Category Archives: Book Reviews

Avalanche by Julia Leigh – Book Review

Like many women, Julia Leigh found she was unable to conceive in the conventional manner, and so needed IVF treatment. That part of the book was interesting, to a point. Leigh outlines the treatment she had, how she felt, what happened when things went right and when things went wrong. A big part of the story was the relationship that worked, and then didn’t and then did and when things went bad, we knew all about it.

I felt like this was an important book for Leigh to write, but I found it quite unpleasant to read. I think that she tried to be quite honest about her relationship (and certainly, she doesn’t come out all that well in many parts), but I felt like her ex doesn’t have the opportunity to have a right of reply, and he’s stuck with all that she has said just being out there. I just didn’t really enjoy reading it.

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Ghost River by Tony Birch – Book Review

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It’s the late 60s, working class Collingwood in Melbourne. Ren’s life is changed when he becomes mates with Sonny next door – a rough kid with a drunk, violent dad and no fear. Ren and Sonny start hanging out at the river, a dangerous, fast place that Ren has been told to avoid. There they have adventures, they jump into the water from heights and they befriend a group of vagrants who tell them stories. But the joy of freedom and youth cannot remain the same.

The writing captures a world now gone with nostalgia, but also with honesty. The kids have the freedom to escape and be free when they are at the river, but they also have adults who bully both verbally and physically. Ren and Sonny are both innocent and world-weary, with much in their lives that they are trying to figure out without getting in to too deep. It’s a beautiful read, and I highly recommend it.

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Dying: A Memoir by Cory Taylor – Book Review

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Our society is fearful of death. Fearful of talking about death, fearful of debates around euthanasia, fearful of what this means for those who are facing death and those who are left behind. Dying: A Memoir is the story of Cory Taylor, a writer and mother who, after she has no further treatment options against melanoma, must face death.

The book is in three parts and it is no surprise that it is an emotional read. But it is beautiful, recounting her life, her family and the choices that they all face. I am sure many will avoid it, not wanting to face the difficult subject matter, but I urge you to look beyond this. Taylor’s writing is brave and entertaining. It is one woman’s truth and a truth that deserves reading.

Dying: A Memoir was long listed for the 2017 Stellar Prize.

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An Isolated Incident by Emily Maguire

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It’s a small town outside of Sydney. Bella went missing and, after a few painful days, was found dead, abandoned on the side of a highway. Her older sister, Chris, finds herself in the middle of it all; an investigation, a heap of reporters, and a community within which may hide her sister’s killer.

The book follows a few weeks where, while Chris tries to deal with her grief, aided by her ex-husband and those around her, journalist May, working for an online newspaper, is trying to find her headline and escape her own emotionally broken life.

With so many books on the Stellar Prize long list being non-fiction, I started this thinking it was a true story and only a few chapters in, realised it was fiction. But it is based on the truth of so many small towns where violence occurs, and on the various ways people try to move on. The characters are not necessarily likable, yet Maguire writes them in such an empathetic way that I found myself wanting them to succeed, which I found almost appalling in the case of May; but it is the fact that she is almost self-aware… not quite, but enough that I, against my better judgement, find that I want to be on her side. In a way.

An Isolated Incident was long listed for the 2017 Stellar Prize.

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The Good People by Hannah Kent

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Set in the Ireland in the early nineteenth century, The Good People takes place in a small town where religion is pushing out older pagan traditions. Nora Leahy is raising the child left behind when her daughter died, and suddenly, her husband also dies. The child is disabled – unable to walk, talk and constantly upset. Though talk of the villagers and the local herbalist, Nance (considered by some to be a witch), Nora becomes convinced that her child is a changling – a fairy child, left when the fairies took the real child. If she can find the right process, she will be able to get rid of this fake and get her one grandchild back – and the bad luck of the area will be reversed.

Hannah Kent’s previous book was Burial Rites, which I also loved. She is able to capture an essence of a time and find the characters who lived there. Her books are touching, leaving the reader desperately wanting to help the characters who seem unable to help themselves. It’s not a light walk in the park, but I’d highly recommend this wonderful book.

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As You Wish – Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes with Joe Layden and a foreward by Rob Reiner – Book Review

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If you are like me, you grew up with The Princess Bride on VHS and watched it a lot. It has fabulous characters, great lines and you love it. You may have even read the book, and been lead to do online searches to try to figure out if it is real or not. You may be happy to watch the film over and over again, and are happy to ignore the dagginess of it – ridiculous ROUS or the obviously fake sets.

If you are like this, then this book is for you. It’s not some freaky reveal of secrets that will ruin the film for you – it’s just a whole bunch of stories from Carey Elwes punctuated by little stories from other cast and crew members. It’s fun, it’s light, it’s nice. And it is definitely for the fans.

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Q&A vs Slumdog Millionaire

Q & A by Vikas Swarup – Book Review

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Just fabulous. If you don’t remember Slumdog Millionaire (the award-winning film based on this book) from a few years ago, the premise is pretty straight-forward. A Ram Mohammad Thomas from the poorest parts of India manages to get on to their equivalent of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? and wins the whole way. But given that he has very limited education, the producers are suspicious and have Ram arrested and tortured. But, as he tells his story to a lawyer who appears to defend him, he doesn’t know very much, but events in his life have led him to know the answers to the questions which he is asked.

I can see how appealing it was to make a film from this – the story is simple but beautifully told, with a cinematic eye for detail, not too many characters, and it really is a great tale. It’s fun, at times tragic, at times hilarious. Absolutely worth getting your hands on.

 

Slumdog Millionaire – Film Review

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This is a really enjoyable film. The actors are great, especially the delightful children who play the youngest versions of the characters. The story from the book was written so perfectly for adaptation, and even though there was a lot of detail from the book that was lost or changed to ensure a film that lasted 90 minutes rather than 500 minutes.

There were just a couple of tiny things that I found somewhat disappointing. The key one was that, in the book, the lawyer who helps the poor boy when he is arrested and being tortured is a woman, and this is significant in the book. Yet, for no really clear good reason, in the film, this is a man. I am always going on about women in films and wondering why there are not more women in many roles – and here was a perfect role for a woman and it’s given to some guy. Ok, not just some guy, Irrfan Kahn, a well known and respected actor. Still. Disappointing.

Slumdog Millionaire won Oscars for Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Achievement in Direction  (Danny Boyle) Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay, Best Achievement in Cinematography, Best Achievement in Film Editing, Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Picture – Original Score, Best Achievement for Music Written for Motion Picture – Original Song (Jai Ho) and Best Achievement in Sound Mixing, and was nominated for Best Achievement in Sound Editing and Best Achievement for Music Written for Motion Picture – Original Song (O Saya).

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