nancys

The Nancys

R.W.R. McDonald     Recommended by Kristy    

fiction

The Nancy’s by RWR McDonald  is a heart-warming, thrilling murder mystery.  At once innocent and wicked, this is a truly delightful read.

Tippy Chan is eleven years old when her father dies leaving her and her mother to struggle on in small town New Zealand. When her Mum wins a cruise, Tippy’s Uncle Pike, comes to look after her bringing his new boyfriend Devon, an up and coming fashion designer.

Whilst Tippy is delighted to see her Uncle she is unsettled by a friend’s accident and a murder. Tippy and her uncle, inspired by their mutual love of Nancy Drew decide that they, along with a reluctant Devon,  will solve the crime before her mother’s return.  And they will look fabulous while they do it.

Allen & Unwin 2019

electrichotel

The Electric Hotel

Dominic Smith     Recommended by Anne    

fiction

A delicious, decadent, freewheeling historical novel which begins in the decades prior to World War 1, where young Claude Ballard glimpses a demonstration by the Lumière brothers. He becomes their agent,travelling worldwide and demonstrating their remarkable invention, silent film. Told as a series of reminiscences, Claude relates his life story to a young and eager film student who has tracked him down to the Hollywood Knickerbocker Hotel. Claude forages for mushrooms in the L.A. Hills and keeps company with the other faded residents as well as reel upon reel of decaying celluloid, fragments from his days as a director and filmmaker. He recounts his lifelong obsession with Sabine Montrose, the icon whose celebrity turned toxic, and the boom and bust of the first days of cinema. It captures moments from a grandiose time where extravagant budgets allowed for disposable tigers and stuntmen routinely died on set. I thought the tone was perfect, conjuring a wonderment partly mystic and partly mundane. Dominic Smith’s other novels similarly deal with a time and situation where something magnificent was invented, be it the Dutch Golden Age of painting or photography’s beginning in the daguerrotype. An escapist delight!

Allen & Unwin 2019

 

onehundred

One Hundred Years of Dirt

Rick Morton     Recommended by Anne    

memoir / autobiography 

A wide-ranging family story where trauma careens down the ancestral line, manifesting in pain and discord. The Morton men formed a rural dynasty that was at one time, land the size of Belgium. They also shared a destructive and brutal approach to family life with siblings goaded into competing with one another by terrifying patriarchs. By the time Rick’s older brother was badly burned in an accident, the scene was set for the family’s disintegration. Its an honest, painful and unsentimental story of the harm people can cause one another by intention and by accident. Rick’s mother raised the two boys alone and on a pittance, and one of the things explored in the book is the effect of grinding poverty and how oblivious a privileged person can be. Its not a bitter book in the slightest though, and what I really liked is the love and pride and high regard Rick has for his mum. It feels as though it is a healing book, and I learned a lot.

Melbourne University Press 2018

explodedview

Exploded View

Carrie Tiffany     Recommended by Anne    

fiction

There’s an underlying hum of tension in Exploded View which sometimes dazzles through into violence, like broken glass glimpsed on a headlong dash. And I did read this novel fast! Carrie Tiffany’s newest novel is set in an almost recognizable 1970’s semi-rural hinterland, narrated by an adolescent girl in precarious circumstances. Her family, designated as Father Man, Mother and Brother, go about their days observed by, and cataloged with, a child’s odd amoral certainties. Very early it is established that the girl’s stepfather is a sinister figure, with offhand mentions of controlling behaviour and abuse. She takes comfort in the pilfered workshop manual to Father Man’s Holden, where the clean mechanical illustrations seem to be the opposite of a human body’s tendency for damage and pain. She also sneaks into his workshop at night and depending on her mood, takes the cars for joyrides or sabotages his slipshod mechanical repairs. There’s a savage thrill in this, and in how she dispassionately recalls the intricacies of parts with a savant’s accuracy. Its not a comfortable story to read, with triggering asides to childhood trauma, but it is unforgettable writing from a uniquely Australian voice and the protagonist will stay with me for a long time.

Text Publishing 2018

haresfur

Hare’s Fur

Trevor Shearston     Recommended by Anne    

fiction

A widowed potter lives in the Blue Mountains, occupying his days with his friends and his workshop. Deep in the bush on the way to a favourite clay dig, he finds a chocolate wrapper and it leads him to three wary siblings sleeping rough in a cave. Evading police and social services and the inconstant attentions of absent parents, the teenage Jade is fiercely protective of the younger Emma and Todd.

Russell slowly gains their trust and gradually, improbably, a bond forms. Its a kind of alchemy like the almost accidental perfection of an earthenware piece and a clever way to write a book. I loved the detailed description of Russell’s contemplative methods and the touching way the children took to his instruction, as well as the sense of place which can only come from a writer with a deep appreciation for that part of the world. A little treasure of a novel about human goodness and ingenuity.

Scribe Publications 2019

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