Author Archives: admin

The End of Longing – Ian Reid

10757290
The End of Longing – Ian Reid

Mr Reid lives in the same city as me and he came to my book club (historical books) to give a presentation. As that was such a kind thing to do, I wanted to buy one of his books (we did read one for that particular book club).

Here’s the blurb …

Frances, a New Zealand woman, is laid to rest in an unmarked grave in Jamaica in 1892. Her enigmatic husband, the Reverend William Hammond, cannot be found. Frances is not Reverend Hammond’s first wife, and his movements have always been elusive. Reverend Hammond has travelled by steamship and rail across continents, but when Frances joins him, the thrill of exotic travel is soon overshadowed by a sense of foreboding. Does he really want her or is she in the way? Later on, reports are sent to Frances’s brothers, alleging cunning, fraud, and possible murder. The End of Longing is a thrilling, bitter-beautiful novel which skillfully explores identity through circumstance, redemption, and love. It is a lyrical, mature, and interesting story about a confidence trickster in the late 19th/early 20th century, set as a travelogue of escape through Melbourne, Canada, Japan, the US, and through to New Zealand. There is a substratum of fact to The End of Longing. A couple bearing the same names as the two main characters did travel to the places described in this novel at the times indicated, and had some similar experiences. Indeed, the main female character is based on author Ian Reid’s distant relative.

I found it to be compelling – very much a page turner. I am not sure if it would be possible now to move on and escape your past.

4 out of 5.

Leave a Comment

Filed under 4, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Recommended

Phosphorescence – Julia Baird

52541673. sx318 sy475
Phosphorescence – Julia Baird

It was a hard year last year – I know that was the case for many people, but I had breast cancer as well. I was keen to read ‘on awe, wonder and things that sustain you when the world goes dark’. And this book definitely did that.

Here’s the blurb…

A beautiful, intimate and inspiring investigation into how we can find and nurture within ourselves that essential quality of internal happiness – the ‘light within’ that Julia Baird calls ‘phosphorescence’ – which will sustain us even through the darkest times. Over the last decade, we have become better at knowing what brings us contentment, well-being and joy. We know, for example, that there are a few core truths to science of happiness. We know that being kind and altruistic makes us happy, that turning off devices, talking to people, forging relationships, living with meaning and delving into the concerns of others offer our best chance at achieving happiness. But how do we retain happiness? It often slips out of our hands as quickly as we find it. So, when we are exposed to, or learn, good things, how do we continue to burn with them? And more than that, when our world goes dark, when we’re overwhelmed by illness or heartbreak, loss or pain, how do we survive, stay alive or even bloom? In the muck and grit of a daily existence full of disappointments and a disturbing lack of control over many of the things that matter most – finite relationships, fragile health, fraying economies, a planet in peril – how do we find, nurture and carry our own inner, living light – a light to ward off the darkness? Absorbing, achingly beautiful, inspiring and deeply moving, Julia Baird has written exactly the book we need for these times.

I have been recommending this book to anyone who is having a hard time – as a way of finding a bit of comfort or joy, or even just to learn something interesting.

A review

Leave a Comment

Filed under Miscellaneous, Recommended

Edie Richter is Not Alone – Rebecca Handler

Edie Richter is Not Alone – Rebecca Handler

I waited and waited for this book to be released and I wasn’t disappointed. Bek is my friend and her writing is magnificent.

Here is the blurb …

Funny, acerbic Edie Richter is moving with her husband from San Francisco to Perth, Australia. She leaves behind a sister and mother still mourning the recent death of her father. Before the move, Edie and her husband were content, if socially awkward?given her disinclination for small talk. In Perth, Edie finds herself in a remarkably isolated yet verdant corner of the world, but Edie has a secret: she committed an unthinkable act that she can barely admit to herself. In some ways, the landscape mirrors her own complicated inner life, and rather than escaping her past, Edie is increasingly forced to confront what she’s done. Everybody, from the wildlife to her new neighbors, is keen to engage, and Edie does her best to start fresh. But her relationship with her husband is fraying, and the beautiful memories of her father are heartbreaking, and impossible to stop. Something, in the end, has to give. Written in clean spare prose that is nevertheless brimming with the richness and wry humor of the protagonist’s observations and idiosyncrasies, Edie Richter is Not Alone is Rebecca Handler’s debut novel. It is both deeply shocking and entirely quotidian: a story about a woman’s visceral confrontation with the fundamental meaning of humanity.

It is witty, sad and shocking, but ultimately hopeful. And the writing – not a wasted word (as a reader this is definitely my favourite writing style).

Here is another review.

Five out of five (my first for the year!)

Leave a Comment

Filed under 5, Fiction, Recommended

Spring – Ali Smith

40545817. sy475
Spring – Ali Smith

Ali Smith is a very popular novelist amongst the bloggers, booktubers and podcasters that I follow that it seemed imperative to read one of her novels. Spring was the one the library had.

Here’s the blurb …

What unites Katherine Mansfield, Charlie Chaplin, Shakespeare, Beethoven, Brexit, the present, the past, the north, the south, the east, the west, a man mourning lost times, a woman trapped in modern times?

Spring. The great connective.

With an eye to the migrancy of story over time, and riffing on Pericles, one of Shakespeare’s most resistant and rollicking works, Ali Smith tells the impossible tale of an impossible time. In a time of walls and lockdown, Smith opens the door.

The time we’re living in is changing nature. Will it change the nature of story? Hope springs eternal.

I liked it, but not as much as I expected given all of the rave reviews from others. Is it because I started with this one rather than Autumn? Possibly I am not literary enough.

Here is a much better review.

3 out of 5.

Leave a Comment

Filed under 3, Fiction

A Wedding in the Country – Katie Fforde

A Wedding in the Country – Katie Fforde

I have always liked Katie Fforde’s novels, and I always get them as soon as they are released. This one caught me by surprise, I bought it in Bunbury while attending a rowing regatta. This one was a little bit different from her previous novels in that it is a period piece (set in 1963).

Here is the blurb …

Lizzy has just arrived in London and is determined to make the best of her new life.

Her mother may be keen that she should meet a Suitable Man and have a nice wedding in the country, but Lizzy is determined to have some fun first.

It is 1963 and London is beginning to swing as Lizzie cuts her hair, buys a new dress with a fashionably short hemline, and moves to a grand but rundown house in Belgravia with two of her best friends.

Soon Lizzie’s life is so exciting that she has forgotten all about her mother’s marriage plans for her.

All she can think about is that the young man she is falling in love with appears to be engaged to someone else…

I particularly enjoyed all of the references to fabric and sewing, but that is because I love textiles.

If you like romance novels, then I think you would enjoy this one. 4/5

A review.

Leave a Comment

Filed under 4, Fiction - Light, Recommended

Miss Plum and Miss Penny – Dorothy Evelyn Smith

Miss Plum and Miss Penny – Dorothy Evelyn Smith

I read about this novel on the Furrowed Middlebrow blog – it sounded like something I would enjoy, so I promptly bought a kindle edition.

Here’s the blurb

On the morning of her 40th birthday, Alison Penny believes that from now on her life should be nothing but serene and pleasant. That was before Miss Penny met Miss Plum. Victoria Plum was weeping on a park bench and obviously bent on drowning herself in the duck pond…

This was very enjoyable, reminded me a bit of the Lucia novels by E F Benson.

4/5.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Miscellaneous

Hinton – Mark Blacklock

Hinton – Mark Blacklock

I like historical fiction and I like maths. So when I read about this on the Walter Scott prize instagram, I bought a copy immediately.

Here’s the blurb …

Howard Hinton and his family are living in Japan, escaping from a scandal. Hinton’s obsession is his work, his voyages into mathematical pure space, into the fourth dimension, but also his wife and sons, each of whom are entangled in the strange and unknown landscapes of Hinton’s science fictions.

In a bravura and startling meeting of real and philosophical elements, Mark Blacklock has created a ravishing period piece of late-Victorian social, scientific and domestic life. Hinton is about extraordinary discoveries, and terrible choices. It is about people who discover and map other realms, and what the implications might be for those of us left behind.

I can’t say that I was that taken with it. I did try to read it while I was on holiday in Broome, so not conducive to concentration.

Here’s a much better review.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Fiction, Historical Fiction

Almost French – Sarah Turnbull

Almost French – Sarah Turnbull

I have been trying to learn French for a number of years, and last year, before Covid, I had planned a trip to France to see the Bayeux Tapestry, the Lady and the Unicorn tapestries and the Apocalypse tapestries.

Here’s the blurb …

After backpacking her way around Europe journalist Sarah Turnbull is ready to embark on one last adventure before heading home to Sydney. A chance meeting with a charming Frenchman in Bucharest changes her travel plans forever.

Acting on impulse, she agrees to visit Frederic in Paris for a week. Put a very French Frenchman together with a strong-willed Australian girl and the result is some spectacular – and often hilarious – cultural clashes. Language is a minefield of misunderstanding and the simple act of buying a baguette is fraught with social danger.

But as she navigates the highs and lows of this strange new world, from the sophisticated cafes and haute couture fashion houses to the picture postcard French countryside, little by little Sarah falls under its spell: passionate, mysterious, infuriating, and charged with that French specialty – seduction. And it becomes her home. ALMOST FRENCH is the story of an adventurous heart, a maddening city – and love.

I enjoyed it; the differences between French and Australian culture, the food, fashion, etc. Three out of five.

Leave a Comment

Filed under 3, Miscellaneous

High Rising – Angela Thirkell

High Rising – Angela Thirkell

I can’t remember where I first heard about Angela Thirkell – the Backlisted podcast perhaps?

It was easiest to find a Kindle version.

Here’s the blurb …

Successful lady novelist Laura Morland and her boisterous young son Tony set off to spend Christmas at her country home in the sleepy surrounds of High Rising. But Laura’s wealthy friend and neighbour George Knox has taken on a scheming secretary whose designs on marriage to her employer threaten the delicate social fabric of the village. Can clever, practical Laura rescue George from Miss Grey’s clutches and, what’s more, help his daughter Miss Sibyl Knox to secure her longed-for engagement?

Utterly charming and very funny, High Rising is irresistible comic entertainment.

It was fabulous – my favourite book so far this year. Four out of five.

Leave a Comment

Filed under 4, Fiction, Recommended

The Piano Shop on the Left Bank – Thad Carhart

The Piano Shop on the Left Bank – Thad Carhart

This was in the pile of books left by my neighbour and I picked it up thinking it was a novel. It’s not it’s non-fiction, bit memoir, bit piano history and a bit Parisian lifestyle.

Here’s the blurb …

Walking his two young children to school every morning, Thad Carhart passes an unassuming little storefront in his Paris neighborhood. Intrigued by its simple sign — Desforges Pianos — he enters, only to have his way barred by the shop’s imperious owner.

Unable to stifle his curiosity, he finally lands the proper introduction, and a world previously hidden is brought into view. Luc, the atelier’s master, proves an indispensable guide to the history and art of the piano. Intertwined with the story of a musical friendship are reflections on how pianos work, their glorious history, and stories of the people who care for them, from amateur pianists to the craftsmen who make the mechanism sing. The Piano Shop on the Left Bank is at once a beguiling portrait of a Paris not found on any map and a tender account of the awakening of a lost childhood passion

I liked it, it made me want to play the piano. It also made me appreciate the complexities of pianos.

Leave a Comment

Filed under 3, Non-Fiction