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 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.
The 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.
Murder 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.
Thank you, Caroline. You’re always welcome on the Booktopia Blog!
No Place Like Home
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.
About the Contributor
John Purcell (aka Natasha Walker) is the author of The Secret Lives of Emma trilogy published by Random House Australia. The Secret Lives of Emma: Beginnings reached the top ten on the Australian fiction charts and Natasha/John was the tenth highest selling Australian novelist and third highest selling Australian debut author in 2012. The trilogy has since sold over 50,000 copies in print and ebook and has been translated into French, Korean and Polish. John has worked in the book industry for over twenty-five years. While still in his twenties he opened John’s Bookshop, a second-hand bookshop in Mosman in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing. Now he is the Director of Books at booktopia.com.au.