Best Reads 2023

Don't for a minute assume that this is a list of the best books of 2023. I'm not nearly so well read as to attempt that, and this year I only read about 33 books anyway (plus lots of online longreads, as well as research for various projects). That's well down on previous years and I promise that I'm now trying to lift my reading game! In looking back at the books I've read this year, I realise what a tosser I've become. If I don't love a book right [...]

2023-12-31T12:53:34+11:00December 31st, 2023|Book Review|7 Comments

Book Review: Aftershocks by Michelle Tom

​Memoirs are too often judged only by the power of the story. Tom’s story is powerful and moving all right, but also as beautifully written as any literary fiction. Aftershocks is Tom's first book but she began her career as a print journalist, in New Zealand, and it shows - in a good way. Arresting imagery, compelling characterisations and a driving narrative are contained within a swirling structure that beautifully captures the circular and  fragmentary nature of memory. Remarkably, though, Aftershocks remains an 'easy' read. Tom's prose is clear and purposeful; [...]

2022-04-18T12:28:35+10:00April 18th, 2022|Book Review|2 Comments

Book Review: Sea People

I can’t even begin to tell you how good this book is, but let's see how I go. Sea People: The Puzzle of Polynesia is, as author Christina Thompson admits in the prologue, as "much a story about what happened as a story about what we know." In charting the story of Polynesian settlement in the Pacific, Thompson also charts the way Europeans have collected knowledge about the region, and have made meaning from it. Some of the European observers are well known - James Cook, Joseph Banks, Thor Heyerdahl [...]

2021-05-31T21:15:54+10:00May 31st, 2021|Book Review|7 Comments

What I read in 2020 – Part 2: Fiction

The discomforts of 2020 were, for me and my family, relatively minor in the scheme of things. Living in regional Victoria as we do, yes we were partially locked down and working and schooling from home, but apart from that we were safe and well (and employed - no small thing right now). Yet for the most of the year I found it hard to retreat into the solace of fiction. Too many times I picked up a book that I thought I should read - because it was a [...]

2020-12-07T17:53:00+11:00December 7th, 2020|Book Review|11 Comments

What I read in 2020 – Part 1, the non-fiction episode

2020 has been, for me, a year of comfort reading. Lots of books were tossed aside by page 6 or 7, if they couldn't hold my interest. And for a while there, during the deepest part of the COVID-19 lockdown, it seemed like very little could hold my interest. Miles Franklin prize-winners: tossed. New York Times best-sellers: tossed. Quirky little books highly recommended by friends: tossed. In the end, it was commercial mass-market fiction that saw me through and I'll share my thoughts about my fiction reads in another post, [...]

2020-12-01T14:47:54+11:00December 1st, 2020|Book Review, Writing|17 Comments

Summer Fiction – my top three so far

In the approach to Christmas I was in something of a reading slump but these three novels picked me up and had me reading late into the night. Yes, of course I read more than three books over the summer, and of course I read non-fiction too (and I’ll tell you about those another time) but these three books were simply marvellous. The Weekend by Charlotte Wood. There are far fewer literary page turners than one might wish, so thank goodness for The Weekend. It’s smart, beautifully written and thoroughly [...]

2020-02-03T20:54:25+11:00February 3rd, 2020|Book Review|4 Comments

The Billabong Books and Me

The books, old and musty, were stashed at the back of a cupboard for want of shelf space. They’d been there for quite a while. A friend of my mother had owned them once, but had passed them on, suggesting vaguely that “Michelle might like them.” I was in primary school, probably, an avid reader but not much tempted by the heavy, old-fashioned tomes, with no dust jacket or blurb to hint at what lay within. Not tempted until boredom drove me, one weekend, to dig out those books. Reader, [...]

2019-01-14T20:36:15+11:00January 14th, 2019|Book Review|0 Comments

Book Review: Flames by Robbie Arnott

Evocative. Intriguing. Compelling. Flames is a wonderful novel, and Arnott is a terrific new young voice in Australian fiction. In this assured debut, Arnott immerses the reader in the Tasmanian landscape, in weird and often uncanny ways. At a superficial level, we follow the story of twenty-three-year-old Charlotte McAllister. Charlotte's mother has just died and returned (briefly) from the dead, her father is absent, and her brother wants to build her a coffin. In her grief, Charlotte flees southwards to an isolated, and improbable, wombat farm where she discovers more [...]

2018-07-16T18:26:20+10:00July 16th, 2018|Book Review|6 Comments

Good biography, bad biography – two brief book reviews

This year's winner of the Pulitzer Prize for biography was Caroline Fraser, for Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder. If, like me, you read the Little House on the Prairie books as a child, then you already know all about Laura Ingalls Wilder. She grew up in the 1800s on the American frontier, with Ma, Pa, blind sister Grace and little sister Carrie.  Ma was endlessly patient and good, and jovial Pa was wise and strong and brave. There were blizzards and locusts, danger and drama, all tempered by [...]

2018-04-27T12:00:42+10:00April 27th, 2018|Book Review|9 Comments

The Passengers by Eleanor Limprecht – Book Review

Eleanor Limprecht's latest novel is a delight, with compelling characters that kept me sitting up way past lights out. In The Passengers, Hannah and her grandmother Sarah are travelling, on a cruise ship, from San Diego to Sydney. Sarah left Australia at the end of WW2, as a young Australian war bride married to a US serviceman she barely knew, and has never been back since. As their ship moves across the ocean Sarah tells Hannah, a young woman struggling with her own past, how it was that in 1945 she [...]

2018-03-21T23:53:38+11:00February 21st, 2018|Book Review|6 Comments
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