This reading list is a contribution to the sharing of books. All sorts of books make their way to my bedside table. Some are sent, some recommended, some given as gifts or lent by someone who has enjoyed reading them.
Others (let’s be frank – many) I see on a bookstore shelf, find irresistible and bring home. A few of these become family members who may not leave my bookshelf, but can be read by guests who stay. Some wander on to other homes and hearts.
If you have books you’d like to talk about contact me via the web contact form.
This lyrically written account of John
Blay’s quest to find the ancient Aboriginal path from Kosciuszko to Eden, The
Bundian Way, is at once a history of the lands and people, a study of geography
and botany and a love story with country.
In a culture like ours where youth in all its facets is worshipped, writing about our elders is often twee and nearly always patronising. One is frequently irritated by depictions in the media and especially in advertising, of older people as cranky, doddering, cute, inept, foolish or humorous.
It is therefore particularly pleasurable to find in Joanna Nell’s The Single Ladies of Jacaranda Retirement Village a simultaneously sympathetic yet realistic portrayal of ageing and the older individual.
Echo Publishing, an imprint of Bonnier Books UK, 2019
Based on the life of Cornish convict Mary Bryant, Fled is the story of a remarkable sea voyage, a daring escape from the colony of NSW by a group of convicts in a small open boat over thousands of sea miles, much of it uncharted.
Meg Keneally joins a number of earlier writers in bringing this tale to us with her fictitious character Jenny Gwyn nee Trelawney. As much as it is an adventure on the seas story, this is a character driven tale, delving deeply into the nature of Jenny and her skill in reading and manipulating those around her.
The Scent Keeper
is the fourth novel of Seattle based writer Erica Bauermeister. I first met her
writing with The School of Essential Ingredients, her first novel,
deservedly a best seller. This fourth is equally endowed with the capacity to
move and hold us, to powerfully evoke a sense of place.
Echo Publishing, an imprint of Bonnier Books UK, 2019
This is the second of Katherine Kovacic’s Alex Clayton art mysteries. Like its predecessorThe Portrait of Molly Dean, it is a wonderfully engaging read, a story that whips along at a suitably brisk pace and is filled with personalities from the Melbourne art world.
Having recently re-read The Dressmaker upon the opening of the exhibition of the film costumes at the National Film and Sound Archive, I was fortunate to speak with Rosalie Ham about her work. This sent me to her latest novel, The Year of the Farmer and I am also now reading my way through her back catalogue.
Year of the Farmer, Rosalie Ham shows us the same wit, sharp observation
and finally a forgiving affection for the people of her chosen setting, the small
Australian country town. Topically, this book focusses on the scarcity, the supply
and the purchase of water, and all the scope for dirty dealing that this
Book 2 of The Sandstone Trilogy Independently published, printed by Ingram Sparks 2016
set in the 1850s in Sydney, continues the story of Irish born John Leary and
his rise in the building trade. It is at once a glimpse into the history of the
growth of the city and a story of the complexities of family.
John Leary’s business struggles in a
tough and often corrupt industry are just part of this tale. Michael Beashel
interests himself in the status and place of women at this time and in the
conditions of the working men and women of the era.
This debut novel by Julie Keys was
shortlisted for the Richell Prize for Emerging Writers. It is a work of
historical fiction, an absorbing and fast moving story that waltzes elegantly
between the past in the 1920s and the recent past of the 1990s.
First and foremost this is a story of
secrets and the murky world of the Bohemian Sydney art world. Artist Muriel
Kemp steps into the present however, despite having been reported dead in 1936,
and meets her biographer in Jane Cooper, newly pregnant and suffering from
morning sickness. What follows is both a fascinating story of the untangling of
truth from fiction and the development of a strange but important relationship
between two women from different times and places.
This is an achingly beautiful and sad story, a work of historical fiction, a tale that, as so often happens in this genre, weaves the past and present through family connections, secrets and lies. Told in two voices, one that of Maddie herself and the other of the omniscient author, the story held me instantly in thrall. The time frames are 1920s and 1990s, the places mainly London, Sydney and Brisbane.
Melbourne based writer and psychiatrist Dr Michael Duke has worked with Aboriginal people from the 1980s.
In researching for this book, he made a number of trips to Arabana country and recorded interviews with Arabana people about their experiences of the railway. He also read extensively and has helpfully provided the reader with a list of references.
In moving into historical fiction,
Nigel Featherstone has created a moving and sensitive work which, whilst set
against a backdrop of war in Egypt in 1941, focusses most strongly on the
nature and possibilities of love.
William Marsh and James Kelly, childhood
friends, meet again unexpectedly minutes after disembarking in Egypt as
soldiers. A stoush with the Italian army forces quick action and William is
found wanting. Not long after this William is posted to the desert to supervise
a stores depot and to train a group of raw soldiers. James goes AWOL. We follow
their separate and entwining stories and those of a rich collection of
With beguiling rhythm and cadence
Geoff Page tells the story – or parts thereof – of the short life of jazz
guitarist Emily Remler. This is a sad story of a life gone too quickly and
marries Page’s passion for poetry as a storytelling form with his love for
The work is a set of 24 glimpses into parts of Emily Remler’s life from a small child to her death. Geoff Page found what he could, mainly on the internet, to piece together a story that feels surprisingly full.
French Photographer is the fourth of
Natasha Lester’s historical fiction novels. Like the previous book, The Paris Seamstress, it has historical
and contemporary story lines running parallel and intersecting.
begins in New York in 1942 with fashion model and our future war
photojournalist heroine Jessica May. It moves to the European war front and the
focus is then strongly on both the horrors of war and the extraordinary efforts
of women like her to be allowed to operate in an arena previously reserved for
men. Much of the future action shines a light on the effects of war on women,
whether it be as professional correspondents or as victims of war atrocities.
Rosalie Ham is the author four novels.
The Dressmaker is the first, a novel
that began its life as a 500 word concept for a novel writing course, intended
perhaps to be a short story, now with worldwide sales and made into a highly
successful movie in 2015.
Second edition published by For Pity Sake Publishing, 2019 First published by Oxford University Press 1965
This is the second in a series of picture books by the late Austrian artist Bettina Ehrlich to be re-published by For Pity Sake Publishing.
Working from the artist’s originals, the company has brought these books back to life for a new generation of children and their parents. The original books are much loved possessions of For Pity Sake founder Jennifer McDonald’s family, so much so that FPS obtained the rights to re-publish a series of them.
The Goat Boy is a tale within a tale. Miss Patricia Higgins who teaches German in an English girls. School goes to Austria for her holiday to practice the German language and enjoy the mountain scenery. Whist on her walk one day she encounters an elderly gentleman, who recounts the story of Toni, a goat boy who must take his family’s herd to the mountain pastures each day to graze.
He is a very good child but suffers
from a terrible fear of thunderstorms. And it is this that brings him undone
for he is caught in a storm one day and flees, losing three of the herd. However,
a touch of magic, in the form of a naiad, saves the day for Toni.
We are left to wonder if the story may
also bring something magic into the lives of Miss Higgins and the elderly
Bettina Ehrlich tells her stories with a delicate touch, with great empathy for her characters and with deceptively simple, graphic prose. These are stories to be read aloud to children and grandchildren many times, searching in the pictures for details and in the layers of the story for secrets and nuances.