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The Book Trail: From ‘After the End’ to ‘It’s Raining in Mango’

I wasn’t overly taken with the ending of Clare Mackintosh’s After the End, which marks a departure from her successful thriller-writing career.  However, it posed a lot of interesting questions and scenarios, and I know that I will be thinking about it for some time to come.  I have therefore chosen it as the starting point for this edition of The Book Trail.  As ever, I have used the ‘Readers Also Enjoyed’ tool on Goodreads in order to generate this list.

 

1. After the End by Clare Mackintosh 42649682._sy475_
‘Max and Pip are the strongest couple you know. They’re best friends, lovers—unshakable. But then their son gets sick and the doctors put the question of his survival into their hands. For the first time, Max and Pip can’t agree. They each want a different future for their son.  What if they could have both?  A gripping and propulsive exploration of love, marriage, parenthood, and the road not taken, After the End brings one unforgettable family from unimaginable loss to a surprising, satisfying, and redemptive ending and the life they are fated to find. With the emotional power of Jodi Picoult’s My Sister’s Keeper, Mackintosh helps us to see that sometimes the end is just another beginning.’

 

414395622. Someone Knows by Lisa Scottoline
‘From the New York Times-bestselling author comes a pulse-pounding domestic thriller about a group of friends who have been bound for twenty years by a single secret—and will now be undone by it. Someone Knows is an emotional exploration of friendship and family, as well as a psychological exploration of guilt and memory.  Twenty years ago, in an upscale suburb of Philadelphia, four teenagers spent a summer as closest friends: drinking, sharing secrets, testing boundaries. When a new boy looked to join them, they decided to pull a prank on him, convincing him to play Russian roulette as an initiation into their group. They secretly planned to leave the gun unloaded—but what happened next would change each of them forever.  Now three of the four reunite for the first time since that horrible summer. The guilt—and the lingering question about who loaded the gun—drove them apart. But after one of the group apparently commits suicide with a gun, their old secrets come roaring back. One of them is going to figure out if the new suicide is what it seems, and if it connects to the events of that long-ago summer. Someone knows exactly what happened—but who? And how far will they go to keep their secrets buried?

 

3. The Neighbour by Fiona Cummins 42259311._sy475_
FOR SALE: A lovely family home with good-sized garden and treehouse occupying a plot close to woodland. Perfect for kids, fitness enthusiasts, dog walkers… And, it seems, the perfect hunting ground for a serial killer…  On a hot July day, Garrick and Olivia Lockwood and their two children move into 25 The Avenue looking for a fresh start. They arrive in the midst of a media frenzy: they’d heard about the local murders in the press, but Garrick was certain the killer would be caught and it would all be over in no time. Besides, they’d got the house at a steal and he was convinced he could flip it for a fortune.  The neighbours seemed to be the very picture of community spirit. But everyone has secrets, and the residents in The Avenue are no exception.  After six months on the case with no real leads, the most recent murder has turned DC Wildeve Stanton’s life upside down, and now she has her own motive for hunting down the killer – quickly.’

 

296339084. Jerzy: A Novel by Jerome Charyn
‘Jerzy Kosinski was a great enigma of post-WWII literature. When he exploded onto the American literary scene in 1965 with his best-selling novel The Painted Bird, he was revered as a Holocaust survivor and refugee from the world hidden behind the Soviet Iron Curtain. He won major literary awards, befriended actor Peter Sellers, who appeared in the screen adaptation of his novel Being There, and was a guest on talk shows and at the Oscars. But soon the facade began to crack, and behind the public persona emerged a ruthless social climber, sexual libertine, and pathological liar who may have plagiarized his greatest works.  Jerome Charyn lends his unmistakable style to this most American story of personal disintegration, told through the voices of multiple narrators—a homicidal actor, a dominatrix, and Joseph Stalin’s daughter—who each provide insights into the shifting facets of Kosinski’s personality. The story unfolds like a Russian nesting doll, eventually revealing the lost child beneath layers of trauma, while touching on the nature of authenticity, the atrocities of WWII, the allure of sadomasochism, and the fickleness of celebrity.’

 

5. Fatal Inheritance by Rachel Rhys 35478400._sy475_
‘1948: Eve Forrester is trapped in a loveless marriage, in a gloomy house, in a grey London suburb.  Then, out of the blue, she receives a solicitor’s letter. A wealthy stranger has left her a mystery inheritance. And to find out more, she must travel to the glittering French Riviera.  There Eve discovers that her legacy is an enchanting pale pink villa overlooking the Mediterranean sea. Suddenly her life could not be more glamorous. But while she rubs shoulders with film-stars and famous writers, under the heat of the golden sun, rivals to her unexplained fortune begin to emerge. Rivals who want her out of the way.  Alone in this beguiling paradise, Eve must unlock the story behind her surprise bequest – before events turn deadly . . .  Reminiscent of a Golden Age mystery, Fatal Inheritance is an intoxicating story of dysfunctional families and long-hidden secrets, set against the razzle-dazzle and decadence of the French Riviera.’

 

28592806. A Fence Around the Cuckoo by Ruth Park
‘This first volume of Ruth Park’s autobiography is an account of her isolated childhood in the rainforests of New Zealand, her convent education which encouraged her love of words and writing, and the bitter years of the Depression.She then entered the rough-and-tumble world of journalism and began a reluctant correspondence with a young Australian writer.  In 1942, Park moved to Sydney and married that writer, D’Arcy Niland. There she would write The Harp in the South, the first of her classic Australian novels. A Fence Around the Cuckoo is the story of one of Australia’s best storytellers and how she learnt her craft.’

 

7. The Shiralee by D’Arcy Niland 625198
‘A shiralee is a swag, a burden, a bloody millstone – and that’s what four-year-old Buster is to her father, Macauley. He takes the child on the road with him to spite his wife, but months pass and still no word comes to ask for the little girl back. Strangers to each other at first, father and daughter drift aimlessly through the dusty towns of Australia, sleeping rough and relying on odd jobs for food and money. Buster’s resilience and trust slowly erode Macauley’s resentment, and when he’s finally able to get rid of her, he realises he can’t let his shiralee go. In evocative prose that vividly conjures images of rural Australia, The Shiralee reveal an understanding of the paradoxical nature of the burdens we carry, creates a moving portrait of fatherhood, told with gruff humour and a gentle pathos.’

 

16704008. It’s Raining in Mango by Thea Astley
‘Like a deal of Astley’s fiction, It’s Raining in Mango is set in north Queensland, an inhospitable locale in many ways but one which the Laffey family of Mango find compelling and to which they are drawn back after their half-hearted forays into urban life. The book is written in the saga form, spanning four generations from 1861 to the mid-1980s, though the path from past to present is neither straight nor defined. It is, rather, a broader and interwoven series of relationships in which the generations of the past continue to inform the present and all meld in the land and landscape. As Connie Laffey puts it: ‘So closely meshed all of us, the nature of our closeness bound up with this place. With family.’   The novel opens in the early 1980s with Connie Lafey and her middle-aged son, Reever, protesting against development which is decimating to the rainforest in the Mango area. Connie, anxious about Reever’s safety—he has chained himself fifty feet up a celerywood tree—heads off to find help when she falls and concusses herself. The attendant delirium is the starting point for the narrative saga as the past and present converge in Connie’s reverie. The narrative transports us back in time to the first generation of immigrants and the courtship and marriage of Cornelius Laffey and Jessica Olive in 1861.’

 

Have you read any of these books?  Which of them pique your interest?

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Book List: Australian Literature

I have been meaning to pick up a lot more Australian authors since I spent some time in Sydney in 2015-2016.  I found a great list (here) on Goodreads of Best Modern Australian Literature, and thought that I would pick out ten books which really pique my interest, and which I would like to get to soon.

 

1. On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta 2999475
‘Taylor is leader of the boarders at the Jellicoe School. She has to keep the upper hand in the territory wars and deal with Jonah Griggs—the enigmatic leader of the cadets, and someone she thought she would never see again.  And now Hannah, the person Taylor had come to rely on, has disappeared. Taylor’s only clue is a manuscript about five kids who lived in Jellicoe eighteen years ago. She needs to find out more, but this means confronting her own story, making sense of her strange, recurring dream, and finding her mother—who abandoned her on the Jellicoe Road.  The moving, joyous and brilliantly compelling new novel from the best-selling, multi-award-winning author of Looking for Alibrandi and Saving Francesca.’

 

142362. Gould’s Book of Fish by Richard Flanagan
‘Once upon a time that was called 1828, before all the living things on the land and the fishes in the sea were destroyed, there was a man named William Buelow Gould, a convict in Van Dieman’s Land who fell in love with a black woman and discovered too late that to love is not safe. Silly Billy Gould, invader of Australia, liar, murderer, forger, fantasist, condemned to live in the most brutal penal colony in the British Empire, and there ordered to paint a book of fish. Once upon a time, miraculous things happened…’

 

3. Riders in the Chariot by Patrick White 827327
‘Patrick White’s brilliant 1961 novel, set in an Australian suburb, intertwines four deeply different lives. An Aborigine artist, a Holocaust survivor, a beatific washerwoman, and a childlike heiress are each blessed—and stricken—with visionary experiences that may or may not allow them to transcend the machinations of their fellow men. Tender and lacerating, pure and profane, subtle and sweeping, Riders in the Chariot is one of the Nobel Prize winner’s boldest books.’

 

127384. The Transit of Venus by Shirley Hazzard
‘Caro, gallant and adventurous, is one of two Australian sisters who have come to post-war England to seek their fortunes. Courted long and hopelessly by young scientist, Ted Tice, she is to find that love brings passion, sorrow, betrayal and finally hope. The milder Grace seeks fulfilment in an apparently happy marriage. But as the decades pass and the characters weave in and out of each other’s lives, love, death and two slow-burning secrets wait in ambush for them.’

 

5. The Boat by Nam Le 2599523
‘A stunningly inventive, deeply moving fiction debut: stories that take us from the slums of Colombia to the streets of Tehran; from New York City to Iowa City; from a tiny fishing village in Australia to a foundering vessel in the South China Sea, in a masterly display of literary virtuosity and feeling.  In the magnificent opening story, “Love and Honor and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice,” a young writer is urged by his friends to mine his father’s experiences in Vietnam–and what seems at first a satire of turning one’s life into literary commerce becomes a transcendent exploration of homeland, and the ties between father and son. “Cartagena” provides a visceral glimpse of life in Colombia as it enters the mind of a fourteen-year-old hit man facing the ultimate test. In “Meeting Elise,” an aging New York painter mourns his body’s decline as he prepares to meet his daughter on the eve of her Carnegie Hall debut. And with graceful symmetry, the final, title story returns to Vietnam, to a fishing trawler crowded with refugees, where a young woman’s bond with a mother and her small son forces both women to a shattering decision.  Brilliant, daring, and demonstrating a jaw-dropping versatility of voice and point of view, “The Boat” is an extraordinary work of fiction that takes us to the heart of what it means to be human, and announces a writer of astonishing gifts.’

 

56358496. To the Islands by Randolph Stow
‘A work of mesmerising power, against a background of black-white fear and violence, To The Islands journeys towards the strange country of one man’s soul. Set in the desolate outback landscape of Australia’s north-west, the novel tracks the last days of a worn-out Anglican missionary. Fleeing his mission after an agonising confrontation, he immerses himself in the wilderness, searching for the islands of death and mystery.’

 

7. Playing Beatie Bow by Ruth Park 17179385
‘The game is called Beatie Bow and the children play it for the thrill of scaring themselves. But when Abigail is drawn in, the game is quickly transformed into an extraordinary, sometimes horrifying, adventure as she finds herself transported to a place that is foreign yet strangely familiar . . .’

 

206003748. Tirra Lirra by the River by Jessica Anderson
One of Australia’s most celebrated novels: one woman’s journey from Australia to London.  Nora Porteous, a witty, ambitious woman from Brisbane, returns to her childhood home at age seventy. Her life has taken her from a failed marriage in Sydney to freedom in London; she forged a modest career as a seamstress and lived with two dear friends through the happiest years of her adult life.  At home, the neighborhood children she remembers have grown into compassionate adults. They help to nurse her back from pneumonia, and slowly let her in on the dark secrets of the neighborhood in the years that have lapsed.  With grace and humor, Nora recounts her desire to escape, the way her marriage went wrong, the vanity that drove her to get a facelift, and one romantic sea voyage that has kept her afloat during her dark years. Her memory is imperfect, but the strength and resilience she shows over the years is nothing short of extraordinary. A book about the sweetness of escape, and the mix of pain and acceptance that comes with returning home.’

 

9. Past the Shallows by Favel Parrett 10762662
‘Brothers Joe, Harry and Miles live with their father, an abalone fisherman, on the south-east coast of Tasmania. Everyday their dad battles the unpredictable ocean to make a living. He is a hard man, a bitter drinker who harbours a devastating secret that is destroying him. Unlike Joe, Harry and Miles are too young to leave home and so are forced to live under the dark cloud of their father’s mood, trying to stay as invisible as possible whenever he is home. Harry, the youngest, is the most vulnerable and it seems he bears the brunt of his father’s anger…’

 

697478510. The Children by Charlotte Wood
‘When their father is critically injured, foreign correspondent Mandy and her siblings return home, bringing with them the remnants and patterns of childhood. Mandy has lived away from the country for many years. Her head is filled with images of terror and war, and her homecoming to the quiet country town – not to mention her family and marriage – only heightens her disconnection from ordinary life.  Cathy, her younger sister, has stayed in regular contact with her parents, trying also to keep tabs on her brother Stephen who, for reasons nobody understands, has held himself apart from the family for years. In the intensive care unit the children sit, trapped between their bewildered mother and one another; between old wounds and forgiveness, struggling to connect with their emotions, their past and each other. But as they wait and watch over their father, there’s someone else watching too: a young wardsman, Tony, who’s been waiting for Mandy to come home. As he insinuates himself into the family, the pressure, and the threat, intensify and build to a climax of devastating force.  This acutely observed novel exposes the tenacious grip of childhood, the way siblings seem to grow apart but never do, and explores the price paid for bearing witness to the suffering of others – whether far away or uncomfortably close to home.’

 

Have you read any of these?  Which titles are you interested in?  What is your favourite piece of Australian literature?

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