Good Reading : December January 2005
general fiction word of mouth Fame and Honour Jincy Willett Augusten Burroughs describes Fame and Honour as ‘the funniest novel I have read – ever’. Burroughs wrote Running with Scissors – one of the funniest novels I have ever read. So I was all set to thoroughly love this novel of ‘betrayal, manipulation, murder and bad weather’.This is the story of two women who are poles apart. Abigail is a woman of appetite, sexual and otherwise, and Dorcas is her celibate, librarian sister.They live in Rhode Island and although both are eccentric, they fit in with their community until Abigail meets Conrad Lowe, son of a 1930s movie star, ex-gynaecologist and writer of horror novels, who begins to play them off against each other. Fame and Honour has some very funny parts and some witty dialogue; the struc- ture in particular is very clever, and well arranged.The novel itself is Dorcas’ memories and critique of a book written about her sister’s life (a book within a book).Yet I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I had hoped. Essentially, the characters didn’t bring that nod of recognition or empathy which, for me, makes a good black comedy brilliant. ★★★ Review $20.95 Reviewed by Kate Absolum Dandelion Soup Babs Horton In Dandelion Soup Babs Horton evokes the magic of childhood with an exquisite voice. Padraig, the eleven-year-old Irish orphan, is vividly portrayed. His compassion and sprightly intelligence combined with the crazy sense that children make of everyday events keeps you turning the pages. Dandelion Soup is peopled with conservative Irish village characters including mad but kind Sister Immaculata and her vicious fellow orphanage nuns, Michael Leary the schoolteacher, Solly the Black Jew, and Dancey, who arrives in the dead of night with no voice but an address around her neck. The plot gets too thick with characters in the last third of the book, when the setting moves to village Spain; some of the new voices lack the clarity of the first two-thirds. Nevertheless, I was so char med by Horton’s plot and its satisfying end, along with her fabulous characterisations, that I thought Dandelion Soup an exceptionally worthwhile read. ★★★ Pocket Books $21.95 Reviewed by Theresa Sjoquist The Real Minerva Mary Sharratt Set in Midwester n Minerva, Minnesota, in 1923, The Real Minerva reveals the struggle of three women deter mined to reinvent themselves, no matter what the cost. Fifteen-year-old Penny Niebeck lives with her beautiful mother Barbara, a housekeeper for the Hamiltons, Minerva’s wealthiest family. Barbara dreams of creating a better life for herself and her daughter – but she is having an affair with Laurence Hamilton, the head of the family, much to Penny’s disgust. Sent on an errand while her mother seduces Laurence, Penny meets Cora Egan, the town’s rumoured madwoman, who dresses like a man and runs the family farm on her own. It is Cora to whom Penny runs after a devastating argument with her mother. She arrives just in time to save the lives of Cora and her newborn baby, and so begins a beautiful but complicated friendship. Penny discovers the bittersweet price that is paid for being true to oneself and true to others. Written with clarity and an obvious love for historical detail, The Real Minerva combines the story of ordinary women with mythology and folklore to create a tale of female empower ment. ★★★ RG Hodder Headline $29.95 Reviewed by Jody Lee Available now at all good Booksellers.