Post Script: Black British – Hebe De Souza

Black British

Black British

Hebe De Souza

Ventura Press

ISBN: 9781925384932

 

Description:

A sharply funny yet poignant story about a courageous girl growing up in 1960s North India, from an exciting new voice in Australian fiction.

 

In the turbulent years that follow the British Empire’s collapse in India, rebellious and inquisitive Lucy de Souza is born into an affluent Indian family that once prospered under the Raj. Known as Black British because of their English language and customs, when the British deserted India Lucy’s family was left behind, strangers in their own land.

 

Now living isolated from the hostile locals who see her family as remnants of an oppressive regime, a young Lucy grows up in the confines of their grand yet ramshackle home located in the dry, dispirited plains of Kanpur. But when it is time to start her education, Lucy finds herself angry and alone, struggling to find her place in this gentle country ravaged by poverty and hardship, surrounded by girls who look like her but don’t speak her language. Encouraged by her strong-minded mother and two older sisters, as she matures the ever-feisty Lucy begins to question the injustices around her, before facing a decision that will change the course of her life forever.

 

A richly visceral and stunning debut, based on the author’s own childhood, Black British is an unflinching and beautiful narrative about feminism, family and the search for identity.

 

 

My View:

Capturing the innocence of youth this novel has a charming authentic voice and I loved every word of it.  Lucy De Souza is our narrator – she is charming, innocent, well-mannered yet delightfully inquisitive about the world; she likes things to makes sense, to be logical (and the Sisters in the convent don’t speak of logic, rather demand their charges obey without question) and Lucy likes to question. At times humorous but mostly full of intelligent observations of the world around her, this is a very engaging read. Lucy how did you get to be so smart? Family makes such a big and lasting impression here.

 

 

A thoughtful look at history, colonialism, migration and displacement with a feminist bent, this story is succinct yet powerful. Hebe De Souza asks and answers the question – what/where is home?   Her response is interesting and personal and can be applied to contemporary discussions regarding refuge and migration today.  A wonderful, well written, engaging read.

 

 

Post Script: Out Of Alice – Kerry McGinnis

Out Of Alice

Out of Alice

Kerry McGinnis

Penguin Random House Books

Michael Joseph

ISBN: 9780143799856

 

Description:

From the bestselling author of Pieces of Blue and Wildhorse Creek comes an evocative and heartfelt story about how in the remotest of places lives can be lost…and found.

 

When Sara Blake takes up a position as governess on Redhill Station in Central Australia, she isn’t expecting to encounter a family in crisis, or to uncover a tragedy of her own.

 

With the owners’ son critically ill, Sara is called upon to take care of their young daughter. As the family struggles to make a living from the drought-stricken land, everyone pitches in – and Sara finds herself letting people in to the empty spaces in her heart.

 

But the longer she spends out bush, the more she becomes plagued by elusive visions of her dark and troubled childhood. The fragments of memory lead her deep into the red centre of Australia, where at picturesque Kings Canyon she must confront the horrifying secrets of her past.

 

 

 

My View:

Kerry McGinnis has convinced me – The Alice is now on our travel destination list!

 

This is the second book by McGinnis that I have read, each so vastly different thematically but McGinnis’s trade mark passion for the outback and her ability to portray the locations with such an intensely visual palette is constant across both books; superb reading.

 

There is little more I can add to my previous accolades except – the main characters are warm and generous, the settings brilliantly drawn, the mystery beckons you to read and read on. Kerry McGinnis writes authentic rural narratives with complex plots and contemporary issues.  Read on today – you will be impressed.

 

Post Script: Sugar and Snails – Anne Goodwin

What an outstanding read

Sugar And Snails

Sugar and Snails

Anne Goodwin

Inspired Quill

ISBN: 9781908600479

 

Description:

Diana Dodsworth, a Psychology lecturer, specialises in adolescent decision-making and, on the surface at least, her own decisions have led to a catalogue of successes: close friends, big house, good job. All that seems to be missing is romance, so when Simon crosses her path at a dinner party and proves to be the perfect partner, why is it so hard to tick the last box? In a marvellous twist, it soon becomes abundantly clear that one decision in particular, at the tender age of fifteen, still holds sway over Diana’s life. Can she reconcile her past self with the woman she aspires to be, or will she lose everything that has been so hard won?

 

Sugar and Snails, the debut novel from accomplished short story writer Anne Goodwin, takes sensitive subject matter, handles it with all the force of a freight train and leaves behind nothing but a truly immersive reading experience. Taking place in both the present and the past, between the urban streets of Newcastle and the pyramids of Cairo, the story is one of startling honesty and emotional connections. It carries comfortably the mantles of literary and LGBT fiction but, at its heart, is nothing more or less than a superb piece of modern storytelling.

 

 

My View:

What an outstanding read – the themes in this book are about identity and conforming to expectations, about sexuality, bullying, self-harm, adolescence…secrets and more (no spoilers here). I have not read anything like this before: powerful, engaging, intelligent, well written, with a mystery that is gradually revealed. I was really surprised at what this book had to offer – the synopsis just didn’t prepare me for the complexity of the issues and the emotional journey encountered in these pages.

 

A good read is entertaining, is engaging, is well written and if we are lucky shares a perspective that maybe the reader hasn’t considered before- Sugar and Snails ticks all these boxes and more. Anne Goodwin is a talented writer and I am sure we will be hearing more from her in the near future.

 

There are so many social issues to contemplate in this narrative (and I am having so much difficulty trying to avoid spoilers, I want you discover the depth of this story yourself.). The reader is given plenty of opportunity to consider what is being offered up whilst tying to work out the mystery that Cairo holds.   Goodwin writes a dual time line/dual narrative – Diane Dodsworth’s life as a young person and Diane‘s life now,. Diane’s early life is gradually revealed; going to school, facing many of the same challenges we may have faced in our youth – feelings of isolation, or not fitting in, not being the popular one in school…trying to work out where we fit in the world and what we want to do with our lives. Diane’s life now – is reflective; she is still contemplating the decisions she made in her youth that have directed her adult life, she still trying to work out where she fits in the world.   Identity.  Such an important part of how we see ourselves and expect others to see us and treat us but how much thought do you consciously give to this aspect of your personality? Some maybe more than others.

 

This is a wonderful coming of age (all be it a mature age) narrative with unique perspectives that will open your eyes to the world you are part of.

 

Check out Anne’s website: http://annegoodwin.weebly.com/

Post Script: How Not to Disappear – Clare Furniss

How Not To Disappear

How Not To Disappear

Clare Furniss

Simon & Schuster Australia

ISBN: 9781471144820

 

Description:

Our memories are what make us who we are. Some are real. Some are made up. But they are the stories that tell us who we are. Without them we are nobody.

 

Hattie’s summer isn’t going as planned. Her two best friends have abandoned her: Reuben has run off to Europe to ‘find himself” and Kat is in Edinburgh with her new girlfriend. Meanwhile Hattie is stuck babysitting her twin siblings and dealing with endless drama around her mum’s wedding. Oh, and she’s also just discovered that she’s pregnant with Reuben’s baby.

 

Then Gloria, Hattie’s great-aunt who no one even knew existed, comes crashing into her life. Gloria’s fiercely independent, rather too fond of a gin sling and is in the early stages of dementia. Together the two of them set out on a road trip of self-discovery — Gloria to finally confront the secrets of her past before they are erased from her memory forever and Hattie to face the hard choices that will determine her future.

 

Non Pratt’s Trouble meets Thelma and Louise with a touch of Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey, Clare Furniss’ remarkable How Not To Disappear is an emotional rollercoaster of a novel that will make you laugh and break your heart.

 

My View:

This is an engaging read, at time hilarious, at times poignant and heartbreaking – it may sound like I am describing a modern YA romance but this book is so much more than that. It is a coming of age story, a story of the circle of life – and in particular focusses on end of life/beginning of life, relationship and dementia.   But it is also about memory and identity, prejudice, love, family, assumptions, domestic violence and unplanned pregnancy…this narrative discusses so many issues you will wonder how the author managed to weave them all into a totally engaging and meaningful story. I enjoyed every moment of this – so much so I had a tear in my eye at its end.

 

In the acknowledgments Clare Furniss gives “heartfelt thanks” to the many friends, family and colleagues who “made the writing of this book possible in so many ways, from proofreading, and advising on historical details to child-minding and …support.”(p.407)

I would like to give my heart think thanks to Clare Furniss for:

  • Writing diverse characters  – with flaws, with temperaments, with histories, with dignity, with life experiences – the good and the bad.
  • Writing empathetically about aging and dementia.
  • Writing a complex narrative with so many social issues woven into its fabric – book clubs take heed – this book will suit your purposes very well.
  • Writing strong female protagonists – I loved then all – Gloria, Hattie, Kat, Edie, Alice, Hattie’s mum….
  • For not taking the easy way out and letting the car accident resolve the “problem” – no spoilers here.
  • For exploring and revealing the intricacies and diversity of relationships, the give and take, the abuse of.
  • For allowing Hattie to determine her own future.
  • For writing a wonderful mystery with twists and turns that you won’t anticipate.
  • For not sugar coating
  • For the dual story line/dual time lines – I loved the social commentary, the social history.
  • For writing a narrative that a fifteen year old or a fifty year old can enjoy.
  • For giving me a most enjoyable and entertaining evenings read.

 

 

 

 

Sneak Peek – Sugar and Snails – Anne Goodwin

This is the book I am currently reading and will finish reading tonight –  I just had to share this with you now – the themes in this book are about identity and conforming to expectations, female sexuality, adolescence…and more (no spoilers here). I have not read anything like this before: powerful, engaging, intelligent, well written, with a mystery that is gradually revealed.

More soon.

Sugar And Snails

Sugar and Snails

Anne Goodwin    

 Inspired Quill
ISBN: 9781908600479

 

Post Script: Beside Myself – Ann Morgan

Beside Myself

Beside Myself

Ann Morgan

Bloomsbury Publishing Australia

Bloomsbury

ISBN: 9781408870303

 

Description:

Beside Myself is a literary thriller about identical twins, Ellie and Helen, who swap places aged six. At first it is just a game, but then Ellie refuses to swap back. Forced into her new identity, Helen develops a host of behavioural problems, delinquency and chronic instability. With their lives diverging sharply, one twin headed for stardom and the other locked in a spiral of addiction and mental illness, how will the deception ever be uncovered? Exploring questions of identity, selfhood, and how other people’s expectations affect human behaviour, this novel is as gripping as it is psychologically complex.

 

 

My View:

Powerful! Intense! Confronting! This book has it all.

 

This book was a very difficult read- I read the first fifty pages or so and was in a dilemma – to continue or not? I found these first pages strangely horrific – the voice of the little girl, Helen, who constantly seeks to “teach her a lesson” (her being her twin sister Ellie), Helen’s voice is so nasty and malevolent I considered not reading any further. (And then there was the underlying hint of potential sexual abuse from a friend’s older brother, another sinister voice/character). I really was in two minds as to carry on or not.

 

Curiosity and a few days break from the book and I started reading again with an intensity that had me picking up this book every opportunity I could make. What a powerhouse of emotions and psychological twists this was! A brilliant study of identity, influences, how expectations effect children’s (and adults I presume too) personality, mental health, achievements and general wellbeing.

 

Mental health issues, suicide, self-harm, suicide are themes that are laid bare for all to consider. And the big one – the damage that is done when we do not believe a child – when they share they are being bullied or abused – in all forms of abuse. The most damage we can do is not believe or take seriously.

 

WOW! Just WOW! I am exhausted! This book is complex and intense and illuminating and surprisingly optimistic. I am so pleased I decided to continue on reading this book. Everyone should read this book – the world might be a better place if it pricks our conscience and makes us look at the person next to us with a little more compassion.

 

A fantastic debut novel!

 

 

Post Script: The Patterson Girls – Rachael Johns

Cover The Patterson Girls

The Patterson Girls

Rachael Johns

Harlequin Mira

ISBN: 9781743693070

 

Description:

How can four sisters build the futures they so desperately want, when the past is reaching out to claim them?

 

When the Patterson daughters return home to Meadow Brook to be with their father after their mother’s death, they bring with them a world of complication and trouble.

 

The eldest sister, obstetrician Madeleine, would rather be anywhere but her hometown, violinist Abigail has fled from her stellar career, while teacher Lucinda is struggling to have the children she and her husband so desperately want. The black sheep of the family, Charlie, feels her life as a barista and exercise instructor doesn’t measure up to that of her gifted and successful sisters.

 

Dealing with their bereft father who is determined to sell the family motel, their loves old and new and a series of troublesome decisions doesn’t make life any easier, but when they go through their mother’s possessions and uncover the shocking secret of an old family curse, they begin to question everything they thought they knew.

 

A warm and wise novel about secrets revealed, finding your soulmate and the unique bond between sisters.

 

My View:

Engaging, entertaining, salacious; this narrative is a blend of many genres including  romance, contemporary fiction,  drama and a lot of family and relationship issues set in many locations including London, Baltimore, Perth, Melbourne and small town South Australia mixed with a glimpse of the trials and tribulations of long distance relationships in this era of the fly out work workforce.

 

I particular enjoyed the settings – it is always a joy to be able to identify an area that you are familiar with in a read and when Lucinda and Joe take their romantic trip to the South West of WA – Bunker Bay, I could picture the area clearly – and then I could not believe the coincidence – Rachael Johns has this couple stop for an ice-cream – in the exact location we stop for an ice cream when we do a trip from Perth to home – a road house between Bunbury and Busselton. How amazing. (I would love to have been researching this book, so many great locations).

 

This narrative is big on drama, big on issues (infertility being the binding issue, it is good to see this issue being aired in such an upfront way, it is a topic that needs more public airing). Themes regarding identity and family; obligations, ties, secrets, history and connections all play a part in this complex story.

 

Each sister has an opportunity to share their view point as they take turns in narrating. This is very much a character based plot and the different personalities are very well expressed and the connections and expectations within the family unit are ones we are all familiar with.

 

Overall an entertaining read that has much to offer the contemporary reader.