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.

Australian Women Writers 2012 Challenge Review- ‘Tiger Men’ by Judy Nunn

In true Nunn form this is a family saga set in the golden years of Tasmanian settlement and expansion. It follows the lives of three men, Silas Sandford, philanthropist and business man, Jefferson Powell, political idealist and ferryman and  Mick O’Callaghan, Irish rogue from convict days, through the Federation period and The Great War. The novel showcases the contrast between the wealthy elite, with their grand sandstone mansions, to the exploited poor who live in the Wapping slum area of Hobart.  Each main character’s ability to take advantage of the changing world of Hobart town caused their lives and families to prosper as they moved into the 20th century.

Tiger Men also explores the way the women in each of the main character’s lives showed courage, strength and endurance- thus the analogy to the Tasmanian tiger.

This is a great read if you enjoy a mix of Aussie history with your fiction as I do. You always learn something new.  

                                                                                                                                                                           Cheers, Marie

 http://www.australianwomenwriters.com