Review: The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida – Clarissa Goenawan

The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida

Clarissa Goenawan

Scribe Publications

ISBN: 9781922310286

 

Description:

A bewitching novel set in contemporary Japan about the mysterious suicide of a young woman.

Miwako Sumida is dead.

Now those closest to her try to piece together the fragments of her life. Ryusei, who has always loved her, follows Miwako’s trail to a remote Japanese village. Chie, Miwako’s best friend, was the only person to know her true identity — but is now the time to reveal it? Meanwhile, Fumi, Ryusei’s sister, is harbouring her own haunting secret.

Together, they realise that the young woman they thought they knew had more going on behind her seemingly perfect façade than they could ever have dreamed.

 

 

FROM THE AUTHOR

Hi, I’m Clarissa.

Thank you for picking up The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida.

I’m fascinated with the idea that often, we thought that we know a person really well, but actually, we don’t. How far would you go to uncover the truth? And what if the truth is more painful than the lies?

Those questions eventually led me to write The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida. It’s a story of how a young woman’s unexplained suicide shapes and transforms the lives of those she left behind. I usually describe the book as a literary mystery with elements of magical realism set in Japan, and a coming-of-age story masquerading as a murder mystery.

The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida is my second novel. The book has been five years in the making and I couldn’t be more proud. Just like my debut novel, Rainbirds, this book features a collection of my favourite things. You’ll find a second-hand bookstore with no signage, beloved classic books, a whimsical cat that resembles maneki-neko, delicious Japanese comfort food, convenience stores, melancholic rainy days, and amidst them, small, everyday moments that dazzle me. In a way, I’m turning them into words with the hope of capturing these precious memories forever.

I hope you’ll enjoy reading The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida, as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it. And if you do, I’d be grateful if you could share it with others.

 

Warm regards,

Clarissa Goenawan.

 

 

My View:

A compelling read.

At the heart this is book about secrets and friendships.  There is something about an unexpected death that leaves those in the circle of friends and relations seeking to understand, seeking answers, seeking clues as to the “why?”.  Goenawan tackles this subject delicately and quietly – I like the voice in this narrative. It is a sad story yet not morose. The back story is one …well that’s another secret and I won’t reveal that😊 But I will say it is very contemporary social issue that is sensitively illuminated and discussed.

 

To me this is a book in two parts. The before the trip the friends take to the village and the after. The “after” is a little mystical, or perhaps spiritual…depending on your outlook. Traditions and culture form the strength of the second part of the narrative and help resolve some areas of the story arc.

 

There is something about the quiet voice in this narrative that is so powerful and compelling. I did enjoy this read and hope you will too.

Guest Review – Silkworm Secrets: Lea Davey

silkworm-secrets

Silkworm Secrets

Lea Davey

Valeena Press

ISBN: 9780994535627

 

Description:

A treehouse perched high in a giant mulberry tree provides a safe place for Bobby, and gives him solace from a disintegrating home life. His best friend Ruby considers it only as a place to play, to raise silkworms and to innocently view the events that take place in the yards nearby.

Ruby’s simple, family life however, is a far cry from what Bobby endures in the house next door and the secrets they share and events that they witness will not only impact their lives as children but also re-connect them as adults.

Silkworm Secrets exposes the secrets that children keep, the consequences of a troubled family life, but more importantly the endurance of beautiful family relationships and the power of friendship and love to overcome the past.

 

Brenda’s Review:

Ruby Rose had a wonderful childhood – she loved her Mum and Dad dearly and they loved her. They were a poor but happy little family. Ruby’s best friend was Bobby who lived next door to her. They would spend their time up in the treehouse at the back of Ruby’s yard which was housed in a gigantic mulberry tree. The silkworms they raised were a source of pleasure and fascination every season. Ruby was nine; Bobby was twelve – she couldn’t imagine ever not being friends with Bobby.

It was fun to watch the yards of the houses around them from the treehouse – Bobby would often catch sight of what was happening in his yard and hurry home to care for his little sister Sally. He shared her care with his big sister Theresa. On those occasions Bobby would grow quiet and Ruby didn’t know why…

Gradually the torment that was Bobby’s life in the house next door came to light – only to Ruby though. Bobby swore her to secrecy; their little club had silkworm secrets which no one must know. The day that Ruby arrived home to discover Bobby had disappeared shattered her young life. She had no idea why he’d left; why he hadn’t even said goodbye.

Would Ruby Rose ever see Bobby again? She missed her best friend – but life moved forward as it invariably does – until the day Ruby was contacted about the long ago past…

Silkworm Secrets by Aussie author Lea Davey absolutely blew me away! It was beautifully written – filled with deep emotion and heartache, love and an abiding friendship, it also covered a range of sensitive topics, from child abuse, mental health and domestic violence. The author had me in tears on a number of occasions. I thoroughly enjoyed her debut, The Shack by the Bay and Silkworm Secrets definitely didn’t disappoint. A well-deserved 5 stars! Highly recommended.

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/

Best Audio Book Of 2015

In the light of recent wins it is only fitting that I announce what I feel to be the best audio book of 2015. I know I haven’t listened to many this year – but this one stands out – the narrative is excellent and the narration brings the story to life.  I highly recommend this for all parents, grandparents, teenagers to read or listen to. This will change your awareness of the power/influence of social media.

 

The best audio book of 2015 is Risk – Fleur Ferris

Cover - Risk

Post Script: Sweet Wattle Creek – Kaye Dobbie

History has never been so important.

Sweet Wattle Creek Kaye Dobbie Cover

Sweet Wattle Creek

Kaye Dobbie

Harlequin Australia

ISBN: 9781743693087

 Description:

A vintage wedding dress reveals family secrets she never knew…

 

The chance discovery of a vintage wedding dress weaves together the fascinating stories of three women from different eras: Sophie, in hiding from a troubled past; Belle, who must lose everything to learn what really matters; and Martha, forced to give up those she loves in order to avoid exposure.

 

It’s 1930 and Belle Bartholomew has arrived in rural Sweet Wattle Creek to claim her inheritance – a run-down grand hotel formerly owned by Martha Ambrose. Determined to solve the mystery of her birth and the reason why she was bequeathed the hotel Belle runs into difficulties with the townsfolk and their desire to keep their secrets safe.

 

Sixty years later Sophie Matheson is on a quest to find Belle and her family after discovering the wedding dress. The Sweet Wattle Creek Centenary brings more challenges when her past catches up and she must fight for all that matters to her. Who were Belle and Martha and what links their lives together?

 

 

My View:

Kaye Dobbie has masterfully married two times fames to produce an exciting narrative that is both historical (1930’s) and contemporary (1980’s) fiction and there are aspects of life in both time periods that are relevant to the world we live in today. I found the history and social commentary of Australia between the wars and of the Great Depression illuminating; PTSD, the aftermath of war on families and communities, poverty, the role of women in society, unemployment were and are significant worldwide issues and it was exciting to learn a little more about this period by the device of using Sophie and Ian’s search for the provenance of the wedding dress.

 

Chapters alternate between the two periods and each chapter is clearly marked with the location, the year and whose voice we are listening to– Sophie’s (1980’s) or Belle’s (1930’s) – there is no chance of getting lost in this duality of time that sometimes happens in novels that employ this device – all is very clear and I thank the author for making it so – I never had to go back and re read to work out where I was or who I was listening to.

 

In both time periods we have protagonists that are strong, determined, resourceful and caring women. Dobbie writes her lead characters with poise, grace and humanity. The issue of small town attitudes and prejudices of the 1930’s – in particular the perceived social, economic and moral attitudes towards the “travellers,” the displaced victims of the Depression is comparable to attitudes today to the to the displaced people of Syria – the same fears and misconceptions surrounding their plight leapt out at me as I read this book. I think there is a lesson or two here we can all take from Belle and Michael’s attitudes of social responsibility.

 

Belle lived in a time of great upheaval, upheaval is a theme that is also prevalent in Sophie’s life too. Sophie’s story evokes much empathy and her situation is just as relevant to many women today as it was back in the 1980’s (no spoilers here.) Dobbie successfully reflects upon attitudes of the time as we discover more about the life and history of both female protagonists.

 

A blend of historical and contemporary fiction, with a dash of empathetic characters, drama, suspense and social commentary and Kaye Dobbie has created a recipe for success.

 

 

Post Script: We Were Liars – E Lockhart

A perfect YA book suitable for all to read and enjoy.

We Were Liars

We Were Liars

E Lockhart

Hot Key Books

ISBN: 9781471403989

 

Description:

A beautiful and distinguished family.

A private island.

A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.

A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.

A revolution. An accident. A secret.

Lies upon lies.

True love.

The truth.

 

We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart.

 

Read it.

And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

 

My View:

 

Slowly, slowly this book reels you in. There is so much pain. Mystery shrouds the protagonist. There is so much to be revealed. So many secrets. As the pages turn you catch glimpses of life that is both privileged and yet so dysfunctional and still the secret has not been revealed. You keep reading. There is more pain, and there is love and friendships that have such strong bonds you will smile.

 

I love the use of folklore/fairy tales to prick your conscience and shake up the reality that is carefully constructed and presented to you.

 

In order to establish the truth the past must be unpicked one stitch at a time. Lockhart is a great storyteller, her unreliable narrator shares her truth, and her memories and you follow along unaware of the tragic twist that will soon be revealed. You won’t see this ending coming.

 

A quick read that will prick your moral compass. What would you do with this truth?

Post Script: Days in the History of Silence – Merethe Lindstrom

Days in the History of Silence

Description:

From the acclaimed Nordic Council Literature Prize winner, a story that reveals the devastating effects of mistaking silence for peace and feeling shame for inevitable circumstances
 
Eva and Simon have spent most of their adult lives together. He is a physician and she is a teacher, and they have three grown daughters and a comfortable home. Yet what binds them together isn’t only affection and solidarity but also the painful facts of their respective histories, which they keep hidden even from their own children. But after the abrupt dismissal of their housekeeper and Simon’s increasing withdrawal into himself, the past can no longer be repressed.

Lindstrøm has crafted a masterpiece about the grave mistakes we make when we misjudge the legacy of war, common prejudices, and our own strategies of survival.

My View:

A quiet and disturbing story of secrets, of words not spoken, and pasts not mentioned; a story about an adoption, the Holocaust, Survivors Guilt and dementia. A very unusual mix of subjects discussed in a quiet and unassuming manner. I am not quite sure how I feel about this book…it certainly was an interesting read, delving into the pasts of an aging couple, unlocking their secrets, I felt a bit like a voyeur privy to their intimate secrets.

I did not understand why they kept such secrets from their adult children… it would have made their relationships so much easier to have spoken of the past, though I do admit that some subjects are more difficult than others to discuss openly and maybe that is the point of this book; to make us aware that these things do need to be spoken about. Maybe this is a story about forgiveness…if we can’t forgive ourselves for our past actions then we cannot share our selves fully with those we love.  Shame and guilt are destructive. Maybe this is also a story about ethnicity … how some reactions/prejudices have not changed with time. That is a very sad point to acknowledge.

I felt the book finished abruptly. Maybe I just wanted more? My feelings about this book are ambiguous