Caroline Overington : Who Has Time to Read?

Author: Caroline OveringtonWalkley Award-winning journalist and bestselling author Caroline Overington ponders the age-old question, who has time to read?

Do you know that I’ve done in the last two months?

I’ve read three books.

That’s probably not amazing to anyone that reads a book a month – or even a book a week – or to people who have several books on the go at once … but it’s pretty amazing for me.

I’ve been writing a book a year for the past five years.

I’ve also got a job. I’m the associate editor of the iconic The Australian Women’s Weekly.  Just this month, I interviewed Anna Bligh, who is going through cancer treatment, and profiled the world’s richest woman, Gina Rinehart, which involved going out to the Pilbara for several days.

Also this year, I’ve interviewed Ellen DeGeneres, in Los Angeles. And Helen Mirren, in London.  And Ricky Martin … and quite a few other people. I’m also involved in a long-running investigation into Carmel Brookes, a kind-hearted Brisbane woman who is missing at sea. I’m trying to find out what happened to her, and I’ve been to Thailand, trying to retrace her steps.

I also have two children – twins, aged 13. They’re doing year eight, so I’m helping out with homework, and making sure they eat well, and generally loving them a lot.

I have a husband. I’ve got a blue dog, and we’ve got a lizard. I volunteer at our local surf lifesaving club. I go to the personal trainer three times a week. I have friends that I like to see whenever I can … and my family is spread all over the country … so it’s not often that I get time to sit down and really lose myself in a great book, let alone three.

Maybe I just got lucky, but all three of the books I read were brilliant. All were by Australians – and I can’t tell you how wonderful it felt, to be truly lost in their pages. I felt like I was on holidays! Transported. Which is how a good book should make you feel.

Here are the books I read:

Stop PressClick here for more details or to buy Stop Press:The Last Days of Newspapers by Rachel Buchanan: I know Rachel (who, now I think of it, might technically be a New Zealander.) We used to work together at The Age in Melbourne. We were all kids then. The Age had so much money to spend on journalism. Everyone read it. Politicians shook their fists at it. Rachel’s has written about the slow decline in the paper’s circulation, about the giant presses that have fallen silent, and about the challenges currently facing the once-great lady. I wept a bit.

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Click here for more details or to buy The Night GuestThe Night Guest by Fiona McFarlane: the main character is so loveable. She’s getting on a bit, and her husband has recently died. She thinks that a tiger is coming to visit her at night. She can hear it padding about on its big paws, in the lounge room. She tells her son, who lives abroad, and he gets concerned, and the next thing, a government worker turns up, to give the old lady a hand, but pretty much straight away, you can tell that something is not right with this government worker. I wept a bit more. This is a lovely book.

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Click here for more details or to buy Murder in MississippiMurder in Mississippi by John Safran: this is a true crime book about how John met a white supremacist in Mississippi, and later became a Facebook – and even a real friend – of the black man who killed him. I didn’t weep with this one, except at the beauty of it. John’s book is one of the best pieces of sustained, rigorous journalism I’ve read in 20 years. It is absolutely magnificent –  smart, and wry, and emotional too.  Obviously, if you are going to buy one book this Booktoberfest, I think you should buy mine. But if you’ve already gone mine, buy John’s.

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Thank you, Caroline. You’re always welcome on the Booktopia Blog!

Click here for more details about Caroline’s thrilling and controversial new novel No Place Like Home

Click here for more details or to buy No Place Like Home

No Place Like Home

By: Caroline Overington

From bestselling author and award-winning journalist Caroline Overington comes another thought-provoking and heart-rending story, that reaches from the heart of Bondi to a small village in Tanzania.

Shortly after 9.30 in the morning, a young man walks into Surf City, Bondi’s newest shopping complex. He’s wearing a dark grey hoodie – and a bomb around his neck.

Just a few minutes later he is locked in a shop on the upper floor. And trapped with him are four innocent bystanders.

For police chaplain Paul Doherty, called to the scene by Superintendent Boehm, it’s a story that will end as tragically as it began. For this is clearly no ordinary siege. The boy, known as Ali Khan, seems as frightened as his hostages and has yet to utter a single word.

The seconds tick by for the five in the shop: Mitchell, the talented schoolboy; Mouse, the shop assistant; Kimmi, the nail-bar technician; and Roger Callaghan, the real estate agent whose reason for being in Bondi that day is far from innocent.

And of course there’s Ali Khan. Is he the embodiment of evil, as the villagers in his Tanzanian birthplace believe? Or simply an innocent boy, betrayed at every turn, who just wants a place to call home?

About the Author

Caroline Overington is the Associate Editor of the iconic magazine, The Australian Women’s Weekly.

Caroline has won the Walkley Award for Excellence in Journalism twice, and she’s a former winner of the Sir Keith Murdoch prize for journalism, and of the Blake Dawson prize.

She is the author of five bestselling novels: Ghost Child, I Came to Say Goodbye, Matilda is Missing, Sisters of Mercy and No Place Like Home.

Click here for more details about Caroline’s thrilling and controversial new novel No Place Like Home

The Night Guest by Fiona McFarlane: A Review From Andrew Cattanach

Hindsight is a wonderful thing when reviewing books. But access to the author’s thoughts, well that’s pure gold.

A few days ago we asked Fiona McFarlane, author of The Night Guest, what she hoped people take away with them after reading her work.

I hope people are haunted by the story they’ve just read; that they’re left thinking about trust, dependence, aging, and the ways the past can colonise the present.

I have never read an author who so succinctly summarised my own feelings upon reading their work. For 300 pages I was an unknowing passenger, unaware every emotion stirring inside me was meticulously planned. When I finished the novel I was taken by her skill. Now I’m mesmerised by it.

The Night Guest is the story of Ruth, a recent widower living on the edges of a coastal town. She lives a comfortable yet ultimately unremarkable life, largely defined by her childhood in Fiji with her missionary parents and a lost love from those days.

Ruth’s years begin to catch up with her. Her days fall into one another and she is constantly distracted by thoughts of the past. After she calls her sons one night to tell them she hears a tiger, her sons feel she has become incapable of looking after herself. One day a woman, Frida, turns up at her door. Frida says she is a nurse sent by the government to look after Ruth and as Ruth begrudgingly accepts and the weeks pass, her reliance on Frida begins to grow as her own physical and mental state slowly begins to fall away. But as Frida’s role in Ruth’s life grows, we are left to wonder just what Frida’s true intentions are as Ruth’s mind is increasingly more in the past than the present.

The most brilliant thing about The Night Guest is that I slowly felt as though I had uncovered a hidden subtext, one even the author didn’t realise. I could see tiny cracks in the story, sure only I knew the damage these could ultimately do to the foundations.

But I was wrong. McFarlane knew. She put them there after all.

Haunting is the perfect word to describe it. I’ve spent more time thinking about the book than I did reading it. My own parents are in their seventies, and while a long way from the deterioration Ruth begins to experience, for them a clock ticks with every forgotten name, every misplaced key, and every tired word.

And that’s why I thought I had unlocked a world within the novel that nobody knew existed. That my emotions, my experiences had shaped the story a particular way.

But I was wrong. The Night Guest deals in something we are all slaves to, time.  And while McFarlane pulls the most stirring emotional strings with ease, she tells a poignant, unsettlingly beautiful story that still keeps me up at night.

There was another thing McFarlane said in the interview. She said: A lot of people have told me they call their mothers more often after reading my book.

I called my mother the minute I finished the book, and we talked for hours.

Click here to buy The Night Guest from Booktopia,
Australia’s Local Bookstore

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Andrew Cattanach is a regular contributor to The Booktopia Blog and was shortlisted for The Age Short Story Prize. He enjoys reading, writing and sleeping though finds it difficult to do them all at once.

You can follow his ramblings on twitter at @andrew__cat

Fiona McFarlane, author of The Night Guest, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

the-night-guestThe Booktopia Book Guru asks

Fiona McFarlane

author of The Night Guest

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 and raised in Sydney, in a house with a long garden and a palm tree that looked exactly like a pineapple. I went to my local primary school and then to MLC School Burwood; when I finished school, I did an Arts degree at Sydney University. After working in magazines for a few years, I moved to England to study for a PhD at Cambridge University and later still did a Master of Fine Arts in fiction at the University of Texas. I moved back to Sydney in December 2012.

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