De Los Santos, Marisa (2015) The Precious One. William Morrow. Seventeen years after being “ditched” by her father Taisy Cleary is summoned to her father’s home. In all this time Taisy has seen Wilson and his new family, wife Caro and their daughter Willow, once. Taisy is forced to deal with the memories and fallout from their bitter separation, the vulnerability of her naive half-sister, and skeletons in Wilson’s closet. Told in the alternating voices of Taisy and Willow The Precious One is a well-crafted, smart and moving tale of family estrangement, narcissism, and the redemptive power of love. Comfort-food. Rating: 8.5/10.
Gruen, Sarah (2015) At the Water’s Edge. Allen & Unwin. Philadelphian socialite Madeline Hyde, her husband Ellis, and best friend Hank, are transported to Scotland in the last days of the Second World War to search for the famous Loch Ness monster, and at the same time redeem the reputation of Ellis’ father. While the men are off hunting the monster and getting drunk, Maddie is left alone to adapt to Scottish village life. As she begins to embrace a fuller sense of who she might be, she starts to comprehend the man her husband truly is. A story that promises much but never reaches its potential. Rating: 7/10.
Johnson, Stephanie (2015) The Writers’ Festival. Vintage. Literary festival creative director Rae McKay, recently returned from New York, is facing an uphill battle; not only is she receiving interference from her partner director and the board, but there is also diplomatic fallout from her invitation to a Chinese dissident writer, all amidst a disintegrating personal life. Running parallel to the Festival is the prestigious international Opus Book Award which creates significant drama and tension in its own right. This stand-alone novel reintroduces many of the characters from Johnson’s 2013 novel The Writing Class. An insightful look at the machinations behind literary festivals, however it leaves you with a deep feeling of melancholy. Rating: 8.5/10.
Fuller, Alexandra (2013) Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood. Random House. Alexandra Fuller shares a passionate account of her early years growing up amidst African nationalism in an inhospitable environment, with racism, brutal politics, and always the violent heat. This is a memoir of later twentieth-century life in Rhodesia -Zimbawe, Malawi and Zambia, of family, lush white farms and over-grazed tribal lands, beloved pets, boarding school, country clubs, and above all it is a love song to a living and breathing Africa. Rating: 9/10.