BOOK REVIEW: Silas Marner by George Eliot (Review by John Purcell)

George EliotThis short novel used to be taught in schools. And I can see why. It is short. It is entertaining.

And it is short.

Teachers have always had trouble getting teenagers to read books of a quality worth teaching. How they would have rejoiced on finding a book like Silas Marner. It is a perfectly formed and executed story. And thoroughly readable and exceedingly engaging.

Times have changed somewhat however, and no teacher in their right mind would set Silas Marner as a text now. It has way too many words for today’s students. Which doesn’t mean a grown adult with an inclination to try reading more classics shouldn’t open its pages.

One of the books I periodically re-read for the sheer pleasure of it, Silas Marner is a great introduction to nineteenth century literature.

Grab your copy of Silas Marner here!

Silas Marner

George Eliot

George EliotWrongly accused of theft and exiled from a religious community many years before, the embittered weaver Silas Marner lives alone in Raveloe, living only for work and his precious hoard of money. But when his money is stolen and an orphaned child finds her way into his house, Silas is given the chance to transform his life. His fate, and that of the little girl he adopts, is entwined with Godfrey Cass, son of the village Squire, who, like Silas, is trapped by his past.

Silas Marner, George Eliot’s favourite of her novels, combines humour, rich symbolism and pointed social criticism to create an unsentimental but affectionate portrait of rural life.

Grab your copy of Silas Marner here!


DONUTS! Now that we have your attention, we’d like to talk to you about One Hundred Days of Happiness. And Donuts.

We all love a great book, and we all love sweet pastries. So our friends at Pan Macmillan Australia decided to combine the two for Booktopians with the beautiful book One Hundred Days of Happiness.

Pre-order One Hundred Days of Happiness by July 31st and you could win a dozen donuts from Krispy Kreme delivered to your door!

What would you do if you knew you only had 100 days left to live? For Lucio Battistini, it’s a chance to spend the rest of his life the way he always should have—by making every moment count.

In 100 epigrammatic chapters, one for each of Lucio’s remaining days on earth, 100 Days of Happiness is as delicious as a hot doughnut and a morning cappuccino. Wistful, often hilarious, and always delectable, 100 Days of Happiness reminds us all to remember the preciousness of life and what matters most.


Pre-order your copy of 100 Days of Happiness here

one-hundred-days-of-happiness100 Days of Happiness

by Fausto Brizzi

“Funny, moving. . . I defy anyone to finish this story without tears in their eyes.”—Graeme Simsion, bestselling author of The Rosie Project

Womanizing, imperfect, but loveable, Lucio Battistini has been thrown out of the house by his wife and is sleeping in the stock room of his father-in-law’s bombolini bakery when he learns he has inoperable cancer.

So begins the last hundred days of Lucio’s life, as he attempts to care for his family, win back his wife (the love of his life and afterlife), and spend the next three months enjoying every moment with a zest he hasn’t felt in years.

From helping his hopelessly romantic, widowed father-in-law find love, discovering comfort in enduring friendships, and finding new ones, Lucio becomes, at last, the man he’s always meant to be.

About the Author

Fausto Brizzi is an Italian director, screenwriter, and film producer. The Night Before Exams, his debut work as a director, won him numerous awards, including the David di Donatello. 100 Days of Happiness is his first novel.

Pre-order your copy of 100 Days of Happiness here

Buy Emily Bitto’s award-winning The Strays in Paperback and receive the eBook free!

For a very limited time when you buy the paperback edition of The Strays, winner of the 2015 Stella Prize,  you will receive the full ebook edition, absolutely free!


The Strays

by Emily Bitto

In The Strays, Evan Trentham is the wild child of the Melbourne art world of the 1930s. He 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

Caroline Baum’s Review

Inspired by the bohemian art world of 1930s Melbourne this 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


BREAKING NEWS: 2015 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards Shortlists Announced


The shortlists for this year’s NSW Premier’s Literary Awards have been announced, featuring some of Australia’s most celebrated writers and young up and comers.

How many have you read?


* Ceridwen Dovey – Only the Animals golden-boys(More…)

* Elizabeth Harrower In Certain Circles (More…)

* Sonya Hartnett – Golden Boys (More…)

* Mark Henshaw – The Snow Kimono (More…)

* Joan London – The Golden Age (More…)

* Gerald Murnane – A Million Windows (More…)


* Michael Mohammed Ahmad – The Tribe (More…)9781922213211

* Maxine Beneba Clarke – Foreign Soil (More…)

* Emily Bitto – The Strays (More…)

* Luke Carman – An Elegant Young Man (More…)

* Omar Musa – Here Come the Dogs (More…)

* Ellen van Neerven – Heat and Light (More…)


* Alan Atkinson – The Europeans in Australia (More…)the-bush

* Philip Dwyer – Citizen Emperor: Napoleon in Power 1799 ‐ 1815 (More…)

* Helen Garner – This House of Grief (More…)

* Iain McCalman – The Reef: A Passionate History (More…)

* Biff Ward – In My Mother’s Hands (More…)

* Don Watson – The Bush (More…)


* Allan Baillie – The First Voyage (More…)9780143307679

* Trace Balla – Rivertime (More…)

* Tamsin Janu – Figgy in the World (More…)

* Glenda Millard, Stephen Michael King (Illustrator) – The Duck and the Darklings (More…)

* Catherine Norton – Crossing (More…)

* James O’Loghlin – The Adventures of Sir Roderick, the Not-Very Brave (More…)


* K.A. Barker – The Book of Days (More…)9781742614175

* Jackie French – The Road to Gundagai (More…)

* Darren Groth – Are You Seeing Me? (More…)

* Justine Larb alestier – Razorhurst (More…)

* Jaclyn Moriarty – The Cracks in the Kingdom (More…)

* Clare Strahan – Cracked (More…)


EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: The 2015 Vogel’s Literary Award winner Murray Middleton in conversation with John Purcell

Melbourne author Murray Middleton was announced the winner of the coveted Vogel’s Literary Award on Monday night for his exquisite short story collection When There’s Nowhere Else To Run.

The award, which offers publication by Allen & Unwin and $20,000 prize money, has been the launching pad for some of Australia’s most successful writers including Tim Winton, Kate Grenville and Gillian Mears.

We were spoiled with a visit from Murray to chat about his win and sign copies of his breathtaking debut. Check out the video below.


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When There’s Nowhere Else to Run – Vogel Winner 2015

by Murray Middleton

For a limited time only, order When There’s Nowhere Else to Run and you will receive a signed copy. *Offer available while stocks last.

The winner of the 2015 Australian/Vogel’s Literary Award.

‘Masterfully controlled … lingers long in the memory.’ Rohan Wilson, author of The Roving Party and To Name Those Lost.

In one way or another, isn’t everyone on the run?

A survivor of Victoria’s Black Saturday bushfires takes asylum with old friends in the Dandenong Ranges. An editor-in-chief drives his sister halfway around the country to an east-coast rehabilitation clinic. A single mother flies to Perth with her autistic son for one last holiday. A father at the end of his tether tries to survive the chaos of the Sydney Royal Easter Show. A group of young friends hire a luxury beach house in the final weeks of one of their lives. A postman hits a pedestrian and drives off into the night.

When There’s Nowhere Else to Run is a collection of stories about people who find their lives unravelling. They are teachers, lawyers, nurses, firemen, chefs, gamblers, war veterans, hard drinkers, adulterers, widows and romantics. Seeking more…

Grab a copy of When There’s Nowhere Else to Run here

middleton-200x0Murray Middleton was born with fractured hips in 1983. He spent the first three months of his life in plaster and has broken most bones since. He won The Age Short Story Award in 2010 with ‘The Fields of Early Sorrow’. When There’s Nowhere Else to Run is his first published collection of short stories. He currently lives in Melbourne and won’t publish a second collection of stories until the Saints win a second premiership.

9 Things You Didn’t Know About The Great Gatsby

great-gatsby-the-us-import-ed-Today marks 90 years since the release of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s seminal novel The Great Gatsby.

To celebrate, we’ve done some digging and found a few quirky facts about the novel many regard as the quintessential ‘Great American Novel’.

1. It wasn’t always going to be called The Great Gatsby

At one time or another, all of these were in consideration: Among Ash-Heaps and Millionaires; Trimalchio; Trimalchio in West Egg; On the Road to West Egg; Under the Red, White, and Blue; Gold-Hatted Gatsby and The High-Bouncing Lover.

2. The book was initially a commercial flop…

At the time of his death in 1940, Fitzgerald claimed to have made just $4,000 off the novel, and died believing that his work was doomed to be forgotten and left behind by time and regretted Gatsby.

The New York Times’ obit on Fitzgerald even cited the novel as a sign he never reached his full potential.

3. …and Fitzgerald thought he knew why

Fitzgerald was convinced that the reason the book wasn’t a rousing success was because Gatsby didn’t have a single admirable female character—and, at the time, the majority of people reading novels were women.

He also thought that the title, which was only “fair,” resulted in poor sales.

4. Meyer Wolfshiem was based on a real person

Meyer Wolfshiem is a very thinly-veiled reference to Arnold Rothstein, the man behind The Black Sox Scandal, where eight Chicago White Sox players were accused of intentionally losing the 1919 world series in exchange for money from gamblers.

If the similar names didn’t give it away, the fact that Wolfshiem is said to have fixed the World Series probably did.

5. Fitzgerald was often his own inspiration

The Great Gatsby opens with a famous epigraph by the poet Thomas Parke D’Invilliers: “Then wear the gold hat, if that will move her/ If you can bounce high, bounce for her too/ Till she cry, “Lover, gold-hatted, high-bouncing lover / I must have you!” Guess what? He doesn’t exist!

The character was a creation of Fitzgerald’s in This Side of Paradise.

6. Fitzgerald was a horrible speller

The first draft of The Great Gatsby was riddled with spelling errors, but it was hardly a surprise to his editors. F. Scott Fitzgerald was famously deplorable speller.

So bad was he, in fact, that American literary critic Edmund Wilson called an early draft of This Side of Paradise “one of the most illiterate books of any merit ever published.”

7. Fitzgerald rewrote the novel because he was so enamoured with the cover design

Francis Cugat designed the now classic cover art for the novel, and F. Scott Fitzgerald was just as impressed with its haunting imagery as readers have been; the design has become a mainstay in the popular consciousness.

Fitzgerald was so taken with it that he rewrote the novel to place more emphasis on the symbol of the eyes, making T.J. Eckleburg’s business a larger motif of the work.

8. Fitzgerald never expanded on the character of Jay Gatsby outside of the novel

Fitzgerald loved to create discussion around his work, and despite the lukewarm response upon it’s release, he never expanded on Gatsby’s race or religion beyond the novel’s pages. Gatsby himself is open to a number of interpretations.

Although many believe that Jay Gatsby was Jewish (a Jewish associate of Meyer Wolfsheims, James Gatz, is believed to have been a major inspiration), some scholars have argued that Jay Gatsby was black.

9. WWII made The Great Gatsby a household name

At the time of his death, Gatsby’s publisher still had copies of the book in its warehouse—and that was from a second printing of just 3000 books. Fitzgerald’s works saw a revival in 1945. Helping in that revival: 150,000 copies of Gatsby were sent to Americans serving in WWII.

Once the war ended, the book became a staple of high school English lit curricula, and the novel remained a commercial success. By 1960, the book steadily sold 50,000 copies each year, and today it has sold over 30 million copies.

the-great-gatsbyThe Great Gatsby

by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The lavish and glorious Baz Luhrmann film tie-in edition of The Great Gatsby

Nick Carraway, a Midwesterner now living on Long Island, finds himself fascinated by the mysterious past and extravagent lifestyle of his neighbour, Jay Gatsby.

Jay Gatsby is a self-made man famed for his decadent, champagne-drenched parties. Despite being surrounded by Long Island’s bright and beautiful, he longs only for Daisy Buchanan.

Gatsby pursues his dream and Nick Carraway is drawn into Gatsby’s circle, becoming a witness to obsession and tragedy.

Grab a copy of The Great Gatsby here

To Kill A Mockingbird Set To Become A Trilogy

Nelle Harper LeeTo Kill a Mockingbird author Harper Lee has announced her long awaited sequel, Go Set a Watchman, will be the second book in a planned Mockingbird trilogy.

The third book, which has a working title of The Girl Who Killed The Mockingbird, will be set in an alternate reality where humans and birds struggle to co-exist.

Scout is a rouge FBI agent with a taste for vengeance and an eye for danger. But what happens when danger has an eye for her?

Michael Bay and Jerry Bruckheimer are rumoured to have already acquired the film rights, with Nicholas Cage set to play ‘Crunk’, a mysterious space pirate from Scout’s past.


go-set-a-watchmanGo Set a Watchman

The Sequel to To Kill A Mockingbird

Set during the mid-1950s, Go Set a Watchman features many of the characters from To Kill a Mockingbird some twenty years later.

Scout has returned to Maycomb from New York to visit her father Atticus.

She is forced to grapple with issues both personal and political as she tries to understand both her father’s attitude toward society, and her own feelings about the place where she was born and spent her childhood.

An instant classic.

Click here for more details about Go Set a Watchman


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