The Best First World War Novels (in my opinion)

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You’re going to hear, see and read a lot about the First World War in the next few years. A hundred year anniversary is a big deal. But most of what you’re going to be told is bullsh*t. If you want to know something closer to the truth, read the works of those who were there.

The First World War was an equal opportunity war, destroying the lives of rich and poor, simpleton and genius alike. Some of the geniuses made it out alive, and after a few years of trying to forget, gave in and turned horror into art, the best they could. What follows is my personal selection of those efforts. The best according to me.


parade-s-endParade’s End by Ford Madox Ford

Ford’s masterly story of destruction and regeneration follows the progress of Christopher Tietjens as his world is shattered by the Great War.

In four volumes – Some Do Not . . ., No More Parades, A Man Could Stand Up and The Last PostParade’s End traces the psychological damage inflicted by battle, the collapse of England’s secure Edwardian values and the new age, embodied by Tietjens’ beautiful, selfish wife Sylvia. It is an elegy for the war dead and the passing of a way of life, and a work of amazing subtlety and profundity.

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the-middle-parts-of-fortuneThe Middle Parts of Fortune by Frederick Manning

The drumming of the guns continued, with bursts of great intensity. It was as though a gale streamed overhead, piling up great waves of sound, and hurrying them onwards to crash in surf on the enemy entrenchments. The windless air about them, by its very stillness, made that unearthly music more terrible to hear.

First published anonymously in 1929 because its language was considered far too frank for public circulation, The Middle Parts of Fortune was hailed by more…

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under-fire

Under Fire by Henri Barbusse

‘Men are made to be husbands, fathers – men, in short! Not animals that hunt one another down’

Under Fire follows the fortune of a French battalion during the First World War. For this group of ordinary men, thrown together from all over France and longing for home, war is simply a matter of survival, and the arrival of their rations, a glimpse of a pretty girl or a brief reprieve in hospital is all they can hope for.

Based directly on Henri Barbusse’s experiences of the trenches, Under Fire is the most famous French novel of the more…

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all-quiet-on-the-western-front

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT is the most famous anti-war novel ever written.

One by one the boys begin to fall…

In 1914 a room full of German schoolboys, fresh-faced and idealistic, are goaded by their schoolmaster to troop off to the ‘glorious war’. With the fire and patriotism of youth they sign up. What follows is the moving story of a young ‘unknown soldier’ experiencing the horror and disillusionment of life in the trenches.

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a-farewell-to-armsA Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

In 1918 Ernest Hemingway went to war, to the ‘war to end all wars’. He volunteered for ambulance service in Italy, was wounded and twice decorated. Out of his experiences came A Fairwell to Arms. Hemingway’s description of war is unforgettable. He recreates the fear, the comradeship, the courage of his young American volunteer and the men and women he meets in Italy with total conviction. But A Fairwell to Arms is not only a novel of war. In it Hemingway has also created a love story of immense drama and uncompromising passion.

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death-of-a-hero Death of a Hero by Richard Aldington

One of the great antiwar novels of all time-honest, chilling, and brilliantly satirical.

Acclaimed poet Richard Aldington based his first novel on his own experiences on the Western Front during World War I. It tells the story of George Winterbourne, who enlists in the British Army and is sent to France. After a rash of casualties leads to his promotion through the ranks, he grows increasingly cynical about the war and disillusioned by the hypocrisies of British society. Aldington’s writing about the ignorance of Britain to the tribulations of its soldiers is utterly scathing, and his prose vividly evokes the morally degrading nature of combat. As Death of a Hero races to its astounding finish, the novel builds into a masterpiece of war literature.

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the-complete-memoirs-of-george-sherstonThe Complete Memoirs of George Sherston by Siegfried Sassoon

The Complete Memoirs of George Sherston includes:

Memoirs of a Fox-hunting Man (1928)
George Sherston develops from a shy and awkward child, through shiftless adolescence, to an officer just beginning to understand the horrors of trench warfare. The world he grows up in, of village cricket and loyal grooms, had vanished forever by the time Sassoon wrote this book, but he captures it with a lyricism and gentleness that defy nostalgia.

A bestseller on publication in 1928, this superb evocation of the Edwardian age has remained in print ever since. It was the first volume of a classic trilogy, completed by more…

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The State of the Nation? Take Two Books and Call Me in the Morning

The Near Future?

The Near Future?

What the hell has happened to politics in Australia?

Never before have I felt so repulsed by the goings-on in our various parliaments. The last few years have left me feeling completely disenfranchised.

I am certain good work has been done in that time, but how would I know? The coverage of politics has been less about the ideas being debated and more about the personalities debating them. Corruption, lies, broken promises and slogans.

If you, like me, feel completely out of the loop, the only way left open to us is something called ‘the book’. A book is nothing like a tweet, does not resemble a headline on the SMH app, but is a bit like a long article in a magazine – the kind few people read to the very end – only more considered and thoughtful because they are often carefully researched and written and rewritten over a long period of time. Books also give those who have lived interesting, productive and public lives the opportunity to expand upon the subject of their life and to argue more fully the ideas which mean and meant most to them.

And this year is officially the year of the political bestseller. Don’t believe me? Take a look below. (Oh, and expect the unexpected, too. No one is talking about a Kevin Rudd memoir, which suggests there’ll be a Kevin Rudd memoir. Probably released the day before Julia Gillard’s much anticipated and publicised memoir. That would be the likely plan, wouldn’t it?)


Biographies

COMING SOON:
The Menzies Era by John Howard

menzies eraAn assessment of Australia’s longest-serving Prime Minister by Australia’s second-longest serving Prime Minister – a significant, unique and fascinating history of the Menzies era. Fresh from the success of his phenomenal bestselling memoir, Lazarus Rising, which has sold over 100,000 copies, John Howard now turns his attention to one of the most extraordinary periods in Australian history, the Menzies era, canvassing the longest unbroken more…

 

 

OUT NOW:

hockeyHockey: Not your Average by Madonna King
While thousands of viewers watched Joe Hockey’s approachable persona each week on Channel 7’s Sunrise, there is a lot more to the Australian Treasurer than meets the eye. After embarking on his political career as a student, Hockey worked tirelessly to rise through the ranks of the Liberal Party – learning some pivotal lessons along the way and earning himself more…

 

 

gravityGravity by Mary Delahunty 

Julia Gillard, Australia’s 27th Prime Minister, defied political gravity. From the start she walked a political tightrope. As Australia’s first female Prime Minister, leading a minority government corroded by internal treachery, Julia Gillard juggled this trifecta defying political gravity for 3 years and 3 days. How did she do it? Why did she fascinate an international audience? Then Julia Gillard PM vanished, before we really knew her. Who is this woman more…

 

Tony Windsor by Ruth Rae

tony-windsor

Tony Windsor’s childhood was disrupted by the tragic death of his father, but the fortitude of his widowed mother, Ruth, as she battled to maintain the family farm while bringing up three sons, was to remain an inspiration to him throughout his life.

As an adult, Windsor’s understanding of the issues facing his rural constituency motivated him to become a political voice for those who love the land, from farmers to environmentalists, from rich to poor.

After failing to gain pre-selection as a National Party candidate, Windsor decided to run as an independent, whereupon he won more…


Memoirs

COMING SOON:

the-fights-of-my-lifeThe Fights of my Life by Greg Combet and Mark Davis

A call to arms in the fight for fairness and justice

Greg Combet has been at the centre of some of the biggest battles of our time—the waterfront dispute, the collapse of an airline, compensation for asbestos victims, the campaign against unfair workplace laws and then climate change. From an isolated childhood on the Minchinbury estate west of Sydney, Combet’s world changed dramatically with the early death of his father, a wine-maker.

Facing many challenges, he rose to lead the Australian trade union movement and become a senior minister in the Rudd and Gillard Labor governments. Along the way he has struggled with more…

Optimism: Reflections on a life of action by Bob Brown

optimism

“It is a fortunate life if a person feels more optimistic than ever before. That’s me.” – Bob Brown.

Bob Brown, former Senator and Parliamentary Leader of the Australian Greens, is one of Australia’s most thoughtful and recognized public figures. Since his retirement from public life in 2012, Bob has had time to consider the things that are truly important. One is the power of human thought to influence change and this book, the first time that Bob has spoken about his life since retirement, illustrates through his stories why more…

my-storyMy Story by Julia Gillard

‘I was Prime Minister for three years and three days.Three years and three days of resilience.Three years and three days of changing the nation.Three years and three days for you to judge.’

On Wednesday 23rd June 2010, with the government in turmoil, Julia Gillard asked then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd for a leadership ballot.

The next day, Julia Gillard became Australia’s 27th Prime Minister, and our first female leader. Australia was alive to the historic possibilities. Here was a new approach for a new time.

It was to last three extraordinary years.

This is Julia Gillard’s chronicle of that turbulent time more…

The Good Fight by Wayne Swan

the-good-fight

A highly personal account of the Rudd and Gillard governments from the heart of the Cabinet and the real story of how Australia avoided the Great Recession from the man recognised as the best treasurer in the world

This is Wayne Swan’s very personal account of an extraordinary period in Australian politics.

Despite the divisions within the Labor Party as the Rudd government fell into disunity and as Julia Gillard was undermined by disloyalty from within, Wayne Swan steered the Australian economy through a time of unprecedented international economic challenges.

He tells how he nurtured an economy that more…

inside the hawke keatingInside the Hawke-Keating Government by Gareth Evans

As good as it gets in Australian politics.

As good as it gets in Australian politics. That’s how the Hawke-Keating Government is now widely regarded. But how did this highly able, ambitious, strong-willed group work through its crises and rivalries, and achieve what it did?

Gareth Evans’ diary, written in the mid-1980s and published now for the first time, is the consummate insider’s account. It not only adds much new material to the historical record, but is perceptive, sharp and unvarnished in its judgments, lucidly written, and often highly entertaining.

OUT NOW:

the-independent-member-for-lyneThe Independent Member for Lyne by Rob Oakeshhot

From his apprenticeship in the NSW Parliament to the last days of the Gillard government, this is the honest and real story of life in Australian politics. Passionate, vivid and immediate, full of insights and anecdotes, Rob Oakeshott tells it as it was.

When the results of the 2010 federal elections became known, no party had a majority in the House of Representatives – it was the first hung parliament for 40 years. So both the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and the Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott, set about wooing the independents – Tony Windsor, Rob Oakeshott, Bob Katter, Andrew Wilkie, and Adam Bandt of the Greens. In the end more…

Diary of a Foreign Minister by Bob Carr

diary-of-a-foreign-minister

Six years after vacating his position as the longest-serving Premier of New South Wales, Bob Carr returned to politics in his dream job: as Foreign Minister of Australia and a senior federal cabinet minister.

For 18 months he kept a diary documenting a whirl of high-stakes events on the world stage – the election of Australia to the UN Security Council, the war in Syria and meetings with the most powerful people on the planet. And they all unfold against the gripping, uncertain domestic backdrop of more…


Commentary

COMING SOON:

9780522862102Triumph and Demise: The Broken Promise of a Labour Generation by Paul Kelly

Triumph and Demise is the inside account of the hopes, achievements and bitter failures of the Labor Government from 2007 to 2013. Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard came together, defeated John Howard, formed a brilliant partnership and raised the hopes of a nation, yet fell into disagreements, tensions and then hostilities under the pressures of politics and policy.

Veteran journalist Paul Kelly probes the dynamics of the Rudd-Gillard alliance and dissects what tore them apart. He shows that the tragedy of Rudd and Gillard is that both should have been better Prime Ministers, yet more…

OUT NOW:

the-political-bubbleThe Political Bubble: Why Australians don’t trust politics by Mark Latham

Australians once trusted the democratic process. While we got on with our lives, we assumed our politicians had our best interests at heart. Not anymore. That trust has collapsed. Mark Latham joined the Labor Party in the late 1970s hoping to improve people’s lives through parliamentary service. Twenty-five years later, the Opposition Leader ended up as disillusioned as the rest of us. The scorching honesty of The Latham Diaries ensured he’d burned his political bridges, but ostracism from the Canberra Club has more…

the-rise-and-fall-of-australiaThe Rise and Fall of Australia by Nick Bryant

A forensic look at the Lucky Country, from the inside and outside.

Never before has Australia enjoyed such economic, commercial, diplomatic and cultural clout. Its recession-proof economy is the envy of the world. It’s the planet’s great lifestyle superpower. Its artistic exports win unprecedented acclaim. But never before has its politics been so brutal, narrow and facile, as well as being such a global laughing stock. A positive national story is at odds with a deeply unattractive Canberra story.

The country should be enjoying The Australian Moment, so vividly described by more…


Fiction

OUT NOW:

the-mandarin-code-pre-order-now-for-a-signed-copy-The Mandarin Code by Steve Lewis, Chris Uhlmann

*For a limited time only, Pre-order The Mandarin Code and you will receive a signed copy. Hurry, stocks won’t last!

Politics peeled bare. The second darkly satirical thriller from the authors of The Marmalade Files.

POLITICS JUST GOT DEADLY. A body pulled from the murky waters of Lake Burley Griffin links Canberra, Beijing and Washington in a titanic struggle where war is just a mouse click away. Veteran reporter Harry Dunkley is chasing the scoop of his career, hunting for his best friend’s killer. Navigating treacherous political waters where a desperate minority government edges ever closer to more…

REVIEW: A Thousand Shards of Glass by Michael Katakis (Review by John Purcell)

Click here for more details or to buy Thousand Shards of Glass

I loved this little book. A finished copy was recently given to me by Simon and Schuster Australia.

I get sent a lot of books but I suspect this one was chosen for me the reader not me the bookseller. Whoever thought to send it probably guessed I would love it.

Michael Katakis, who I have never heard of before, now feels like an old friend. Reading his short (144 pages), hard-bound book of essays, letters, quotes, one poem and snippets from conversations about the US with people he met outside America, I became engaged with the world again. His conclusions about the US have a ring of truth to them. His love of life in the face of tragedy is heroic. He has loved and has been loved in a way which will make others envious.

It is by no means a perfect book. It is human. Approachable. It invites conversation and asks you to walk with it.

I was angered, saddened, enriched and inspired by this book. Thank you, Michael (and the thoughtful folk at Simon and Schuster).

Blurb: Once upon a time, Michael Katakis lived in a place of big dreams, bright colours and sleight of hand. That place was America.

One night, travelling where those who live within illusions should never go, he stared into the darkness and glimpsed a faded flag where shadows gathered, revealing another America. It was a broken place, bred from fear and distrust – a thousand shards of glass – filled with a people who long ago had given away all that was precious; a people who had been sold, for so long, a foreign betrayal that finally came from within, and for nothing more than a handful of silver.

These essays, letters and journal entries were written as a farewell to the country Michael loves still, and to the wife he knew as his ‘True North’. A powerful and personal polemic, A Thousand Shards of Glass is Michael’s appeal to his fellow citizens to change their course; a cautionary tale to those around the world who idealise an America that never was; and, crucially, a glimpse beyond the myth, to a country whose best days could still lie ahead.

Photograph © Ralph Elliot Starkweather

Photograph © Ralph Elliot Starkweather

About the Author

Author and photographer Michael Katakis has travelled extensively for the past thirty-five years, writing about and photographing a wide range of cultures and geographic locations. His books include Photographs and Words with Dr Kris Hardin, Traveller: Observations from an American in ExileThe Vietnam Veteran’s MemorialSacred Trusts: Essays on Stewardship and Responsibility, and Excavating Voices: Listening to Photographs of Native Americans. Katakis has exhibited his work at the British Library, the Royal Geographical Society in London and the International Gallery, Smithsonian Institution. In 1991 the National Portrait Gallery, Washington D.C., acquired Michael’s portrait of Maya Lin for their collection.

REVIEW: The Steady Running of the Hour by Justin Go (Review by Terry Purcell)

More details: The Steady Running of the HourThe Steady Running of the Hour is a impressive début novel by young American author Justin Go. It starts with a recently graduated Californian, Tristan Campbell, receiving a letter asking him to contact a London law firm about a possible inheritance.

Tristan is intrigued and calls the firm, which represents the trustees of an estate, who explain that Tristan may be the last possible heir.

They fly him to London and it is explained to him that he needs quickly to be able to establish a legal connection to the heir named in the Will. At stake is the fortune of a 19th century British shipping magnate held in trust since 1924.

The lawyer explained that the Will was drawn up for a young British Army officer, Ashley Walsingham, who survived the trenches of World War 1 only to die while a member of the 1924 Mt Everest expedition. The urgency facing Tristan was the need to establish a claim in the 7 weeks remaining before the trust vests and the distributed to several charities.

This young author has written an intriguing authentic tale with confidence and maturity which commences in August 1916 with a brief illicit love affair between Ashley who is on leave before being sent to France and the impetuous nineteen year old Imogene.  She is from a well to do middle class English family and falls in love with Ashley which is the trigger for a nearly 90 year old mystery that Tristan must solve to receive the inheritance.Author: Justin Go

Tristan’s quest and ensuing research takes us back to Ashley’s war and the horror of the trenches, to a remote lake in Sweden in early 1917 where Tristan’s grandmother Charlotte is born, forward in time to the 1924 Everest expedition, back to the Paris art world of the “20s, the battlefields of the Somme, and ultimately to the answer of the mystery in Iceland.

I could not put this beautifully constructed and engrossing novel down – easy to get into and compelling to the end.

Terry Purcell is a solicitor and was the founding director of the Law Foundation of NSW. He is a regular contributor to The Booktopia Blog.

Grab a copy of Justin Go’s The Steady Running of the Hour here

More details: The Steady Running of the HourThe Steady Running of the Hour

by Justin Go

In this mesmerising début, a young American discovers he may be heir to the unclaimed estate of an English World War I officer, which launches him on a quest across Europe to uncover the elusive truth.

Just after graduating college, Tristan Campbell receives a letter delivered by special courier to his apartment in San Francisco. It contains the phone number of a Mr J.F. Prichard of Twyning & Hooper, Solicitors, in London-and news that could change Tristan’s life forever.

In 1924, Prichard explains, an English alpinist named Ashley Walsingham died attempting to summit Mt Everest, leaving his fortune to his former lover, Imogen Soames-Andersson. But the estate was never claimed. Information has recently surfaced suggesting Tristan may be the rightful heir, but unless he can find documented evidence, the fortune will be divided among charitable beneficiaries in less than two months.

In a breathless race from London archives to Somme battlefields to the Eastfjords of Iceland, Tristan pieces together the story of a forbidden affair set against the tumult of the First World War and the pioneer British expeditions to Mt Everest. Following his instincts through a maze of frenzied research, Tristan soon becomes obsessed with the tragic lovers, and he crosses paths with a mysterious French girl named Mireille who suggests there is more to his quest than he realises. Tristan must prove that he is related to Imogen to inherit Ashley’s fortune-but the more he learns about the couple, the stranger his journey becomes.

The Steady Running of the Hour announces the arrival of a stunningly talented author. Part love story, part historical tour de force, Justin Go’s novel is utterly compelling, unpredictable, and heartrending.

Who’s giving the opening address at The Sydney Writers’ Festival? Andrew Solomon. Let Jo Case & President Bill Clinton tell you why #SWF2014

Order Far From the TreeAndrew Solomon’s Far From the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity is a truly amazing labour of love – and one of my favourite books of the past decade. Over seven years, Solomon has interviewed over 300 families where parents have children who are different from themselves in a defining way, across ten different categories, including deafness, dwarves, autistic and criminal children. He expertly weaves the diverse experience of these families into a narrative whole, looking at how parents come to love and accept children who are not what they expected, and to see the surprising positives in some of the most daunting challenges.

To what degree do these parents accept their children as they are, try to cure them, or a blend of both? What is it like to inhabit those identities, here and now? And (perhaps most intriguingly), is it better to get by in the mainstream world, with effort, but always be aware of not quite fitting in, or to relax into your natural self in a marginal world?

I was sucked into this book from the first page because of the masterful storytelling – a regular New Yorker writer, Solomon exemplifies the world-class reportage that the magazine is famous for. But I was left thinking about it for weeks and months afterwards because of the way Solomon explores questions at the heart of what makes us human, through the subject of parenting under challenging circumstances. Sometimes, he suggests, when we are forced to work harder for something, we value it even more.

Review by Jo Case, author of Boomer and Me: A memoir of motherhood, and Asperger’s

In Far from the Tree, Andrew Solomon reminds us that nothing is more powerful in a child’s development than the love of a parent. This remarkable new book introduces us to mothers and fathers across America –many in circumstances the rest of us can hardly imagine–who are making their children feel special, no matter what challenges come their way.

President Bill Clinton

Andrew Solomon will be giving the Opening Address at the Sydney Writers’ Festival on 20th May 2014 – for more details click the banner below…

BOOK NOW: 2014 Opening Address: Andrew Solomon

Order Far From the Tree

Far From the Tree

Sometimes your child – the most familiar person of all – is radically different from you. The saying goes that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. But what happens when it does?

In this seminal new study of family, Andrew Solomon tells the stories of parents who learn to deal with their exceptional children and find profound meaning in doing so.

He introduces us to families coping with deafness, dwarfism, Down syndrome, autism, schizophrenia, disability, with children who are prodigies, who are conceived in rape, who become criminals, who are transgender. While each of these characteristics is potentially isolating, Solomon documents repeated triumphs of human love and compassion to show that the shared experience of difference is what unites us.

Drawing on interviews with over three hundred families, Solomon documents ordinary people making courageous choices, whether considering prenatal screening for genetic disorders, cochlear implants for the deaf, or gender reassignment surgery.
Parents and children are challenged to their limits, but often grow closer as a result; many discover supportive communities of others similarly affected; some are inspired to become activists, celebrating the conditions they once feared.

Elegantly reported by a spectacularly original thinker, Far From The Tree explores themes of generosity, acceptance and tolerance – and shows how love for one’s children can transcend every prejudice. This crucial and revelatory book expands our definition of what it is to be human.

Photo by Annie Leibovitz.

Photo by Annie Leibovitz.

About the Author

Andrew Solomon is a writer and activist working on politics, culture and psychology. He writes regularly for The New YorkerNewsweek, and The Guardian. He is a Lecturer in Psychiatry at Cornell University and Special Adviser on LGBT Affairs to Yale University’s Department of Psychiatry. The Noonday Demon won the 2001 National Book Award and was a finalist for the 2002 Pulitzer Prize. His highly-acclaimed study of family, Far from the Tree won the 2012 National Book Critics Circle Award for General Non-fiction, the Lukas Book Prize and the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, among others. He lives with his husband and son in New York and London.

 

As seen in SMH & THE AGE > Books that changed me: Andrew Solomon

REVIEWS:

Far from the Tree is a landmark, revolutionary book. It frames an area of inquiry ‐difference between parents and children–that many of us have experienced in our own lives without ever considering it as a phenomenon. Andrew Solomon plumbs his topic thoroughly, humanely, and in a compulsively readable style that makes the book as entertaining as it is illuminating–

Order Far From the Tree

 Jennifer Egan, Pulitzer Prize– winning author of A Visit from the Goon Squad

Andrew Solomon has written a brave and ambitious work, bringing together science, culture and a powerful empathy. Solomon tells us that we have more in common with each other– even with those who seem anything but normal– than we would ever have imagined.

Malcolm Gladwell, author of Outliers and The Tipping Point

This is a monumental book, the kind that appears once in a decade. It could not be a better example of the literature of diversity.

Steven Pinker, fucking genius and author of The Blank Slate 

‘Reading Far from the Tree is a mind-opening experience.’ Eric Kandel

‘Andrew Solomon’s investigation of many of the most intense challenges that parenthood can bring compels us all to re-examine how we understand human difference. Perhaps the greatest gift of this monumental book, full of facts and full of feelings, is that it constantly makes one think, and think again.’ Philip Gourevitch

 After all that, how can you not want to order a copy of Far from the Tree from Booktopia right now…? Click Here

Caroline Baum’s Book of the Month – THE STRAYS by Emily Bitto

Order The Strays todayInspired by the bohemian art world of 1930s Melbourne The Strays is a marvellously accomplished and assured debut, announcing a major new talent. Rich in atmosphere and beautifully observed, it tells the story of only child Lily who makes friends with Eva at school and then becomes infatuated with her family, particularly larger-than-life painter Evan and his glamorous wife Helena.

Lily tells the story of her progressive enchantment with their home, their garden, their friends and their expanding creative circle of strays from a retrospective point of view, as an adult now faced with the prospect of reunion with Eva after a long separation: a gallery opening invitation brings back sharp and painful memories of intense relationships.

Poetic, richly visual and faultlessly judged in terms of pace, character and atmosphere, this is writing that has the rich patina of an enduring classic. A stylish and mature addition to the rites of passage, coming of age genre.

Grab a copy of Emily Bitto’s The Strays here

The Strays

by Emily Bitto

In The Strays, Evan Trentham is the wild child of the Melbourne art world of the 1930s. Author: Emily BittoHe and his captivating wife, Helena, attempt to carve out their own small niche, to escape the stifling conservatism they see around them, by gathering together other like-minded artists. They create a utopian circle within their family home, offering these young artists a place to live and work, and the mixed benefits of being associated with the infamous Evan. At the periphery of this circle is Lily Struthers, the best friend of Evan and Helena’s daughter Eva.

Lily is infatuated by the world she bears witness to, and longs to be part of this enthralling makeshift family. As Lily observes years later, looking back on events that she still carries painfully within her, the story of this groundbreaking circle involved the same themes as Evan Trentham’s art: Faustian bargains and terrible recompense; spectacular fortunes and falls from grace. Yet it was not Evan, nor the other artists he gathered around him, but his own daughters, who paid the debt that was owing.

Grab a copy of Emily Bitto’s The Strays here

REVIEW: The Pike by Lucy Hughes- Hallett (review by Lucinda Holdforth) #swf2014

Order The Pike Gabriele D'Annunzio, Poet, Seducer and Preacher of War hereDon’t be put off by the apparently obscure subject and considerable heft of Lucy Hughes-Hallet’s wonderful biography of Gabriele D’Annunzio, The Pike.

D’Annunzio leaps off the page as a sex-mad spendthrift poet; a crack-pot warrior who led a small army to seize and rule an Istrian port city; and an almost-but-not quite-comic prototype for Mussolini’s Fascism.

The Pike is a gripping portrait of a man acting out his own Nietzschean fantasies, but it also offers rare insight into that strange early 20th century period when so many Europeans, perhaps in what historian Christopher Clark termed “a crisis of masculinity”, came to view violent conflict as a desirable end in itself.

D’Annunzio was one of the most lavish proponents of this view – extolling blood, death and slaughter as a form of glorious masculine hygiene and nation-building.

Hughes-Hallett takes us deep into D’Annunzio’s bizarre world, and we emerge repelled but fascinated, and enlightened.

I’ll never look at Italy the same way again. And I have put a visit to D’Annunzio’s final folly, his house Il Vittoriale on Lake Garda, on my must-see list next time I visit. Review by Lucinda Holdforth

The Pike won the Samuel Johnson Prize and it was chosen as Book of the Year by more critics than any other book in 2013!

Lucy Hughes-Hallet will be at the Sydney Writers’ Festival in May this year -
for more details click the banner below…

Order your tickets now...

Book your ticket now.

Order The Pike Gabriele D'Annunzio, Poet, Seducer and Preacher of War hereThe Pike: Gabriele D’Annunzio, Poet, Seducer and Preacher of War

The story of Gabriele D’Annunzio, poet, writer, novelist, dramatist, daredevil, and one of the early precursors of Fascism.

In September 1919 Gabriele D’Annunzio, successful poet, dramatist and occasional politician with an innate flair for the melodramatic, declared himself the Commandante of the city of Fiume in modern day Croatia. He intended to establish the utopian modern state upon his muddled fascist and artistic ideals and create a social paradigm for the rest of the world. It was a fittingly dramatic pinnacle to a career that had been essentially theatrical.

In her new book Lucy Hughes-Hallett charts the enthralling but controversial life of D’Annunzio – acclaimed poet and author, legendary seducer and charmer – who lived an extravagant and debt-ridden life, and became a military and national hero. He evolved from an idealistic poet, who allied himself with the Romantic aesthetic, to an instigator of radical right-wing revolt against democratic authority.

D’Annunzio’s colourful story is also a political parable: through his apparently contradictory nature and the eventual failure of the Fiume endeavour, a picture is created of the politically turbulent Europe of the early 20th century and of the poison of emergent fascism.

As in the successful Heroes, Hughes-Hallett takes the story of a memorable character’s life to explore the society and politics of the times in which he lived. She raises questions concerning the figure of the ‘superman’, the cult of nationalism and the origins of political extremism and war. At the centre however stands the flamboyant and charismatic D’Annunzio: a figure as deplorable as he is fascinating. Order a copy.

About the Author:

Author: Lucy Hughes-HallettLucy Hughes-Hallett is an award-winning cultural historian, biographer and critic. The Pike has won the Samuel Johnson Prize and it was chosen as Book of the Year by more critics than any other book in 2013. Lucy’s previous books are Heroes: A History of Hero Worship and Cleopatra: Histories, Dreams, and Distortions . She began her career as a feature writer on Vogue, after having won the Vogue Talent Contest, and subsequently won the Catherine Pakenham Award for young female journalists. She was the Evening Standard’s television critic for five years and she has written on books or theatre for most of the leading British broadsheet newspapers. She has judged a number of literary prizes, including the Costa Children’s Book Award, and, most recently, the Duff Cooper Award. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

Praise for The Pike from the Press:

‘Among the bizarre and sensational, it would be hard to beat Gabriele D’Annunzio. The Pike by Lucy Hughes-Hallett, a life of the Italian poet and self-promoter, is the acclaimed winner of the 2013 Samuel Johnson prize for nonfiction, and a biographical tour de force.

Even by Italian standards, D’Annunzio is stranger than fiction. Bestselling poet, aviator, showman, war hero, libertine and fantasist, he was the proto-fascist manifestation of that strand in Italian life that flourished under Mussolini (whom D’Annunzio despised). But he was also a European phenomenon. James Joyce compared him to Flaubert, Kipling and Tolstoy. Hughes-Hallett has previously written about heroes and supermen. D’Annunzio is the subject for which she has long been in rehearsal.

Small, self-obsessed, with very bad teeth, D’Annunzio is not an appealing character. His treatment of those close to him was shocking. His ideas were ridiculous. Hughes-Hallett justifies her interest by claiming, perhaps correctly, that D’Annunzio’s story illustrates how the glorious classical past can lead to the jackboot and the fascist manganello.I do hope this image is genuine!

D’Annunzio was also obsessed with sex and with the smell, taste, texture, and sensation of his lovers’ bodies. His letters are replete with detail which Hughes-Hallett, who revels in sensuality, has mined voraciously. The Pike, an off-putting title, is nevertheless a rich, voluptuous treat. She rightly says her subject is “half-beast, half-god”. Confronted with an unreliable subject she has adopted a method more common to novels than biographies. The result is a triumph, the biography of the year.’ Robert McCrum, Observer, ‘Books of the Year’

‘[The Pike] dramatically extends biography’s formal range to encompass a daunting theme’ TLS, ‘Books of the Year’

‘This is a magnificent portrait of a preposterous character … deplorable, brilliant, ludicrous, tragic but above all irresistible, as hundreds of women could testify. His biographer has done him full justice’ Francis Wheen, Daily Mail

‘A cracker of a biography, an extraordinary story of literary accomplishment, passionate war-mongering and sexual incorrigibility… In less skilled hands this could have been a disaster; in fact it works wonderfully well’ Spectator, ‘Books of the Year’

‘Beautiful, strange and original … an extraordinarily intimate portrait’ New StatesmanLess distressing

‘Hugely enjoyable … Hughes-Hallett has a great talent for encapsulating an era or an attitude …That almost 700 pages flew by bears testimony to how pleasurable and readable those pages were’ Sunday Times

‘A splendid subject for a biography … Hughes-Hallett dances her way through this extraordinary life in a style that is playful, punchy and generally pleasing … In death, as in life, the amazing story of D’Annunzio is painted in primary colours, but with the darkest shadows’ Observer

‘A riveting biography … It must have been so tempting to be judgemental, but Hughes-Hallett allows us to judge for ourselves’ Antonia Fraser, Daily Mail, ‘Books of the Year’

‘Not only an inspired telling of a life that becomes more repellent with each page, it illuminates early 20th-century Europe in brilliant, unexpected ways’ Observer

‘Electrifying … a fascinating portrait … Hughes-Hallett relates his journey from romantic idealist to Right-wing warmonger with flair and insight’ Daily Express

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