What Library Staff are Reading – November 2012

  • The House of Memories by Monica McInerney….moving and very easy to read  about a family following a tragic accident.
  • I have just finished reading A perfectly good man by Patrick Gale – really enjoyed it.
  • I am currently reading The best exotic Marigold Hotel by Deborah Moggach – enjoying it so far.
  • I’m currently reading Letters from Hamnavoe by George Mackay Brown –  Hamnavoe is the old name for the small town of Stromness in Orkney. In the early 1970s GMB wrote a weeklynewspaper column/ letter to Stromnessians living overseas (incl. mainland Scotland) and they are delightful.
  • I’ve also read The Greatcoat by Helen Dunmore – the first in a series of horror tales by prominent authors by Hammer, the company that brought us all those horror films years ago.
  • Death Comes to Pemberley by PD James – a spin off of Pride and Prejudice with a murder. I only got half way – it was so bad I really couldn’t give a hoot whodunit. Unlikely to have been the butler this time. Will find out when book group meets.
  • Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John Le Carre – No idea what was going on until I read the synopsis and got my hands on the jargon codex from Wikipedia. Lovely writing though. I will finish it – one day.
  • The Fishing Fleets : husband hunting in the Raj by Anne de Courcy – a wonderful account of lots of single ladies going to India to catch a hubby. Had to relinquish it very reluctantly for someone else’s Hold. Can’t wait to get it back.
  • The Oldest Song in the World by Sue Woolfe. Set as it is in Central Australia in a remote Aboriginal community, this novel was guaranteed to grab me. Kate is an unsuccessful linguistics student at a big city university. For quixotic reasons her supervisor has chosen her to go to Gadaburumili, a community north-west of Alice Springs where mostly Djemiranga (an endangered indigenous language) is spoken. Her brief is to record the “poor thing” song in language, and the only person who can sing this song is a very old woman soon to die. The song is seen as a Rosetta Stone of Djemiranga, hopefully unlocking its secrets. The main reason Kate accepts the job is that she has reason to believe her childhood love is out there. Can he explain the mystery of their mothers’ deaths on the river during a dangerous running tide, and is he still the object of her consuming love? So the effort to solve these mysteries fuels the story, and keeps her there when she doesn’t want to be. In the end, of course, she discovers more than she bargained for.  Woolfe uses language sensitively and I sense a deep respect for this oldest of cultures in her attitudes, as well as an understanding of the levels of race prejudice that tend to operate in such multi-racial communities. Some of the plot devices, dialogue and motivation seem a little clunky to me, I admit, but in the end I love her subject and the respect and curiosity she brings to it. This novel might help to bridge the gap between those who were here first, and us.
  • Ancient Light by John Banville – “Billy Gray was my best friend and I fell in love with his mother.” So begins Alexander Cleave’s leisurely, lyrical reflection on his fifteenth year and the woman he first loved. These days he’s married to Lydia, has been for some decades now, and shares with her a deep grief: their daughter Cass died ten years ago. Both of them have nightmares, and neither has recovered from this death. Cleave has earned his living as an actor, but we meet him at a crossroads, with that and other elements of his life. It’s time, he feels, to stop hiding (“acting”) and uncover some truths about the past. Banville’s writing is spectacularly beautiful, incisive, exploratory. Dare I say, it’s perfect? Yes, I do.
  • Stay Close by Harlan Coben – I read this one for Katoomba Library Book Group. We’ve chosen a reading list using lots of different categories to broaden our reading horizons, so it was fun to read a crime fiction novel for a change. Good yarn, I liked the vernacular and the quick portraits of people, but it hasn’t turned me into a crime-novel fanatic.
  • The Casual Vacancy by J K Rowling – I’d heard mixed comment about this, and having read it maybe I see why. There was a cast of thousands, set as it was in a provincial English town. Rowling really understands the mix of people you get in such places; and she has a sharp nose for the evil we can inflict on each other. This is a dark story. But she also has deep moral convictions, a good thing in my view. I’d like to see her next novel focus on a smaller cast, though.
  • The Novels of Alex Miller edited by Robert Dixon. Alex Miller is pretty much my favourite writer, so a book of essays on his body of work was a nice find as I cruised the catalogue. There was even an essay by the actual people whose stories Miller used in the beautiful Journey to the Stone Country.
  • All right ! I succumbed…..to reading Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James, and because I needed to follow up also Fifty Shades Darker, and am now currently reading Fifty shades Freed. The fact that I was on holidays and Coles had them on special for $7 each was a big factor in my smutty choices.
  • Also read Amalfi Coast Recipes by Amanda Tabberer and started the biography of Franklin and Eleanor by Hazel Rowland, but didn’t finish the read as I was totally over the detail, politics and name dropping of American society. This was a book group title chosen by others.
  • Are you my mother? : a comic drama by Alison Bechdel. This is an autobiographical and intelligent graphic novel that explores a fraught mother-daughter relationship (from the daughter’s point of view), in a sensitive and insightful way. This work also touches on the ups and downs of the creative life, with humour and candidness. I highly recommend it, especially if you are new to reading graphic novels.
  • Bright Lights Dark Shadows: the real story of Abba by Carl Magnus Palm – This book explores all aspects of the ABBA members lives and careers. Amazingly detailed, it examines the group members family backgrounds, the pre-ABBA days, the legendary Seventies, the marriages, the divorces, the business ups and downs and the post-ABBA solo careers.
  • Busy month this month – if I had a spare moment, I read Marie Claire magazines
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