September Picks

Astronaut Wives ClubKoppel, Lily (2013) The Astronaut Wives Club.  Headline.  In April 1959 NASA’s first spacemen, the Mercury Seven astronauts were announced; followed by the Nine, and the Fourteen from the Gemini and Apollo programmes.  Koppel offers a revealing glimpse into the lives the women behind the astronauts, with a personal portrait of each woman on how she adjusted to the monitoring by NASA, expectations to be perfect, long absences of her husband, unrelenting media intrusion, and the constant fear of disaster.  As the wives celebrity rose, and as divorce and tragic death began to touch their lives the friendship of Astronaut Wives Club was the glue that held them together.  Fascinating and poignant, but a bit rambling and it was difficult to keep track of the stories of so many wives. Rating: 8.5/10.

The Cuckoo's CallingGalbraith, Robert (2013) The Cuckoos’s Calling. Sphere.  When a childhood acquaintance asks London PI Cormoran Strike to investigate his supermodel sister’s apparent suicide, Strike finds a distraction from his myriad of personal problems.  Lula Landry had been surrounded by rabid paparazzi, a drug-addled social circle, and a dysfunctional adopted family, and this had made suicide the mostly likely cause of her death.  With his temporary assistant Robin’s assistance, Strike applies his adept deductive skills to find evidence of a murder.  The book, written under a pseudonym by the best-selling author J. K. Rowling, became a success only after her identity was revealed.  A good old-fashioned detective novel, aka Philip Marlowe.  An assured and enjoyable read, bring on the next Cormoran Strike mystery.  Rating: 8.5/10.

The LuminariesCatton, Eleanor (2013) The Luminaries.  Walter Moody turns up in a bar on the West Coast and stumbles across a gathering of twelve local men.  A wealthy man has vanished, a prostitute has tried to end her life, and an enormous fortune has been discovered in the home of a luckless drunk. Moody is drawn  into this 800 page mystery. Set around Hokitika in the gold rush year of 1866, this tangled web of a murder mystery uses astrological star charts as an organising principle, rotating 12 characters born under 12 different star signs through a complex 12-month schema, while eight other characters move in and out of phase with them. An example of the nineteenth century narrative, this Booker prize short-listed novel is clever and intelligent; written by a master hand, but oh so long winded. Rating: 8/10.

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