January Reading Wrap-Up

2016 Perth Writers Festival 

I read quite a few books this month, some of them in preparation for the 2016 Perth Writers Festival which kicks off at UWA in a few weeks time.  You may or may not know that I will be chairing two sessions at the festival.  The first one is called 'Coming into Focus' and features Miles Allinson, Laura van den Berg and Catherine Lacey, who are all going to discuss introspective narrators with me.  Miles Allinson's book Fever of Animals is a stream of consciousness narrative which follows a character who is also named Miles as he searches for clues to the mystery of the disappearance of surrealist painter Emil Bafdescue.  Meanwhile he is also recovering from the death of his father and the end of his relationship with a woman named Alice.  Laura van den Berg's novel Find Me is about a character named Joy who is part of a medical research project dedicated to finding a cure for a new disease which has wiped out a large part of the population.  The disease attacks the sufferer's memories and strips them of what makes them human.  Joy wants to remember, and more than that, she wants to find her birth mother, so she sets off on a journey in the outside world.  Finally, Catherine Lacey's Nobody is Ever Missing is the story of Elyria, who leaves her husband in New York to go hitch hiking across New Zealand, after seemingly having a nervous breakdown.  This one had elements of stream of consciousness too.

The second session is a one on one interview with Lauren Groff called 'Happily Ever After'.  For those of you who have not read (or even heard of) Lauren Groff's latest novel Fates and Furies, the novel is about the marriage of Lotto and Mathilde, and is told in two parts, Fates (Lotto) and Furies (Mathilde).  It's a very layered and complex novel, and Obama called it his favourite read of 2015 which just proves he has exceptional taste.  I would highly recommend all of the books that I was set to read for the festival, even though they are all very different from each other, and this just indicates that it's going to be a brilliant festival this year.  You can find out more about my sessions, and others, by visiting the Perth Writers Festival website.  Check out the Human Library that is being run in collaboration with the Empathy Museum (UK)!

Book Club

This month for book club, I read Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson.  While I found the writing style clunky and a little overdone, the story was compelling enough to have me whizz through it in a couple of sittings.  I won't be following the rest of the series at this stage however.  At the beginning of the month, I also read High Fidelity by Nick Hornby, which I thought was really excellent though I have to agree with the rest of the group when they say that the main character is a real loser and causes a lot of the problems for himself.  Rob (the narrator) has a compelling, endearing voice and the book is funny and peopled with great characters, so I really enjoyed starting the year off this way.  This was January's book but we had rather a large gap between the December and January book clubs.

Non-Festival Reading....

This month I also read:

All That is Lost Between Us by Sara Foster and you can read my review here.

The Life and Death of Sophie Stark by Anna North and you can read my review here.

The Wonder Lover by Malcolm Knox (unreviewed)
        This is the story of John Wonder, a man so boring it's remarkable-- yet somehow the world's most boring man manages to have three wives and three sets of children on different continents, and he spends his time equally between them.  Interspersed with the ins and outs of this, we see John doing his job as an authenticator for the Guinness book of world records, and it's while authenticating the continued alive-ness of the world's oldest woman that he falls in love for a fourth time.  This wasn't really my cup of tea but there were some interesting ideas explored in the novel.

The Words in my Hand by Guinevere Glasfurd (Review to come)
        The story of Helena, who is a maid to the English bookseller, Mr Sargeant when the philosopher Rene Descartes stays at his home in Amsterdam.  Helena is unusual for a woman of her station because she can write and this brings her to the attention of Descartes.  A stunning historical novel for fans of The Miniaturist and The Other Boleyn Girl.

The Women's Pages by Debra Adelaide
       I got this one for Christmas and was really excited to see that it was a musing on the lasting impact of Wuthering Heights, which is one of my favourite books.  It's a dual narrative, first of Dove who is a woman in the present day, writing a novel and clearing up after the death of her adoptive mother Jane.  The second narrative is Ellis, who is the character in her novel, a woman of the late 1960s whose story is a kind of parable for the experience of a lot of women at that point in time.  This novel manages to be a musing on creativity, motherhood, writing, femaleness, and Wuthering Heights all at once, and while the style is a little dry at times, I think I will be thinking about what the novel said to me for a long time.  I haven't decided if I will review it at length yet.  There are going to be a lot of  'Bronte novels' over the next twelve months and I'm fully prepared for some of them to be terrible.  I might have to give WH another read...

Books read this month = 11
(1 more than montly target!)