Hoffman, Alice (2017) The Rules of Magic. Simon & Schuster. In the prequel to Practical Magic Hoffman introduces us to Franny and Jet, the relatives who raised Sally and Gillian Owen, and a four-hundred year old family curse. Franny, Jet and their brother Vincent are children of the sixties, ever mindful of the rules of magic set down by their mother – no walking in the moonlight, no red shoes, no books about magic, and no falling in love. The young people however are stubbornly determined to find their own way and be true to themselves, with dire consequences for those they love. An enchanting tale of the magic and the power of love. A fairytale. Rating: 8/10.
Walters, Minette (2017) The Last Hours. Allen & Unwin. Deviating from her usual chiller-thriller Minette Walters has written a feudal drama set in 1348 as the Black Death enters Dorset. Lady Anne of Develish sets out to protect her people within the boundary walls of her humble demesne as the worst pandemic known to history ravishes the countryside. Anne has learned from her convent upbringing the importance of segregating the sick. This self-imposed isolation quickly breeds tensions with grim outcomes. The book is suspenseful and carefully researched, with detailed descriptions of the plague, the Dorset landscape and the social and human condition in fourteenth century England. A sequel is due in 2018. Rating: 8/10.
Barton, Fiona (2017) The Child. Bantam Press. When the remains of an infant are found at a building site it opens up a decades-old tragedy. Intrepid reporter Kate Waters, who we first met in Barton’s debut novel The Widow, feels there is a story to be told and she sets out the uncover the truth. As Kate uses all the techniques of investigative journalism the larger story is revealed through multiple narrators, and a dark secret is slowly exposed. Engrossing from start to finish. Rating: 8.5/10.
Brickell, Chris (2017) Teenagers: The Rise of Youth Culture in New Zealand. Auckland University Press. A broad chronological sweep on the history of teenagers in New Zealand culture, from early settlement until the late ’60s, drawing on photographs, letters and diaries. The book captures the stories of young people and reflects the large-scale changes that have taken place in our society, from the the rise and fall of domestic service, the impact of compulsory education, and movement from country to city, to the rise of popular culture and consumerism. A ’60s trip down memory lane, and chance revisit the young lives of our parents and grandparents. Rating: 8/10.
Dunmore, Helen (2017) Birdcage Walk. Hutchinson. Lizzie, the daughter of renowned late-18th-century political essayist Julia Fawkes, was raised amongst radicals on a diet of atheism and sedition. When Lizzie goes against her mother’s wishes and marries John Diner Tredevant, an ambitious and possessive Bristol speculator who is heavily invested in building a magnificent terrace of mansions, her questioning spirit becomes subdued, that is until the fate of his first wife begins to trouble her. Set in the shadow of the French Revolution Diner and Lizzie have everything to lose from the upheaval caused by the prospect of war. A complex historical novel with an uneasy menace. Rating: 8/10.
Fforde, Katie (2017) The Christmas Stocking and other stories. Century. Finally, for the end of 2017 a bit of escapist Christmas cheer. Katie Fforde has created a Christmas stocking of four seasonal short stories that are full of turkeys, puppies, company, candlelight and love. Unwrap and enjoy. Rating: 7/10.