|BiP staff review by Deborah|
The Reader on the 6.27
Jean- Paul Didierlaurent
May 2015 | Mantle | $24.99hb
The Reader on the 6.27 explores the power of books through the lives of the people they save. Guylain Vignolles lives on the edge of existence. He works at a book pulping factory in a job he hates, but at the end of every day he salvages loose pages from the huge pulping machine which dominates the factory. Then, sitting on the 6.27am train each day on the way to work, Guylain recites aloud from the pages he has saved. His fellow passengers are enthralled. It is this release of words into the world that starts our hero on a journey that will finally bring meaning into his life. For one morning, Guylain discovers the diary of a lonely young woman: Julie. A woman who feels as lost in the world as he does. As he reads from these pages to a rapt audience, Guylain finds himself falling hopelessly in love with their enchanting author . . . The Reader on the 6.27 is a tale bursting with larger-than-life characters, each of whom touches Guylain's life for the better. This captivating novel is a warm, funny fable about literature's power to uplift even the most downtrodden of lives. I found this love story with a difference quirky, entertaining and uplifting – I ended up with a smile on my face.
|BiP staff review by Leonie|
A Year of Marvellous Ways
June 2015 | Headline | $29.99pb
Four years ago a charming book called When God was a Rabbit appeared in bookstores. It was the first novel by young English author Sarah Winman and it quickly became a favourite with many of our readers, including me. In her second work the eponymous Marvellous Ways is an intriguing eighty-nine-year-old woman who lives a hermitic life in Cornwall. She has spent much of her younger life as a midwife to her seaside community. Is she the daughter of a mermaid, as she sometimes claims? Marvellous first appears standing by the side of a road, after a dream left her feeling that something important is coming.
It is now the late 1940s; the war is over but life in England and Cornwall is still a long way from returning to normal. On a ferry from France a very seasick young man, Francis Drake, is finally returning home after a very tough time during the war. He has a mission to pass on a letter to the father of a dead soldier who begged Drake to take the letter to Cornwall in person. But first he stops in London to rediscover his childhood haunts and hopefully to find his friend Missy. He lost contact with her after he was sent to France. This is a magical book. Sara Winman has a wonderful lightness of touch. It has whimsical humour, grief, magic, friendship and love. All too often second books from authors are disappointing but definitely not A Year of Marvellous Ways. It is a great read and a wonderful book for book groups.
|BiP staff review by Leonie|
June 2015 | Allen & Unwin | $26.99pb
Joe and Jen were high school sweethearts, with big plans for the future, once their final exams were over. While at a party, during the summer, Joe and Jen had an argument with Joe choosing to leave on his own. The next day Jen is dead. Three years later, still weighed down by grief and guilt, Joe has abandoned his plans for university and a career. He shares a rental house with two other young men, and works at low-paid cafe and bar jobs. He fills his spare time training at Parkour under inner-city bridges. (Leap takes place in inner suburban Melbourne which makes for an interesting read, trying to envisage where each scene is taking place.) Then there is Elise, a middle-aged woman who spends many hours sitting in front of the tiger enclosure, studying the tigers and learning their ways. She takes up painting again to help with the pain of the breakup of her marriage. Joe is no longer able to shut out the world, despite his grief. An intriguing girl turns up on the doorstep one day, looking for a room. There is also Lena, the skateboarding chef from the bar where he works at night. Out of the blue he is contacted on Facebook by someone calling themself ‘Emily Dickinson’ and wanting to talk about Jen. How do all of these characters fit together? Despite the thread of grief which runs through Leap there is also a glimmer of something like hope. Leap is a brilliant title for Myfanwy Jones’ wonderful book. As you read you will understand how appropriate. It is a special treat to read a great novel set in your own city, beautifully written and with such memorable characters.
|BiP guest review by Graeme Walton|
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes and Other Lessons from the Crematorium
May 2015 | Canongate | $27.99pb
Caitlin Doughty entered the fascinating world of funeral service in the San Francisco Bay area at the age of twenty-three. Her first job was to shave a deceased man. This book follows her journey in an arcane and totally fulfilling profession that is a mystery to most of us. Caitlin shares stories of people at their most vulnerable when a loved one dies..... and the frequent occasions when tears and laughter are both present. The one thing that stands out is the total care and respect for the deceased that is Caitlin’s experience. This, too, is my experience as a funeral director in Melbourne. This is a beautifully written work in which she traces the history of funeral service in many cultures over the centuries. Like many professionals in the industry she laments the fact that we are probably the first generation to ignore the reality of death and not to treat it as the profound reality that it is. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes is moving, funny and informative. Caitlin is now a renowned speaker on the world stage on how we treat death and funerals; her book contains an extensive list of references for those who wish to learn more on the subjects she covers. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes is highly recommended to those who wish to go behind the funeral home doors and to fellow professionals who want an insight into the industry in the United States.