Five Books Every Man Should Read – From Kylie Ladd

This September we’re launching Operation GMR, Get Men Reading. We constantly get asked what books we’d recommend for husbands, sons, fathers, uncles, nephews etc.

And we often answer ANYTHING because we think men simply don’t read enough (myself included). So we’ve asked some of Australia’s favourite authors to recommend five books that every man should read.

Today’s guest is the bestselling author of Into My Arms and Last Summer, Kylie Ladd.

Kylie, take it away…


The Bitch In The House 

Edited by Cathi Hanauer

This collection of essays nails what it feels like to be a woman right now (OK, an educated, articulate, middle to upper income earning woman who is really, really pissed off about childcare and sex and men and her mother, but still.)

Want to understand us? Read this.

Feel the wrath and do it anyway.

Click here for more details


legend-of-a-suicideLegend of a Suicide

by David Vann

A heart-breaking and beautiful novel that also functions essentially as How Not To Be A Father 101.

Also by the same author and every bit as powerful is Caribou Island: How Not To Be Married 101.

Click here for more details


Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer

or Born To Run by Christopher McDougall

Forget cobbled-together footballer bios or Ashes’ diaries, this is sports writing at its nail-biting, pulse-thumping, warts-and-all best.

Into Thin Air is an account of the disastrous Everest expedition in 1996 in which eight climbers were killed by a freak storm.

Born To Run followers a group of barefoot ultrarunners (those who cover 100 miles or more at a time) as they prepare to race the Tarahumara Indians in the Copper Canyons of Mexico.

You’ll break a sweat without leaving your seat.

Click here for more details


Tough Guys Don’t Dance

by Norman Mailer

All Mailer’s work drips with testosterone, though Tough Guys Don’t Dance is frequently overlooked in favour of the more famous The Naked And The Dead, The Executioner’s Song or Advertisements For Myself.

It’s a shame, because this is simply a fabulous novel, full of sex and violence and, yes, tenderness, along with insights on everything from masculinity to homosexuality to love to fatherhood to what it’s like to wake up with your wife missing, a fresh tattoo, blood all over the front seat of your Porsche and a severed blonde head in your marijuana stash.

Click here for more details


The Joy Of Sex by Alex Comfort

or The Joy Of Cooking by Irma Rombauer

Read one to get her to come home with you.

Read both to make sure she stays.

Click here for more details


Operation Get Men Reading: Enlist Today

I have been selling books for 20 years and something I get asked more often than anything else is – can you suggest a book which will get my son reading? You can exchange son with husband, boyfriend, brother, father, uncle…

The question usually comes from a big reader, male or female, who just wants someone they love to enjoy the wonders of reading too.

I’m sure there are many women who want the same for non-reading mothers, sisters, daughters but I believe they feel more confident in choosing a book for another woman. But are stumped by the thought of choosing for a male.

So, we’ve collected together a wonderful range of books just to help make choosing a book for a man or boy easier and hopefully by doing so we will be able to welcome hundreds of more readers to the great and entertaining world of reading.

Guys, you may also have noticed that our collection also doubles as simply the best place to find your next great read. Clever, huh?

Click here to enlist in Operation GMR,
Get Men Reading

All this month we’ll also be featuring ‘Books To Make A Man’. We’ve asked some of our favourite authors to name five books every man should read.

Tomorrow’s Guest: Kylie Ladd, author of Into My Arms and Last Summer.

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Books with Bite – Kylie Ladd offers up Five Great Uncomfortable Reads

One of Booktopia’s favourite authors, Kylie Ladd, has proven to be a deft hand at exploring uncomfortable terrain. Her wonderful upcoming novel Into My Arms is no exception.

In keeping with the theme of challenging yet brilliant reads, (and on the birthday of Vladimir Nabokov, author of Lolita) Kylie was kind enough to share her five favourite books that make us explore the darker corners around us.

__________________________

Sunnyside-9780143005360Sunnyside

by Joanna Murray-Smith

Murray-Smith is better known as a playwright, but her novel Sunnyside was long-listed for the 2006 Miles Franklin award. In it, Murray-Smith deploys her scalpel-sharp wit and insight on the moneyed middle classes, on those aspirational Australians we all know (or, wince, are). There’s Molly, who wants to find inner peace by visiting the local swami (“It was a hell of an improvement on Pilates, that was for sure”) but panics when she’s asked to leave her new Gucci handbag in the change room; there’s the couple who’ve got rich from manufacturing heritage paint colours that they joke to each other should be re-named ‘Frowsy Suburbanites’, or ‘Gruesome Affluence’. There are BMWs and breakdowns, there are “forty-something yummy-mummies at Dunes by the Beach making cynical asides about their husbands. What a salad-fest that would be- rocket coming out of their diamond- studded ears. How many decades had it been since grown women ate something cooked?”  For all this, Sunnsyide isn’t a cruel book, but rather a deeply knowing one, and laugh-out-loud funny in parts. I re-read it often for a reality check, and for the frisson of the flinch.

Click here to see more books from Joanna Murray-Smith from Booktopia,
Australia’s Local Bookstore


another countryAnother Country

by Nicholas Rothwell

This one isn’t funny, and is far, far more sobering.  Nicholas Rothwell has long been the Northern Australia correspondent for The Australian, and Another Country is a collection of his essays for the newspaper. In it, Rothwell details the realities and inequities of life in the top end, an Australia that is so different to the one most of us inhabit that it may as well be another country. In eloquent and moving prose Rothwell documents the effect white settlement has had on the native inhabitants of this land: the massively increased rates of suicide and violent death, the dramatically lowered life span, the loss of language and identity, the endemic kidney failure, the systematic sexual and physical abuse of young children in remote communities, the alcohol abuse, the petrol sniffing, the financial exploitation of desert painters. Rothwell never lectures, just observes, which makes this book all the more harrowing. Read it alongside The Tall Man (Chloe Hooper) and Follow the Rabbit Proof Fence (Doris Pilkington) for an Australia that you don’t see in the Lara Bingle commercials.


lolita-popular-penguinsLolita

by Vladimir Nabokov

Is this the creepiest novel ever written? Its protagonist, Humbert Humbert, initially comes across as a cultured and sophisticated man, a doyenne of taste and refinement, but turns out to be the most unreliable narrator of them all. Humbert is a middle-aged literary professor who becomes obsessed with the 12 year old daughter of his land-lady, who he in turn kidnaps, sedates and eventually molests over and over for a number of years. The girl’s name is Dolores, but Humbert calls her Lolita, stripping of her of her identity along with her innocence and her childhood: ““Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta. She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita.” Lolita was banned in France and the UK for its erotic content, but really isn’t an erotic book at all- just a very sad one. I am glad I have read it, for its power and its prose, and I will never open it again.

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


the-winter-of-our-disconnectThe Winter of Our Disconnect

by Susan Maushart

And now for something completely different. Maushart is an academic living in Western Australia who became concerned when she began realising the effect that ever-proliferating technology- mobile phones, the internet, iPods and iPads- was having on her and her three teenage children; that, to use her words, the lounge room was morphing into a docking station, that we can have five or six hundred “friends” and no idea who our neighbours are. Taking matters into her own hands, she put the whole family on a digital diet: six months with no television, computers, MP3 players or mobile phones. Her diary of this time- interspersed with literature reviews covering, for example, the effects of our obsession with connection on our sleep patterns, socialising and sex lives- make fascinating and thought-provoking reading. We have plenty of computers in our house, but thanks to me reading this book we don’t have wi-fi: anyone who wants to get online has to do so in a public space where every other member of the family can see what they are doing and yell at them to hurry up. My kids think we are living in the stone age, but I’m grateful to Maushart for encouraging me to think about controlling technology, not letting it control us.

Click here to buy The Winter of Our Disconnect from Booktopia,
Australia’s Local Bookstore


never-let-me-goNever Let Me Go

by Kazuo Ishiguro

I tossed up the number five spot between Sophie’s Choice and Never Let Me Go, but chose the latter because really, if a Holocaust novel doesn’t make you squirm, what will? Too easy. Never Let Me Go, in contrast, is set at Halisham, a boarding school in England. At first the novel unfolds as a standard, though lyrical, coming of age story. Gradually, however, the reader begins to realise that there’s something else going on here… why are the teachers called ‘guardians’? Why is it so important that the students keep themselves healthy?  I’m absolutely not going to give anything further away other than to say that even once you’ve twigged as to what’s going on, you can’t stop reading, and the ending has stayed with me for many, many years. A bewitching and horrifying novel.

Click here to buy Never Let Me Go from Booktopia,
Australia’s Local Bookstore


Honourable mentions by category… read these to make you feel uncomfortable about

Motherhood: A Life’s Work (Cusk)
Marriage: Caribou Island (Vann)
Friendship: The Myth Of You And Me (Stewart)
Parenting: We Need To Talk About Kevin (Shriver)
National security: The Unknown Terrorist (Flanagan)
Sending your kids to uni: I am Charlotte Simmons (Wolfe)
Wanting it all: The Bitch in the House (Hanauer)
The family pet: Dog Boy (Hornung)


Into My Arms

By Kylie Ladd

When Skye meets Ben their attraction is instantaneous and intense. Neither of them has ever felt more in synch – or in love – with anyone in their lives. What happens next will tear them both apart. Into My Arms is a searing love story and a gripping family drama – a shocking, haunting novel in the tradition of Jodi Picoult and Caroline Overington.

The kiss ignited something, blew it into being, and afterwards, all Skye could think about was Ben. One day a woman meets a man and falls instantly and irrevocably in love with him. It hits her like a thunderbolt, and she has to have him, has to be with him, regardless of the cost, of the pain of breaking up her existing relationship. She has never felt more in synch-or in love-with anyone in her whole life. So this is how it feels, she thinks to herself, this is what real love feels like.

It’s like that for him too; he wants her in a way he’s never wanted anything or anyone before: obsessively, passionately, all-consumingly.

She has found her one true love, her soulmate, and he has found his. What happens next will tear them apart and unleash havoc onto their worlds.

This brave, brilliant, electrifying novel from the acclaimed author of After the Fall and Last Summer, will move you deeply and shock you to your core. Love, lust and longing have rarely wielded such power, nor family secrets triggered such devastation.

Click here to buy Into My Arms from Booktopia,
Australia’s Local Bookstore

John Purcell, my two cents:  I just finished Into My Arms and I can’t recommend it enough. Anyone who has read and enjoyed Caroline Overington’s novels or Jodi Picoult’s will love it. Kylie Ladd engages the reader from the first page to the very last. One of the most interesting and moving books of 2013.

This book will get people talking – great for book clubs and reading groups. Order it today.

Three Authors Offer Advice for Writers: Kylie Ladd, Alex Miller and Chris McCourt

I interview writers every week here on the Booktopia Blog. My Ten Terrifying Questions have been answered by over 250 published authors ranging from mega selling global stars like Jackie Collins and Lee Child to brilliant, relatively unknown debut authors such as Favel Parret and  Rebecca James.

In each of these interviews I ask the following question:

Q. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Now, for the edification of aspiring writers everywhere, I will pull together answers to this question from three very different writers and post them here once week. Some will inspire, some will confound but all will be interesting and helpful in their own way…


KYLIE LADD

“Write! It sounds stupid, but it’s the only way. Write and write and write, and then write some more. Think about what you’re writing, and why, and how. Read widely, pay attention, and write. Show your writing to people you trust, submit it places if you like, but just keep writing.

The Man Booker prize-winning novelist Anne Enright recently advised new authors that “The first twelve years are the hardest.”

I’m up to year eleven, and I hope she’s right. Writing can be lonely and horrifically frustrating and disappointing and cruel- it can make you bang your head against your keyboard and question yourself day after day. But if you want to do it, if you have to do it, you just have to persist… and when it works, even if that’s just for a paragraph or even a sentence, it’s the most satisfying thing in the world.”

Read the full interview here…

Click here to buy Last Summer from Booktopia
Australia’s No.1 Online Bookshop


CHRIS MCCOURT

“Speak with your own voice, because it’s the only thing you have to offer a reader that is yours alone. Be true to your characters, don’t manipulate them for the sake of a clever plot twist.

Beautiful prose is not enough…you need a story. Write for a reader…if you’re writing for therapy, then write a diary. Don’t listen to flattery…seek objective opinions on your work because your friends and your mother will always lie.

Don’t write drunk…what looks like a work of genius when it’s swimming in front of your eyes at 3AM will not look so good in the cold light of day. And lastly, don’t give up…practice doesn’t necessarily make perfect, but it does make better.”

Read the full interview here…

Click here to buy The Cleansing of Mahommed from Booktopia
Australia’s No.1 Online Book Shop


ALEX MILLER

“I give encouragement.

Advice is useless.”

Read the full interview here…

Click here to buy Autumn Laing from Booktopia
Australia’s No.1 Online Book Shop


For more advice from published writers go here

Kylie Ladd : Five Fiction Favourites for 2011

Kylie Ladd

author of Last Summer

and After the Fall

reveals…

The 5 best novels I read this year are…



Caribou Island

by David Vann

An Alaskan Revolutionary Road, Caribou Island from David Vann, bestselling and critically acclaimed author of Legend of a Suicide, is a devastating novel about a marriage, a couple blighted by past shadows and the weight of expectation, of themselves and of each other.

On a small island in a glacier-fed lake on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula, a marriage is unravelling.

Gary, driven by thirty years of diverted plans, and Irene, haunted by a tragedy in her past, are trying to rebuild their life together. Following the outline of Gary’s old dream, they’re hauling logs out to Caribou Island in good weather and in terrible storms, in sickness and in health, to patch together the kind of cabin that drew them to Alaska in the first place.

Across the water on the mainland, Irene and Gary’s grown daughter, Rhoda is starting her own life. She fantasizes about the perfect wedding day, whilst her betrothed, Jim the dentist, wonders about the possibility of an altogether different future.

Brilliantly drawn and fiercely honest in its depiction of love and disappointment, David Vann’s first novel confirms him as one of America’s most dazzling writers of fiction.

BUY



The Life

by Malcolm Knox

Daring, dazzling, funny and heartbreaking, this is a story about fame and ambition, surfing and pine-lime Splices … a superbly written and ambitious novel by one of Australia’s rising stars. The Life will simply blow you away.

He looked into the Pacific and the Pacific looked back into him.

The Life tells the story of former-world-champion Australian surfer, Dennis Keith, from inside the very heart of the fame and madness that is ‘The Life’.

Now bloated and paranoid, former Australian surfing legend Dennis Keith is holed up in his mother’s retirement village, shuffling to the shop for a Pine-Lime Splice every day, barely existing behind his aviator sunnies and crazy OCD rules, and trying not to think about the waves he’d made his own and the breaks he once ruled like a god. Years before he’d been robbed of the world title that had his name on it – and then drugs, his brother, and the disappearance and murder of his girlfriend and had done the rest. Out of the blue, a young would-be biographer comes knocking and stirs up memories Dennis thought he’d buried. It takes Dennis a while to realise that she’s not there to write his story at all.

Daring, ambitious, dazzling, The Life is also as real as it gets – a searing, beautiful novel about fame and ambition and the price that must sometimes be paid for reaching too high.

BUY



Dog Boy

by Eva Hornung

Abandoned in a big city at the onset of winter, a hungry four-year-old boy follows a stray dog to her lair. There in the rich smelly darkness, in the rub of hair, claws and teeth, he joins four puppies suckling at their mother’s teats. And so begins Romochka’s life as a dog.

Weak and hairless, with his useless nose and blunt little teeth, Romochka is ashamed of what a poor dog he makes. But learning how to be something else…that’s a skill a human can master. Fortunately–because one day Romochka will have to learn how to be a boy.

The story of the child raised by beasts is timeless. But in Dog Boy Eva Hornung has created such a vivid and original telling, so viscerally convincing, that it becomes not just new but definitive:

Yes, this is how it would be.

BUY



Animal People

by Charlotte Wood

A sharply observed, 24-hour urban love story that follows Stephen Connolly – a character from the bestselling novel The Children – through one of the worst days of his life. The day he has decided to dump his girlfriend.

On a stiflingly hot December day, Stephen has decided it’s time to break up with his girlfriend Fiona. He’s 39, aimless and unfulfilled, he’s without a clue working out how to make his life better. All he has are his instincts – and unfortunately they might just be his downfall . . .

As he makes his way through the pitiless city and the hours of a single day, Stephen must fend off his demanding family, endure another shift of his dead-end job at the zoo (including an excruciating teambuilding event), face up to Fiona’s aggressive ex-husband and the hysteria of a children’s birthday party that goes terribly wrong. As an ordinary day develops into an existential crisis, Stephen begins to understand – perhaps too late – that love is not a trap, and only he can free himself.

Hilarious, tender and heartbreaking, Animal People is a portrait of urban life, a meditation on the conflicted nature of human-animal relationships, and a masterpiece of storytelling.

Animal People invites readers to question the way we think about animals – what makes an ‘animal person’? What value do we, as a society, place on the lives of creatures? Do we brutalise our pets even as we love them? What’s wrong with anthropomorphism anyway? Filled with challenging ideas and shocks of recognition and revelation, Animal People shows a writer of great depth and compassion at work.

BUY



Daughters In Law

by Joanna Trollope

Rachel has always loved being at the centre of her large family. She has fiercely devoted herself to her three sons all their lives,and continues to do so even now they are all grown up. They are, of course, devoted to her – she and Anthony, their father, hold the family together at their big, beautiful, ramshackle house near the wide, bird-haunted coast of Suffolk.

But when Luke, her youngest, gets married, Rachel finds that control is slipping away. Other people seem to be becoming more important to her children than she is, and she can no longer rely on her role as undisputed matriarch. A power struggle develops which can only end in unhappiness; her three daughters-in-law want to do things their own way, and so, to her grief, do her sons…

BUY


Earlier in the year I read and reviewed Kylie’s latest novel, Last Summer – here is a taste of that review…

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 moderately well off, they are all around the same age and they all have some connection to the game of cricket. This seeming difficulty turns out to be one of the novel’s strengths. Click here to read more…

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

A Review by Kylie Ladd: You Deserve Nothing By Alexander Maksik

My nine year old daughter spotted You Deserve Nothing on my bedside table and was immediately incensed by the title. “Who deserves nothing?” she demanded. “Why do they deserve nothing? That’s SO mean! Everyone deserves something.” While I thoroughly enjoyed Alexander Maksik’s debut novel, I must admit that as I read the book I pondered over the title too. Who was the ‘you’ at its centre? Will Silver, charismatic and revered English teacher at the ISF (International School of France) in Paris? Marie, the 16 year old student with whom he has an affair? Or Gilad, a loner who falls under Will’s spell and begins to find his way in life, only to suddenly realise that his beloved mentor is as human as everybody else?

You Deserve Nothing is narrated interchangeably by these three characters, who are alike in their solitude. All adrift in some way, it is possible that each feels they are the you of the title. Will has fled America and his marriage following the sudden, “instant” death of both his parents; Gilad is battling dislocation and domestic demons, the competing impulses to be a good son and to stand up to his bullying father; Marie, who spends her weekends drinking and sleeping where and with whom she likes, is suffering from neglect masquerading as parental permissiveness. All three are lonely and hurting. Will attempts to fill this void with literature and philosophy. “We are smart people sitting in a room talking about beautiful things,” he tells his senior class, of which Gilad is a member. “You know what I’ll say to you about choice, about your lives, about time… what you must not forget are the questions these writers compelled you to ask yourselves- questions of courage, of passion and belief.” Acknowledging that “teaching is also performance”, Will is an amalgam of the Robin Williams character in Dead Poets Society and the magnetic classics professor Julian Morrow from Donna Tartt’s bestseller, The Secret History. He introduces his students to Camus, to Thoreau, Sartre and Faulkner; he insists that their thoughts matter, that the reader is as important as the author. “Dude,” one declares, “you changed my life”. Will, as Marie describes him, is not only smart, he is also elegant- which only makes his downfall all the messier.

The blurb accompanying my copy of You Deserve Nothing trumpets it as having been hand-picked by acclaimed author Alice Sebold (The Lovely Bones) to launch her new boutique publishing imprint, Tonga Books. It’s not difficult to see why it was chosen. For a start, there is the fourth character of the novel, the city where it is set. Paris is beautiful but fragmenting, the rustling plane trees and the sound of a guitar coming up off the Seine contrasting with the racial tension of Sarkozy’s France, the protests, homelessness and vandalism. This dichotomy is repeated in the central questions of the novel. Though the bare plot line- student seduces teacher/teacher agonises but sleeps with student- is somewhat hackneyed, Maksik’s version is fresh and fluid, confronting in all the right ways, thought-provoking without being moralistic. Is the only thing we should expect from anyone disappointment, as Gilda ponders? Is Will a fake, as Marie’s friend Ariel calls him, because he slips and breaks an externally-imposed rule, or all the more real for following his own desires? Is it right to seek solace in another, or should one’s self be enough?

In the end, it was these questions that finally helped me understand the title of the book. You deserve or are granted nothing- as Will explains to his students, you make your own choices and then you live with them. None of these are pre-ordained, but none are meaningless either. We are all Hamlet, facing the dilemma of to be or not to be, to do or not to do, day after day, and in the end these decisions add up to a life. You Deserve Nothing is a quiet book, but an immensely thoughtful one.

Thank you to our guest reviewer, Kylie Ladd.
(You can visit Booktopia’s Kylie Ladd Author Page - here)

(Is your book club a bit… well… dull? It sounds like You Deserve Nothing is the perfect book to ensure a lively – and possibly heated – discussion at your next book club meet.You can order copies here)

The Booktopia Book Guru recommends…

Last Summer by Kylie Ladd

I have read a proof copy of this wonderful book. I read it quickly. I really wanted to know what happened next. How these people would cope. When I wasn’t reading it – when I was at work – I kept thinking I should text the characters to see how they were doing… They had become such a part of my life. It was a wonderful feeling. A great thing for a novel to achieve. This is a warm, wise, entertaining and somewhat life-changing book. Full review here…

Kylie Ladd, author of Last Summer, answers Six Sharp Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Kylie Ladd

author of Last Summer and After the Fall

Six Sharp Questions

——————————

1. Congratulations, you have a new book. What is it about and what does it mean to you?

Last Summer is about what happens to a close group of friends when the man at their centre, Rory Buchanan, dies unexpectedly… it’s about loss and grief and desire and, uh, cricket. As I was writing it, it also occurred to me that Last Summer is about mid-life, about coming to terms with who you are and the choices you’ve made, though I do fear that describing it as a book about middle-aged cricketers is going to have readers expecting Warwick Todd’s Ashes diary.

If so, I’m afraid they’ll be disappointed. Last Summer is dedicated to Geoff Williams, one of my husband’s closest mates, who died unexpectedly at the age of only 39. The novel is a work of fiction- as far as I know, none of the Continue reading

The Book Of Rachael by Leslie Cannold. A Review by Kylie Ladd.

Have you found Jesus? The publishing industry certainly has, and they’re not letting him go. Why would they, when he’s responsible for so many sales? There’s that perennial best-seller, the Holy Bible, for a start, for which Jesus can take at least half the credit. There’s the multitudinous scholarly texts and mediations on his legacy; there’s all those prayer books and hymnals that have been churned out since medieval times. And then, more recently, there is the fiction. I sometimes wonder if we have CS Lewis to blame for this, if he set the ball rolling with “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe,” an allegory of Christ’s crucifixion, with Aslan the majestic lion sacrificing himself for Edmund the sinner. In the past fifty years there have been a slew of novels reimagining the life of the carpenter’s son from Galilee who claimed he was the son of God… “The Last Temptation of Christ”, the banned Kazantzakis novel which became the banned Martin Scorsese film;  “The Passion” the movie about a man preaching poverty which made Mel Gibson a billionaire; “King Jesus”, by Robert Graves, bestselling author of “I, Claudius”; my personal favourite, Norman Mailer’s predictably earthy and libidinous Christ in “The Gospel According to the Son”; and then, in the last twenty-four months alone, an unholy trinity- “Christ The Lord” by vampire doyenne Anne Rice, “ The Good Man Jesus and The Scoundrel Christ,” by the award-winning and much loved Phillip Pullman, and “The Final Testament of the Holy Bible” by James Frey, who likes to make up stuff.

All of which is why I found Leslie Cannold’s first novel, The Book of Rachael, so refreshing. Cannold approaches the time-worn tale of the life and death of Jesus Christ from a new and intriguing perspective- that of Jesus’s sister, Rachael, who falls in love with his best friend and eventual betrayer, Judas Iscariot. As she notes in a post-script to the book, Cannold was inspired to imagine Rachael’s life after watching a BBC documentary where the names, fates and even burial places of Jesus’s brothers were itemized, but- as the narrator casually announced- nothing had been recorded concerning his sisters. That those sisters existed is confirmed by the bible in the gospel of Mark, yet the status of women at that time was far too lowly for any further details of their life to have been set down. The challenge to ethicist and social activist Cannold must have been irresistible. In The Book of Rachael she sets out to correct the balance.

It’s an intriguing premise, and one on which Cannold delivers. Rachael is a fiery, rebellious but hugely likeable character. A natural mimic, she learns to write the alphabet (an activity forbidden to females) after only one lesson; she apprentices herself to the blind crone, Bindy, and becomes a skilled midwife and healer. Even more intriguing however, at least for this reader, is what Cannold does with the story of Jesus. Cannold’s Jesus (here called Joshua) is the seed of an illegitimate rather than immaculate conception; a good- but very human- man, one who serves his father and his Lord, but also falls in love and commits the sin of premarital sex. When his pregnant lover, Maryam of Magdalene, is taken away in shame by her father Joshua immediately leaves their town of Nazareth and searches for her throughout Galilee, along the way cursing the priests and the law-makers who would have her stoned for sinning. He quickly accumulates a following of outcasts and disciples, who travel with him to Jerusalem, where Maryam is eventually found.

The Joshua of the early sections of the book is clear-headed and compassionate, a reasoned and rational philosopher respected by both Judas (here named Judah) and Rachael. As the novel nears its climax, however, his thinking becomes more and more deluded, then dangerous, until Judah is left with what he sees as only one course of action to prevent them all from being killed. That the reader feels, in the end, more sympathy for Judah than for Joshua is not the only unorthodox twist in the tale. An avowed atheist, Cannold cleverly plays with many of the central events of the gospels- the raising of Lazarus, the over-turning of the moneylenders in the temple, the triumphant entry into Jerusalem- reimagining them from a secular point of view. (Spoiler alert) Tellingly, though the crucifixion scene is almost unbearably moving, there is no resurrection. Many of Cannold’s characters may recognise Joshua as the messiah, but she herself does not- a dichotomy which keeps the book absorbing and engaging to the end.

As, too, does the character of Rachael, who we first meet aged five and leave in her thirties. Though Joshua and Judah both weaken and waver at times as the story unfolds, Rachael does not. She remains constant- headstrong, compassionate, both cursed and saved by her fierce intelligence. Cannold has clearly researched the era thoroughly, and brings it vividly to life: the sights, the smells, the stranglehold of both the Romans and the law. In subject matter and setting, The Book of Rachael reminded me strongly of Anita Diamant’s bestseller The Red Tent; in tone I found it reminiscent of Geraldine Brooks’ Year of Wonders. Despite this, it is truly original; a unique and appealing take on one of the oldest stories in the book.

Kylie Ladd’s excellent new novel, Last Summer, is available from Booktopia – click here. (Click here to read my review of Last Summer)

This review first appeared on mamamia.com.au

Last Summer by Kylie Ladd. A review by John Purcell.

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

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