Caroline Overington : Five Fiction Favourites for 2011

Caroline Overington

author of Matilda is Missing,
I Came To Say Goodbye

and Ghost Child

reveals…

The 5 best novels I read this year are…



The Spare Room

by Helen Garner

Blurb: Helen lovingly prepares her spare room for her friend Nicola. She is coming to visit for three weeks, to receive treatment she believes will cure her cancer.

From the moment Nicola staggers off the plane, gaunt and hoarse but still somehow grand, Helen becomes her nurse, her guardian angel and her stony judge.

The Spare Room tells a story of compassion, humour and rage. The two women—one sceptical, one stubbornly serene—negotiate an unmapped path through Nicola’s bizarre therapy, stumbling towards the novel’s terrible and transcendent finale.

‘A perfect novel, imbued with all Garner’s usual clear-eyed grace but with some other magnificent dimension that hides between the lines of her simple conversational voice. How is it that she can enter this heart-breaking territory—the dying friend who comes to stay—and make it not only bearable, but glorious, and funny? There is no answer except: Helen Garner is a great writer; The Spare Room is a great book.’ Peter Carey

BUY



Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

by John Berendt

Blurb: Genteel society ladies who compare notes on their husbands’ suicides. A hilariously foul-mouthed black drag queen. A voodoo priestess who works her roots in the graveyard at midnight. A morose inventor who owns a bottle of poison powerful enough to kill everyone in town. A prominent antiques dealer who hangs a Nazi flag from his window to disrupt the shooting of a movie. And a redneck gigolo whose conquests describe him as a ‘walking streak of sex’.

These are some of the real residents of Savannah, Georgia, a city whose eccentric mores are unerringly observed – and whose dirty linen is gleefully aired – in this utterly irresistible book. At once a true-crime murder story and a hugely entertaining and deliciously perverse travelogue, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is as bracing and intoxicating as half-a-dozen mint juleps.

BUY



The Secret Garden

by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Blurb: ‘Mary is a tough feisty character, who manages to turn a whole household, and the lives of those in it, completely upside down… The book is brim full of magic and joy’  – Sunday Telegraph.

Mary Lennox is an orphan who is sent to live with her uncle at gloomy Misselthwaite Manor. Neglected and lonely, she begins to explore her new home and learns of a secret garden that her uncle has forbidden anyone to enter.

A friendly robin shows Mary the key to the garden and she discovers a world she could never have imagined…

The Secret Garden has enchanted generations of children and adults alike.

BUY



Blood Meridian

by Cormac McCarthy

Blurb: Blood Meridian is an epic novel of the violence and depravity that attended America’s westward expansion, brilliantly subverting the conventions of the Western novel and the mythology of the Wild West.

Based on historical events that took place on the Texas-Mexico border in the 1850s, it traces the fortunes of the Kid, a fourteen-year-old Tennessean who stumbles into a nightmarish world where Indians are being murdered and the market for their scalps is thriving.

‘McCarthy’s achievement is to establish a new mythology which is as potent and vivid as that of the movies, yet one which has absolutely the opposite effect …He is a great writer’ – “Independent”.

‘I have rarely encountered anything as powerful, as unsettling, or as memorable as Blood Meridian …A nightmare odyssey’ – “Evening Standard”.

‘His masterpiece …The book reads like a conflation of the “Inferno”, “The Iliad” and “Moby Dick”. I can only declare that “Blood Meridian” is unlike anything I have read in recent years, and seems to me an extraordinary, breathtaking achievement’ – John Banville.

BUY



The Night Circus

by Erin Morgenstern

A magical love story set to be the publishing sensation of 2011

Blurb: In 1886 a mysterious travelling circus becomes an international sensation. Open only at night, constructed entirely in black and white, the Cirque des Rêves delights all who wander its circular paths and warm themselves at its bonfire. There are contortionists, performing cats, carousels and illusionists – all the trappings of an ordinary circus. But this is no conventional spectacle. Some tents contain clouds, some ice. The circus seems almost to cast a spell over its aficionados, who call themselves the rêveurs – the dreamers. And who is the sinister man in the grey suit who watches over it all? Behind the scenes a dangerous game is being played out by two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who, at the behest of their masters, are forced to test the very limits of the imagination – and of love.

A feast for the senses, a fin-de-siècle fantasia of magic and mischief, and the most original love story since The Time Traveller’s Wife, The Night Circus is an extraordinary blend of fantasy and reality. It will dazzle readers young and old with its virtuoso performance, and who knows, they might not want to leave the world it creates.

BUY


I reviewed Caroline’s new novel Matilda is Missing recently – here is a taste of that review:

I read Matilda is Missing in a few days. I was hooked within pages and found myself reading well into the night. I would pick it up in between times, too, snatching bite sized portions of the story while I was rushing to get ready in the morning – while the kettle boiled, before the toaster popped and while the kids printed off last night’s homework.

What surprised me most about my reading of Matilda is Missing was that I was reading it at all. If I were flicking through a newspaper or reading a magazine and I came across a story about the family court, or a grandparent’s right to access their grandchildren, or equal rights for fathers in divorce cases, I wouldn’t read beyond the headlines.

But I read Matilda is Missing.

I picked it up on a whim, curious to see what all the fuss was about (The success of Overington’s last novel, I Came to Say Goodbye, has the book world salivating over the sales potential of Matilda is Missing). I do that a lot. I pick up review copies here in the office and flick through a few pages, read a bit and then generally drop the book back on the pile. We have so many books to review. You can’t read them all. Read the full review…

My personal picks for 2011: Novels you can give as gifts with confidence

This year I read more novels by living, breathing writers than by stone cold dead writers. This is a first for me.

However, if the truth be told, many of the contemporary novels I started were left unfinished. It’s partly due to the nature of the job. Publishers throw box loads of fiction at us to review and I can’t read them all. And, it is partly due to the state of modern fiction – I expect a lot from the books I read and very few contemporary writers deliver.

That said, when I do fall for a novel, I fall hard.

The books of 2011 I recommend you read yourself and give as gifts to others are:


Australian Fiction


Last Summer by Kylie Ladd

By the simple act of telling a story a good book can carry a light into the dark and unexamined corners of a reader’s life. The darkest of these unexamined corners is occupied by the single irrefutable truth of our existence, death. Left in the shadows this stark fact can take on all of the attributes of a nightmarish spectre. Left unexamined we may be left entirely unprepared when death intrudes upon our own lives. Something it will do, eventually.

Last Summer by Kylie Ladd, begins with the sudden death of Rory Buchanan, captain of the local cricket team, a man in the prime of his life. We immediately enter the lives of those Rory left behind – his wife, Colleen, his sister, Kelly, her husband, Joe, and Rory’s friends and team-mates, Nick, James and Pete, and their wives, Laine, Anita and Trinity as they, in their various ways, cope with Rory’s death and face up to the fact that life does, and will, go on without him.

Last Summer is told from the points of view of these nine characters with full chapters from one point of view only. This method of storytelling requires strong characterisation so that each individual point of view provides a unique perspective on the events. By choosing suburban Melbourne as her setting, and the cricket club as her focal point, Ladd has made things difficult for herself. There is much that is necessarily shared by all of these nine characters. They are all white, they are all Continue reading

Matilda is Missing by Caroline Overington: a review by John Purcell

I read Matilda is Missing in a few days. I was hooked within pages and found myself reading well into the night. I would pick it up in between times, too, snatching bite sized portions of the story while I was rushing to get ready in the morning – while the kettle boiled, before the toaster popped and while the kids printed off last night’s homework.

What surprised me most about my reading of Matilda is Missing was that I was reading it at all. If I were flicking through a newspaper or reading a magazine and I came across a story about the family court, or a grandparent’s right to access their grandchildren, or equal rights for fathers in divorce cases, I wouldn’t read beyond the headlines.

But I read Matilda is Missing.

I picked it up on a whim, curious to see what all the fuss was about (The success of Overington’s last novel, I Came to Say Goodbye, has the book world salivating over the sales potential of Matilda is Missing). I do that a lot. I pick up review copies here in the office and flick through a few pages, read a bit and then generally drop the book back on the pile. We have so many books to review. You can’t read them all.

So I picked up Matilda is Missing. I read the preface. I was interested. I read the first page, then the second, then the third. It was compelling stuff. I was won over. I popped the review copy in my bag and took it home that night.

Yes, author Caroline Overington was the social welfare reporter for The Australian newspaper. Yes, she brought to bear all of her first hand knowledge and experience of the workings of the family court. Yes, Matilda is Missing is probably based on actual cases. But her articles were informed by such things, too, and I never read them. If she were to write a brilliant article tomorrow on the subject covered in Matilda is Missing, I wouldn’t read that either. I read about a subject I have no great interest in or patience with because I was beguiled by Caroline’s skill as a novelist.

This is the power of the novel. No other medium could have induced me to sit still long enough to appreciate the difficulties facing those who have to decide who gets custody of a child in a divorce case.

Matilda is Missing contains a story within a story, narrated by the very likeable, Barry. The framing story describes the heartbreak of a grandmother, Pat, Barry’s wife, who is barred from seeing her grandchildren and covers her very public fight for access. And within this frame, when an old friend, and former Family Court Judge, asks Barry to listen to recordings of interviews with a court appointed psychologist, we have the story of Softest Sound Monaghan, known as Softie (hippie parents) and Garry Hartshorn and their fight for custody of Matilda.Click here for more details or to order I Came to Say Goodbye

There is no right way to raise a child. It is and always will be a matter of dispute. Some may seem more right than others. Some may appear to horribly wrong. But who is to say who is right and who is wrong when two ordinary people with fairly similar notions of child raising claim to be the best person to look after their child? The court must dig deeper.

Softie and Garry are interviewed in their turn and are asked by the psychologist to relate the details of their lives. A novelist knows there are no ordinary lives. As their stories unfolded I found myself being convinced that Garry was right and Softie wrong, then moments later, that Softie was in the right and Garry in the wrong. I was exposed to the difficulties faced by the Family Court in making decisions concerning custody.

Matilda is Missing is a gripping read which takes an unflinching look at the impact Family Court decisions have on children, parents, grandparents and on those making the decisions themselves. That is, Matilda is Missing examines a subject we only ever consider when it is too late.

Did you read Caroline’s last novel, I Came to Say Goodbye? What did you think? Leave a comment below…

Click here to read Caroline’s answers to my Six Sharp Questions

Matilda is Missing is Available from 3rd October 2011: click here to order your copy from Booktopia. Australia’s No. 1 Online Book Shop and SAVE 21%

Get Reading with Booktopia

Here is a question for you. Is there a scent that you associate with books? I don’t mean the smell of the paper, or the leather when you walk into a room full of old books. I mean, is there a smell that immediately transports you to reading heaven? Do you associate a perfume with a particular memory of reading, or a particular book?

For me, it is an easy ask. The minute I catch even a whiff of jasmine, I am in sensory heaven – jasmine poking through the paling fence, a sprig or two tucked behind one ear, sun on my back, book in my hand, sheltered from the cold early spring wind in a walled courtyard, pot of tea steaming by my Continue reading

Matilda is Missing by Caroline Overington is out in October

Last year Toni Whitmont, editor-in-chief of the Booktopia BUZZ chose Caroline Overington’s I Came to Say Goodbye for her inaugural BUZZ CLUB pick.

Choosing a book club’s first book is difficult. Choosing a book for a club made up of 25,000 picky readers must have been terrifying. But Toni knows her stuff and I don’t think she could have chosen a better book than I Came to Say Goodbye to launch her book club because I Came to Say Goodbye is the kind of book which excites passionate discussion. Such passion is what makes a good book club great. On the back of Toni’s big initial BUZZ CLUB push, independent suburban book clubs all over Australia chose to read it, too, and Booktopia sold box loads of the novel. (Thanks, Caroline!)

Caroline Overington is now justly famed for bringing to life thorny social issues via the drama of her novels. Grittier that Jodi Picoult, Overington’s novels are firmly placed in today’s Australia, an Australia we sometime wish didn’t ring so true. She’ll get you thinking about a subject you thought you knew from an angle you didn’t know existed.

October sees the release of Overington’s latest novel… (we can’t wait) Continue reading

Hardback Vs Paperback – Is this, too, a gender issue?

A complaint has been lodged in the UK and echoed here in Australia – women writers of fiction are not being taken seriously. Case in point: Fewer women than men are published in hardback.

This point may seem meaningless. The economy and ease of the paperback makes it the choice of any sensible consumer, anyway. Why should women care whether they are published in hardback? Especially when we consider that the number of female readers outstrips the number of male readers, that women dominate publishing from the top to the bottom (women are publishers, agents, editors, writers, reviewers, bloggers, judges, booksellers), that women read more often and buy more books than men which means Continue reading

The 50 Must Read Australian Novels (50 to 41) (The Popular Vote 2010)

A while ago now, whilst playing… ahem… doing important and vital Booktopia business on twitter and facebook, I decided to ask Booktopia’s followers and friends what they thought were the ‘must read’ Australian novels.

Many disparage twitter and facebook by suggesting that it is both frivolous and time wasting (I being of their number some few short months ago). Whereas I cannot defend twitter and facebook against these charges, I can say, of those who read the drivel I put out there (tweet), the vast majority are extraordinarily well read (some, frighteningly so).

(Granted, I am the voice of the best online book shop in the universe, Booktopia, and not the voice of a company that makes protein shakes for muscle bound freaks, so finding readers following Booktopia shouldn’t be a surprise, but even so… )

However, we can be proud of something – we’re not wasting ordinary lives on twitter and facebook we are squandering the best minds in Australia!

That’s who created this list, the wonderful and entertaining wasters of life and intellect who happen to follow Booktopia on twitter and facebook. And I am thankful they did because the list is a very fine list.

So, thank you all for taking the time to, first, recommend such wonderful books and, second, take the time to vote in droves, helping me to whittle down the list to a manageable 50 Must Read Australian Novels.

As you’ll see, Australia’s literature is rich and varied and some of it is even in print.

Here are…

The 50 Must Read Australian Novels

This first instalment counts down from 50 to 41 (please note the inclusion of some of my favourite ‘tweeps’ – @kylie_ladd – @domknight@overingtonc Yay! Clap, clap, clap!) (Full List of 50 Must Read Australian Novels now available – click here)


last-summer50. Last Summer

Kylie Ladd (@kylie_ladd)

Rory Buchanan has it all: looks, talent, charisma-an all around good-guy, he’s the centre of every party and a loving father and husband. Then one summer’s afternoon, tragedy strikes. Those who are closest to him struggle to come to terms with their loss. Friendships are strained, marriages falter and loyalties are tested in a gripping and brilliantly crafted novel about loss, grief and desire.

Told from the points of view of nine of the people who are mourning Rory, this riveting novel presents a vivid snapshot of contemporary suburban Australia and how we live now. Marriage, friendship, family-all are dissected with great psychological insight as they start to unravel under the pressure of grief. The characters live on the page; their lives are unfolded and their dilemmas are as real as our own.


978174114566349. Cocaine Blues: A Phryne Fisher Mystery

Kerry Greenwood

The London season is in full fling at the end of the 1920s, but the Honourable Phryne Fisher – she of the green-grey eyes, diamant garters and outfits that should not be sprung suddenly on those of nervous dispositions – is rapidly tiring of the tedium of arranging flowers, making polite conversations with retired colonels, and dancing with weak-chinned men. Instead, Phryne decides it might be rather amusing to try her hand at being a lady detective in Melbourne, Australia.

Almost immediately from the time she books into the Windsor Hotel, Phryne is embroiled in mystery: poisoned wives, cocaine smuggling rings, corrupt cops and communism – not to mention erotic encounters with the beautiful Russian dancer, Sasha de Lisse – until her adventure reaches its steamy end in the Turkish baths of Little Lonsdale Street. Continue reading

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 14,634 other followers

%d bloggers like this: