Good Reading : November 2014
GOODREADINGMAGAZINE.COM.AU GOOD READING NOVEMBER 2014 42 Academy Street Mary Costello Most literature tells of extraordinary lives – those who go on to do things that inspire us and that go beyond the norm. Academy Street is different. It celebrates the small and quiet life of a good soul, one who meets the challenges of life in the best way she can. We first meet Tess as a small child as she witnesses her mother’s funeral. This is, sadly, not the only heartache and loss she will experience in her life. But it’s a loss that shapes her; she learns to be reserved, always standing at the edge of the action, rarely stepping into the busy lives of those around her. From the small Irish village she grows up in to the busy streets of New York, her internal world remains quiet and unsure. She is a woman who doesn’t know how to boldly claim her place in the world. Nonetheless, she is a woman who finds her way into many hearts. Many would call this a disappointing life, but it is not without its moments of beauty. Costello’s background as a short story writer is clearly evident here in her loving care for each episode that she narrates and the time she takes to lift the mundane into the sublime. I found the beginning slow, but I was soon mesmerised by the honesty of this story – it’s completely without artifice – and the subtlety of Costello’s characterisation. A rewarding and moving read for those who are willing to take the time. ★★★★ Text $27.99 Reviewed by Lauren Cook GENERAL FICTION WOM word of mouth RATINGS ★ ★ ★★ ★★ ★★★ ★★★ ★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★★★ RG The Book of Strange New Things Michel Faber In the nearish future, a corporate behemoth called USIC establishes a colony on a distant planet named Oasis. Earnest young pastor Peter Leigh is selected to go to the colony and work there, minister ing not just to the USIC personnel but also to the native Oasans, a diminutive, vaguely humanoid species with an unquenchable thirst for the Bible, which they call The Book of Strange New Things. Through intermittent messages from his wife, Bea, Peter hears that civilisation back home is crumbling. Filled with evangelical zeal, he nonetheless devotes himself to his mission. In the resolutely secular world of the USIC base he is treated as a VIP, his appointment an oddly urgent necessity. And among the Oasans, some of whom have learned to speak limited English, he is revered. Soon enough Peter starts to wonder if there is more to his presence on Oasis than simply bringing the Gospel to the natives. The Book of Strange New Things is a cur ious blend of pulp and parable, a sci-fi Pilgrim’s Progress. It has all the elements of a fantasy potboiler, but it resists at every point the temptation to veer off into predictable thriller terr itory. Peter’s sojourn among the grave, literal-minded Oasans in their very foreign land is treated seriously, as is his sorely tested faith and the despair he feels about the unravelling of his overstretched relationship with Bea. At more than 550 pages the narrative could certainly have been trimmed and there are sluggish patches, although the pace is mostly brisk and the writing vivid. This interesting novel really does take the reader to another place entirely. ★★★ Canongate $29.99 Reviewed by Aaron Jelbart The Book of Strange Icalled a colony on a distant planet named Oasis. Earnest young pastor Peter Leigh is selected to world remains quiet and unsure. She is a woman who doesn’t know how to boldly claim her place in the world. Nonetheless, she is a woman who finds her way into many hearts. disappointing life, but it is not without its moments of beauty. Costello’s background as a short story writer is clearly evident here in her loving care for each episode More about Michel Faber The best known novel of Dutch-born author Michel Faber is probably The Crimson Petal and the White, a story set in Victorian London.
December January 2015