Good Reading : December January 2015
GOOD READING DECEMBER 2014 / JANUARY 2015 43 The Mandarin Code Chris Uhlmann & Steve Lewis If you enjoyed The Marmalade Files – also by these authors – or even if you haven’t yet read it, then this (sort of) sequel will drag you in, give you lots of laughs, ‘what the’s ...?’ and leave you shaking your head at the futility, self-aggrandisement, backstabbing, betrayal and horror that seem to be a fundamental part of every political system these days. But political systems haven’t really changed much since they were invented; perhaps just a bit more light shines into the darker depths these days. Journalists Chris Uhlmann and Steve Lewis once again have fun swapping fiction and fact around so much that you never really know which is what or who is who (apart from a few fairly blatant character isations) – but it’s a lot of fun guessing. Harry Dunkley, ace Canberra correspondent for The Australian, spends most of this tale trying to find out why a close friend in the intelligence community died and if they were murdered. And if they were bumped off, then by whom? Throw in a shadowy cadre of diplomats, Australian military people and public service mandar ins, a looming conflict between China and the US, coupled with an incompetent, dying Australian government and an opposition leader who’s been exposed as a bondage mistress and you have a ripsnorter of a political thriller that’ll leave you thinking, I wonder if .... Highly recommended. ★★★★ HarperCollins $29.99 Reviewed by Brooke Walker GENERAL FICTION WOM word of mouth RATINGS ★ ★ ★★ ★★ ★★★ ★★★ ★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★★★ RG AUSTRALIAN AUTHOR The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher Hilary Mantel From one of Britain’s most distinguished prose writers and a two-time winner of the Man Booker Prize comes this set of ten short stories. ‘Sorry to Disturb’, the opening story of an English woman in Saudi Arabia badgered by the adulterous flirtation of a man who blunders into her dark apartment one day to make an emergency phone call, was or iginally published as a memoir piece; Hilary Mantel lived in Saudi Arabia for four years. A later tale outlines the exasperation of an ageing author who travels to a small town for a book talk. She stays at shambolic accommodation and descr ibes her jaded audience; it brings to mind the question of whether this story also has biographical elements. However, it’s the stories that rely more on Mantel’s imagination rather than her own exper iences that truly shine. In ‘The Long QT’, a mere eight pages long, Mantel describes a scene in which a fastidious wife walks in on her husband embracing another woman at a house party. She stands with wine glasses dangling from her hands, then releases them in shock onto the kitchen tiles. The description in this scene is exquisite. The other stories include brief pieces with ingenious punchlines, and longer, more psychological tales of office dynamics and a family’s struggle with a severely anorexic daughter. But even in the stories that are not particularly enthralling, Mantel’s mastery of prose makes the stories an absolute pleasure to read. Disturbing and brilliant. ★★★★ RG Fourth Estate $29.99 Reviewed by Angus Dalton The Mandarin Code Chris Uhlmann & Steve Lewis I– or even if you haven’t yet read it, then this (sort of) sequel will drag you in, give you lots of Reviewed by Brooke Walker Chris Uhlmann and Steve Lewis have now written two books together, despite the fact that Chris lives in Canberra and Steve lives in Sydney. They collaborated by writing their books on Google Drive.