April Picks

Lynne’s been reading:
Faber, Tony (2008). Faberge’s Eggs. Macmillan.    The story of the last Romanov Czars  told through Easter gifts.   The Fabergé eggs are a perfect symbol of the court’s decadence. The “surprises” they contained, from family portraits to a miniature Trans-Siberian railway in gold, reflected events of the time.

Agassi, Andre (2009).  Open. Harper Collins.   A candid memoir of  the tennis champion. We follow Agassi’s journey from the incredibly rigorous training that begins when he is just a child, through his rebellious teenage years, his loves, and his Grand Slam wins.  Agassi gives unstinting accounts of his life. Compulsive reading. Julie says it was “the best autobiography of the summer!”

Tyler, Anne (2009). Noah’s Compass. Random House.    The protagonist, Liam Pennywell, is 60 years old and has just lost his job as a fifth-grade teacher. His life becomes small and shrunken and he whiles away time sitting in one of his two armchairs.  Following a burglary during which he is knocked out, he loses his memory.  A simple story about trying to fill in memory gaps.

Debbie’s been reading:

Carr, Simon (2001). The boys are back in town. Random House.    The story of a suddenly solo father’s adjustment to raising his sons, was mainly concerned with making a case for the liberating power of parenting by saying “yes” as often as possible. A light, enjoyable read. Now a motion picture, the events that inspired the film actually occurred in New Zealand, but the film, an English-Australian co-production, transplants the story to South Australia.

Mones, Nicola (2007). The last Chinese Chef. Houghton Mifflin.   Struggling to get back on her feet in the wake of her husband’s premature death and stunned by a paternity suit against her husband’s estate food writer Maggie McElroy plans a trip to China to investigate the claim and to profile rising chef Sam Liang. Adored by Debbie.  A favourite of our bookclub.

Raewyn’s been reading:

The author Jonathan Tropper. Raewyn has read a numbers of books by this author. They are always well-written, easy to read, thought-provoking and real.

Julie’s been reading:

Levy, Andrea (2010)   The Long Song.  Headline Review.    Set in early 19th-century Jamaica, on a sugar-cane plantation, in the turbulent years before – and just after – the abolition of slavery. The novel is in the form of a memoir written by an old Jamaican woman called July, once a slave on Amity Plantation.   A very good book.

Doran, Phil (2006)  The reluctant Truscan. Gotham.    A travel narrative.  Sit-com writer Phil Doran moves against his will and better judgement to Italy, only to rediscover himself, his marriage, and the importance of getting in touch with his inner Italian.  Shades of Francis Mayes and Peter Mayle. An amusing, easy read.

Farlane, Mia (2009) Footnotes to sex. Viking.    Glum, neurotic London school teacher May procrastinates endlessly over her abandoned PhD; although encouraged by Jansen, her reasonable girlfriend, she vacillates further. The subject of the putative thesis is Francine, a leading French feminist critic.  Frustrating but enjoyable.

Ann’s been reading:

Ballantyne, David (reprint 2010 ) Sydney Bridge Upside Down. Text Publishing.  Harry Baird lives in Calliope Bay (a village like Hicks Bay), at the edge of the world. Summer has come, and those who can have left the bay for the allure of the far away city. Among them is Harry’s mother.   It is a tale of adventure peppered with characters including the enigmatic, laconic loner Sam Phelps and his horse, Sydney Bridge Upside Down.  Things are not what they seem – slowly Ballantyne builds a sense of threat.  First written in 1968 and it has been recently “rediscovered”.    Our group book for July.

Carol’s been reading:

Zusak, Markus ( 2008) The book thief. Pan Macmillan.  It is 1939 Nazi Germany. By her brother’s graveside, Liesel Meminger’s life is changed when she picks up an object, partially hidden in the snow. It is The Gravedigger’s Handbook, left there by accident, and it is her first act of book thievery. So begins a love affair with books and words. But these are dangerous times.  An extraordinary book.

Jan’s been reading:

Strout, Elizabeth (2008)  Olive Kitteridge. Pocket Books.    A series of inter-linked short stories set in coastal town in Maine, featuring a indomitable, compassionate and often unpredictable retired teacher who is struggling to make sense of the changes in her life as she gets older. A powerful well-written book.

Tartt, Donna (reissued 2007) The Secret History.  Penguin.      An American campus novel.  When Richard joins an elite group of clever misfits at his New England college, he finds that he can finally become the person he wants to be.  But the moral boundaries he will cross with his new friends, and the deaths they are responsible for will change their lives forever.  A complex and intriguing psychological thriller.

Roz’s been reading:

Kostova, Elizabeth (2009)  The Swan Thieves.  Sphere.  A wonderful book, especially for those interested in art history. It is set in the USA  and traces the journey of a psychologist as he tries to find out why a well-known artist is committed to an asylum, following the slashing of a painting in the National Gallery.

Frame, Janet ( 2006)   Living in the Maniototo. Vintage NZ.  Quirky, rich and ecentric – at times maddening and at others, intriguing. Carefully crafted snatch of NZ life.

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