Books I read in March.
- Johnno by David Malouf
Not being a Queenslander myself, only a resident of Brisbane, I don’t have the same attachment or sense of ‘ownership’ of David Malouf as patron writing saint of the state, as many Brisbane-ites do. However, I recognised the protagonist’s Brisbane: one of constant change and effacement of the past. Johnno is his friend of childhood and youth, eccentric, yearning, risk-taking, the protagonist ‘easily influenced’. He doesn’t realise the extent of this influence until he finds a photograph of Johnno while packing up his father’s house.
2. Hope Farm by Peggy Frew #aww2017 ♥
Oddly, I found this novel similar to Johnno in terms of a narrator looking back on someone who they didn’t fully appreciate in life, coming to the realisation that they never knew that person’s true feelings for them, and that if they had, so much would be different. Silver grows up in a series of communes and ashrams with her young hippy mother, until they arrive at Hope Farm. Silver reflects on the events of that time, sifting through her memories, underneath which is a yearning for a ‘do-over’ with what the adult Silver knows now. I sobbed my heart out at the end.
3. Between a Wolf and a Dog by Georgia Blain #aww2017 ♥
This is one of those novels that I really should have waited a month or more before (briefly) reviewing, to allow it to sink in, percolate with my subconscious. It is still too raw, having finished this novel at 5am this morning. I am sure I will unearth other themes, make connections with episodes in my life, but right now, this book’s message for me is an urgent one. The characters in the novel live half-lives because their fear of loss holds them back from truly living the life they want. Except for one character who has no regrets and is living the life she wanted without fear of death.
4. The North Water by Ian McGuire
Gritty, brutal, but after a while, I became inured to the visceral manliness with the swearing, gore, and violence. This is an excellent fable of man vs wild. I was totally immersed in the Arctic world and the two points-of-view of Sumner, a ship’s doctor with an opium habit and a shady past in India, and Drax, a murderous harpooner. Both men think they are masters of their destiny, but they are pawns in another man’s game.
5. Steeplechase by Krissy Kneen #aww2017
A story of two sisters, a folie a deux, sharing artistic talent and a traumatic childhood, which blur their lines of identity. Bec is the more vulnerable, impressionable younger sister who never seems to have come out from her sister Emily’s shadow of talent and madness, until Emily puts on an installation designed solely for her. But Bec has something her sister doesn’t have, somebody to ground her.
6. The Last Days of Leda Grey by Essie Fox
Set mainly in 1976 in Brightland (Brighton), a gothic tale of obsessive love, sociopaths, drugs, silent cinema, tricks and illusions, and ghosts. Journalist Ed Peters chases a story to a crumbling mansion where he meets ageing film star Leda Grey, who shut herself away and never made a movie again after the disappearance of her director lover Beauvois. The ending of this novel was perfect–I love a bit of metafiction.