BEST BOOKS FOR THE EASTER BREAK
“Novels give you the matrix of emotions, give you the flavour of a time in a way formal history cannot.”
- Doris Lessing, novelist, poet, and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature (2007)
The Easter Bunny came early for lots of writers with this week’s announcements of both the Miles Franklin longlist and the Indie Book of the Year.
On Tuesday the longlist for the 2013 Miles Franklin Literary Award was released. From an original list of 73 novels, an unprecedented half of which were written by women, the Judges selected 10 novels. They are:
- Floundering by Romy Ash READ REVIEW or BUY THE BOOK
- Lola Bensky by Lily Brett READ REVIEW or BUY THE BOOK
- Street to Street by Brian Castro BUY THE BOOK
- Questions of Travel by Michelle de Kretser BUY THE BOOK
- The Beloved by Annah Faulkner READ REVIEW or BUY THE BOOK
- The Daughters of Mars by Thomas Keneally BUY THE BOOK
- The Mountain by Drusilla Modjeska READ REVIEW AND INTERVIEW or BUY THE BOOK
- The Light Between Oceans by M L Stedman READ REVIEW or BUY THE BOOK
- Mateship with Birds by Carrie Tiffany BUY THE BOOK
- Red Dirt Talking by Jacqueline Wright BUY THE BOOK
The shortlist will be announced on April 30 at the State Library of New South Wales.
You can read my reviews by clicking on the link next to the appropriate title, or you can go to the Miles Franklin website here and access a biography, synopsis and reader notes for every longlisted book.
Fully prepared, you then might want to enter the Miles of Reading Challenge. Readers across the country are being asked to support Australian literature by reading at least one novel from the longlist. As an added incentive, post a review on the discussion forum for a chance of to win a set of Miles Franklin’s most famous books every week until 30th April. That’s pretty cool!
Jellybird by Lezanne Clannachan
Jessica has every reason to believe in her future. She is married to the beautiful Jacques, her jewellery designs are a commercial and critical success and her troubled past seems safely locked behind her. But the arrival of the charismatic intense Libby tilts Jessica’s world on its axis.
Libby’s determination to be Jessica’s best friend and artistic advocate is flattering but Jacques and Libby at first seem wary of each other and then far too intimate. The past swoops over Jessica. Growing up, she endured a mother struck down by jealousy, her once loving father eradicated from their lives along with all the furniture and any love.
The final straw comes when her mother Birdie decides to sell the family home and summons Jessica home to collect the last of her belongings.
Relieved to escape London and the claustrophobic relationship with Libby, Jessica returns to her childhood home to collect her treasures. Amongst her effects is a red notebook that Birdie says she found slipped through the letterbox. It contains a transcript of counselling sessions with Jessica’s childhood sweetheart Thomas Quennell who tragically died in a boating accident at only 17.
As Jessica starts to read it, she is transported back to when she was thirteen, abandoned by her father, ignored by her mother and desperate for the kind of reassurance teenage girls seek.
The wild, dangerous Thomas Quennell provided the attention and emotional spark Jessica craved. She is his Jellybird and Thomas is her first love. Emotionally vulnerable again, the red notebook provides Jessica with a single clue that maybe Thomas is still alive and that maybe he is her one true love after all.
This is a book of shadows and light, pretence versus reality and all the truths that lie in between. It explores friendships founded on false premises and how all relationships based on a false construct will ultimately fail.
Lezanne Clannachan has captured the intense troubled soul of Jessica so well; this is a woman who was forged by disturbing and troubling events and emerged in adulthood as a fearful melancholy soul. It seems inevitable then that though Jessica may find the answers she seeks, she may also have turned out to be more like her mother than she realised.
Clannachan is a brilliant new voice. Her characters are as crisply drawn as their motives are shadowy and the intricate plot is delivered without sentimentality. A wonderful read.
Author Q&A | Kate Atkinson
Life is full of ‘what ifs’ and Kate Atkinson’s new novel, Life After Life explores this theme in the most fascinating of ways. Ursula Todd is born in 1910 and dies before she even draws her first breath. Ursula Todd is born in 1910 and goes on to live through the last century again and again, constantly able to revisit her life’s choices.
Hilary Mantel has this to say, “Kate Atkinson’s new novel is a box of delights. Ingenious in construction, indefatigably entertaining, it grips the reader’s imagination on the first page and never lets go. If you wish to be moved and astonished, read it. And if you want to give a dazzling present, buy it for your friends.”
Kate Atkinson kindly answered a few questions for The Hoopla.
What book(s) are you reading now?
I am just back from holiday so I have been reading more than usual. Michael Chabon’s Telegraph Avenue (I love all his books) and Billy Lynn’s Long Half-Time Walk by Ben Fountain which I can pretty much guarantee will be my favourite book of 2013.
Who are your favourite authors or greatest literary influences?
Well, Jane Austen, always. E M Forster, Ford Madox Ford. I did my doctoral thesis on the postmodern American Short Story and I always feel the playful influence of those writers like Ronald Sukenick, Robert Coover and Donald Bartheleme.
They saw no limits where fiction was concerned and, of course, the grandfather of them all – Lewis Carroll. And a big shout out for Richmal Compton, the author of the Just William books, if I could be as tenth as funny I would die happy.
In a nutshell, what’s your new book about?
Writers hate that question! Two years of your life, five hundred pages in a nutshell? Go read the book! It’s ‘about’, in a nutshell, love, disappointment, war, history – the usual stuff of novels.
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