Jan’s Holiday Reads – January 2015

The DinnerKoch, Herman (2012) The Dinner, translated from the Dutch by Sam Garrett. Atlantic.  Brothers Paul and Serge Lohman, and their wives Claire and Babette, meet at a fashionable Amsterdam restaurant to discuss their 15 year-old sons. Initially the conversation is banal and trivial, but slowly as the dinner reaches its culinary climax the horror of their shared dilemma emerges. How far would you go to protect the ones you love? An uncomfortable read that provokes and confronts.  Highly recommended.  Rating: 9/10.

The secret placeFrench, Tana (2014) The Secret Place. Viking. When ambitious Detective Stephen Moran is brought a photograph tagged with the message “I know who killed him” it not only reignites the stalled investigation into the murder of popular sixteen-year old student, Chris Harper, but also provides an opportunity for Stephen to advance his career.  Stephen and abrasive Murder Squad detective Antoinette Conway enter the mysterious underworld of teenage girls, contending with lies, secrets, gossip, and covert cruelty, to solve the murder.  This new novel in French’s Dublin Murder squad series is an exploration of adolescent friendship and loyalty within the walls of an exclusive girls’ boarding school. This atmospheric and gripping novel requires close attention as it moves between the students’ tale and the investigation. Rating: 8.5/10.

WhatLiesBSandys, Elspeth (2014) What lies beneath: a Memoir. Otago UP.  Writer Elspeth Sandys was born in 1939, initially named Frances Hilton James, her adoptive parents, Tom and Alice Somerville, register her as Elspeth Sandilands Somerville.  Elspeth spends her early years with her adoptive family in Dunedin’s Andersons Bay, amongst the embracing Somerville clan, well loved by her elderly father but in a difficult relationship with her mother who has recurring mental health issues. This memoir follows Elspeth’s often disturbing early life, and covers memories of people and place, and her exhaustive search for her birth parents.  Intense and heart-rending. Rating: 8.5/10.

light-between-oceansStedman, M L  (2012) The light between oceans. Vintage.  Tom Sherbourne, the lighthouse keeper on the remote Janus Rock, off the coast of Western Australia, is faced with a moral dilemma when a boat washes up on the island with a dead man and a crying child.  His wife Izzie, has just suffered another miscarriage and the child is god-sent.  The decision to claim the child as their own leads to heartbreak that will sully their lives.  A touching gentle tale of choices and consequences. Rating: 7/10.

vivienne-westwood-9781447254126Westwood, Vivienne & Ian Kelly (2014) Vivienne Westwood. Picador.   Vivienne Westwood is a cultural icon of the modern age – fashion doyen, global brand, innovator, storyteller, and activist.  In five decades her work has achieved cult status. She is internationally recognised, widely copied and exhibited, and her influence in humanitarian and ecological circles has given her a voice beyond the catwalk. Her brand is respectively one of the most notorious and most celebrated in the fashion-world.  Her partnership with Malcolm McLaren, as co-creators of punk, is an urban legend.  This personal memoir, told with honesty and integrity, and enhanced with multiple photographs, describes the events, people and ideas that have shaped a unique life. Inspiring entrepreneurial treatise.  Rating: 9/10.

Nora WebsterToibin, Colm (2014) Nora Webster. Viking. In the late 1960’s newly widowed Nora Webster begins to rebuild her life.  As the dynamic of family life changes, rather than being trapped by her loss and circumstances this self-possessed woman slowly begins again.  We follow her as she re-enters the workforce, strengthens her intimacy and relationships with her children, relatives and neighbours, forms new friendships, rediscovers her love of music, and comes to terms with her own aspirations.  Set in small town Ireland midst the broader backdrop of national political and social activism.  An empathetic and tender portrait, peopled with well-drawn individuals. Wonderful read. Rating: 8.5/10.

The Queen of the TearlingJohansen, Erika (2014) The Queen of the Tearling. Bantam Press.  On her nineteenth birthday the Queen’s Guard comes for Kelsea Glynn.  She is about to claim her birthright as Queen of the Tearling, albeit with assassins at her heals.  Kelsea will either become a great ruler or be dead within a week.  Kelsea is an enchanting hero with great learning, will and integrity in a world of dark magic and mystery.  A gripping adventure for fantasy aficionados   The first of a series with the second volume due mid 2015.  Rating: 7.5/10.

The Rosie EffectSimsion, Graeme (2014) The Rosie Effect. M. Joseph.  Rosie and Don have been married ten months and ten days, are in New York, and pregnant. This unprecedented challenge to Don’s organised life sets him on a path to self-destruction. Can their relationship survive?  With large cast of eccentric characters, this novel reads like screwball comedy, complete with a race to the airport. This eagerly awaited revisit with Rosie and Don is missing the charm of The Rosie Project. Rating: 7/10.

Maori BoyIhimaera, Witi (2014) Maori Boy: a memoir of childhood.  Vintage.  This memoir is a moving and vivid record of what it meant to grow up Maori in rural New Zealand during the ’40s and ’50s. Witi Ihimaera, a consummate and much-loved storyteller, combines whakapapa with myth, a lived experience and a lively imagination in this work where family is everything. A rich, powerful, honest and organic tale.  A must read.  Rating: 9/10.

Hot pink spice sagaMathias, Peta & Julie Le Clerc (2014) Hot pink spice saga: An Indian culinary travelogue with recipes.  Random House.  Although not a fan of spicy Indian food this culinary journey, with recipes, explores India through its cuisine. Peta and Julie, both renowned cooks, have combined their writing and photographic talents with their love of Indian cuisine in this enticing book. On their journey they stop off in very different locations: Delhi, Jaipur, Goa, Kolkata and Darjeeling where they explore markets, palaces, temples and a tea plantation.  Colourful and entertaining. Rating: 7.5/10.

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