The Outcast by British author Sadie Jones is an assured debut novel which was shortlisted for the 2008 Orange Prize. A sobering tale about a teenage male protagonist outcast from upper middle class British society in the 1950's due to perceived wrongs, it is immensely readable, with taut characterisation and a filmic quality to many of the scenes (it started life as a screenplay apparently).
I was particularly impressed that the author decided to make her main protagonist male -considering she is female -and the young Lewis Alridge, though deeply damaged, is catnip for female readers everywhere. Young, sexy and enraged, but with a kind soul at bottom... yum yum indeed.
I did find some of the dialogue a bit forced and the plotting repetitive at times, but overall it was an enjoyable read. Published by Random House.
The Women in Black by Aussie author Madeleine St John originally came out in the early 90's but has just been reissued. This is a serious gem of a novel - insightful, darkly funny and heartwarming - that I can't recommend highly enough. Perfect for a cold winter's day spent huddled under a blanket on the couch, The Women in Black follows the adventures of four women who work in a fictionalised version of David's Jones' flagship Elizabeth St store in Sydney in the late 1950's. Set over the course of one summer, each woman's character is deftly drawn and St John's observations of middle-class Australian life at that time are brilliantly realised. With not a word out of place, fashion fans like myself will enjoy immersing themselves in the cocktail frocks, and everyone else will enjoy the wry humour and joyful ending. Published by Text Publishing this one went straight to Mum so she can read it next.