ABBEY'S CHOICE APRIL 2015
----- Halligan is one of our finest writers, and this is as perfect a novel as any she has ever written. William - successful, cultured, convivial - dies of a heart attack in a pool. The business of burying and mourning him is complicated by his past - two ex-wives, one of whom is still bitter at his desertion, a current wife, the child he had with each, the lover no-one suspected him of having, the friends and business partners, his brother. As they come together, it seems that not one of them knew everything about the man he was, although they hold pieces of the whole. As they grieve in their different ways, they also struggle with the lives they lead, the frustrations and insecurities and fears of everyday existence. But they also have their joys and triumphs and small transcendant moments. Halligan has a keen eye for the human condition, for relationships and connections, and this insightful and tightly crafted novel is full of finely drawn characters. Her prose is sharp yet elegant (a description of people in a gym as tortoise faces growing out of dolphins has stuck with me!), her sympathies carefully placed, and the inevitable messiness of living and loving is beautifully rendered. Utterly satisfying. Lindy
A successful lawyer, bon vivant, loving husband and father, has a heart attack and dies while swimming in the local pool. A man apparently happily married, yet, with two divorces behind him and three puzzled children. In death it seems that he is not the person everyone thought.
As his extended family gathers to mourn, secrets and lies unfold uncomfortably around them. Those pornographic images on his laptop? An unexpected lover - is he still philandering? But somewhere in the turmoil of mourning each of them has to find an answer to the question - who was this man really? What mysteries has he taken to the grave with him?
Goodbye Sweetheart is a powerful novel of love, the desire for understanding, and the inevitable messiness of life.
Nicole Alexander, the 'heart of Australian storytelling', takes us on a captivating journey from the American Wild West to the wilds of outback Queensland, from the Civil War to the Great Depression, in an epic novel tracing one powerful but divided family.
It is Dallas 1886, and the Wade Family is going from strength to strength: from a thriving newspaper and retail business in Texas to a sprawling sheep station half a world away in Queensland. Yet money and power cannot compensate for the tragedy that struck twenty-three years ago, when Joseph Wade was slaughtered and his seven-year-old daughter Philomena abducted by Apache Indians. Only her uncle, Aloysius, remains convinced that one day Philomena will return. So when news reaches him that the legendary Geronimo has been captured, and a beautiful white woman discovered with him, he believes his prayers have been answered. Little does he know that the seeds of disaster have just been sown.
Over the coming years three generations of Wade men will succumb to an obsession with three generations of mixed-blood Wade women: the courageous Philomena, her hot-headed granddaughter Serena, and her gutsy great-granddaughter Abelena - a young woman destined for freedom in a distant red land. But at what price...?
A love greater than war. A beautiful woman lost. A mystery unsolved... until now. The epic new saga from one of Australia's best-loved storytellers.
2000: The wreckage of a downed WWII fighter plane is discovered in the forests near Russia's Ukrainian border. The aircraft belonged to Natalya Azarova, ace pilot and pin-up girl for Soviet propaganda, but the question of her fate remains unanswered. Was she a German spy who faked her own death, as the Kremlin claims? Her lover, Valentin Orlov, now a highly-decorated general, refuses to believe it. Lily, a young Australian woman, has moved to Moscow to escape from tragedy. She becomes fascinated by the story of Natalya, and when she meets an elderly woman who claims to know the truth behind the rumours, Lily is drawn deeper into the mystery.
From the pomp and purges of Stalin's Russia through the horrors of war and beyond - secrets and lies, enduring love and terrible betrayal, sacrifice and redemption all combine in this sweeping saga from Belinda Alexandra.
'He was dismayed how readily he took to lying. He'd always thought of it as a decisive abandonment of the truth. Instead, he realised, it was simply a matter of one word slipping into the place of another.'
Dr Quinn Davidson and his wife Marianna have endured years of unsuccessful IVF and several miscarriages, and Quinn can't face another painful attempt to conceive. Marianna is desperate to be a mother and their marriage is feeling the strain. At a small-town practice a few hours from their home, Quinn meets Rachel, the daughter of one of his patients. Drawn to each other, it's not long before they find themselves in a passionate affair and Quinn realises he must choose between the two women. Then Marianna announces a surprise natural conception, news that will change the course of all their lives.
Set in the lush Australian subtropics, this taut emotional drama poses questions about moral courage and accountability, and asks whether love means always telling the truth.
Something Special, Something Rare presents outstanding short fiction by Australia's finest female writers. These are tales of love, secrets, doubt and torment, the everyday and the extraordinary.
A sleepy town is gripped by delusory grief after the movie being filmed there wraps and leaves. A lingering heartbreak is replayed on Facebook. An ordinary family walks a shaky line between hopelessness and redemption.
Brilliant, shocking and profound, these tales will leave you reeling in ways that only a great short story can.
Kate Grenville, Mandy Sayer, Penni Russon, Favel Parrett, Tegan Bennett Daylight, Sonya Hartnett, Isabelle Li, Gillian Essex, Brenda Walker, Gillian Mears, Fiona MacFarlane, Joan London, Karen Hitchcock, Charlotte Wood, Tara June Winch, Cate Kennedy, Alice Pung, Anna Krien, Delia Falconer, Rebekah Clarkson.
Ruth Rothwax, a successful woman with her own business, Rothwax Correspondence, can find order and meaning in writing words for other people - condolence letters, thank-you letters, even you-were-great-in-bed letters. But as the daughter of Edek Rothwax, an Auschwitz survivor with a somewhat idiosyncratic approach to the English language, Ruth can find no words to understand the loss her family experienced during World War II. Ruth is obsessed with the idea of returning to Poland with her father, but she doesn't quite understand why she feels this so intensely. To make sense of her family's past, yes. To visit the places where her beloved mother and father lived and almost died, certainly. But she knows there's more to this trip. By facing Poland, and the past, she can finally confront her own future.
How did a young woman from suburban Melbourne become America's Public Enemy number one?
When Gaby Baillieux releases the Angel Worm into the computers of Australia's prison system, hundreds of asylum seekers walk free. Worse: an American corporation runs prison security, so the malware infects some 5000 American places of incarceration. Doors spring open. Both countries' secrets threaten to pour out. Was this American intrusion a mistake, or had Gaby declared cyberwar on the US?
Felix Moore - known to himself as 'Australia's last serving left-wing journalist' - has no doubt. Her act was part of the covert conflict between Australia and America. That conflict dates back to the largely forgotten Battle of Brisbane in 1943, forwards to the secret CIA station near Alice Springs, and has as its most outrageous act the coup of 1975.
Funded by his property-developer mate Woody Townes, Felix is going to write Gaby's biography, to save her, and himself, and maybe his country. But how to get Gaby to co-operate? What role does her film-star mother have to play? And what, after all, does Woody really want?
Amnesia is Carey at his best: dark, funny, exhilarating. It is a novel that speaks powerfully about our history but most urgently about our present.
'SJ Finn's second novel is a timely and thoughtful piece of work. Joni Miller is a newspaper journalist living in a small country town with her restless girlfriend Tiff and her teenage son Luke. Years ago, her husband Angelo left without explanation and Joni finds herself curiously unable to sell the house he built and commit to a different-looking future. Joni is covering the angry protests of a local community who have discovered that a convicted paedophile is living in their midst, when she finds a stash of Angelo's diaries hidden behind a picture frame. The revelation that her former partner might have been molested as a child or possibly sexually abused children himself throws Joni into a tailspin. Finn wisely switches perspectives from Joni to those of her son and even her newspaper boss to tackle the difficult subject of paedophilia. It is a tribute to her well-crafted prose and ear for language that there are startling moments of beauty mixed into the muddier moral and ethical ground. Child sex abuse is never going to be a pleasant subject for an author to cover, but Finn's writing is neither tawdry nor sensationalist: she uses fine brushstrokes, not broad ones, to paint a portrait of a town in crisis and a woman at a crossroads.' Books and Publishing
The Life of Houses is the new novel by the acclaimed poet Lisa Gorton, whose first book of poetry, Press Release, won the Victorian Premier's Award for Poetry, and whose second collection, Hotel Hyperion, was awarded the Philip Hodgins Memorial Medal.
The Life of Houses explores, with a poet's eye for detail, the hidden tensions in an old established Australian family that has lived for generations in a large house in a coastal town in south-eastern Australia. These tensions come to the surface when the granddaughter Kit is sent by her mother to spend a holiday with her grandparents, and the unmarried aunt who looks after them, in their old and decaying house by the sea. Kit barely knows them, because her mother is estranged from the family and never talks to or visits them. Recently divorced from Kit's father, she sends her daughter to her parents now so she can pursue an affair with her new lover. Kit's presence brings the old quarrels to life as family memories take hold of the present, brought to a flashpoint by the anger and resentment of Kit and her mother, and the dementia and sudden illness of her grandparents.
The Life of Houses is written in an extraordinarily expressive and dynamic prose that makes use of the close focus and the oblique perspectives that Gorton has mastered so successfully in her poetry. It is a style reminiscent of Henry James and Patrick White, a high style, perfectly suited to the social decorum and inhibition of her socially elevated but unhappy subjects.
Zoe Howard is seventeen when her brother, Russell, introduces her to Stephen Quayle. Aloof and harsh, Stephen is unlike anyone she has ever met, 'a weird, irascible character out of some dense Russian novel'. His sister, Anna, is shy and thoughtful, 'a little orphan'. Zoe and Russell, Stephen and Anna: they may come from different social worlds but all four will spend their lives moving in and out of each other's shadow.
Set amid the lush gardens and grand stone houses that line the north side of Sydney Harbour, In Certain Circles is an intense psychological drama about family and love, tyranny and freedom.
'I'm only telling you this to let you know what a silly thing it is to live like I do. What it was, I got sacked from my seventeenth job for fighting or gambling - I don't know which - and because I was hardly ever there. I was gambling all right, but someone called me a cheat and swung at me, I moved my head and swung back and this kid went in to one of the bosses with blood coming out of his mouth saying I was a standover man.'
The Chantic Bird is the confession of a teenage anarchist, who combines a contempt for contemporary society with a great tenderness and warmth for his younger siblings and for Bee, the girl who looks after them. The first of David Ireland's masterful novels, The Chantic Bird contains the same characteristic indictment of the bovine mindlessness of collective humanity, and the home-owning wage slaves.
'Our lives were built around the strength of a kiss between strangers. Yet seven years on, look where it led us ...'
When Aisha met Ryan she fell hard for his good looks and easy charm. Why worry that he didn't want children or a 9 to 5 job? Nothing and no one would come between them. But with the birth of their high-needs son, Eli, their extraordinary love is shackled into an ordinary life, their passion blunted by responsibility. Until Ryan can't take it anymore. Then, following a mysterious phone call late one night, Aisha leaves four-year-old Eli in the care of her elderly father Patrick - and doesn't come back.
As Patrick struggles with the grandson he barely knows or understands, his frustration with his missing daughter and absent son-in-law quickly turns to fear. Particularly when blood is found in Aisha's abandoned car...
As 1900 draws to a close, Berylda Jones, having completed her university exams for entry to medicine is heading home to Bathurst for Christmas. Tragically, 'home' is where she and her beloved sister Greta live in terror, under the control of their sadistic Uncle Alec.
But this summer Berylda has a plan - borne out of desperation - to free herself and Greta from Alec for good, if she can only find the courage to execute it. Then, on New Year's Eve, just as Alec tightens his grip over the sisters, a stranger arrives at their gate - Ben Wilberry, a botanist, travelling west in search of a particular native wildflower, with his friend, the artist Cosmo Thompson. Ben is at first oblivious to what depravity lies beyond this threshold and what follows is a journey that will take him and Berylda, Greta and Cosmo, out to the old gold rush town of Hill End - a tumbledown place with its own dark secrets - in search of a means to cure evil and a solution to what seems an impossible situation.
Against the tumultuous backdrop of Australian Federation and the coming of the Women's Vote, Paper Daisies is a story of what it means to find moral courage, of a crime that must be committed to see justice done and a sweet love that grows against the odds.
Tilly has the day from hell when she's sacked from her barristers' chambers in the morning, then finds her husband in bed with her former best friend in the afternoon. She escapes to her mother, Roxy - a sassy solicitor whose outrageous take on men, work and family life is the despair of her more conventional daughter. Roxy comes up with a radical plan for their future - they'll set up an all-female law firm which will only champion women who have been cheated, put upon, attacked, ripped off or ruined by the men in their lives.
In court, Tilly finds herself up against Jack Cassidy, the smooth-talking, politically incorrect, legal love god who broke her heart at law school. Jack is fluent in three languages – English, sarcasm and flirtation... but if he's so loathsome, then why is she committing Acute Lust in the 3rd degree?
When a case lands on the doorstep that threatens to change all their lives, Tilly finds herself dangerously close to taking the law into her own hands... Will Jack's cunning ways and expertise in emotional break and enter derail her quest for justice? Or will the women take on the boys... and win?
After finishing university, Amelia Bennett returns to her home town. Determined to lose her old reputation for being scatty, she works hard to prove herself as the treasurer of the local rodeo committee. Flushed with triumph on the evening of the best rodeo in the town's history, Amelia is driving the bags of cash into town when she becomes the victim of a terrifying smash and grab. Injured and distraught after her ordeal, she's even more devastated when she finds out that she and her boyfriend Paul are the objects of suspicion. To prove her innocence and that of the man she loves, Amelia must convince a sceptical detective that her account of what happened does add up and that he must help her track down the real culprits.
With its cracker plot, feisty heroine and engaging love story, Emerald Springs will have you reading well into the night.
Would you risk everything for love?
Stella Myles is suddenly impoverished through a family crisis and becomes forced to make ends meet by selling herself as a dance partner in a Piccadilly ballroom. Here she meets the enigmatic Montgomery, who orchestrates a job for her as governess for the wealthy Ainsworth family in Sussex. But nothing is as straightforward as it first seems.
In entering the mansion of Harp's End, Stella encounters a family with more secrets than most. She struggles to fit in above or below stairs - although nothing proves so challenging as restraining the illicit love that ignites between herself and the mysterious Douglas Ainsworth. When Douglas announces that they are all to voyage aboard a cruise ship bound for Morocco, tensions reach new heights and finally bubble over. Stella finds herself caught up in a family at war and in a world on the edge of another. She is now the keeper of an incendiary document smuggled out of Berlin, one which must reach London at all costs.
From the rolling green hills of the Kentish Weald to the colourful alleys and bazaars of Morocco, this is a thrilling story of intrigue and danger - and a passion to risk dying for.
Forced into an early retirement due to illness, Sam Rosen has lost any semblance of control over his life. His frustration flares into rudeness and obstinacy frequently and bizarrely. His wife Rhonda, confined to the carer role, is feeling her identity ebb slowly away as her former life retreats further and further into the past. Their eldest son Mark is over-invested, over-reaching and overwrought. As he lurches towards financial disaster, he can't bring himself to tell his wife Ingrid that they're losing money fast, and that her dream of starting a family might be the collateral damage. Middle child Liza has always been independent and political, content to scrape through on her child-care worker's wage in one of the most expensive cities in the world. Then her biological clock goes off. She begins to plan a nursery at her elusive boyfriend's inner city apartment, but instead uncovers a seedy secret. Before she knows it, she's back at square one: single, underpaid, undervalued. And angry. Baby of the family Jemma thinks that being mild-mannered will let her pass through life unharmed. Then, after dropping into a party at her neighbour's place one night, she wakes up bruised, naked and with no memory of what's happened. Her careful, uncurious life as a celibate finance lawyer falls away.
Frenetically paced and with comedic Franzenesque prose, Hopscotch captures contemporary urban life, interrogating our endless capacity for self-destruction, longing and love, and asking why we think we could ever find peace in a city that's roaring with dysfunction.
ABBEY'S BOOKSELLER PICK ----- Sometimes you just want a simply readable, entertaining and light hearted novel, and this fits the bill! Christmas Livingstone has built up a successful business in a small Tasmanian country town, running a shop called the Chocolate Apothecary. To achieve success she has a list of rules, and the most important of these is 'absolutely no romantic relationships.' Then Lincoln van Luc returns from a stint working as a botanist in South America - and yes, instant attraction, although neither of them want to get involved. And yes, they will eventually... A sweet and enjoyable way to spend a weekend, and you probably won't even need a box of chocolates as the descriptions of Christmas's beautiful creations are delicious enough! Lindy
Christmas Livingstone has ten rules for happiness, the most important of which is 'absolutely no romantic relationships'.
In The Chocolate Apothecary, her enchanting artisan store in Tasmania, she tempers chocolate and creates handmade delicacies. Surrounded by gifts for the senses, in this shop chocolate isn't just good for you, it's medicine. And then one day a stranger arrives at her front door - a dishevelled botanist seeking her help. She really doesn't need Lincoln van Luc to walk into her life, even if he does have the nicest blue eyes, the loveliest meddling grandmother and a gorgeous newly rescued dog. She really doesn't need any of it. Or does she?
Set across Tasmania, Paris and Provence, this is a glorious novel of a creative woman about to find out how far in life a list of rules will take her, with an enticing tangle of freshly picked herbs, pots of flowers and lashings of chocolate scenting the air.
Aspiring medical student Christina Price has worked hard to rise above an upbringing filled with neglect and the assumption that she would never amount to anything. She promised herself she was never going back to Townsville. But when a twist of fate lands her in a Townsville army base clinic, she must confront past hurts if she wants to succeed and, just maybe, find love. Captain Aiden Bell is used to hard work and to the life of an army officer. But his career has taken an emotional toll that he hasn't dealt with until meeting Christina stirs memories, desire - and hope.
Black Rock White City is a novel about the damages of war, the limits of choice, and the hope of love.
During a hot Melbourne summer Jovan's cleaning work at a bayside hospital is disrupted by acts of graffiti and violence becoming increasingly malevolent. For Jovan the mysterious words that must be cleaned away dislodge the poetry of the past. He and his wife Suzana were forced to flee Sarajevo and the death of their children.
Intensely human, yet majestic in its moral vision, Black Rock White City is an essential story of Australia's suburbs now, of displacement and immediate threat, and the unexpected responses of two refugees as they try to reclaim their dreams. It is a breathtaking roar of energy that explores the immigrant experience with ferocity, beauty and humour.
'What impresses first about A.S. Patric's novel is the assuredness of the writing, his accomplished and confident language. But what is most moving is the humanity of his story, the vividness and truth of his characters' emotional worlds. Black Rock White City is a bold, mature and compassionate novel, and I couldn't put it down.' Christos Tsiolkas
Sydney, 1929: Three people find themselves washed up on the steps of Miss Du Maurier's bohemian boarding house in a once grand terrace in Newtown.
Ari is a young Jewish man, a pogrom orphan, who lives under the stern rule of his rabbi uncle, but dreams his father is Houdini. Upon his hand he bears a forbidden mark - a tattoo - and has a secret ambition to be a magician. Finding an injured parrot one day on the street, Ari is unsure of how to care for it, until he meets young runaway Lily, a glimmering girl after his own abracadabra heart.
Together they form a magical act, but their lives take a strange twist when wild card Billy, a charming and dangerous drifter twisted by the war, can no longer harbour secret desires of his own.
The Bird's Child is a feat of sleight-of-hand. Birds speak, keys appear from nowhere, boxes spill secrets and the dead talk. This is a magical, stunningly original, irresistible novel - both an achingly beautiful love story and a slowly unfurling mystery of belonging.
Suspenseful, intensely erotic and unflinching, this spine-chilling love story will haunt you long after the last page.
After learning she has a terminal illness, Katherine abandons her successful advertising firm and seeks refuge in the solitude of a cabin in the wilderness. But as she hikes up to the isolated cabin, Katherine senses she is being watched. Collapsed with exhaustion on the cabin floor, she hears breathing just outside her door. A heartbeat in the night. Someone is out there. Her sudden arrival at the previously abandoned cabin has unsettled its previous inhabitant, Danny, a damaged young Vietnam veteran tormented by the demons of his past. When these two lost souls collide, the passion that ignites between them becomes an all-consuming wildfire that threatens to destroy them both.
A rollickingly good new novel from the bestselling and much loved author of The Farmer's Wife and Fifty Bales of Hay.
On the surface Elsie Jones, country music superstar, has it all. But after a brush with death she is forced to re-evaluate her life. Events soon take her back to her home town in the wheat belt of western NSW, where she reconnects with her childhood friend Tara Green. Elsie and Tara were misfits together, eventually running away from their small town to muster cattle. After a terrible betrayal came between them, Elsie moved on to material success but she soon realises that Tara is the one who has managed to overcome her traumatic childhood and find inner peace - lessons Elsie needs to learn.
ABBEY'S BOOKSELLER PICK ----- How to describe this amazing, complicated and intellectually demanding novel? It is full of inventive wordplay, chorus-like mutterings from the wings of the main theatre, splintered and fragmentary narratives.
It is angry, and playful, and colourful. It is about discrimination – against and within refugees, indigenes, country-dwellers. The main character, Oblivia, does not speak, but the ghosts of (some of) her past do. The woman who saves her from the abuses of her childhood is a great storyteller, full of tales of swans from a different hemisphere.
Climate change has intensified the problems of society, but the land remains essential to a sense of identity. Politics is as useless to the ordinary person as it ever was, but hero-worship remains important to national pride. Cultural misappropriation is rife, but it isn't always the fault of the non-indigenous.
All these elements make for a coruscating story, a 'modernist' novel that takes some effort to get into, but which is well and truly worth the time. Lindy
The new novel by Alexis Wright, whose previous novel Carpentaria won the Miles Franklin Award and four other major prizes including the ABIA Literary Fiction Book of the Year Award.
The Swan Book is set in the future, with Aboriginals still living under the Intervention in the north, in an environment fundamentally altered by climate change. It follows the life of a mute teenager called Oblivia, the victim of gang-rape by petrol-sniffing youths, from the displaced community where she lives in a hulk, in a swamp filled with rusting boats, and thousands of black swans driven from other parts of the country, to her marriage to Warren Finch, the first Aboriginal president of Australia, and her elevation to the position of First Lady, confined to a tower in a flooded and lawless southern city.
The Swan Book has all the qualities which made Wright's previous novel, Carpentaria, a prize-winning best-seller. It offers an intimate awareness of the realities facing Aboriginal people; the wild energy and humour in her writing finds hope in the bleakest situations; and the remarkable combination of storytelling elements, drawn from myth and legend and fairy tale.