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.



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.


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.

The Greatest Love Story Ever Told, 50 to 31 – Your votes counted.

Who will it be?

Who will it be?

February is the month of love at Booktopia, and to celebrate we’re counting down the top 50 Greatest Love Stories Ever Told, as voted by you. After thousands of votes, the poll closed on Sunday and we’ll be counting down the top 50, with the top 10 being announced at Midday on Valentine’s Day.

So sit back and enjoy the great works that made it to 50-31 in your voting. And don’t forget to scroll down to the bottom to see the huge sales and collections of books on love we have for you.

50. Never Let Me Go

In one of the most acclaimed and strange novels of recent years, Kazuo Ishiguro imagines the lives of a group of students growing up in a darkly skewered version of contemporary England.

Narrated by Kathy, now 31, Never Let Me Go hauntingly dramatises her attempts to come to terms with her childhood at the seemingly idyllic Hailsham School, and with the fate that has always awaited her and her closest friends in the wider world.

A story of love, friendship and memory, Never Let Me Go is charged throughout with a sense of the fragility of life.

Click here to buy Never Let Me Go

49. The Grand Sophy

When the redoubtable Sir Horace Stanton- Lacy is ordered to South America on Diplomatic Business he parks hi sonly daughter Sophy on his sister in Berkely Square. But Sophy’s cousins are in a sad tangle.

The heartless and tyrannical Charles is betrothed to a pedantic bluestocking almost as tiresome as himself; Cecilia is besotted with a beautiful but quite feather- brained poet; and Hubert has fallen foul of a money- lender.

It looks like the Grand Sophy has arrived just in time to save them all…

Click here to buy The Grand Sophy

48. War and Peace

Tolstoy’s enthralling epic depicts Russia’s war with Napoleon and its effects on the lives of those caught up in the conflict.

He creates some of the most vital and involving characters in literature as he follows the rise and fall of families in St Petersburg and Moscow who are linked by their personal and political relationships.

His heroes are the thoughtful yet impulsive Pierre Bezukhov, his ambitious friend, Prince Andrei, and the woman who becomes indispensable to both of them, the enchanting Natasha Rostov.

Click here to buy War and Peace

47. As You Like It

‘All the world’s a stage,

And all the men and women merely players.’

Featuring Rosalind, one of Shakespeare’s most likeable and strong female protagonists, As You Like is a comedic play centred around concealed identity, love, exile and artifice.

Banished from the court by her uncle, Rosalind flees to the forest with her cousin Celia and her jester, joining her already exiled father, and disguising herself as a boy. In the guise of a young man, she instructs her would-be lover Orlando in the ways of love and in doing so allows Shakespeare to explore the dynamics of the city and the country as well as the sexual politics of the time.

Click here to buy As You Like It

46. The Scarlet Letter

Hester Prynne is a beautiful young woman. She is also an outcast.

In the eyes of her neighbours she has committed an unforgivable sin. Everyone knows that her little daughter, Pearl, is the product of an illicit affair but no one knows the identity of Pearl’s father.

Hester’s refusal to name him brings more condemnation upon her. But she stands strong in the face of public scorn, even when she is forced to wear the sign of her shame sewn onto her clothes: the scarlet letter ‘A’ for ‘Adulteress’.

Click here to buy The Scarlet Letter

45. Girl with a Pearl Earring

An international bestseller with over two million copies sold, this is a story of an artist’s desire for beauty and the ultimate corruption of innocence. 17th Century Holland.

When Griet becomes a maid in the household of Johannes Vermeer in the town of Delft, she thinks she knows her role: housework, laundry and the care of his six children. But as she becomes part of his world and his work, their growing intimacy spreads tension and deception in the ordered household and, as the scandal seeps out, into the town beyond.

Tracy Chevalier’s extraordinary historical novel on the corruption of innocence and the price of genius is a contemporary classic perfect for fans of Sarah Dunant and Philippa Gregory.

Click here to buy Girl with a Pearl Earring

44. Victoria

First published in 1898, this poetic, psychologically intense novel by acclaimed Norwegian writer Knut Hamsun has endured as a classic portrayal of love’s predicament in a class-bound society.

Set in a coastal village of late nineteenth-century Norway, Victoria follows two lovers whose yearnings are as powerful as the circumstances that conspire to thwart their romance. Johannes, a miller’s son turned poet, finds inspiration for his writing in his passionate devotion to Victoria, a daughter of the impoverished lord of the manor, who feels constrained by family loyalty to accept the wealthy young man of her father’s choice.

Separated by class barriers and social pressure, the fated duo hurt and enthrall each other by turns as they move toward an emotional doom that neither will recognize until it it too late.

Click here to buy Victoria

43. For Love Alone

Set in Sydney and London in the 1930s, For Love Alone is the story of Teresa Hawkins, an intelligent, ardent young woman, and her search for the ideal passion of love.

She attempts to engage the feelings of the unworthy Jonathan Crow, an intellectual young man and advocate of free love, and follows him to London after four years of severe self-sacrifice. In London the mediocrity, corruption and egoistic shallowness of Crow gradually becomes obvious.

With the help of James Quick, however, a devoted older man who takes Teresa to live with him, she is able to abandon her idealised vision.

After a brief interlude with Quick’s friend, Harry Girton, Teresa advances to a new, more detached appreciation of passion, and renews her commitment to Quick in full awareness of the compromises that love imposes.

Click here to buy For Love Alone

42. Great Expectations

Pip doesn’t expect much from life…His sister makes it clear that her orphaned little brother is nothing but a burden on her. But suddenly things begin to change.

Pip’s narrow existence is blown apart when he finds an escaped criminal, is summoned to visit a mysterious old woman and meets the icy beauty Estella. Most astoundingly of all, an anonymous person gives him money to begin a new life in London.

Are these events as random as they seem? Or does Pip’s fate hang on a series of coincidences he could never have expected?

Click here to buy Great Expectations

41. Norwegian Wood

When he hears her favourite Beatles song, Toru Watanabe recalls his first love Naoko, the girlfriend of his best friend Kizuki.

Immediately he is transported back almost twenty years to his student days in Tokyo, adrift in a world of uneasy friendships, casual sex, passion, loss and desire.

To a time when an impetuous young woman called Midori marches into his life and he has to choose between the future and the past.

Click here to buy Norwegian Wood

40. The Taming of the Shrew

Baptista, a rich Paduan merchant, announces that his fair young daughter, Bianca, will remain unwed until her older sister, Katharina, has wed.

Lucentio, a student and the son of a wealthy Pisan merchant, has fallen in love with Bianca. He poses as a tutor of music and poetry to gain entrance to the Baptista household and to be near Bianca. Meanwhile, Petruchio, a fortune-hunting scoundrel from Verona, arrives in Padua, hoping to capture a wealthy wife.

Hortensio, another suitor of Bianca, directs Petruchio’s attention to Katharina. When Hortensio warns him about Katharina’s scolding tongue and fiery temper, Petruchio is challenged and resolves to capture her love. Hortensio and another suitor of Bianca, Gremio, agree to cover Petruchio’s costs as he pursues Katharina.

Click here to buy The Taming of the Shrew

39. Possession

The winner of the 1990 Booker Prize, Possession is an exhilarating novel of wit and romance, at once a literary detective novel and a triumphant love story.

It is the tale of a pair of young scholars investigating the lives of two Victorian poets.Following a trail of letters, journals and poems they uncover a web of passion, deceit and tragedy, and their quest becomes a battle against time.

Click here to buy Possession

38. The Magic Mountain

Set in the dreamlike world of a Swiss health sanatorium, here is a story of a young man’s enlightenment through his encounters with sickness and death; an elegy to the romanticism of the European bourgeoisie in the days prior World War I.

Hans Castorp – on the verge of an intense flirtation with Clavdia Chauchat, a married woman and feverish fellow patient – is perched high above the world, dozing in his splendid lounge chair at the International Sanatorium Berghof, swaddled in blankets against the Alpine chill.

To his surprise and secret delight, he will remain on this “magic mountain” for seven years – removed from the “real” world, but irresistibly drawn into the sanatorium’s own complex, vertiginous society, which in Mann’s hands becomes a microcosm for Western civilization and its interior life on the eve of the First World War.

Flooded with feeling, with powerful evocations of disease, with the glories of the natural world and inklings of the supernatural, The Magic Mountain is equally remarkable for Mann’s treatment of time – the “flatland time” of healthy, active people and the “inelastic present” of the “people up here, ” for whom illness is a lifelong career.

Click here to buy The Magic Mountain

37. Maurice Guest

Henry Handel Richardson’s debut, published in London in 1908, is set in the music scene of turn-of-the-century Leipzig, a cosmopolitan centre for the arts drawing students from around the world – among them Maurice Guest, a young Englishman, who falls helplessly in love with an Australian woman, Louise Dufrayer.

Maurice Guest is the story of this overwhelming passion. The novel was deemed too controversial to be published as Richardson intended, and she was forced to cut twenty thousand words from the original manuscript and tone down its language.

Click here to buy Maurice Guest

36. The French Lieutenant’s Woman

Of all John Fowles’ novels The French Lieutenant’s Woman received the most universal acclaim and today holds a very special place in the canon of post-war English literature.

From the god-like stance of the nineteenth-century novelist that he both assumes and gently mocks, to the last detail of dress, idiom and manners, his book is an immaculate recreation of Victorian England.

Not only is it the epic love story of two people of insight and imagination seeking escape from the cant and tyranny of their age, it is also a brilliantly sustained allegory of the decline of the twentieth-century passion for freedom.

Click here to buy The French Lieutenant’s Woman

35. A Tale of Two Cities

After eighteen years as a political prisoner in the Bastille the aging Dr Manette is finally released and reunited with his daughter in England.

There two very different men, Charles Darnay, an exiled French aristocrat, and Sydney Carton, a disreputable but brilliant English lawyer, become enmeshed through their love for Lucie Manette.

From the tranquil lanes of London, they are all drawn against their will to the vengeful, bloodstained streets of Paris at the height of the Reign of Terror and soon fall under the lethal shadow of La Guillotine.

Click here to buy A Tale of Two Cities

34. Twilight

An electrifying debut novel of a young woman’s love for a vampire. In spite of her awkward manner and low expectations, she finds that her new classmates are drawn to this pale, dark-haired new girl in town.

But not, it seems, the Cullen family. These five adopted brothers and sisters obviously prefer their own company and will make no exception for Bella. Bella is convinced that Edward Cullen in particular hates her, but she feels a strange attraction to him, although his hostility makes her feel almost physically ill. He seems determined to push her away — until, that is, he saves her life from an out of control car.

Bella will soon discover that there is a very good reason for Edward’s coldness. He, and his family, are vampires — and he knows how dangerous it is for others to get too close.

Click here to buy Twilight

33. The Unbearable Lightness of Being

A young woman in love with a man torn between his love for her and his incorrigible womanizing; one of his mistresses and her humbly faithful lover-these are the two couples whose story is told in this masterful novel.

Kundera’s first since The Book of Laughter and Forgetting. In a world in which lives are shaped by irrevocable choices and by fortuitous events, a world in which everything occurs but once, existence seems to lose its substance, its weight. Hence, we feel “the unbearable lightness of being” not only as the consequence of our private actions, but also in the public sphere, and the two inevitably intertwine.

A novel of irreconcilable loves and infidelities, which embraces all aspects of human existence, and addresses the nature of twentieth-century ‘Being’.

Click here to buy The Unbearable Lightness of Being

32. Emma

Beautiful, clever, rich – and single Emma Woodhouse is perfectly content with her life and sees no need for either love or marriage.

Nothing, however, delights her more than interfering in the romantic lives of others. But when she ignores the warnings of her good friend Mr Knightley and attempts to arrange a suitable match for her protege Harriet Smith, her carefully laid plans soon unravel and have consequences that she never expected.

With its imperfect but charming heroine and its witty and subtle exploration of relationships, Emma is often seen as Jane Austin’s most flawless work.
Click here to buy Emma

31. The Thorn Birds

Treasured by readers around the world, this is the sweeping saga of three generations of the Cleary family.

Stoic matriarch Fee, her devoted husband, Paddy, and their headstrong daughter, Meggie, experience joy, sadness and magnificent triumph in the cruel Australian outback.

With life’s unpredictability, it is love that is their unifying thread, but it is a love shadowed by the anguish of forbidden passions. For Meggie loves Father Ralph de Bricassart, a man who wields enormous power within the Catholic church …

Click here to buy The Thorn Birds

Don’t forget to come back at midday tomorrow as we continue to countdown the 50 Greatest Love Stories Ever Told as voted by you.

You can also see our great offers for this month, both on Lavish Love, and our Valentine’s Day celebration specials.

All this month we’re featuring the Love in Print at Booktopia. Click on the banner below to see the huge range of books on love we’re featuring all this month at Booktopia, Australia’s Local Bookstore.

A film of Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

A story of love, friendship and memory.

In one of the most acclaimed and strange novels of recent years, Kazuo Ishiguro imagines the lives of a group of students growing up in a darkly skewed version of contemporary England.

Narrated by Kathy, now 31, Never Let Me Go hauntingly dramatises her attempts to come to terms with her childhood at the seemingly idyllic Hailsham School, and with the fate that has always awaited her and her closest friends in the wider world.

A story of love, friendship and memory, Never Let Me Go is charged throughout with a sense of the fragility of life.

Now a major movie starring Keira Knightley, Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield.

An extract from Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro:

My name is Kathy H. I’m thirty-one years old, and I’ve been a carer now for over eleven years. That sounds long enough, I know, but actually they want me to go on for another eight months, until the end of this year. That’ll make it almost exactly twelve years. Now I know my being a carer so long isn’t necessarily because they think I’m fantastic at what I do. There are some really good carers who’ve been told to Continue reading


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