Good Reading : December January 2010
Stillwater Creek Alison Booth Who could not be char med by Stillwater Creek? From the moment the bus lurches into Jingera, a typical '50s seaside village on the New South Wales South Coast, and Ilona Talivaldis and her nine-year-old daughter Zidra alight, you hope that they will find the happiness and security they seek. But fulfilment will not be had without trauma, for in 1957, Jingera has its dysfunctional side. Ilona still struggles with the memories of a Latvian concentration camp; she and Zidra face taunts of 'commo' and 'reffo'. Ilona has a soulmate in landowner Peter Vincent, whose two years in a POW camp have left him insecure but tolerant. If only the community treated the local Aboriginal people (including Zidra's best friend Lor na) with Peter's tolerance. If only Ilona and Peter weren't both so shy! Mar riages are also shaky: Cherry Bates finds comfort with Pat Neville, the schoolmistress. George Cadwallader loves his wife, but does she love him? Their precocious son, Jim, must choose between staying or leaving the small town for Sydney. Meantime, he befriends Zidra. I loved the characters, the scenery, the dramas, the gentle humour and the sense of Australia as it once was. I admired Booth's storytelling skills. French rights have already been sold and a sequel is brewing. Enjoy a feel-good beach read this summer! ★★★★ RG Bantam $32.95 Reviewed by Barbara Baker Parrot and Olivier in America Peter Carey In 1835, the French aristocrat Alexis de Tocqueville published his monumental Democracy in America, which gave Europeans their first insight into the developing society and culture of the new, not-yet united, States. In homage to de Tocqueville, Parrot and Olivier in America is a wonderful, witty and profound insight into what happens when a tired and deflated Old World collides with the rambunctious and expansive New. Olivier is an aristocratic Frenchman who travels to America on the pretext of studying the American penal system, but the truth is that he has fallen foul of the revolutionary rulers of France and needs to save his skin. Sent with him as companion and servant is Par rot (the nickname is derived from Cockney slang; his name is John Lar rit), the son of a British engraver, who had always wanted to become an artist, but was forced by circumstance to be a servant. Parrot is sent to spy on Olivier by the strangely enigmatic Marquis de Tilbot. Carey has written his book through the eyes of two first-person nar rators, and this clever device allows us to be spectators in the wonderful interplay between the two main characters. And through their perspectives we experience their adventures in America, which encompass politics, prisons, the economy, the opening of the badlands, the settlements of the coastal areas and much more. This is a complex yet readable novel, told by a master of the craft. Having twice won the Man Booker Prize, Carey is a strong contender for a third with Par rot and Olivier in America. ★★★★★ Hamish Hamilton $49.95 Reviewed by Alan Gold general fiction word of mouth 11 a.m., 11th November 1918. The Armistice begins and 2nd Lieutenant Daniel Case, Philomena Bligh's fiancé, is killed on the battlefields of France. Months later, Philomena ventures to London to meet the men who were with Dan when he died. The first raises her suspicions, and the second, Dan's best friend Jonathan Priest, tells her that he believes Dan was murdered. When Philomena hears his version of events, her shock and outrage send her on an investigation that will take her down the elegant avenues and seedy alleys of the capital. AVAILABLE NOW FROM ALL GOOD BOOKSELLERS He was killed minutes after the Armistice. She wants to know why.