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.

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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: Craig Silvey, Peter FitzSimons and Susan Maushart

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 Miles Franklin shortlisted 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…


CRAIG SILVEY

“I would urge any aspiring writer to be patient and stubborn and driven. Writing is incremental, it’s done by degrees. Every day you show up, you nurse the same doubts, you field the same concerns, you fret, you worry, you panic, you prevaricate, and inside that painful, delicate act, you finally let the story come to you in small sparks. It takes time. Reams and reams of it. You should have a healthy appetite for solitude.

The longer I write, the more I come to understand that authors are really just conduits for stories, we are the guardians of their development. For me, my writing works the best when it feels meditative and unforced, which means I need to forget that I’m a fretful author in a dim room with debts and a deadline. I need to almost remove myself from the process altogether, and let the story weave itself on the back of some kind of subconscious intuition.

I would especially urge them against concerning themselves with pointless, external exercises like Word Counts and so forth. Volume is the last thing you need to worry about. Songwriters don’t work to Note Counts. It is what it is. Don’t force it.

And, finally, practice the craft because you love it. It’s a privilege, and it’s good for you. Kurt Vonnegut used to say that practising any art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow. And I’m inclined to agree. Then again, I’ve got no idea what I’m doing.”

Read the full interview here…

Click here to buy Jasper Jones from Booktopia
Australia’s No.1 Online Bookshop


PETER FITZSIMONS

“Get width of experience in your life. To be a writer you need to have something to say that others will care about and if you can have had experiences that your readers have not, it will help. Read as widely as you travel, and try to write with the same spirit.

Read the full interview here…

Click here to buy Mawson from Booktopia,
Australia’s No.1 Online Book Shop


SUSAN MAUSHART

“Read, for heaven’s sake! An aspiring writer who doesn’t read constantly is like an aspiring musician who plays Guitar Hero all day.”

Read the full interview here…

Click here to buy The Winter of Our Disconnect from Booktopia,
Australia’s No.1 Online Book Shop


For more advice from published writers go here

Susan Maushart author of The Winter Of Our Disconnect Answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru Asks

Susan Maushart

author of

The Winter Of Our Disconnect, Wifework: What Marriage Really Means for Women, What Women Want Next and Sort of a Place Like Home

Ten Terrifying Questions

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1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born on Long Island in 1958, lived in a town called Dix Hills (named after an Indian named “Dick” – ! – according to a plaque outside the local firehouse) and went to Half Hollow Hills High School. Perhaps this explains why I still see the cup as half … hollow?

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

I wanted to be a writer when I was 12, an actress when I was 18 and divorced when Continue reading

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