Good Reading : May 2009
general fiction word of mouth Friday Nights Joanna Trollope I have to confess that I am a long-time fan of Joanna Trollope. She is an amazingly insightful writer who never loses herself in formulaic writing. Friday Nights is not one of her best novels, but even reading ‘not one of her best’ is a rewarding experience. When, one Friday evening, an elderly woman, Eleanor, notices two single mothers passing by her front door, she invites them in. The night becomes a regular event, and grows to encompass The Twin Gerbrand Bakker The Twin is the story of a confused and ageing farmer battling with the loss he still feels over his twin brother’s death of over forty years ago. Having spent his life on the farm with his father, Helmer is now well into his 60s and struggling with his identity, questioning everything about his life: why he remained a farmer, his relationship choices and even why he doesn’t smoke. Much like Helmer, questioning S everything about his life, The Twin made me question what really is a good read. This story was challenging because it became unexpectedly internal et in the cold and stark Dutch lowlands, women of every age and every circumstance. To think Eleanor, elderly, childless and struggling with retirement, is a pathetic character in need of rescue would be a reader’s first mistake. Where Trollope excels is in her analysis of relationships – both male and female. The universal themes of love, loss, power, jealousy, duplicity, loyalty, friendship and revenge have been explored to great effect in each of her novels. However, she explores them against a domestic, and in the main, middle-class backdrop. Friday Nights might make you want to read more of Trollope. In my experience you will always be surprised, and never disappointed. ???? Black Swan $23.95 Reviewed by Linda George for me. I felt frustrated at Helmer’s futile existence, I was occasionally made uncomfortable by his disturbing thoughts, and I was utterly depressed at his situation which was unnervingly easy for me (and I suspect many others) to relate to. It also left me feeling hopeful for this old farmer, so set in his ways, but still willing to take the ultimate risk, that of change. Bakker’s style is casual and unassuming, much like the farm life in which it is set. I didn’t feel great after reading this book because the story was poignant and reached me in a surprising way – but I do like surprises. ??? Scribe $29.95 Reviewed by Bevan Rigato Water Ghosts Shawna Yang Ryan I t is 1928, and the American river town of Locke is made up of immigrants and exiles. Some are running from the past, others have come in the search of their fortune. Instead, the largely Chinese population work the pear orchards and asparagus fields and spend their subsistence wages in Richard Fong’s gambling house or Madam Poppy See’s brothel. White teenage prostitute Chloe relies on Richard’s exclusive patronage but seeks solace in her friendship with the preacher’s daughter. When three bedraggled women, one of them Richard’s wife, appear out of the mist on the river during a dragon boat festival, the small town begins to unravel. Psychic Poppy’s feelings for Richard may be clouding her judgement but she foresees only a deep unhappiness for the town as Locke’s lonely bachelors woo the new arrivals en masse and a Chinese ghost story comes to life. Water Ghosts is dreamy and evocative, with the gritty details of hardscrabble lives played out in hauntingly lyrical prose. The main characters and storyline are sometimes lost in the continual interplay of past and present, but Ryan’s distinctive style beckons the reader back. ??? Pier 9 $29.95 Reviewed by Elizabeth Paton Get your free book club notes at www.fremantlepress.com.au It’s never too late to run away from home! Helen burns her bed and her bridges when she leaves home to run a second-hand book shop. But can you ever really escape the past? As quirky characters browse the shelves of her new book shop, Helen fights for the right to choose a future that is not yet written.