable neighbourhood of Seoul, he has ridden the wave of development in a rapidly modernising society. Now the director of a large architectural firm, his hard work and ambition have brought him triumph and satisfaction. But when his company is investigated for corruption, he’s forced to reconsider his role in the transformation of his country.

 

At the same time, he receives an unexpected message from an old friend, Cha Soona, a woman that he had once loved, and then betrayed. As memories return unbidden, Minwoo recalls a world he thought had been left behind — a world he now understands that he has helped to destroy.

 

From one of Korea’s most renowned and respected authors, At Dusk is a gentle yet urgent tale about the things, and the people, that we give up in our never-ending quest to move forward.

 

 

My View:

Reading At Dusk transported me to another region, a different society and gave me a view of a little bit of history. Despite all the differences between the landscapes I live in and that of Hwang Sok-yong, there was a unifying theme surrounding aging, regret and hindsight.  As we age (I speak from my own aging experience) we do question decisions we made in the past, how things might have been and question what is important in our life now?   Reflection on relationships, life choices abound. Whether we live in Korea, London or Cowaramup Western Australia these themes surrounding ageing and the meaning of life apply universally; Hwang Sok-yong has subtly reminded us of our similarities, humanness and frailties.

A sobering read.

 

 

 

 

Review: Bridge of Clay – Markus Zusak

Bridge of Clay

Bridge of Clay

Markus Zusak

Pan Macmillan Australia

Picador

ISBN: 9781760559922

 

Description:

From the author of the no.1 New York Times bestselling novel The Book Thief.

 

“An amazing talent in Australian literature” Sunday Telegraph

 

Let me tell you about our brother.

The fourth Dunbar boy named Clay.

Everything happened to him.

We were all of us changed through him.

 

The Dunbar boys bring each other up in a house run by their own rules. A family of ramshackle tragedy – their mother is dead, their father has fled – they love and fight and learn to reckon with the adult world.

 

It is Clay, the quiet one, who will build a bridge; for his family, for his past, for his sins. He’s building a bridge to transcend humanness. To survive.

 

A miracle and nothing less.

 

Markus Zusak makes his long-awaited return with a profoundly heartfelt and inventive novel about a family held together by stories, and a young life caught in the current: a boy in search of greatness, as a cure for a painful past.

 

PRAISE FOR BRIDGE OF CLAY

 

“Exquisitely written multigenerational family saga…With heft and historical scope, Zusak creates a sensitively rendered tale of loss, grief, and guilt’s manifestations.” Publishers Weekly

 

“An evocative, compassionate and exquisitely composed coming-of-age story about family, love, tragedy and forgiveness. Zusak’s prose is distinct: astute, witty, exquisitely rhythmic, and utterly engrossing. The deliberateness of his sentences, down to the punctuation is something to savour…a profoundly moving and engaging meditation on innocence and the pliable ties that bind family together in a quintessentially Australian setting.” Australian Books+Publishing Magazine

 

 

My View:

When I finished reading this book, about 1 in the morning, it took a great deal of self-control for me not to wake my husband up so I could talk to him about the book (he had read it a few days before me) and he loved it too! And now I cant wait for publication day to arrive so I can talk to others about this amazingly written (I loved the voice, the writing style), poignant, mesmerising read.

 

Perhaps my response to this book can best be summed up in the author’s own words (p. 568/569) “Twice I nearly broke down, and once I thought I’d be sick …” tears were close to flowing on several occasions, I swallowed them down in an effort to appear in control and dignified. I LOVED the book – can I make the call this early – THJE BEST BOOK I HAVE READ THIS YEAR!

 

 

 

Flashback Thursday: Review – Since We Fell – Dennis Lehane

Since we Fell

Since we Fell

Denis Lehane

Hachette Australia

Little, Brown

ISBN: 9781408708347

 

Description:

Since We Fell follows Rachel Childs, a former journalist who, after an on-air mental breakdown, now lives as a virtual shut-in. In all other respects, however, she enjoys an ideal life with an ideal husband. Until a chance encounter on a rainy afternoon causes that ideal life to fray. As does Rachel’s marriage. As does Rachel herself. Sucked into a conspiracy thick with deception, violence, and possibly madness, Rachel must find the strength within herself to conquer unimaginable fears and mind-altering truths. By turns heart- breaking, suspenseful, romantic, and sophisticated, Since We Fell is a novel of profound psychological insight and tension. It is Dennis Lehane at his very best.

 

My View:

 WOW!!!!

 I am so sorry that I am late to this party. This book has been sitting on my TBR forever – through no fault of its own it got passed over, left on the shelf, buried by new releases. I am so sorry. Dennis Lehane is a great writer, I was already aware of his fabulous narrative writing skills from a previous read but this standalone takes the rating up a notch or two, it is outstanding.

 

So if you have this book sitting somewhere amongst your To Be Read pile, sitting on a shelf, languishing in the dark – I implore you, set it free, read it, you will not be disappointed.

 

 

 

 

Guest Review: Nine Perfect Strangers – Liane Moriarty

Nine Perfect Strangers

Nine Perfect Strangers

Liane Moriarty

Macmillan Australia

ISBN: 9781743534922

Description:

The ten-day retreat at boutique health-and-wellness resort Tranquillum House promises healing and transformation. Nine stressed city dwellers are keen to drop their literal and mental baggage and absorb the blissful meditative ambience while enjoying their hot stone massages. They are all on a path to a better way of living. Or at least a better waistline . . .

Watching over them is the resort’s director, a woman on a mission to reinvigorate these tired bodies and minds. But to what lengths will she go to achieve her goal?

These nine perfect strangers have no idea what’s about to hit them.

Brenda’s Review:

Frances Welty, popular romance writer who’d just felt her first rejection, had thought her career and future were assured at fifty-five years of age. The impulsive booking at Tranquillum House, a health and wellness resort (which was expensive), had her questioning her own decisions on the long and tiring drive from Sydney. Her arrival showed her a beautiful old home built in the 1800s, renovated to within an inch of its life, with a staircase reminiscent of the Titanic (in the film with Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet; which made Frances smile) – perhaps she might enjoy it after all.

Meeting the other eight guests – Carmel, Tony, Lars, Napolean and his wife Heather and daughter Zoe, Jessica and her husband Ben – felt strange. But even stranger was the fact the course started with five days of silence. Not a word to be spoken; no eye contact – five days! Frances knew that would be difficult. Within that period, there were meditation classes, walking, massage therapy, smoothies and meals, plus free time to swim in the luxurious pool. All to be done in silence.

But each and every guest had a secret – and who were the people in charge of the resort? Were the guests comfortable with all that was happening to them? Some were – some most definitely weren’t…

Nine Perfect Strangers is the latest by Aussie author Liane Moriarty and wow! How different, how intriguing, how bizarre – how fabulous! I thoroughly enjoyed it, and even with it being almost 500 pages, I flew through it. I can see this one being made into a movie – it would be fantastic on the big screen. I have no hesitation in recommending Nine Perfect Strangers highly, and wish to thank Pan Macmillan Australia for my uncorrected proof ARC to read in exchange for my honest review. 4 stars

Review: Your Second Life Begins When You Realize You Only Have One – Raphaelle Giordano

Your Second Life Begins When You Realize You Only Have One

Your Second Life Begins When You Realize You only Have One

Raphaelle Giordano

Penguin Random House Australia

Bantam

ISBN: 9780143788997

 

Description:

At thirty-eight and a quarter years old, Camille has everything she needs to be happy, or so it seems. Why then does she feel as if happiness has slipped through her fingers? All she wants is to find the path to joy and fulfilment.

 

When Claude, a routinologist, offers his unique advice to help get her there, she seizes the opportunity with both hands. Camille’s journey is full of surprising, creative and richly meaningful lessons, as she sets out to transform her life and realize her dreams one step at a time . . .

 

A charming, feel-good and universal story of one woman’s journey from boredom and dissatisfaction to happiness and fulfilment – if you liked The Happiness Project, The Alchemist or Eat, Pray, Love, you’ll love this.

 

 

My View:

Clever, life affirming, at times humorous, thought provoking.

 

This is a charming, entertaining read that has many lessons to share. I enjoyed the journey that Camille embarks on and the clever twist at the conclusion.

 

 

 

 

Review: Sisters and Brothers – Fiona Palmer

Sisters and Brothers by Fiona Palmer

Sisters and Brothers by Fiona Palmer is published by Hachette Australia. $29.99. Out now.

 

Description:

A poignant novel of heartbreak, adoption and a father’s love by beloved bestselling Australian author, Fiona Palmer.

 

Bill, 72, feels left behind after the death of his adored wife. He relies heavily on his only daughter, Sarah.

 

Sarah, career woman and perfectionist homemaker, struggles to keep up with the Joneses. As her husband grows distant, she has no support network.

 

Emma, a down-to-earth nurse and busy mother of three, always dreamed of having a sister . . . But nothing prepares her for the shock results of a routine blood test.

 

Adam, a successful florist, was raised by his mother. As his dreams start to fall into place, he can’t stop thinking about the father he never had.

 

Finally, Michelle is trying to build cake-making into a career. But at 46, has she left her run too late to fall in love, have children and find her birth parents?

 

These five very different people – all connected but separated by secrets from the past – could be facing their futures together. After all, friends will come and go but sisters and brothers are forever . . . The new novel of heartbreak, adoption, family and a father’s love by the Top Ten bestselling author of Secrets Between Friends, Fiona Palmer

 

 

My View:

For me this was a very nostalgic readI loved reading about this era (70’s- 80’s), clichéd as it may be – life was so different then and Fiona Palmer captures the innocence of youth (distilled into the character of the protagonist, Bill) juxtaposed against rapid changes in communications, music, health care, technology, the developing women’s’ rights movement…this is a sociology lesson without the homework 🙂

 

This is a narrative that is built on a foundation of secrets. It is poignant, reflective and ultimately healing. This is a most enjoyable read but don’t be surprised if you shed a tear or two as you join Bill on his life’s journey.  Heart-warming, nostalgic, romantic, love affirming…this book has it all.

PS whilst reading this I was inspired to paint this – don’t you think it shouts 70’s to you?

 

carol's art