Pan's Labyrinth: The Labyrinth of the Faun
Guillermo del Toro and Cornelia Funke

fiction 

Guillermo Del Toro’s film Pan’s Labyrinth is one of my favourites.The strange parallels and thematic tessellations which accumulate throughout the film elegantly express the way that folktales haunt the worlds from which they spring. But how to make this rich texture yield to the page? Cornelia Funke, author of the Inkheart series, was apprehensive for this very reason when Del Toro approached her to author the novelisation. While the bulk of the narrative remains unchanged, Funke’s retelling captures both the childlike wonder and wartime terror which the film so skillfully blends. Funke’s writing softens some of the more frightening and gruesome moments of the film, making it a bit more palatable for those who found the violence of the film a little overwhelming. Those familiar with the film will relish the vignettes detailing some of the concealed histories and myths which structure the film—from the opening paragraphs on Falangist Spain to the provenance of the Pale Man.

 

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In the midst of the Spanish Civil War, Ofélia and her pregnant mother, Carmen, travel to the countryside where the ruthless Captain Vidal—Ofelia’s new stepfather—is engaged in a guerilla war with Republican rebels. Ofélia is drawn to a labyrinth which lies at the edge of the forest, and which is home to a mischievous faun. She learns that she is the long-lost Princess Moanna, daughter of the king of the underworld, and that in order to reclaim her birthright and her memories she must complete a series of tasks to prove that she has not been changed by her time in the human world. As the conflict intensifies and the tasks become increasingly difficult, the worlds of the fairytale and the war blend together, giving the reader pause to reflect on how the stories we tell about nations, the unknown, the other, and ourselves can have disturbing, beautiful, and bittersweet consequences.

Bloomsbury 2019

The Sheltering Sky
Paul Bowles

fiction

I’m hesitant to tick the ‘recommended’ box since this book is unusually, vividly bleak. it’s also considered a landmark piece of twentieth century literature. First published in 1949, it is set in a decimated postwar North Africa, through which Americans Port Moresby, his wife Kit and their friend Tunner move restlessly. Wealthy and aimless, they consider themselves travellers rather than tourists, with Port seeking some kind of defining philosophical experience in the remote Sahara. The precursor to the Beats, Bowles was apparently beset with hippies visiting his home in Tangiers in the hope of meeting a wise sage. He wrote the book in bed (a habit he adopted when freezing desert nights made it impossible to sit at a desk) dissolving writer’s block with liberal quantities of hashish.

I couldn’t find a single character with kindness or other redeeming qualities; the book is a relentlessly hostile description of the meaningless cruelties humans perpetrate on one another and our innate aloneness. Port and Kit are each punished for their wilfull ignorance and apathy. Some passages are a vertiginous deep dive into the horror of death. The writing shows its age by the startling racism and misogyny, branching off the deeper misanthropy.  Perhaps it is not the portrayal of people in the novel which is so upsetting but the creeping suspicion that Bowles might have seen through the artifice of polite society, and be right about us all.

Ecco Press / Harper Collins 2014 

Record of a Spaceborn Few
Becky Chambers

science fiction

The third installment in the Wayfarers series, Chamber’s new book is a treat. Establishing her popularity with The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet and the following A Closed and Common Orbit, the books were initially crowdfunded and self-published before being picked up by publishers soon after release. They have been nominated and shortlisted for a number of prizes and awarded the Prix Julia Verlanger twice. They’re also a crowd-pleasing combo of speculative fiction with a heavy helping of optimistic diversity, where human beings have left earth far behind and interact with a bewildering host of other sapient cultures far more advanced than they.

Record of a Spaceborn Few is set on one of the so-called Homesteader ships, vast machine cities which long ago ferried humanity to new solar systems and now orbit foreign suns while they slowly fall apart. What does it mean to have a cultural identity without a home planet? In the Wayfarers universe, the archivist’s role is essential, and everyone cooperates so their make-do-and-mend environment continues to support life and nourish souls.  Some characters are related to ones you’ll recognize from previous books, but the books can be read alone. You’ll wish each character you meet the best. Long Way to a Small Angry Planet is still my favourite of the series, but Record of a Spaceborn Few is more of the enjoyable, personality driven fiction I’ve come to expect of Becky Chambers.

Hodder Stoughton 2018 

 

No two persons ever read the same book.
Edmund Wilson

New Edition has been home to lovers of books for over 30 years. Established in Freo during the heady days of the America’s Cup, New Edition quickly became a local favourite. With its wide array of literary, art, poetry and non-fiction titles, it is widely considered one of Australia’s best independent bookshops. Regularly hosting author events and launches, New Edition is a vital part of Fremantle and Perth’s literary community.

Upcoming Events at New Edition

Bruny by Heather Rose BOOK LAUNCH

Sunday 6th October 4:30 pm

New Edition Bookshop and Allen & Unwin are pleased to announce the launch of Heather Rose’s new novel, Bruny. The brilliant and explosive new novel is the latest from the author of The Museum of Modern Love, winner of the 2017 Stella Prize.

Part political thriller, part love story, this genre-bending and prescient novel considers how far a government might go to achieve its aims. It is a searing, subversive story of family, love, loyalty and the new world order.

Heather will be in conversation with Gillian O’Shaughnessy at the National Hotel, High Street, Fremantle.

The ticket price of $5  is redeemable against a copy of Bruny. To secure your place, please book at https://www.trybooking.com/BFOBX

 

heathersmol

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