Good Reading : October 2005
general fiction word of mouth Behind the Moon Hsu-Ming Teo Ithought I was reading a teen- age novel in the early pages of Behind the Moon, set in contemporary Sydney. Tien, Justin and Gibbo, all in Year 8 at school, form a close, co-dependent friend- ship. All three feel outsiders: Gibbo, unable to fulfil his Vietnam-vet father’s image of manliness, protects himself inside a fat body and is pilloried by his peers; Tien, although Afro/Asian in appearance, is very much an Aussie girl living in an Asian home and feels stifled by the cultural mores enforced as indicator s of respect and deference; Justin, bor n in Australia of Asian parents, attempts to break free of his mother’s cloying expectations. Then the adults begin to make their presence felt and it tur ns out their desires run along similar lines: to connect and belong. The whole cast of disparate characters begins – some unconsciously – to weave a structure that supports and sustains them until a tragedy binds them fast. Though her talent isn’t in doubt, there were times when I questioned whether Hsu-Ming Teo has quite hit her stride as a writer. But when she’s good, boy is she good. The scenes in, and exodus from,Vietnam are staggeringly well written. You’ll be glad you stayed with this novel.Behind the Moon is a satisfying, original and thought-provoking pleasure. ★★★ RG Allen & Unwin $22.95 Reviewed by Carolann Castagna The Singing Stephanie Bishop The Singing is the first novel by local twenty-something Bishop, and it’s a wonderful debut charting the gradual decline of a love affair. It is the story of a young, nameless couple who live together. The nar ra- tion comes from the female and she seems unclear at times of her conflicting feelings. She holds a persuasion that the affair must end, although the reasons for this are unclear. A peculiar sickness afflicting the female is hinted at, but the illness is never clarified and may well have something to do with being love-sick – or perhaps being sick of love. The Singing is a novel heaving with the weight of small things. And yet it is those very same small things that are of immense import when two people share one life. There is a beautiful intimacy in the writing as the female character delicately unveils herself piece by piece. A word of warning: there is a gargled beginning to the novel before Bishop hits the high notes. But your persistence will be rewarded. This is intelligent writing, patiently etched out and never wavering from its quest. ★★★★ Brandl & Schlesinger $26.95 Reviewed by Peter Lowndes www.allenandunwin.com www.allenandunwin.com/readinggroups.asp THE LAST DAYS OF DOGTOWN Anita Diamant Located on a windswept outcrop on Cape Ann, there was once a place called Dogtown. Inhabited by a motley collection of people, each of whom has their own quietly compelling story, secrets and sadness. Reminiscent of Annie Proulx’s The Shipping News and from the bestselling author of The Red Tent, Dogtown is a haunting tale of unforgettable characters with unbreakable spirit. Allen & Unwin – large format paperback THE LIGHTHOUSE P.D. James Combe Island off the Cornish coast, has a bloodstained history. Now, privately owned, it offers respite to over-stressed power brokers. But the island’s peace is shattered when one of its distinguished visitors is murdered. Adam Dalgliesh and his discontented team are called in to solve the mystery quickly and discreetly. But the team has hardly begun to unravel the complicated motives of the suspects when there is a second brutal killing. Faber – large format paperback LABYRINTH Kate Mosse When Dr Alice Tanner discovers two skeletons during an archaeological dig in southern France, she uncovers a horrific secret. Eight hundred years ago, three books were entrusted to Alais, a young herbalist and healer. Although uncertain about what the books contain, Alais knows her destiny lies in protecting their secret, at all costs. Skilfully blending the lives of two women divided by centuries but united by a common destiny, Labyrinth is a powerful story steeped in the mysteries of the Holy Grail. Orion – large format paperback THE HIGHEST TIDE Jim Lynch In the middle of a moonlit night, thirteen- year-old Miles O'Malley packs up his kayak and goes exploring. As he forages on his local beach he comes across an extraordinary creature from the sea. But even more amazing discoveries await him. A gripping story of obsession, beauty and the wonders of the sea, The Highest Tide intoxicates with its humour and tragedy as Miles comes of age during an unforgettable summer. Bloomsbury – large format paperback MURDER, MYSTERY AND MILES O’MALLEY!