Book Review: Ghost Child by Caroline Overington

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This could easily have been a true story (in fact, I sought out the statement at the front of the book that declared it was fiction just to make sure). It has an awful sense of realism about it and maybe that’s why the story itself ends up being almost inconsequential. More than anything else, this is a character study, an extraordinary character study presented in beautifully simple writing by a very fine writer. Continue reading

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Book Review: See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt

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This year, I’m doing twelve reviews of books written by Australian female writers, starting with See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt. Some would say writing by Australian women is having a renaissance but that’s assuming it was ever this good before. There are so many stories getting a lot of attention, some rightfully, some less so.

I wish I could say this is one of those Australian female writers who deserves all the attention the category has been receiving but I found the book disappointing. On the back it says, “You know the rhyme. You don’t know the story.” I knew the story and this book doesn’t add anything to it. Not to the real story anyway. In fact, it adds a lot of fictional elements that just muddy the waters. Continue reading

Book Review: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

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This is one of those books that was always destined to succeed. The publishing company wouldn’t have allowed anything else. Most writers hide themselves, plugging away solitarily, swallowing the loneliness until finally a book is produced. And then a select few people assist in polishing the manuscript before it is finally accepted or rejected. There are over one hundred people listed in the acknowledgements at the end of the book. Ergo, this is one of those books that was always destined to succeed. Whether the readers liked it or not. Thankfully, it does have some merits. But maybe not as many as we would have preferred. Continue reading

Book Review: The Returned by Jason Mott

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Jason Mott is primarily known as a poet and that helps make sense of this book because just like a lot of poetry, it’s beautifully written but it’s not really clear what it all means.

Harold and Lucille Hargrave are in their seventies and have lived most of their adult lives with the trauma of their son drowning when he was just eight years old. And then one day, one ordinary day, an FBI agent shows up on their doorstep with Jacob Hargrave. He hasn’t aged a day since he died and much to everybody’s confusion, he’s very much alive. And he isn’t the only one. The Returned are turning up everywhere. Continue reading

Book Review: The First Stone by Helen Garner

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Helen Garner could write a book about painting one wall of her living room and it would still be fascinating, that’s how good a writer she is. But having now read three of her books, I’m seeing a theme: she is baffled at why everybody doesn’t think like her and more baffled when people won’t take the time to try to convince her to think otherwise, then give her the opportunity to do the same.

The First Stone is creative non-fiction, meshing tales from Garner’s own personal life, particularly emphasising her and her friends’ experiences with feminism and unwanted male attention, with the story of two accusations of sexual harassment at the University of Melbourne by two students against the head of Ormond College, one of the residences. It comes to her attention when she reads about it on the front page of The Age newspaper, as the students have taken their complaint to the police after being unsatisfied with the university’s handling of the matter. Continue reading

Book Review: If I Stay by Gayle Forman

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Gayle Forman is a brilliant writer. They say that easy reading is hard to write and If I Stay was a very easy read. Told in a first person narrative by Mia, a seventeen-year-old high school senior and a gifted cellist, the news comes through that schools are closed for a snow day so Mia, her parents and her little brother plan a busy day out visiting friends, family and stores. They never even make it to their first stop on the itinerary though because a truck slams into their car.

Her parents die instantly and the scene Forman writes describing the aftermath of the crash is so visceral that I was nervous getting in a car afterwards. Seeing their lifeless bodies, Mia can’t bring herself to look for her little brother and instead stumbles across her own. Except she isn’t dead. She’s badly injured and for the rest of the book has an out-of-body experience watching the doctors and nurses trying to save her and her friends and family in the hospital waiting room coping with their loss and praying there won’t be any more. Continue reading