Every Mother’s Son is Guilty : Policing the Kimberley Frontier of Western Australia 1882-1905

Chris Owen     Recommended by Alan    

Australian History

Anyone skeptical of the level of violence used in the clearing of Aboriginal people from their land, and the involvement of state in promoting this policy, will be disabused by Chris Owen’s massive contribution to West Australian colonial history.

A compelling account of policing in the Kimberley district from 1882, when police were established in the district, until 1905 when a controversial Royal Commission into the treatment of Aboriginal people was released. In this period the policing of Aboriginal people changed from one of protection under law to one of punishment and control. The subsequent violence of colonial settlement and the associated policing and criminal justice system that developed into a ‘brutal and outrageous state of affairs’. Every Mother’s Son is Guilty is a significant contribution to Australian and colonial criminal justice history.


The Gastronomical Me

M.F.K. Fisher     Recommended by Anne    

food writing / memoir

A classic of food writing, Daunt Books have reissued a neglected gem in M.F.K. Fisher’s gastronomic memoir. For a writer who despised the format of a personal essay, these reminiscences are close to the bone. Written when she was freshly widowed, pregnant to an undisclosed partner, raw with grief, this book carries the slightly vague, but intense feeling of daydreaming backwards to kinder times. At the time of its publication in 1943 food writing was considered light entertainment so The Gastronomical Me defied the expectations of girlish fluff, with luminaries like W.H. Auden saying “I do not know of anyone in the States who writes better prose.”

Starting in early childhood with the taste of the skimmed fuzz from the strawberry jam as her grandmother toiled at canning, Fisher’s anecdotes seem to be touchstones, times when the sensations were keenest. Her passages about shipboard eating “…by myself, slowly, voluptuously, and with an independence that heartened me against the coldness of my cabin and my thoughts” made me wish for a pinch of her bravado.
Its a strange book which sits between autobiography and Gourmet Traveler, and the prose is a piquant treat.


The Immortalists

Chloe Benjamin     Recommended by Anne    


One restless New York summer in the sixties, the four Gold siblings decide to pool their pocket money and see a psychic. A travelling wise woman sublets a cramped apartment on the lower east side, and for a price will tell your fortune – the exact date of your death.
Studious Varya, curious Daniel, sweet Simon and dreamy Klara all take their prediction in different ways, either dismissive, or pleased, or completely crushed, and its almost as though their foretaste of mortality ends their childhood early. Simon will break his mother’s heart by running away to San Francisco, Klara focuses her ambition on becoming a magician, and the older siblings chafe under the sudden responsibility of their dependent parents.
Its a sprawling, fascinating story, with asides into the characters and their motivations which make you wonder what you would do, if you learned your fate. Each character is deftly written, and as their dates approach they react in ways which are believable and tragic. The book’s 50 year span and settings from New York to Vegas to San Francisco take the reader through a long and enjoyable story which seems too big to fit into one novel. It reminded me of Salinger’s Raise High the Roofbeam, Carpenters, a tender-hearted family saga with all people’s flaws and triumphs. A good book to start the year with!


How to Fall in Love with Anyone

Mandy Len Catron     Recommended by Annie    


A fresh and approachable read, Mandy Len Catron’s series of essays present love as an idea, a problem to be solved, and a story which changes for every person.
Catron’s starting point was the conclusion of both her parent’s 28 year marriage and the subsequent end of her own long-term relationship, which spanned her twenties. Was it that love itself is finite, even when both people are good and kind? How did you know what made you compatible? What could you do to sustain the happily ever after?
With a long involvement in collecting love stories, the tales of how people met and fell in love have interested Catron for a long time, and it is through these experiences and her own family history that she investigates what it might mean to project these myths onto our own relationships.
In 2015 Catron’s short essay ‘To Fall in Love with Anyone, Do This’ was published in the New York Times Modern Love column, describing what it was like to take a test with an acquaintance designed by a psychologist to create the perfect conditions for falling in love. Arthur Aron’s study originally asked pairs of heterosexual strangers to ask each other, and answer, 36 questions of increasing intimacy and record the results.
The book includes these questions, so you can take the test yourself with a willing partner. I enjoyed reflecting on my own experiences, prompted by the book’s considerate questions. We all experience love and attachments differently, but the idea of the love story endures.


The Ministry of Utmost Happiness

Arundhati Roy     Recommended by Annie    


“…it’s not sophisticated, what happens here. There’s too much blood for good literature.”

It seems a pity to compare Ministry of Utmost Happiness to anything; its been a 20 year wait for Arundhati Roy’s next novel and for those of us who enjoyed the Booker Prize winning The God of Small Things, its a huge event. So I won’t compare it. But I will say it made me feel certain things, like other books – like the tension of the narrative in Louis de Berniere’s Birds Without Wings, where a huge cast of characters moved in a setting of peril and violence. Familiar too, the slapstick absurdity of Catch 22 with its comedy of war, and the beauty and horror and violence of stirring human enterprise in grim times with Cormac McCarthy’s malevolent ciphers. It felt similar to The God of Small Things too, in that it had characters I liked and understood and characters who were cold, traumatized, unknowable devices. Its a novel in which the author aimed ‘to write a book in which the story was like the streets of a great city…I wanted  even the smallest character to have a story.’

I was so TAKEN by this book. You can surrender to the prose as though its a place with and textures and moods and a rich appalling history, and observe it all flow around you. Unmissable.


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