BOOK REVIEW: Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift (Review by John Purcell)

mothering-sundayReview by John Purcell

Delicious. That’s what this book is. Delicious.

From the first line, this evocative novel dazzled me with the beauty of the phrasing, the technical proficiency of the delivery and success of the descriptions – we are made to feel heat of the sun, the breeze against our skin, the cool marble underfoot, the afterglow of illicit sex…

Mothering Sunday reveals Booker Prize Winner, Graham Swift to be a master at the peak of his powers. Imagine an artist, a Matisse or a Picasso, deftly sketching a scene or a portrait: a line drawing, effortless for the artist to produce, just something to capture a moment, to capture a mood. It looks like magic to us, and yet to them, a commonplace – the result of genius and long experience.

So I imagine Graham Swift talking to his editor about Mothering Sunday – the editor grasping the manuscript like it was gold – and Swift saying, Oh, you like that do you? I have lots of those laying about.

Of course, no great piece of writing is effortless. Writers, even the best of them, must stretch and strain themselves to be this good. But it feels effortless. It unfurls effortlessly. He seduces us effortlessly.

We need to celebrate books like this. We need to encourage writers like Swift to write more. Great writers get better with age. Our obsession with the new can obscure this simple fact.

Mothering Sunday is erotic, moving, honest, beautiful and beguiling. And it also has the power to surprise. And for a rather short book it explores regions longer books would have difficulty covering.

A hymn to youth, a meditation on ageing, Mothering Sunday is also a study on the value of experience – highly recommended.

Grab your copy of Mothering Sunday here!


Mothering Sunday

by Graham Swiftmothering-sunday

It is March 30th 1924.

It is Mothering Sunday.

How will Jane Fairchild, orphan and housemaid, occupy her time when she has no mother to visit? How, shaped by the events of this never to be forgotten day, will her future unfold?

Beginning with an intimate assignation and opening to embrace decades, Mothering Sunday has at its heart both the story of a life and the life that stories can magically contain. Constantly surprising, joyously sensual and deeply moving, it is Graham Swift at his thrilling best.

Grab your copy of Mothering Sunday here!

 

BOOK REVIEW: Stoner by John L. Williams

stonerReview by John Purcell

I completely missed the talk about Stoner by John Williams. Originally published in 1965 to critical praise and few sales it sank like a stone until 2003 when it was rediscovered and celebrated as an American classic.

I don’t know what I was doing at the time. Probably sitting in my second-hand bookshop reading and taking no notice of the world. Blissful memories.

Without me noticing, Stoner rose from the dead, was praised by all and, in the great tradition of bookselling, after a decent passage of time, was escorted back to the grave again.

That’s where I found it.

As the preface proudly declares, Stoner is the story of an unexceptional man who lives an unexceptional life – a farmer’s son who becomes a lecturer at the state university. A footnote, if he is lucky. But then author John Williams leans in to take a closer look.

No novel in recent memory has elicited so many emotions from me. Reading Stoner, I was in turn desperately sad, impotently angry, utterly despondent and then, strangely hopeful and elated. I closed the book feeling grateful and invigorated.

I was imagining myself a foot soldier in a battle against the unthinking horde with Stoner standing beside me whispering, ‘Stand your ground and we’ll all get through this.’

Stoner is a wonderful surprise. I am very happy I stumbled across it. I will be re-reading it very soon.

Just in case, like me, you missed the second coming of Stoner, I thought I would just draw attention to the book again. I hope you don’t mind.

Learn more about Stoner here!


Stoner

by John L. Williams

stonerWilliam Stoner enters the University of Missouri at nineteen to study agriculture. A seminar on English literature changes his life, and he never returns to work on his father’s farm. Stoner becomes a teacher. He marries the wrong woman. His life is quiet, and after his death his colleagues remember him rarely.

Yet with truthfulness, compassion and intense power, this novel uncovers a story of universal value. Stoner tells of the conflicts, defeats and victories of the human race that pass unrecorded by history, and reclaims the significance of an individual life. A reading experience like no other, itself a paean to the power of literature, it is a novel to be savoured.

Learn more about Stoner here!

BOOK REVIEW: My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

my beautiful friendReview by John Purcell

Why do I put off reading books which come with a great many excellent recommendations? Is it some residue from my adolescent self, standing firm against the coercion of the group?

Probably something as stupid as that.

Well, I’m glad I overcame that foolishness when it came to picking up this much lauded, discussed and recommended novel, which is the first in a series of novels by that strangely secretive author.

My Brilliant Friend doesn’t grab you by the throat and demand to be read. It is far too self-possessed for that. This is a story told with quiet precision, a story which unfolds effortlessly, placing you firmly in the setting, the outskirts of Naples, introducing you to two very different little girls who become friends before your eyes. Surrounding them is cast of fully realised characters, with backstories and heartbeats, who continue to live richly even when not directly part of the narrative, their stories continuing offstage, as it were.

There is something uniquely compelling about this cool approach. This is a story which seems to declare – I don’t need you, dear reader, to exist.

(By the way, I call balderdash on those who claim that these books are better suited to a female audience).

Learn more about My Brilliant Friend here!


My Beautiful Friend
The Neapolitan Novels: Book 1

by Elena Ferrante, Ann Goldstein (Translator)

my beautiful friendThe story of Elena and Lila begins in a poor but vibrant neighbourhood on the outskirts of Naples. The two girls learn to rely on each other ahead of anyone or anything else, sometimes to their own detriment, as each discovers more about who she is and suffers or delights in the throes of their intense friendship.

There is a piercing honesty about Ferrante’s prose that makes My Brilliant Friend a compulsively readable portrait of two young women, and also the story of a neighbourhood, a city and a country.

My Brilliant Friend is a ravishing, wonderfully written novel about a friendship that lasts a lifetime.

Learn more about My Brilliant Friend here!

Booktopia’s John Purcell amongst the big names appearing at the 2015 Bendigo Writers Festival

Booktopia’s resident Book Guru and bestselling author John Purcell heads up an all-star lineup at this year’s Bendigo Writers Festival.

John Marsden, Bob Brown, Alice Pung, Graeme Simsion, John Clarke, Cate KennedyRobert Dessaix, Don Watson, Ellie MarneyLatika Bourke, David Astle, David M Henley, Max Gillies, Paddy O’Reilly, Robyn Davidson, Tariq Ali and The Gourmet Farmer’s Matthew Evans are just a few of the big names featuring in this year’s Bendigo Writers Festival.

Now in its fourth year, the Bendigo Writers Festival has become famous for the close access readers can experience with some of literature’s freshest thinkers, taking place in the heart of Bendigo’s View Street arts precinct.

The festival features more than 70 events in five venues across the August 8 and 9 weekend, from 9.30am on Saturday through to 5.30pm on Sunday.

For more details and to see the full program, go to www.bendigowritersfestival.com.au

heading

David Day, author of Paul Keating: The Biography, chats to John Purcell

David Day is one of Australia’s most respected historians, author of the award-winning biographies of John Curtin and Ben Chifley. He chats to John Purcell about his latest book Paul Keating: The Biography.

Grab a copy of Paul Keating: The Biography here

paul-keating-the-biographyPaul Keating: The Biography

The Story of A Prime Minister

Paul Keating was one of the most significant political figures of the late twentieth century, firstly as Treasurer for eight years and then Prime Minister for five years. Although he has spent all of his adult life in the public eye, Keating has eschewed the idea of publishing his memoirs and has discouraged biographers from writing about his life.

Undaunted, best-selling biographer David Day has taken on the task of giving Keating the biography that he deserves. Based on extensive research in libraries and archives, interviews with Keating’s former colleagues and associates, and walking the tracks of Keating’s life, Day has painted the first complete portrait of Paul Keating, covering both the public and private man.

About the Author

David Day has written widely on Australian history and the history of World War II. His biography of John Curtin won the 2000 Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards Prize for History and was shortlisted for the 2000 New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards Douglas Stewart Prize for Non-Fiction, while his biography of Ben Chifley was shortlisted for the New South Wales Premier’s Award for History in 2002.

Grab a copy of Paul Keating: The Biography here

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Michael Palin chats to John Purcell about life, Python, and diary-keeping

Michael Palin is one of the world’s most recognisable comedians and television presenters.

After establishing himself with Monty Python’s Flying Circus, he went on to appear in the acclaimed Monty Python films, as well as A Fish Called Wanda and American Friends, as well as writing books to accompany his hugely successful travel series including Himalaya and Pole to Pole.

He chats to Booktopia’s John Purcell.

travelling-to-workTravelling to Work

Diaries 1988-1998

Travelling To Work is the third volume of Michael Palin’s widely acclaimed diaries. After the Python years and a decade of filming, writing and acting, Palin’s career takes an unexpected direction into travel, which will shape his working life for the next 25 years. Yet, as the diaries reveal, he remained ferociously busy on a host of other projects throughout this whirlwind period. Travelling To Work opens in September 1988 with Michael travelling down the Adriatic on the first leg of a modern-day Around the World in Eighty Days. He was not the BBC’s first choice for the series, but after its success and that of the accompanying book the public naturally wanted more. Palin, though, has other plans. Following the tumultuous success of A Fish Called Wanda, he is in demand as an actor.

His next film, American Friends, is based on his great-grandfather’s diaries. Next he takes on his most demanding role as the head teacher in Alan Bleasdale’s award-winning drama series GBH. There is also his West End play, The Weekend, and a first novel, Hemingway’s Chair, and a lead role in Fierce Creatures, the much-delayed follow-up to Wanda. Michael describes himself as ‘drawn to risk like a moth to a flame. Someone grounded and safe who can be tempted into almost anything.’ He duly finds time for two more travel series, Pole to Pole in 1991, Full Circle in 1996, and two more bestselling books to accompany them. These latest Diaries show a man grasping every opportunity that came his way, and they deal candidly with the doubts and setbacks that accompany this prodigious word-rate. As ever, his family life, with three children growing up fast, is there to anchor him. Travelling To Work is a roller-coaster ride driven by the Palin hallmarks of curiosity and sense of adventure. These ten years in different directions offer riches on every page to his ever-growing army of readers.

Grab a copy of Michael Palin’s Travelling to Work here

The Biggest Loser’s Commando Steve puts Booktopia’s John Purcell through his paces

When Commando Steve came to Booktopia to chat about his new book Get Commando Fit, John explained why he can’t stay in shape.

But as John found out, with Commando, there are no excuses…

Grab your copy of Get Commando Fit here

get-commando-fitGet Commando Fit

by Steve Willis

If you want to look good and feel great, there are NO EXCUSES, you must Get Commando Fit – and Commando Steve is here to show you how!

Steve ‘Commando’ Willis put contestants through their paces as a trainer on Channel Ten’s top rating show Australia’s Biggest Loser. Let him do the same for you!

Steve believes that mental strength is the key to staying fit and leading a healthy, happy and low stress lifestyle and Get Commando Fit is where it all starts.

Whether you’re a desk jockey, a busy mum or managing a company, in these pages, Commando Steve provides you with the building blocks you need to kickstart you on your fitness journey – and gives you the motivation you need to keep going.

Combining fully illustrated functional exercises, a fitness program that will get you moving, and delicious, balanced recipes to fuel you to optimum health, this is the book you need to get into top shape.

There are no excuses, Get Commando Fit today!

Grab your copy of Get Commando Fit here

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 15,965 other followers

%d bloggers like this: