Quindlin, Anna (2016) Miller’s Valley. Random House. Generations of Millers have lived in Millers Valley. The valley is flood-prone and the government has plans to turn the valley into a reservoir. We follow Mimi Miller through the assault on the people and land she loves – from her 1960s girlhood to the present day. As Mimi eavesdrops on her world we uncover its secrets – family trauma, the flaws of marriage, the dangers of gossip, and the inequalities of friendship, loyalty and love. An overwhelming moving tale of loss, memory, and the inevitability of change and moving on. Hauntingly enjoyable. Rating: 9/10.
Melandri. Francesca (2016) Eva Sleeps. Europa Editions. Melandri’s bestselling debut novel is bounded by the dark history of South Tyrol (Alto Adige), from 1919 to the present day. South Tyrol was brutally annexed from Austria to Italy after the first World War. Beautiful single mother Gerda falls in love with Vito, a soldier from Southern Italy, who comes to the region to combat terrorism. Vito is the only paternal figure Eva has ever known, and decades later when she receives a message that he is ill she travels the length of Italy to see him. Sweeping modern epic of family, conflict and forgiveness. Rich contemporary Italian novel, in the genre of Elena Ferrante. Rating: 9/10.
Swan, Laura (2014) The Wisdom of the Beguines: the forgotten story of a Medieval Women’s Movement. BlueBridge. The Beguines were lay women, not nuns, who lived independently in a community, with a legacy that began over 800 years ago in many locales across Europe. The commonality of this ‘village’ of women was their business acumen, spirituality, and compassion for the poor and sick. They were never a religious order or a formalised movement but were constantly challenged by the church in an attempt to control and define them. Swan brings us the history, lives and writings of beguines in an admiring narrative. Rating: 8.5/10.
Loseby, Richard (2016) A Boy of China: In search of Mao’s lost son. Harper Collins. During the Long March Mao, and his third wife He Zizhen, gave birth to a son, who on Mao’s instructions was given away. In search of this lost child Auckland advertising executive, Richard Loseby, sets off alone across China. He traces Mao’s journey, encountering along the way the modern day realities of the revolution. Is Little Mao still alive? Would he want to be found? The result is an epic traveller’s tale of adventure and chance encounters. Great read. Rating: 9/10.