Notes From a Well-Read Alice – July, 2013

Thanks again to Alice, one of our Home Library service borrowers,  for sharing her reading thoughts and reflections with us : )

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Worth Dying For by Lee Child

Written at such a fast pace I almost felt breathless at the end of it. Full of on-the-spot, life-changing decisions. Nebraska was presented as a dry, desolate place, with a cruel family ruling a small community by fear. An ex-cop, ex-solder who is an expert in unarmed combat comes to town and quietly and heroically proceeds to put things right, with the help of an alcoholic doctor, a terrified hotel owner and a woman who knows the ruling family killed her daughter. A man’s book, but the author does have respect for women.  A violent book, not really my scene, but I must admit I turned the pages quickly to see what was going to happen next, and it was full of surprises.

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

Hard to believe it’s a first novel, Diane Setterfield’s writing is so polished and professional. A biographer who spends her life in her father’s bookshop receives a request to chronicle the life of ‘the world’s most famous’  author. Now dying, the author wishes to impart the story of her own life. Set in a crumbling, Gothic mansion, the story is about red-headed twins who run riot, with their own language, and extremely strong ties. Their cruelty keeps the reader agog, and the people who surround them are vividly characterised. This is a mystery of haunting conviction.  Being a long-time admirer of Isaac Pitman I found the passages on hieroglyphics particularly fascinating. This is certainly a booklover’s book. Overwhelming.

Bertie Plays the Blues by Alexander McCall Smith 

‘Just magical. An insight into the best of human nature, without over-sentimentality. McCall Smith presents life for us as it should be. A tonic to read. Bertie, an extremely intelligent little boy of six has an over ambitious mother who fills his days with language and music lesson and visits to the psychiatrist. Olive, a six-year-old harridan, tells Bertie that one day he will marry her. He plans to run away.

Scotland Street, where everyone lives, welcomes triplets, Big Lou, the restaurant owner has  date with an Elvis impersonator and Angus the artist and Domineca the anthropologist make wedding plans, when an old flame appears on the scene and Cyril, Angus’ golden-toothed dog, views events and ankles with endearing reflections. After reading many books with hardly a chuckle I wallowed in the jests in this humane novel. I also learnt about Stendal Syndrome, the rituals of Masonry, Ebay and many ‘ologies’ so far unheard of. THis book was written in 2011, but McCall Smith remains essentially unaffected by the need to keep up with today’s changing values. Absolutely delightful.

Kal by Judy Nunn 

In1892 in Austria, two girls climb up through the snow to work at a resort where many wealthy Europeans and Americans holiday. On their way, they stop for a few words with two Italian men working on the blasting of a tunnel through the Alps. The brothers see a headline about a gold strike in Australia. They end up in Kalgoorlie, with its harsh beginnings and kaleidoscopic mix of humanity from different parts of the world. Judy Nunn’s narration is spellbinding. The horrors of World War 1 include descriptions of the 11th Battalion, where men from Kalgoorlie, who once fought each other as boys, now stand side-by-side facing heartbreaking conflicts. The saga continues, threaded with a tender love story, feuds and family loyalties, making this a worthy tribute to Australian history.

3rd Wednesday Book Club – June 2013 – Faraway

The Read, Watch, Play theme for June was Faraway. Here at Nowra Library we  chose to focus on travel fiction  because, we figure, books take you places. There’s nothing like armchair travel- curling up with an amazing book filled with the sights, scents and shades of a far away  place or time. Happy travels!

June Reads     

Blue Highways : A Journey into America by William Least Heat-Moon
Slicing the Silence : Voyaging to Antarctica  by Tom Griffiths
Questions of Travel  by Michelle de Kretser.  (Miles Franklin winner 2013)
The Library of Unrequited Love by Sophie Divry
The Railwayman’s Wife by Ashley Hay
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro
Mason & Dixon by Thomas Pynchon
Life of Pi :a novel  by Yann Martel
Ox Travels : Meetings with Remarkable Travel Writers edited by Mark Ellingham et al
I Hear the Sirens in the Street  by Adrian McKinty
Fishing for Tigers :a novel by Emily Maguire
Benediction by Kent Haruf.
Journey of a Thousand Miles : My Story by Lang Lang with David Ritz.
Kennedy’s Brain by Henning Mankell
Empire Day by Diane Armstrong
The Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer
Australian Science Magazine
Kennedy’s Brain by Henning Mankel
Los Angeles Stories by Ry Cooder
Sweeney Todd:  The Real Story of the Demon Barber of Fleet Street by Peter Haining
Wild Nights by Joyce Carol Oates
A Plea for Eros by Siri Hustvedt
Entangled by Graham Hancock
The Oldest Song in the World by Sue Woolfe
For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
Perfume by Patrick Susskind
A Feast for Crows by George R.R Martin
Map of the Sky by Felix J. Palma

Most Talked About Reads

June2013

Blue Highways : A Journey into America by William Least Heat-Moon

“Hailed as a masterpiece of American travel writing, Blue Highways is an unforgettable journey along our nation’s backroads. William Least Heat-Moon set out with little more than the need to put home behind him and a sense of curiosity about “those little towns that get on the map-if they get on at all-only because some cartographer has a blank space to fill: Remote, Oregon; Simplicity, Virginia; New Freedom, Pennsylvania; New Hope, Tennessee; Why, Arizona; Whynot, Mississippi. His adventures, his discoveries, and his recollections of the extraordinary people he encountered along the way amount to a revelation of the true American experience.” (Goodreads.com)
‘This book is like a warm bath. You feel like you’re sitting in the passenger side of the author’s van as he drives along the highway.’- Michael, 3rd Wednesday Book Club.

Click here to reserve a copy of Blue Highways at Shoalhaven Libraries today.


The Railwayman’s Wife by Ashley Hay

“In a small town on the land’s edge, in the strange space at a war’s end, a widow, a poet and a doctor each try to find their own peace, and their own new story.

In Thirroul, in 1948, people chase their dreams through the books in the railway’s library. Anikka Lachlan searches for solace after her life is destroyed by a single random act. Roy McKinnon, who found poetry in the mess of war, has lost his words and his hope. Frank McKinnon is trapped by the guilt of those his treatment and care failed on their first day of freedom. All three struggle with the same question: how now to be alive.

Written in clear, shining prose and with an eloquent understanding of the human heart, The Railwayman’s Wife explores the power of beginnings and endings, and how hard it can be sometimes to tell them apart. It’s a story of life, loss and what comes after; of connection and separation, longing and acceptance. Most of all, it celebrates love in all its forms, and the beauty of discovering that loving someone can be as extraordinary as being loved yourself.

A story that will break your heart with hope.” (Goodreads.com)

Click here to reserve a copy of The Railwayman’s Wife at Shoalhaven Libraries today.

Sweeney Todd: The Real Story of the Demon Barber of Fleet Street by Peter Haining 

“Sweeney Todd, the notorious Demon Barber, has been called the greatest mass murderer in English history. With the aid of an ingenious revolving chair and a cut-throat razor, he is said to have robbed and butchered more than 160 victims in his barber shop in Fleet Street, before taking the remains to nearby Bell Yard where his accomplice, Margery Lovett, cooked their flesh for her meat pies. Despite being as infamous in London’s history as Jack the Ripper, Todd’s story has been almost completely ignored by historians. In this definitive biography, Peter Haining delves into the grim underworld of London 150 years ago to expose the man behind the myth. Separating fact from fiction, he reveals a gruesome and bizarre story with a unique criminal heart.” (Goodreads.com)

“Set from the late 1700’s to the present this bio tells the story of the infamous murderer Sweeney Todd who was known as the “Fleet Street Murderer” and his accomplice Mrs. Lovett, a famous pie maker.  The book also tells how the story of Todd has been “kept alive” in print, theatre and movies over the last 200+ years.

Fascinating!  Interesting!  Could not put it down!  Once again Haining has written a well-researched, enjoyable and informative read!” – Elaine, 3rd Wednesday Book Club

Click here to reserve a copy of Sweeney Todd at Shoalhaven Libraries today.

Questions of Travel by Michelle de Kretser

“A mesmerising literary novel, Questions of Travel charts two very different lives. Laura travels the world before returning to Sydney, where she works for a publisher of travel guides. Ravi dreams of being a tourist until he is driven from Sri Lanka by devastating events.

Around these two superbly drawn characters, a double narrative assembles an enthralling array of people, places and stories – from Theo, whose life plays out in the long shadow of the past, to Hana, an Ethiopian woman determined to reinvent herself in Australia.

Award-winning author Michelle de Kretser illuminates travel, work and modern dreams in this brilliant evocation of the way we live now. Wonderfully written, Questions of Travel is an extraordinary work of imagination – a transformative, very funny and intensely moving novel.” (Goodreads.com)

Click here to reserve a copy of Questions of Travel at Shoalhaven Libraries today.

Word of the Day

‘Epistolary’ (epis·to·lary, adj.)  The word epistolary is derived from the Greek word ἐπιστολή epistolē, meaning a letter. Epistolary novels are those which are written as a series of documents, such as letters, diary entries, and newspaper clippings. Examples of novels written wholly or partly in the epistolary form include Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Alice Walker’s The Colour Purple, Bridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding and We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver.


Author Love-In

Ashley Hay

Ash Horiz B&W A

Author Ashley Hay (from http://www.ashleyhay.com.au)

Ashley Hay’s four books of narrative non-fiction –The Secret and Gum, and Herbarium and Museum (the latter two in collaboration with photographer Robyn Stacey) – all reveal an ongoing fascination for stories about fabulous people and their obsessions.

Her essays, short stories and journalism have appeared in anthologies and magazines including Brothers and SistersThe MonthlyThe BulletinBest Australian Essays, Heat and When Books Die.

The Body in the Clouds, her first novel, was published by Allen & Unwin in September 2010 and described by The Weekend Australian as “a gorgeous, Fabergé egg of a book, enamelled with literary resonances and rhyming symbols, which we will still be reading decades from now”.

Her second novel, The Railwayman’s Wife, will be published in April 2013 – preceded by a five-star review from Australian Bookseller and Publisher. Gail Jones (author of Five Bells) has praised it as “a tender portrait of a marriage and the poetry and grief it contains; a beautiful, dreamy, melancholy book.”  (from ashleyhay.com.au)

Ashley Hay at Thirroul, NSW (from www.theage.com.au)

Ashley Hay at Thirroul, NSW (from http://www.theage.com.au)