Levin, Gabrielle (2014) The Collected Works of A.J. Fikry. Little Brown. A.J.’s life is a train-wreck; his wife has died tragically, his quirky bookshop is failing and his rare first edition has been stolen. Into his life comes unexpected love – baby Maya, left at A.J.’s bookshop, and eclectic book rep Amelia. This delightful story of second-chances and transformation is also a love letter to the world of reading and books; full of favourite novels, homilies, and book clubs. A homage to bookshops and an affirmation to reading. Cathartic. Rating: 8.5/10.
Fowler, Karen Joy (2013) We are all completely beside ourselves. Putnam. Fern, Rosemary’s beloved sister and childhood companion, disappeared with no explanation when Rosemary was 5. Something happened, so awful, that it changed Rosemary and destroyed her family. Now her brother is an FBI fugitive wanted for domestic terrorism and Rosemary’s life is full of secrets and silence. The novel resonates with grief and isolation. Smart, complex and disturbing, with an unexpected denouement. Rating: 8/10.
Nesbo, Jo (2014) The Son. Harvill Secker. In only his second stand-alone thriller Nesbo tells the story of Sonny a model prisoner in a model prison – except that he is a well-supplied heroin addict at the beck and call of a corrupt system which is under the thumb of Oslo’s crime overlord, The Twin. This revenge tragedy rooted in corruption is set in motion when a dying prisoner tells Sonny the truth about his beloved father, casting his death in a new light. Sonny escapes, and goes vigilante with a renegade kind of justice in mind. Violent. Rating: 8/10.
Quindlen, Anna (2014) Still life with breadcrumbs. Random House. Renowned photographer Rebecca Winter’s life is in descent. She flees the city for a rented cottage in rural New York and turns her lens on her new world. In this journey of self-exploration she discovers her heart and her mind and learns life is made up of many paths and second chances. Emotional, gentle and beautifully paced. Delightful. Rating: 9/10.
Walls, Jeannette (2013) The Silver Star. Scribner. In 1970 “Bean” Holladay is 12 and her sister Liz 15, when their artistic mother decides to take-off “to find herself”. When the authorities get wind of their living alone the girls decide to take the bus from California to Virginia to visit their Uncle Tinsley. At first they receive an unwelcome reception but slowly they embed themselves into a community where their heritage runs deep. But there is evil force to be reckoned with in the form of town bully Jerry Maddox. Redemptive novel about adult injustice and an intrepid girl. Follows the theme of Walls powerful memoirs The Glass Castle and Half Broke Horses. Rating: 8/10.
Jonasson, Jonas (2014) The girl who saved the King of Sweden. Harper Collins. This story follows unstoppable Soweto native Nombeko from the age of 5, when she starts work as a latrine emptier, up to the present day, saving the King of Sweden and solving the world’s problems along the way. This pacy novel takes a light and loony approach to ‘girls can do anything’ and the weighty events in modern history. What started out as a rollicking good yarn soon diminished into tedium. Rating: 7/10.
King, Lily (2014) Euphoria. Atlantic Monthly. English anthropologist Andrew Bankston has been alone in the field for several years, studying a tribe on the Sepik River in New Guinea. Bankston is on the verge of suicide when he encounters magnetic and gifted anthropologists Nell Stone and her husband Fen. The couple is hungry for a new discovery, and when Bankston introduces them to the artistic and female dominated Tam he ignites a passionate and brutal rivalry. Set in the 1930s this novel is inspired by the events in the life of renowned anthropologist Margaret Mead. Stunning and enlightening. Brilliant. Rating: 9.5/10.