The Booktopia Buzz Evolves

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Booktopia is proud to present a special podcast edition of the January Buzz with Caroline Baum.

Click here to download and get the latest in book reviews and tips for the new year.

You can visit Caroline Baum’s Booktopia page here for other great recommendations, news and authors interviews.


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VIDEO INTERVIEW: Christos Tsiolkas chats with John Purcell about anger, happiness and the power of failure

Writing a follow up to The Slap was never going to be easy for Christos Tsiolkas. John Purcell casts an eye over his latest, Barracuda.

ChristosTsiolkasThis is a difficult book to write about. It has a personality rather than a plot. It is built upon emotion rather than reason. It is all shouts and whispers and nothing in between.

As a boy Danny Kelly wants only one thing – to be the greatest swimmer of all time. And his dream isn’t farfetched. His coach believes he can do it. His mother is behind him, waking early and driving him to the pool. And his peers think he can do it, though they resent him for his talent.

Every waking moment of Danny Kelly’s life is lived in pursuit of that single goal – which makes him a bit of a shit.

Christos Tsiolkas doesn’t deliver Danny’s story in sequence. Because Danny’s life isn’t linear. There is one central event, one devastating moment in Danny’s life and all other moments are either before or after it. He has no past, present, or future.  Everything races towards and circles back to that event. If we want to understand Danny we need to understand this.

Barracuda questions our obsession with winning and winners. It examines failure, shame and regret. It asks whether we can ever be truly forgiven for our sins. And it does so in naked fearless prose. This is not an uplifting book, but unlike Eyrie, there is love and there is hope. And it suggests we are only as isolated from others as we allow ourselves to be.

For more details about Barracuda click here

Barracuda

by Christos Tsiolkas

Tender and brutal and blazingly brilliant, the new novel from the acclaimed author of the international bestseller The Slap takes an unflinching look at modern Australia – at our hopes and dreams, our friendships, and our families – and asks what it means to be a good person and what it takes to become one.

He asked the water to lift him, to carry him, to avenge him. He made his muscles shape his fury, made every stroke declare his hate. And the water obeyed; the water would give him his revenge. No one could beat him, no one came close.

His whole life, Danny Kelly’s only wanted one thing: to win Olympic gold. Everything he’s ever done-every thought, every dream, every action-takes him closer to that moment of glory, of vindication, when the world will see him for what he is: the fastest, the strongest and the best. His life has been a preparation for that moment.

His parents struggle to send him to the most prestigious private school with the finest swimming program; Danny loathes it there and is bullied and shunned as an outsider, but his coach is the best and knows Danny is, too, better than all those rich boys, those pretenders. Danny’s win-at-all-cost ferocity gradually wins favour with the coolest boys-he’s Barracuda, he’s the psycho, he’s everything they want to be but don’t have the guts to get there. He’s going to show them all.

He would be first, everything would be alright when he came first, all would be put back in place. When he thought of being the best, only then did he feel calm.

Should we teach our children to win, or should we teach them to live? How do we make and remake our lives? Can we atone for our past? Can we overcome shame? And what does it mean to be a good person?

A searing and provocative novel by the acclaimed author of the international bestseller The Slap, Barracuda is an unflinching look at modern Australia, at our hopes and dreams, our friendships, and our families. It is about class and sport and politics and migration and education. It contains everything a person is: family and friendship and love and work, the identities we inhabit and discard, the means by which we fill the holes at our centre. Barracuda is brutal, tender and blazingly brilliant; everything we have come to expect from this fearless vivisector of our lives and world.

For more details about Barracuda click here

We also have signed copies of The Slap

REVIEW: The Tournament By Matthew Reilly (Review by John Purcell)

imageBestselling author Matthew Reilly is one of Australia’s most reliable writers. Every couple of years he delivers his fans quality popular fiction and every couple of years he can be counted on to break Australian sales records.  But till now, all of his successes, Ice Station, Seven Ancient Wonders, Temple, The Five Greatest Warriors, Scarecrow, to name just a few, have one thing in common, the breakneck speed of their narrative.

The Tournament is a departure for Reilly, gone is his trademark breakneck speed. Instead we find a narrative with gravitational pull. Enter The Tournament’s orbit and you cannot escape, you must read on to the final page.

That said this book still jogs along. You don’t get to where Reilly is without learning a trick or two. He has chosen a point in time, 1546. He has given us a narrator, Queen Elizabeth I, no less. He has booked a stage, a chess tournament in Constantinople held by Sulleiman the Magnificent, Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. And hired only the best talent to walk his boards, St Ignatius Loyola, Michelangelo, Ivan the Terrible, and a 13 year old Elizabeth Tudor, who is accompanied by her teacher, Roger Ascham, the real hero of the story, a Renaissance Sherlock Holmes.

imageBefore the first page there is a warning from Matthew Reilly stating that this is most definitely an adult book with adult content. And what I think he means is that there is sex in it. Because sex was the only thing missing from his other books, all which contain violence aplenty. In The Tournament the sex is illustrative, designed to show the decadence of the Sultan’s court and we, the readers, are observers only, never participants as is the case with erotic fiction. Any 15 year old with an iPhone has seen much, much worse. And besides, the sex and violence are the carrot which keeps us turning the pages. The Tournament is essentially a didactic tale, with lots of discussions about morality, religion, philosophy, history and politics. Ascham is the future queen’s teacher and he is convinced that she must know of the world to rule it well. Matthew Reilly, a great fan of Star Wars, has created a pair to rival, Obi-Wan and Luke Skywalker.

This is a book which will entertain thousands of Australian readers this summer holidays. It is not too heavy, not too light, just right.

For more details about The Tournament click here

roger-ascham-and-the-king-s-lost-girlStill unsure? Grab a copy of Matthew Reilly’s FREE EBOOK here!

ROGER ASCHAM AND THE KING’S LOST GIRL

In this special FREE prequel to Matthew Reilly’s The Tournament, Roger Ascham, the unorthodox tutor of Princess Elizabeth, is tasked by King Henry VIII with a most unusual and dangerous mission.

REVIEW: Barracuda By Christos Tsiolkas (Review by John Purcell)

Writing a follow up to The Slap was never going to be easy for Christos Tsiolkas. John Purcell casts an eye over his latest, Barracuda.

ChristosTsiolkasThis is a difficult book to write about. It has a personality rather than a plot. It is built upon emotion rather than reason. It is all shouts and whispers and nothing in between.

As a boy Danny Kelly wants only one thing – to be the greatest swimmer of all time. And his dream isn’t farfetched. His coach believes he can do it. His mother is behind him, waking early and driving him to the pool. And his peers think he can do it, though they resent him for his talent.

Every waking moment of Danny Kelly’s life is lived in pursuit of that single goal – which makes him a bit of a shit.

Christos Tsiolkas doesn’t deliver Danny’s story in sequence. Because Danny’s life isn’t linear. There is one central event, one devastating moment in Danny’s life and all other moments are either before or after it. He has no past, present, or future.  Everything races towards and circles back to that event. If we want to understand Danny we need to understand this.

Barracuda questions our obsession with winning and winners. It examines failure, shame and regret. It asks whether we can ever be truly forgiven for our sins. And it does so in naked fearless prose. This is not an uplifting book, but unlike Eyrie, there is love and there is hope. And it suggests we are only as isolated from others as we allow ourselves to be.

For more details about Barracuda click here

Barracuda

by Christos Tsiolkas

Tender and brutal and blazingly brilliant, the new novel from the acclaimed author of the international bestseller The Slap takes an unflinching look at modern Australia – at our hopes and dreams, our friendships, and our families – and asks what it means to be a good person and what it takes to become one.

He asked the water to lift him, to carry him, to avenge him. He made his muscles shape his fury, made every stroke declare his hate. And the water obeyed; the water would give him his revenge. No one could beat him, no one came close.

His whole life, Danny Kelly’s only wanted one thing: to win Olympic gold. Everything he’s ever done-every thought, every dream, every action-takes him closer to that moment of glory, of vindication, when the world will see him for what he is: the fastest, the strongest and the best. His life has been a preparation for that moment.

His parents struggle to send him to the most prestigious private school with the finest swimming program; Danny loathes it there and is bullied and shunned as an outsider, but his coach is the best and knows Danny is, too, better than all those rich boys, those pretenders. Danny’s win-at-all-cost ferocity gradually wins favour with the coolest boys-he’s Barracuda, he’s the psycho, he’s everything they want to be but don’t have the guts to get there. He’s going to show them all.

He would be first, everything would be alright when he came first, all would be put back in place. When he thought of being the best, only then did he feel calm.

Should we teach our children to win, or should we teach them to live? How do we make and remake our lives? Can we atone for our past? Can we overcome shame? And what does it mean to be a good person?

A searing and provocative novel by the acclaimed author of the international bestseller The Slap, Barracuda is an unflinching look at modern Australia, at our hopes and dreams, our friendships, and our families. It is about class and sport and politics and migration and education. It contains everything a person is: family and friendship and love and work, the identities we inhabit and discard, the means by which we fill the holes at our centre. Barracuda is brutal, tender and blazingly brilliant; everything we have come to expect from this fearless vivisector of our lives and world.

For more details about Barracuda click here

REVIEW: A Meal in Winter By Hubert Mingarelli (Review by John Purcell)

9781846275340In these months, the busiest  of the bookselling year, thousands of books will compete for your attention.  Some will have huge marketing budgets to ensure they are not missed. Some will just be placed spine out on the shelf of your local bookshop. Some won’t even have that luxury. A Meal in Winter will probably suffer the fate of the latter. But that is no great indicator of its worth… Here is my review:

A Meal in Winter is a novella. You can read it in a night. But it punches well above its weight.

I am told A Meal in Winter will be published as a gorgeous little hardcover but I read the proof, a very drab looking proof is was too, and for some reason, even before I read a page, I had the notion that this was a rediscovered work, much like the work of Irène Némirovsky.  To further compound my assumption, as I read, I was reminded of Primo Levi, of Beckett, of Camus.

But this is not a rediscovered work. Though it is set in WWII and reads like it was written during or shortly after the war, A Meal in Winter was written in the last few years and is now available in English having been translated from the French. And this fact alone would make it an astonishing work. But this is just the start. In 144 pages, author Hubert Mingarelli strips the Second World War down so that it stands before us shivering in its underwear.  And what is surprising, even though he has reduced something so unimaginably huge and complicated into something so small and finely wrought, he manages to avoid trivialising the horrors of that awful period by his reduction.

We accompany three German soldiers as they journey out into the sub-zero Polish winter in search of fugitive Jews. We are privy to their conversation. We take part in their attempts to remain alive, and sane. We are forced to accept their humanity. And because of this, when they do manage to capture a hiding Jew, we are brought uncomfortably close to a truth we all try hard to avoid.

Highly recommended.

Click image for more detailsA Meal in Winter

by Hubert Mingarelli

A miniature masterpiece, this is the sparse, stunning story of three soldiers who share a meal with their Jewish prisoner and face a chilling choice.

One morning, in the dead of winter, three German soldiers are dispatched into the frozen Polish countryside. They have been charged by their commanders to track down and bring back for execution ‘one of them’ – a Jew.

Having flushed out the young man hiding in the woods, they decide to rest in an abandoned house before continuing their journey back to the camp. As they prepare food, they are joined by a passing Pole whose outspoken anti-Semitism adds tension to an already charged atmosphere.

Before long, the group’s sympathies have splintered as they consider the moral implications of their murderous mission and confront their own consciences to ask themselves: should the Jew be offered food? And, having shared their meal, should he be taken back, or set free?

About the Author

Hubert Mingarelli is the author of numerous novels, short story collections and fiction for young adults. His book Quatre Soldats [Four Soldiers], Le Seuil, (2003) won the Prix de Medicis. He lives in Grenoble.

Sam Taylor is a translator, novelist and journalist. His translated works include Laurent Binet’s award-winning novel HHhH. His own novels have been translated in 10 languages.

Click here for more details

REVIEW: Eyrie By Tim Winton (Review by John Purcell)

While reading Tim Winton’s latest novel, Eyrie, I couldn’t help thinking about Charlotte Wood’s Animal People, Zadie Smith’s NW and to a lesser extent, Julian Barnes’ Sense of an Ending.

All four books have been published in the last five years. Each chronicles the lives of people making do within a society they have inherited. Each book is despairing of the turn the western world has taken. Each searches for some sign that all is not lost.

Eyrie takes things one step further. All is lost in Tim Winton’s book. There is no hope whatsoever.

The backdrop to Winton’s despair is the West Australian government’s acquiescence to the needs of mining companies. 484346-tim-winton-039-sHis protagonist Tom Keely, a onetime prominent local environmentalist, is a defeated man.

The tide of his life is out and all is exposed to the unforgiving sun. But it is at this moment someone from the forgotten past enters his life. She is all life has to offer him now. There are no easy choices. The route back to life promises to be unforgiving and without reward.

Can Tom Keely pull himself together one last time?

The lesson here is, if there is a lesson, “ashes or diamonds, foe or friend, we’re all equal in the end”.

Click here to buy Eyrie from Booktopia,
Australia’s Local Bookstore

Caroline Baum’s Highlights from the September Booktopia BUZZ

There’s nothing tame about this bunch. This month is all about extremes. Extremes of desire, of behaviour, of crisis situations, of people tested to the limits of desire, survival, transgression and boundaries crossed. Find out how far you’d be prepared to go. Live dangerously. Pick up a book.

N.B. Caroline Baum and former Buzz editor, Toni Whitmont, will be chairing sessions at a Sydney Jewish Writer’s Festival event on 1st Sept 2013. Participating authors include Laurent Binet, Professor Bryan Gaensler, Andrea Goldsmith, John M Green, Kooshyar Karimi, Hugh Mackay, Nikki Stern, Boaz Bismuth, Michael Bar-Zohar…

Click here to view the full version of the Booktopia BUZZ

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