Guest Review: Invisible Boys – Holden Shepherd

This must be the standout book of the year – everyone is talking about this. Read what guest viewer Andy Macleod thought of this award winning debut novel.

Invisible Boys

Holden Shepherd

Fremantle Press

ISBN: 9781925815566 

 

Description:

In a small town, everyone thinks they know you: Charlie is a hardcore rocker, who’s not as tough as he looks. Hammer is a footy jock with big AFL dreams, and an even bigger ego. Zeke is a shy over-achiever, never macho enough for his family. But all three boys hide who they really are. When the truth is revealed, will it set them free or blow them apart?

Invisible Boys is a raw, confronting YA novel, tackling homosexuality, masculinity, anger and suicide with a nuanced and unique perspective. Set in regional Western Australia, the novel follows three sixteen-year-old boys in the throes of coming to terms with their homosexuality in a town where it is invisible – and so are they. Invisible Boys depicts the complexities and trauma of rural gay identity with painful honesty, devastating consequence and, ultimately, hope.

 

Invisible Boys – A review by Andy Macleod

Up until two days ago, I had only once before sobbed uncontrollably while reading a novel. It was Skallagrig, by William Horwood. It was the 1980s and I was in my twenties.

I’m now in my late fifties, and I’ve just finished Holden Sheppard‘s award-winning debut novel, Invisible Boys.

Set in Geraldton in WA’s Midwest, Invisible Boys follows three very different teenagers, Charlie, Hammer and Zeke, as they grapple with being gay in a very straight town.

This novel spoke directly to me like no other. The characters and I, although separated by nearly a generation, have a lot in common.

We share not only a hometown, but the fear, rejection, taunts and loneliness that came with being gay in it.

Finally, someone has put into words the trauma of my own experience growing up gay when I couldn’t.

When I finished Invisible Boys, I felt something crack, crumble and fall away deep inside. I’m still unpacking what that may have been. Possibly shame, maybe silence. I’ll need to work on it.

Is Invisible Boys only a book for gay men? Absolutely not. If nothing else, it’s also a great story, and I hope it becomes required reading in the high school curriculum.

You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, but whatever you do, you won’t regret reading Invisible Boys.

My favourite laugh-out loud-moment would have to be the ‘onion rings’ reference.

 

 

Review: The Confession – Jessie Burton

The Confession

Jessie Burton

Pan Macmillan Australia

Picador

ISBN: 9781509886159

RRP $29.99

Description:

The sensational new novel from the million-copy bestselling author of The Miniaturist and The Muse.

 

One winter’s afternoon on Hampstead Heath in 1980, Elise Morceau meets Constance Holden and quickly falls under her spell. Connie is bold and alluring, a successful writer whose novel is being turned into a major Hollywood film. Elise follows Connie to LA, a city of strange dreams and swimming pools and late-night gatherings of glamorous people. But whilst Connie thrives on the heat and electricity of this new world where everyone is reaching for the stars and no one is telling the truth, Elise finds herself floundering. When she overhears a conversation at a party that turns everything on its head, Elise makes an impulsive decision that will change her life forever.

 

Three decades later, Rose Simmons is seeking answers about her mother, who disappeared when she was a baby. Having learned that the last person to see her was Constance Holden, a reclusive novelist who withdrew from public life at the peak of her fame, Rose is drawn to the door of Connie’s imposing house in search of a confession …

 

From the million-copy bestselling author of The Miniaturist and The Muse, this is a luminous, powerful and deeply moving novel about secrets and storytelling, motherhood and friendship, and how we lose and find ourselves.

 

PRAISE FOR THE CONFESSION

‘Dazzlingly good. The Confession is that rare thing: an utterly engrossing novel which asks big questions without ever once losing sight of the storyteller’s need to entertain and move. I turned the final pages in tears and I know already I shall return to it again and again. Without doubt one of the best novels of recent years.’

Elizabeth Day, author of The Party and How To Fail

‘I haven’t enjoyed a book so much in a long time . . . I lost myself in the story, not wanting to come up for air. A bold, intelligent, wonderful novel’ Sarah Winman, author of Tin Man

‘Burton is asking important questions in The Confession – questions about motherhood, art and creativity, love, friendship – and in doing this, she has created three utterly fascinating characters. Connie, Elise, and Rose are complicated; complex in ways that women are so rarely allowed to be in literature, demanding that their stories be heard. This is a beautiful novel and one that will stay with me for a very long time’ Louise O’Neill, author of Only Ever Yours

‘an absorbing, intelligent piece of storytelling’ Guardian

 AUTHOR INFORMATION

Jessie Burton is the author of the Sunday Times number one and New York Times bestsellers The Miniaturist and The Muse, and the children’s book The Restless Girls. In its year of publication The Miniaturist sold over a million copies, and in 2017 it was adapted into a major TV series for BBC One. Her novels have been translated into thirty-eight languages, and she is a regular essay writer for newspapers and magazines. She lives in London.

 

My View:

I finished reading this last night – OMG!!!

 

This is such a sublime read full of emotional intelligence and elegant prose – I just wanted to highlight paragraphs and paragraphs – because of the skilled use of language AND because of the many astute revelations about life’s journey.

 

The narrative is engaging; a bit of mystery, a lot of coming of age, of learning to love oneself and live in the moment not the future, about acceptance, family, identity… this book has so much to offer.  READ IT! 10 stars!!!

5 Star Books to Keep a Look Out For

I just wanted to share some recent 5 star book discoveries that I will be reviewing soon; some have recently been published, some will be published in the next month or so. Some are  by debut authors, some are  by favourites that never disappoint.  I highly recommend these – as I read each one I thought “this is the best book I have read this year,” and then I read THE NEXT AND THOUGHT THE SAME THING. Such talent.

 

The Lying Room

Nicci French

Simon and Schuster

 

Wearing Paper Dresses

Ann Brinsden

Mcmillan Australia

 

 

 

The Other Half of Augusta Hope

Joanna Glen

Harper Collins

 

Every Time He Dies

Tara East

Self Published

ISBN: 9780648581512

Review: At The Wolf’s Table – Rosella Postorino

at the wolf's table

At The Wolf’s Table

Rosellas Postorino

Simon & Schuster Australia

ISBN: 9781925791969

RRP $29.99

 

Description:

The internationally bestselling novel based on the untold true story of the women conscripted to be Hitler’s food tasters.

 

“They called it the Wolfsschanze, the Wolf’s Lair. ‘Wolf’ was his nickname. As hapless as Little Red Riding Hood, I had ended up in his belly. A legion of hunters was out looking for him, and to get him in their grips they would gladly slay me as well.”

 

Germany, 1943: Twenty-six-year-old Rosa Sauer’s parents are gone, and her husband Gregor is far away, fighting on the front lines of WWII. Impoverished and alone, she makes the fateful decision to leave war-torn Berlin to live with her in-laws in the countryside, thinking she’ll find refuge there. But one morning, the SS come to tell her she has been conscripted to be one of Hitler’s tasters: three times a day, she and nine other women go to his secret headquarters, the Wolf’s Lair, to eat his meals before he does. Forced to eat what might kill them, the tasters begin to divide into The Fanatics, those loyal to Hitler, and the women like Rosa who insist they aren’t Nazis, even as they risk their lives every day for Hitler’s.

 

As secrets and resentments grow, this unlikely sisterhood reaches its own dramatic climax. What’s more, one of Rosa’s SS guards has become dangerously familiar, and the war is worsening outside. As the months pass, it becomes increasingly clear that Rosa and everyone she knows are on the wrong side of history.

 

 

My View:

Brilliant!

A narrative that authentically involves you in the war time Germany where the impossible to accept, the dangerous, the unthinkable… is normalised. This is a study of group behaviour; of how social isolation, separation from family support, societal and military control, of how war affects those actively involved in the warfare and those who remain at home. It is also a story of love – in many forms, of violence, of living in perpetual/potential danger and a story of survival.

 

This is, at times, an intense and emotional read.  I was disappointed when I read the last page – I was hungry for more.

 

Brilliantly written, sensitively translated, this is a great read.

 

Best Contemporary/Literary Reads of 2018

This is another category that has many contenders. There were so many fabulous reads that have made me think, feel, inspired me to paint and at some that have brought a tear to my eye. If you have an opportunity to pick up any of these books I think you will be very impressed.

 

In no particular order:

Lenny’s Book of Everything – Karen Foxlee

Lenny's Book of Everything

The Children’s House – Alice Nelson

The Children's House

Bridge of Clay – Markus Zusak

Bridge of Clay

Beneath the Mother Tree – D M Cameron

Beneath The Mother Tree by D M Cameron

Return to Roseglen – Helene Young

Return to Roseglen by Helen Young cover art

I Have Lost My Way – Gayle Foreman 

I Have Lost My Way

Ghosted – Rosie Walsh

The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart – Holly Ringland

If Kisses Cured Cancer – T S Hawken

If Kisses Cured Cancer

Book of Colours – Robyn Cadwallader

The Book of Colours

 

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: 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!