Review: The Other Half of Augusta Hope – Joanna Glen

The Other Half of Augusta Hope

Joanna Glen

Harper Collins Publishers Australia

The Borough Press

ISBN: 9780008314163

RRP $32.99

 

Description:

Augusta Hope has never felt like she fits in.

At six, she’s memorising the dictionary. At seven, she’s correcting her teachers. At eight, she spins the globe and picks her favourite country on the sound of its name: Burundi.

 

And now that she’s an adult, Augusta has no interest in the goings-on of the small town where she lives with her parents and her beloved twin sister, Julia.

 

When an unspeakable tragedy upends everything in Augusta’s life, she’s propelled headfirst into the unknown. She’s determined to find where she belongs – but what if her true home, and heart, are half a world away?

 

 

My View:

Intelligent, poignant, insightful, lyrical…this is a remarkable read.

 

This is a story, well actually two stories, that are the same but oh so different; modern England family life juxtaposed against lives in a war torn refugee camp.  A story of isolation, of family, of identity, of violence, of death and coming home….Beautifully imagined and executed, heartbreakingly poignant.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!!!

Post Script: The Nowhere Child – Christian White

Nowhere Child by Christian White cover art

The Nowhere Child

Christian White

Affirm Press

ISBN: 9781925584523

 

Description:

‘Her name is Sammy Went. This photo was taken on her second birthday. Three days later she was gone.’

 

On a break between teaching photography classes, Kim Leamy is approached by a stranger investigating the disappearance of a little girl from her Kentucky home twenty-eight years earlier. He believes she is that girl.

 

At first Kim brushes it off, but when she scratches the surface of her family background in Australia, questions arise that aren’t easily answered. To find the truth, she must travel to Sammy’s home of Manson, Kentucky, and into a dark past. As the mystery unravels and the town’s secrets are revealed, this superb novel builds towards a tense, terrifying, and entirely unexpected climax.

 

Inspired by Gillian Flynn’s frenetic suspense and Stephen King’s masterful world-building, The Nowhere Child is a combustible tale of trauma, cult, conspiracy and memory. It is the remarkable debut of Christian White, an exhilarating new Australian talent attracting worldwide attention.

 

 

My View:

Fabulous read!

Debut novelists and their novels are often a risk; you don’t know anything about their writing, good, bad or indifferent. You often do not know any one else who has read the book to get a personal recommendation. You open the page totally without any expectations other than hoping that this will indeed be a great read, become your next must read author.

 

Take a risk! There is so much talent waiting for you to discover.  I have just added Christian White to my “must read authors” list. Christian has written a book that is subtle yet thought provoking. He has a written a book that is intriguing, engaging and demands to be read in one sitting. Listen to those demands; clear your calendar, turn off the TV and immerse yourself in this stunning narrative. You will thank me for the recommendation, I have just lessened your risk.

 

PS I predict awards for this book.

 

 

 

Eliza Henry Jones Talks About Her Novel Ache

Welcome author of In the Quiet and Ache. “Eliza Henry-Jones was born in Melbourne in 1990. She was a Young Writer-in-Residence at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers’ Centre in 2012 and was a recipient of a Varuna residential fellowship for 2015. She has qualifications in English, psychology and grief, loss and trauma counselling. She is currently completing honours in creative writing – exploring bushfire trauma – and works in community services. She lives in the Dandenong Ranges with her husband and too many animals.” http://www.harpercollins.com.au/9781460750384/#sm.000013x3sti4gof8ssqbvqu70beyi

 

I recently read Ache and was seduced by the emotions and the poignantly written characters; individuals, families, communities, animals and the landscape  – a vivid and bold major character in this novel. The compelling writing will touch all that read it. I highly recommend this read.

Listen to Eliza  here:

 

 

Post Script: Black British – Hebe De Souza

Black British

Black British

Hebe De Souza

Ventura Press

ISBN: 9781925384932

 

Description:

A sharply funny yet poignant story about a courageous girl growing up in 1960s North India, from an exciting new voice in Australian fiction.

 

In the turbulent years that follow the British Empire’s collapse in India, rebellious and inquisitive Lucy de Souza is born into an affluent Indian family that once prospered under the Raj. Known as Black British because of their English language and customs, when the British deserted India Lucy’s family was left behind, strangers in their own land.

 

Now living isolated from the hostile locals who see her family as remnants of an oppressive regime, a young Lucy grows up in the confines of their grand yet ramshackle home located in the dry, dispirited plains of Kanpur. But when it is time to start her education, Lucy finds herself angry and alone, struggling to find her place in this gentle country ravaged by poverty and hardship, surrounded by girls who look like her but don’t speak her language. Encouraged by her strong-minded mother and two older sisters, as she matures the ever-feisty Lucy begins to question the injustices around her, before facing a decision that will change the course of her life forever.

 

A richly visceral and stunning debut, based on the author’s own childhood, Black British is an unflinching and beautiful narrative about feminism, family and the search for identity.

 

 

My View:

Capturing the innocence of youth this novel has a charming authentic voice and I loved every word of it.  Lucy De Souza is our narrator – she is charming, innocent, well-mannered yet delightfully inquisitive about the world; she likes things to makes sense, to be logical (and the Sisters in the convent don’t speak of logic, rather demand their charges obey without question) and Lucy likes to question. At times humorous but mostly full of intelligent observations of the world around her, this is a very engaging read. Lucy how did you get to be so smart? Family makes such a big and lasting impression here.

 

 

A thoughtful look at history, colonialism, migration and displacement with a feminist bent, this story is succinct yet powerful. Hebe De Souza asks and answers the question – what/where is home?   Her response is interesting and personal and can be applied to contemporary discussions regarding refuge and migration today.  A wonderful, well written, engaging read.

 

 

Post Script: Out Of Alice – Kerry McGinnis

Out Of Alice

Out of Alice

Kerry McGinnis

Penguin Random House Books

Michael Joseph

ISBN: 9780143799856

 

Description:

From the bestselling author of Pieces of Blue and Wildhorse Creek comes an evocative and heartfelt story about how in the remotest of places lives can be lost…and found.

 

When Sara Blake takes up a position as governess on Redhill Station in Central Australia, she isn’t expecting to encounter a family in crisis, or to uncover a tragedy of her own.

 

With the owners’ son critically ill, Sara is called upon to take care of their young daughter. As the family struggles to make a living from the drought-stricken land, everyone pitches in – and Sara finds herself letting people in to the empty spaces in her heart.

 

But the longer she spends out bush, the more she becomes plagued by elusive visions of her dark and troubled childhood. The fragments of memory lead her deep into the red centre of Australia, where at picturesque Kings Canyon she must confront the horrifying secrets of her past.

 

 

 

My View:

Kerry McGinnis has convinced me – The Alice is now on our travel destination list!

 

This is the second book by McGinnis that I have read, each so vastly different thematically but McGinnis’s trade mark passion for the outback and her ability to portray the locations with such an intensely visual palette is constant across both books; superb reading.

 

There is little more I can add to my previous accolades except – the main characters are warm and generous, the settings brilliantly drawn, the mystery beckons you to read and read on. Kerry McGinnis writes authentic rural narratives with complex plots and contemporary issues.  Read on today – you will be impressed.

 

Post Script: Sugar and Snails – Anne Goodwin

What an outstanding read

Sugar And Snails

Sugar and Snails

Anne Goodwin

Inspired Quill

ISBN: 9781908600479

 

Description:

Diana Dodsworth, a Psychology lecturer, specialises in adolescent decision-making and, on the surface at least, her own decisions have led to a catalogue of successes: close friends, big house, good job. All that seems to be missing is romance, so when Simon crosses her path at a dinner party and proves to be the perfect partner, why is it so hard to tick the last box? In a marvellous twist, it soon becomes abundantly clear that one decision in particular, at the tender age of fifteen, still holds sway over Diana’s life. Can she reconcile her past self with the woman she aspires to be, or will she lose everything that has been so hard won?

 

Sugar and Snails, the debut novel from accomplished short story writer Anne Goodwin, takes sensitive subject matter, handles it with all the force of a freight train and leaves behind nothing but a truly immersive reading experience. Taking place in both the present and the past, between the urban streets of Newcastle and the pyramids of Cairo, the story is one of startling honesty and emotional connections. It carries comfortably the mantles of literary and LGBT fiction but, at its heart, is nothing more or less than a superb piece of modern storytelling.

 

 

My View:

What an outstanding read – the themes in this book are about identity and conforming to expectations, about sexuality, bullying, self-harm, adolescence…secrets and more (no spoilers here). I have not read anything like this before: powerful, engaging, intelligent, well written, with a mystery that is gradually revealed. I was really surprised at what this book had to offer – the synopsis just didn’t prepare me for the complexity of the issues and the emotional journey encountered in these pages.

 

A good read is entertaining, is engaging, is well written and if we are lucky shares a perspective that maybe the reader hasn’t considered before- Sugar and Snails ticks all these boxes and more. Anne Goodwin is a talented writer and I am sure we will be hearing more from her in the near future.

 

There are so many social issues to contemplate in this narrative (and I am having so much difficulty trying to avoid spoilers, I want you discover the depth of this story yourself.). The reader is given plenty of opportunity to consider what is being offered up whilst tying to work out the mystery that Cairo holds.   Goodwin writes a dual time line/dual narrative – Diane Dodsworth’s life as a young person and Diane‘s life now,. Diane’s early life is gradually revealed; going to school, facing many of the same challenges we may have faced in our youth – feelings of isolation, or not fitting in, not being the popular one in school…trying to work out where we fit in the world and what we want to do with our lives. Diane’s life now – is reflective; she is still contemplating the decisions she made in her youth that have directed her adult life, she still trying to work out where she fits in the world.   Identity.  Such an important part of how we see ourselves and expect others to see us and treat us but how much thought do you consciously give to this aspect of your personality? Some maybe more than others.

 

This is a wonderful coming of age (all be it a mature age) narrative with unique perspectives that will open your eyes to the world you are part of.

 

Check out Anne’s website: http://annegoodwin.weebly.com/