Books in Print

independent Australian bookselling since 1988

23 Nov 2009

Book Club Member Open Days

Next week we will be holding our annual Book Club Open Days.
All current members will receive 20% off any purchases made on

Wednesday 25th November (9am - 8pm)
Sunday 29th December (10am - 5pm)

31 Aug 2009

Books Alive 2009

Last week was the official launch of Books Alive 2009. The annual government-funded promotion aimed at encouraging Australians to 'Get Reading' will run until the end of September. Customers who purchase any title from the 50 Books You Can't Put Down guide will receive one of the following titles free (while stocks last).

10 Short Stories You Must Read This Year
Something for everyone in this all-new collection of stories by ten of Australia's best writers.

Grug Learns To Read by Ted Prior
Grug, who began his life as the top of a Burrawang Tree, is back in brand-new story about learning to read.

19 Aug 2009

Document Z

by Andrew Croome

Allen & Unwin

Document Z is last year’s Australian / Vogel Literary Prize winner. Written by Andrew Croome, it is a political tale of espionage, intrigue and betrayal. It tells the story of the defection of the Petrovs, Vladimir and Evdokia, from Soviet Russia to Australia in Canberra in the 1950s.

The story is a documented part of Australian history. It was covered extensively in the media at the time. However, in Document Z, the author converts ASIO documents, first-hand accounts and 1950s and 60s media hysteria into a cohesive whole. The novel was written over three years as part of a PhD. Andrew Croome’s exhaustive research is combined with a keen sense of literary intuition. The story is interesting enough in its own right but Croome’s ability to get right inside the minds of the main players on both sides and those on the sidelines adds a whole other dimension to the reader’s experience. The story moves along at a steady pace; a well-structured plot peppered with stop-and-think insights into the mental states of various characters and sharp observations that confirm in the author that all-important writer’s quality of Empathy. While much of the novel’s subject matter is born of research, it is the imagined and the embellished in it that both successfully announces Croome’s arrival on the literary scene and brings out the humanity behind a story that without this treatment could so easily have been consigned to mere factual records, transcripts and the dusty pages of history. In Document Z, the Petrovs and their story are very much alive. Croome even gives an ASIO agent a pulse. Who knew? Brilliant from start to finish!

This is a review from The Weekend Australian 

by Simon

11 Jul 2009

The Book Of Emmett

by Deborah Forster

Set in Footscray, Deborah Forster's home territory as a child, The Book Of Emmett is a novel with a great sense of place. Largely autobiographical, the novel tells the story of the Brown family and in particular the life story of Emmett Brown, patriarch and his dark, violent nature. This is a story of domestic violence and its effect on adults and children. Emmett is a man of brooding passions, whose rages terrorize his wife and children. The book traces the complex relationships between brothers and sisters and the love and pain that evolve between them. Deborah Forster has commented that Footscray is like an extra character in the novel, and she delights in recounting details of the suburb and culture of her childhood. The Book Of Emmett is a novel about love, hope and survival; at Emmett's funeral his children realise that they loved and learned from their father, who as a younger man had recited poetry to his wife but whose failures in later life had taken him back to his own abusive childhood with terrible consequences for all of them. Beautifully written, this is a book which will live long in the reader's memory.

by Chris

Fugitive Blue

by Claire Thomas
Allen & Unwin

The narrator of Fugitive Blue is a young art conservator in Melbourne who has been entrusted with the restoration of an unusual panel painted in ultramarine. As she tries to investigate the provenance of the painting, which has arrived in Australia with an post-war Greek migrant family, she is drawn into the history of the painting itself. The creation of the painting in Renaissance Venice was itself controversial; ultramarine was one of the most expensive pigments used by master painters and was never allowed to fall into inexperienced hands. Threaded through the novel is a parallel story which follows the conservator's developing obsession with her task and the collapse of her relationship with a young actor. Claire Thomas' novel is alive with references to art and the history of art; she looks at the role of women in art and the methods of the old masters. In a relatively short novel she has created a work of depth, with writing which brings Renaissance Venice to life and which also details the art of the conservation world of today. With a lightness of touch and beautiful writing Fugitive Blue is an exceptional first novel.

by Chris

The Virtuoso : A Novel

by Sonia Orchard
4th Estate

Sonia Orchard’s debut novel is inspired by the life of Noel Mewton-Wood, an Australian-born pianist and a prodigy of Sir Thomas Beecham. He first rose to fame in London during the Blitz in World War Two, performing concerts with Beecham and recitals which continued through bombing raids and which helped to galvanize the spirits of Londoners during the darkest days of the war. Sadly Mewton-Wood committed suicide in 1953 at the age of 31 after the death of a lover. The narrator of the novel is a young musician who himself is enthralled by Mewton-Wood’s youthful expertise and beauty. The young man’s longing and obsession for the charismatic Noel are sadly one-sided; the reader is left to endure the narrator’s inevitable decline into melancholy.  Sonia Orchard writes beautifully about music, which is at the centre of the novel, and about the hazardous nature of homosexual love in the England of World War Two and the more difficult, puritanical, post-war years when the police were active in the prosecution of such activity. The writing is absorbing; Sonia Orchard reveals the musical and emotional life of a young Australian musician of great promise. Anyone with an interest in music will find the book an absolute joy.

by Chris

Pescador's Wake

by Katherine Johnson
4th Estate

Based in part on the true story of the pursuit of a Uruguayan fishing boat by an Australian vessel in the Southern Ocean in 2003, Pescador’s Wake recounts on one level the chase through some of the world’s most dangerous waters and on another it describes the emotional impact on the families left behind in both in Uruguay and Australia. Desperate to escape enslavement to the unscrupulous Spanish owner of the Pescador, the ship’s captain chooses to risk the lives of his crew in order to land his illegally-caught catch. The captain of the Australian vessel, who is struggling to come to terms with the death of his son, is ordered to follow ‘in hot pursuit’. The text has an immediacy which both puts you the reader in danger with the seamen in the middle of the raging oceans and also gives you insight into this hazardous occupation and the fragile life of the families left at home. Katherine Johnson’s writing describes vibrantly the sprawling southern oceans and the extreme weather conditions endured by those who work there. She is also able to portray the searing impact of family loss and deprivation on the women left behind on shore. Excellent.

by Chris

A Beautiful Place To Die

by Malla Nunn

Detective Emmanuel Cooper is the main character in this murder mystery set in the small town of Jacob’s Rest in a remote South African province. He is sent to investigate the death of the local police chief in suspicious circumstances. He discovers a community deeply split along racial lines at a time in South Africa history when the recent introduced racial segregation laws are being rigourously enforced. The sons of the dead man are looking for someone to blame and the Special Branch, which imposes its presence on the investigation, is looking for a murderer who suits their needs. Cooper has to work surreptitiously with a coloured policeman and a Jewish doctor, unusual allies in the community, to go beyond prejudice to find justice. Many secrets, including those of the dead captain Pretorius, are uncovered during the investigation. As the plot unwinds the reader is presented with tales of sexual depravity and family members who are prepared to protect even the worst of secrets. Malla Nunn has written an intriguing novel which works both as a crime novel and an account of the devastating effects of institutionalized racial prejudice. A terrific novel with a great sense of time and place.

by Chris

18 Jun 2009

The Lost Life by Steven Carroll

Steven Carroll’s The Lost Life follows the successful Miles Franklin Award-winning The Time We Have Taken. In this new novel Carroll leaves behind the familiar setting of Melbourne, taking the reader back in time to England in the year 1934.

Catherine and Daniel are young lovers from a town north of London. When first we meet them they are sneaking off together on a hot summer’s day to enjoy a swim in one of the pools within the walled gardens of ‘Burnt Norton’, a large country house that readers familiar with Eliot’s work will recognise as the title of the first poem from Four Quartets.

While in the gardens, the lovers witness a very private ‘ceremony’ between Miss Emily Hale, an American woman whose rented cottage Catherine has been hired to clean and the famous poet T.S. Eliot. The ceremony ends with the burial of a metal box in the flowerbed. The older lovers depart leaving Catherine and Daniel hidden in the bushes wondering at the import of what they have witnessed. Before Catherine can stop him, Daniel, known in the village for his mischievous pranks, leaps out of the bushes and digs up the metal tin. He does so for ‘a lark’ and as a sort of gift to Catherine. She is unimpressed despite her curiosity and orders him to return it to the flowerbed. However Daniel fails to do so before Miss Hale and Eliot return to find the ground disturbed and the box missing. Eliot immediately suspects his estranged wife of having a hand in the disappearance of the box (she is unwilling to admit the failure of her marriage and has taken to stalking him). The poet is furious and inconsolable and the incident leads him to depart from the village days later.

Read the rest of Simon's review here.

26 May 2009

Dog Boy

by Evan Hornung

Dog Boy is a story about four-year-old Romochka, abandoned by his mother and uncle in Moscow in the mid 1980s. Alone in an apartment with no food and no heating, Romochka is forced onto the streets, with the voice of his mother ringing in his ears - 'Do not talk to strangers'. Hungry and freezing, the boy sees a dog on the street and recalls a memory of hugging a neighbour's dog and being warmed by the fur. He follows the dog into the basement of a blackened, windowless church, and so begins the tale of Romochka's life as a dog. 

This beautiful and brutal book is eloquently written, and it's impossible not to be touched by the characters (both dog and human). Long after you finish reading this, the story will replay in your head.

by Karen

Still Alice

by Lisa Genova
Simon & Schuster

First time novelist Lisa Genova has written a well-crafted, intelligent story.  When fifty-year-old Alice can't remember her way home from her daily jog, she realises that something is seriously wrong. With trepidation Alice tells her doctor, and her symptoms and further testing confirm that she is suffering from early-onset Alzheimer's Disease. The diagnosis is tragic, especially for someone like Alice who is a world renowned expert on linguistics and a published Harvard Professor. As Alice's world falls apart, she tries valiantly to hold on to her true self while renegotiating her relationships with her husband and children. Her relationship with her youngest daughter is fractitious and Alice disapproves of her lifestyle, while her husband would rather pretend that nothing has changed. Alice knows that soon she will soon forget everything, and all that will be left is love. The author is well equipped to write about this subject as she has a PhD in neuroscience and is a columnist for the National Alzheimer's Association.

I really enjoyed reading this, the characters were very interesting, and the dialogue is quite restrained so it never falls into mawkish sentimentality. 

by Karen

20 May 2009

Tsiolkas wins Commonwealth Writers' Prize

Best-selling Melbourne author Christos Tsiolkas has won the 2009 Commonwealth Writers' Prize for his critically acclaimed fourth novel The Slap

At the award ceremony held on Saturday at the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival, Mohammed Hanif's A Case Of Exploding Mangoes also won the overall prize for best first book. 

Click here for information on all of this year's regional winners.

13 May 2009

Jasper Jones

by Craig Silvey
Allen & Unwin

Jasper Jones is an outcast growing up in a small mining town town in Western Australia during the Vietnam War. His aboriginal mother is dead, and his caucasian father is a deadbeat drunk. 

In a place where everyone knows everyone else's business, the disappearance of the shire president's daughter is all the more mysterious. But Jasper knows the truth. The girl is dead. And he knows full well that if the body is discovered, he will be blamed immediately. So Jasper enlists the help of Charlie, a bookish thirteen year old, to dispose of the evidence so they can get to the bottom of the mystery themselves. Charlie is apprehensive, but is compelled to help his new friend all the same. And as they try to figure out what happened to the missing girl, the family secrets of a cast of endearing, alcoholic, racist, and abusive characters are revealed.  A very entertaining and insightful read, packed with hilarious, witty dialogue.  I absolutely loved every minute of it! Recommended for book groups.

The film rights for Jasper Jones were secured by an Australian producer before it's publication. 
Craig Silvey's first novel Rhubarb was written when he was just 19 years old.

by Kristy

16 Apr 2009

Miles Franklin Shortlist

Breath by Tim Winton
Ice by Louis Nowra
The Pages by Murray Bail
The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas
Wanting by Richard Flanagan

The winner will be announced on the 18th of June.

Of the 55 books submitted for this year's Miles Franklin Award, the following ten titles made the longlist

Addition by Toni Jordan
Breath by Tim Winton
The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas
Wanting by Richard Flanagan
Fugitive Blue by Claire Thomas
Ice by Louis Nowra
One Foot Wrong by Sofie Laguna
The Devil's Eye by Ian Townsend
The Pages by Murray Bail

Click here for more info

5 Mar 2009

The Book Of Emmett

by Deborah Forster

A powerful read, set in Footscray, The Book Of Emmett tells the story of a family dealing with the effects of an extremely abusive father. Emmett is an intriguing character, although abusive physically and psychologically to his wife and children due to a problem with alcohol, he is also at times a most inspirational father, always trying to instill his love of literature upon his children (his only other passion apart from alcohol it would seem). The children are obviously all damaged in their own way from his abuse and as they grow older, deal with this in different ways as they watch their father age and diminish with the years.

A harrowing novel in many ways (it made me cry more than once), very well written and though provoking. Recommended for book groups. 

by Cathy

28 Feb 2009

Yarra : A History Of Melbourne's Murky River

by Kristin Otto

The information in this book is fascinating, I do love a good local history! But the way it was presented drove me crazy.  The blurb on the back says that it 'sometimes meanders along with the same unhurried languor as its namesake'. I found this construction less than charming, in fact it made reading the book quite confusing at times and unnecessarily irritating. The maps are also poorly reproduced and difficult to read, the photos/pictures likewise. A pity becasue, as I said, an absolutely fascinating subject.

By Christine

The Girl On The Landing

by Paul Torday
W & N Fiction

I have mentioned this book elsewhere, but will do so again as it has just been released this week. Despite a less than flattering review in The Age this morning, Elizabeth S and I really enjoyed it. Basically the story is woven around mental illness and the consequences of the patient deciding to cease his medication. Lots of suspense and surprise. I loved it.

By Christine

24 Feb 2009

2009 Commonwealth Writers' Prize

The shortlists for the 2009 Commonwealth Writers' Prize have been announced. 
Among the shortlisted titles are :
- Breath by Tim Winton (best book)
- The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas (best book)
- The Spare Room by Helen Garner (best book)
- The Good Parents by Joan London (best book)
- The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga (best first book)
- The Boat by Nam Lee (best first book)

Click here to see the complete shortlists.

4 Feb 2009


by Sonya Hartnett
Hamish Hamilton

Sonya Hartnett's novels are read by adults and young adults alike, and her first novel since being awarded the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award (March 2008) will no doubt appeal to an audience well beyond the age of the protagonist. 

Set in 1980s suburban Australia, Butterfly tells the story of Plum Coyle, later dubbed Aria, fast approaching her fourteenth birthday, after which she hopes that her old life, awkward body, and best friends (her worst enemies) will be a thing of her past. Plum's charming and glamorous neighbour Maureen, a wife and mother, soon becomes a coveted friend, but for reasons that Plum is initially oblivious. Maureen, recognising her sadness, reassures Plum that she understands her plight, telling her that she is strong and beautiful, even capable of becoming a fashion model. When she's with Maureen, Plum feels like the girl she had always wanted to be. 

Plum is faced with more tribulations when her friends turn on her (for good reason), ruining her birthday party, and again when she discovers Maureen's secret - a secret with the potential to tear Plum's family apart. 

Butterfly is beautifully written and cleverly expresses the trials of early adolescence, and dynamics of Plum's loving family versus her tentative place in the schoolyard.

by Kristy

31 Jan 2009

Life Class by Brenda Niall

An autobiography by the biographer if you will. I knew nothing at all about Brenda Niall and I thoroughly enjoyed reading Life Class. I learnt of her childhood, in Kew, her schooling at Genazzano and her years teaching at the fledgling Monash University. And I learnt of the biographies she has written. More interestingly, though, I discovered how she decides who to write about and how to structure their lives in print. Her research into each of her subjects and how bias is a fact of life in biographical writing to be avoided if possible was fascinating. The dilemma wether to reveal skeletons found in closets was also absorbing. A lovely little book.

by Christine

The Patient by Mohamed Khadra

Dr Khadra's follow up to Making The Cut, in which he sets out his fairly strong opinions on the state of health care in Australia (mostly a cot case in urgent need of repair). He does this by using the journey of Jonathan Brewster, your standard Type A corporate high-flyer, from his diagnosis to eventual death from bladder cancer. The book is written in two layers: one a very dry diatribe on public health policy, doctors, nurses etc and the other a very affecting tale of the one-way cancer trip and the disintegration it causes. Accused of being arrogant and patronising in Making The Cut (many nurses hated it!), he is nevertheless capable of writing very well about the human condition and how disease disrupts everything around us. He tells Jonathan's story with genuine feeling and I thought it was excellent. It's just a pity that it was continually interrupted by Khadra's barrow-pushing most of which we've heard before. Hopefully next time (and I hope he has more books in him) the good doctor will stick to what he does very well: writing about patients as people.

by Christine

23 Jan 2009

The Book of Unholy Mischief by Elle Newmark

One of the most delightful debut novels I’ve read in a long time. Maybe it’s the lack of expectation I had, or maybe it’s just that I was in the mood for a pacy, entertaining and uncomplicated read. Whatever the reason, it was enjoyable from start to finish. 

I’ve been raving about it to all and sundry, describing it mostly as a cross between The Da Vinci Code and Like Water for Chocolate, but set in Venice in the rat-infested late 1490s. What a combination!

The story follows Luciano, a hungry street kid with only his wits to keep him alive, until he is literally pulled from the street by a renowned chef to become his apprentice. Determined to rise above his lowly status, he works hard and pesters the ‘Maestro’ with questions about life, learning, and the mysterious book that has Venice abuzz with gossip, and one that the chef seems to know a lot about. Historical figures such as Borgia and Landucci are on a mission to find and destroy the book, believing the myths about its power of immortality and alchemy. But Luciano finds out it is much more powerful than even these men suspect.

Elle Newmark’s writing is deceptively simple and light; I got a cooking and history lesson almost without realising it! There were some very blatant manipulative touches in the way she propelled the novel’s early action, but I was happy to go along for the ride, and ultimately very glad I did.

Venice and food and the delights of cooking feature as separate characters in the narrative. The murky canal city, with all the secrets she is purported to harbour, makes a perfect setting for a novel about food, religion, immortality and maintaining self-belief. But it’s far more entertaining than this summary suggests! Go and buy it for someone who loves food, history and appreciates a pacy but intelligent holiday read - but read it yourself first!!!

by Lisa

17 Jan 2009

Rosewater and Soda Bread by Marsha Mehran

The sequel to Pomegranate Soup which I haven't read. Continues the story of the Aminpour sisters Marjan, Bahar and Layla and their Persian cafe in small village Ireland. Weaves together themes of ethnicity, love, community spirit, compassion, cooking and religion effortlessly. Using the conceit of cooking as a metaphor for life, Rosewater And Soda Bread is delightful - I hope Marsha Mehran has a further sequel in the pipeline. I also hope that the it's predecessor is soon available! Would suit readers who liked Chocolat, Guernsey Literary etc..

by Christine

The Irresistible Inheritance Of Wilberforce by Paul Torday

Wilberforce is a thirty something IT whizkid with a hugely successful software company to his name. He is also emotionally crippled (courtesy of disengaged parents and emotional neglect as a child) who is chewed up and spat out by most of the people he meets. The two people who actually care about him, his business partner and his wife, are in turn chewed up and spat out by Wiberforce. I read the book with an appalled fascination, witness to Wilberforce's determined and relentless track towards self-destruction using his alcoholic 'inheritance' from his friend Francis. The book could variously be called The Road To Perdition or How To Ruin Your Child In 308 Pages. It was great!

Also great is Torday's new novel due out in March: The Girl On The Landing. Basically murder, skeletons in closets, criminal insanity and treatment of serious mental illness! I couldn't put it down. I really enjoyed it.

by Christine