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BOOK LOVE: The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields

This wonderful piece of fiction won the Pulitzer Prize in 1995. It chronicles the life of Daisy Goodwill, which spans most of the twentieth century. Each chapter jumps forward a decade, through her childhood, marriage, motherhood, and later life, combining reflection on these broader themes of her life with insight towards the other banal moments that also make up living. The narrative is interspersed with photos, letters, even shopping lists, and we see Daisy through the eyes of those around her, providing fascinating insight into the notion of identity. If you want to study a master of inventive narrative and character construction, read this book!

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BOOK LOVE: The Light Between Oceans By M.L. Stedman

This is a story of right and wrong, and how sometimes they look the same …
1926. Tom Sherbourne is a young lighthouse keeper on a remote island off Western Australia. The only inhabitants of Janus Rock, he and his wife Isabel live a quiet life, cocooned from the rest of the world. 

One April morning a boat washes ashore carrying a dead man and a crying infant – and the path of the couple’s lives hits an unthinkable crossroads.

Only years later do they discover the devastating consequences of the decision they made that day – as the baby’s real story unfolds …

What a sensational debut by ML Stedman! Even the strapline is one of the best I’ve read: This is the story of right and wrong, and how they sometimes look the same. I loved so much about this book. The central dilemma is absorbing, and I found myself alternately rooting for (and sometimes angry with) each of the characters as they struggle to find resolution. Throughout the story, the descriptions are mesmerising. My favourite lines are 96 pages in: ‘In a place before words, in some other language of creature to creature, with the softening of her muscles, the relaxing of her neck, the baby signalled her trust. Having come so close to the hands of death, life now infused with life like water meets water.’ I did find the beginning a little bit slow, but it’s well worth persevering. ML Stedman manipulates her narrative like a master, and I’m looking forward to finding out what she does next.

NB: This book has been optioned for a film too, and I hope it gets made. It would be great to see a story based in Western Australia on the big screen.

 

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BOOK LOVE: The Hand that First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell

Lexie Sinclair’s life revolves around the Soho art scene of the 1950s, whereas in the present day Elina is struggling with the demands of motherhood. But despite living decades apart, these two women are connected in ways neither could ever have expected.

I have long been a fan of Maggie O’Farrell, as her first book, After You’d Gone, ranks as one of my all-time favourites. In this, her latest work, her writing is mesmeric, and I was captivated from start to finish. Such overt manipulation of narrative voice is difficult to achieve without losing the reader, but O’Farrell is fearless, and as a result The Hand that First Held Mine is a wonderful, unique piece of fiction.

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Come Back to Me

CBTM for web‘As a writer, an exceedingly good book to me, is when I don’t notice how it’s written, but find myself completely wrapped up in the story. Come Back to Me by Sara Foster was one of those books. I couldn’t put it down and lacked sleep for a few days.’ Michelle Dennis Evans

 

‘Set in both London and Perth, this is a moving story about impossible choices, about love, and about keeping a promise you made years ago, even if it risks everything you have now. I read this in one day and was left thinking about it for days afterwards. Keep a tissue close.’ July 2011 book of the month, www.ourbookclub.com.au

 

‘Come Back to Me is a complex story of relationships and how ones long ago finished can reappear at any moment and change the path you’re on. Despite the intricacies and twists in the storyline, it’s a quick and engrossing read – I powered through it in an afternoon. So very readable  – will keep you wondering and guessing (and in my case, praying that two certain people end up together) until the very last page.’ 8/10, 1girl2manybooks – to read the full review, click here

‘…this is a book that is big on secrets, everyone seems to be keeping secrets from everyone else, and it is a book that everybody’s stories seems to somehow intertwine with others, it is a story of love and loss, how being strong and taking charge can make us a better person, and how others perceive decisions that have been made even though they were too young, or not involved enough to know the reasons behind those decisions. 4.5/5.’ The Hungry Bookshelf – to read the full review, click here

 

CBTM Kindle for webSuspenseful, heartrending and transcontinental, Come Back to Me’s dynamic scenes extend from debauchery at an office party to a shocking outback crime. A complex psychological tale, Sara Foster’s debut novel…throws us headfirst into marital distress. Set in a middle-class world of city lawyers and designers, Come Back to Me is essentially a story of consequences…With its easy prose and short chapters, this is a novel suited to air travel. Yet it is sophisticated in two ways: it carefully considers the ramifications of split-second decisions on human relationships, and it highlights the importance of a strong question to a narrative…Each character, trapped in  this undercurrent of longing, makes the story somewhat earnest. But there is a balance in carefully placed moments of the everyday, like those in the relationship between Chloe and her wayward cousin. As a result, we, the avid readers, are continually reminded of the particular strength of the characters. It is a gentle strength, but a relatable one: the strength that comes from the simple, gallant act of moving forward.’ Kirsten Law, Australian Book Review, March 2010

This taut psychological drama will keep you enthralled as the mystery and tragedy of ten years ago gradually unravels.’ Northern Daily Leader, 20 February 2010

‘Come Back to Me is a wonderful debut novel. The stories of the four main characters are interwoven, with the reader taken on a journey through their past lives and the present, with revelations continuing right till the end… There is nothing not to like about this story – intriguing characters, plot twists, action and beautiful writing combine to produce a satisfying package.’ Sally Murphy, www.aussiereviews.com

‘The novel is both a stunning thriller and complex love story. It is an entertaining read.’ Border Mail, 27 February 2010

‘A new voice on the Australian fiction scene, Foster has taken an incident that she read about years ago when travelling and uses it to tell a haunting tale about relationships and the history that binds them.’ The Examiner [Launceston], 20 February 2010

‘…a dark psychological guessing game that will surprise you all the way till the end.’ ‘Read of the Week’, NW, 22 February 2010

‘Alex is happily married when he unexpectedly comes face to face with the girl he once loved. He has to decide if he should revisit the past, and risk everything with the wife he adores. This clever novel is deftly pulled together with secrets revealed right through to the last page.’ New Idea, 13 February 2010

‘Come Back to Me is a book for anyone who likes to be surprised by multiple twists and turns. Brilliant.’ http://www.thereadingstack.blogspot.com/

‘This is a very promising debut, with a storyline teeming with slowly revealed secrets and unexpected turns.’ http://www.chicklitclub.com

‘There’s no leisurely introduction to this story. Chloe and her husband Alex go to dine with her colleague Mark and his new date, Julia. But when Alex is introduced to Julia, it is soon apparent that something is very wrong. Julia vanishes, Alex is silent, Mark is furious, and Chloe struggles with her own secret as well as wondering about Alex’s past. Alex decides the only way for closure is to take Julia back to Perth where something dreadful happened. But in doing so, will he lose all he has? Can Julia face the past – and finally tell the truth? It’s a book to read in one sitting – you’ll be enthralled by the disquieting possibilities.’ Woman’s Day, 1 February 2010

‘What-ifs are the heart and soul of any good relationship story: what if we had stayed together, what if I had married someone different, what if I wasn’t having a baby? Here, Foster ties together all those life-crisis questions with the mysterious arrival of a missing ex-girlfriend. Although this will almost exclusively appeal to women, it is far from light and fluffy… [Rated 4/5 stars]’ The West Australian, Tuesday, 26 January 2010

‘A gripping read. Rewarding to the very end.’ Nicole Alexander, author of The Bark Cutters

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