Sunday, 30 December 2018

Most Anticipated: 2019

Posted with the full knowledge that this list will grow and I won't get to all of them...

Gingerbread - Helen Oyeyemi 

Invisible Boys - Holden Sheppard (winner of the 2018 TAG Hungerford Award)

Priory of the Orange Tree- Samantha Shannon

Dreamers - Karen Thompson Walker

99% Mine - Sally Thorne

The French Photographer - Natasha Lester

The Starless Sea - Erin Morgenstern

City of Girls - Elizabeth Gilbert

Sweet Sorrow - David Nicholls

The Last Days of the Romanov Dancers - Kerri Turner

Zebra and Other Stories - Debra Adelaide

Room for a Stranger - Melanie Cheng

Devil's Ballast - Meg Caddy

The Blue Rose- Kate Forsyth

The True Story of Maddie Bright - Mary Rose MacColl

A Thousand Ships - Natalie Haynes

Anna of Kleve: The Princess in the Portrait - Alison Weir

[There's also one other rather exciting book that I'm excited to see released in 2019... my own! It was announced in the most recent edition of the Margaret River Press newsletter that I was one of three WA debut authors who will have a short story collection out in 2019, as part of an emerging writers program. There is still much work to do, and I have no details like release date or title, but as soon as I am able, I will let you all know...]

In other news, I counted how many unread books were in my apartment this morning and... well I don't want to commit it to the forever-ness of the internet but it was less than I expected but more than a normal person. So reducing that number will be one of my main goals of 2019. The plus-side to working in a library is... every day I have access to borrowing books FOR FREE, so I will be taking advantage of that, and only acquiring books occasionally, when I know the author or collect that author's books or, you know, if they have really stunning covers.  I don't know about you all, but the 'due date' for a library book does make me think seriously about whether or not I really want to read something or whether I am just being a hoarder. Downside is, sometimes all the books I have put on hold arrive at the same damn time...

Anyway, 2019 looks like it will be a great year for both reading and writing, and I am looking forward to talking books with you all. If you think I've missed a book that I need to read in 2019, do let me know, as I love me a good list and I'll be making a wish list in my brand new journal, which I am currently setting up. Yay.

Happy new year!

Sunday, 16 December 2018

Book Review: Love and Ruin

Love and Ruin
Paula McLain
Fleet Publishing (Distributed by Hachette Australia) 2018
(I was sent a copy by the publisher in exchange for an honest review)

Paula McLain's first big novel was The Paris Wife and when I first started in bookselling, it was the novel everyone was talking about. Following the years that Hemingway et al spent in Paris from the point of view of his first wife, Hadley Richardson, it shed some light onto the larger than life literary figure and gave some agency to a woman who was otherwise a footnote on his Wikipedia page. I don't remember many details from the book, other than that I loved it.

Both of McLain's recent novels, The Paris Wife and Circling the Sun have been criticised for their fawning, simpering heroines, but in Love and Ruin, McLain has Hemingway's third wife, Martha Gellhorn take the spotlight. Gellhorn was a respected writer and war correspondent in her own right, and this novel gently navigates the frustrations that she must have felt in trying to balance her love for a great man with a fragile ego, and her own attempts to do authentic work and be taken seriously as more than just Mrs Hemingway. Though this novel is historical, it is a theme that feels very 2018, particularly scenes such as when Martha receives a 'notice' (presumably a review for one of her books) that talks about her physical features more than it does about her work, and another scene in which a reviewer laments that Gellhorn's writing is becoming more and more Hemingway-esque.

It is no small feat to be able to write a love story in which the love interest behaves badly. Readers expect to want to cheer for the couple to make it, but as Martha's career takes off, and Hemingway's ego takes over, she finds herself wanting to travel into war zones again, to have a break from domesticity and ego-soothing, and to do something about the terrible injustices in the world, which Martha Gellhorn in this novel seemed to feel deeply. McLain is also gentle in her portrayal of Gellhorn's relationship with Hemingway's three sons, Bumby (son of Hadley), Gigi and Patrick (sons of Pauline Pfeifer, or Fife as she is called by Hemingway throughout the book). It is interesting to me that Pauline Pfiefer only appears in the novel as a minor character-- perhaps I am being led by my attachment to Alison Weir's novels about the 6 wives of Henry the Eighth, but it seems strange that she should not have her own book the way that Hadley and Martha have had.

As for the style of the novel, McLain's writing at times does have a hint of the Hemingway to it, with its strong, declarative sentences, but there is something more feminine, and more readable about the book.  I could have done without the many incidences where Hemingway and Gellhorn kissed, and she exclaimed that she 'could not breathe'. It was the only overly sentimental thing about what was otherwise a record of their romance, courtship, marriage and its breakdown.

This is a timely novel in its female-led rewriting of a celebrated literary man, but I fear that it will pass under the radar-- a shame, because it is a book that surpasses The Paris Wife in its writing and its subject matter. While I will never forget the way that The Paris Wife swept me up, because of Love and Ruin, I will now never forget Martha Gellhorn, and that is a far greater feat for this novel.

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Books of the Year: 2018

It's been a spectacularly good reading year.

Not only did I have a number of friends releasing their debut books, I also found a few new favourite authors in surprising places.

I won't be doing a 'Top Ten Books of 2018'-- reading is highly subjective, and my enjoyment is often tied to factors like where and when I'm coming to the book, and what sort of mood I am in-- but instead, in no particular order, I present some of the books that have stayed with me this year; books that I recommend to all of you.

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

Circe by Madeline Miller 

The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer

The Yellow House by Emily O'Grady

How to be Famous by Caitlin Moran

The Unexpected Education of Emily Dean by Mira Robertson

The Victorian and the Romantic by Nell Stevens

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

The Fragments by Toni Jordan

I'd also like to give a special shout out to a few friends of mine who released their amazing debuts this year.

The Sisters' Song by Louise Allan

Dustfall by Michelle Johnston

You Belong Here by Laurie Steed