The story of how this book came to be is almost as adorable as the book itself. Mary Ann Shaffer was a former librarian who was once accidentally stranded on Guernsey and read all about the German occupation of the island in the WW2. Many years later, she decided to write a novel, and wrote this. Unfortunately, she was quite old at this stage and not very well, and so her niece, Annie Barrows, an author, took over the story. Shaffer passed away before it was published, so terribly sad.
The book is written as a series of letters which tell the story of Juliet Ashton in 1946. Juliet wrote a column during the war which was intended to keep spirits up for the British during the dark years of the war. Now that it’s over, she’s looking for a new project and ended up in correspondence with many residents of Guernsey who formed a book club during the occupation.
It’s a delightfully written book with wonderful characters and the letters are so charming to read. I particularly enjoyed the way it told so much about what happened during the war in a very casual, conversational way. You’ve got to love a book that leaves you wanting to go and live in that world for a while, and for me, this is absolutely one of those books.
Imagine if, when you died, you were born again, and were able to make different choices, or take different paths. This is what happens to Ursula Todd, born in England in 1910. This book covers two wars and so much more.
I really loved reading this book – the chance to have one character live so many different lives, and I’ve always loved stories of the Blitz. It’s a fascinating journey and really too much fun. I now need to get my hands on A God in Ruins, which Atkinson’s book following the younger brother of Ursula.
Oryx and Crake narrated by John Chancer
The Year of the Flood narrated by Lorelei King
MaddAddam narrated by Bernadette Dunn, Bob Walter and Robbie Daymond
Ah, a Margaret Atwood dystopian future novel. There’s nothing like it. So, in this world, most people have been wiped out by a man-made virus. Over the course of these books, we learn about the people who were around in the lead-up to it, and when happened. There are also animals created by splicing species to get the best features of multiple animals into a single beast – a process taken to extremes.
Because of the way the trilogy is structured, with each book presenting different perspectives over time, it takes all three books to get a real impression of the world. By the end of the first, I felt that I knew what was happening, but then as I got into the next, I wanted to go back and check things. Here lies the problem with audio books – you can’t just flick through and re-read a single section.
I listened to these books over a few weeks and couldn’t get the world out of my head. Now, a few weeks later, I still can’t decide if I liked them or not. There were aspects that I really loved, like the way Atwood wrote how our consumer-based lifestyle could end up. But then other parts that didn’t work for me – they were too much or just not right. I don’t know – I liked it, but I’m not sure that I would necessarily recommend it.
Ziggy is in Year Ten at a very prestigious Sydney private school and she doesn’t fit in. Still trying to work out her identity, she makes friends with a couple of schoolmates who are critical of everything and are exploring ideology through extreme feminist and queer lenses. Ziggy is torn by their and her own contradictions and is not helped by her ridiculous psychologist mother.
I struggled with this book a lot. I can’t think of a single likable character, not just likable but relatable. I felt that some of this may relate to personal experience – perhaps being a Year 10 in 2018 in wealthy Sydney is just too far beyond my own experience. However, I couldn’t tell if the book is taking the piss out of ‘PC culture’ or if, by exploring it through the eyes of 15-year-old misfits shows the strengths and weaknesses in a different way. At any rate, I didn’t get a lot of what was going on, and overall, I just didn’t like it.
Sophie is in Year 12 at a Lebanese, Catholic school. She is struggling with her identity, finding a balance between being a teenager in modern Sydney but having to live within the restrictions of her protective, traditional father. Meanwhile, with a recent violent clash similar to the Cronulla riots takes place, everyone is on edge. When a new student starts, he is ostracised because of his background.
Self-doubt. Love. Confusion. Peer pressure. Cultural pressure. Family pressure. Independence. Lies. Difficult truths. This book has it all. Ayoub brings us so quickly into this world where Sophie is trying to figure out what she wants and how to get it while still having the support and love of her friends and family. I loved it. Such a good YA book.
Following the previous collections “Growing Up Asian in Australia”, Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia”, “Growing Up Muslim in Australia” and “Growing Up Queer in Australia”, we now have a collection of essays, poetry and stories from people from African-diaspora Australians. It is such a wide range of stories, from childhood through to adulthood, stories set in Australia and across the globe, stories that are painful and funny and beautiful and heartbreaking.
Edited by Maxine Beneba Clarke with Ahmed Yussuf and Magan Magan, these are important stories that need to be told, especially in this awful time we live in. Let us stop the hate and raise these voices for everyone to hear.
Ruth is a young, American woman living in London, living in a crappy boarding house, working as a perfume spruiker at Harrods and struggling with who she is. She is lost and unsure of herself, allowing herself to be lead through life. At times, it seems she is totally dissociated from herself.
I lived in London around the same age as Ruth, though about a decade earlier. I found that there were parts of this book that really resonated – the loneliness, the friends who you barely know and yet feel closer to than anything, the sort-of homesickness, and the need to stick it all out. But I was never so lost, and it felt somewhat heartbreaking to read Ruth’s story. Since I finished reading this book, I often think of Ruth. Where would she go at the end of this? Would she be okay? I hope she’s okay.