Books in Print

independent Australian bookselling since 1988

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