Monday, December 28, 2009

Books I've Liked & Books I've Loved

Summer is a time for bikinis, halter-necks and swimming past the breakers but also, for me, it is a time for concentrated reading. I was delighted when I received a care package from Allen and Unwin recently that included several lovely new books, not the least of which was this V&A history of the Dior label. I consumed it wholly in one evening and found it a fascinating read ... I loved the details which explained how Christian Dior grew his Parisian couture house into a thriving international fashion empire within a decade, and there were lots of great pics. But while my collection of fashion books continues to grow steadily, fiction is honestly my full-time love. Here are a few of the novels I've finished lately.

I loved Madeleine St John's Women in Black (Text), and this Booker nominated and recently re-released title was thoroughly enjoyable too. The story's essence will find a friend in anyone who has ever had their heart broken, and I know that definitely applies to me!

The Essence of the Thing is published by Text.

I think only Alice Munro herself would be able to write the words that would correctly sum up the beauty of her short stories. Her latest collection focuses on damaged people, and while that doesn't always make for the happiest read, these stories will stay with you for some time.

Too Much Happiness is published by Random House.

I knew little about this book or it's author before I picked it up, but by the time I said goodbye to it's lovable characters, I was so glad that I had. Reminiscent of fellow Canadian - and my all-time favourite novelist - Carol Shields prose, this story touches on all the important things in life such as friendship, family, love, illness and death, but wrapped up in a seemingly simple plot.

Good to a Fault, published by Allen & Unwin, won a Commonwealth Writer's Prize and I can certainly see why.

Lorrie Moore's bestselling short-story collection Birds of America was published when I was studying creative writing at university, and it had a profound effect on me. Now Lorrie has turned her hand to the novel, with interesting results. This is really a blackly humorous meditation on the current state of America, packaged as a coming-of-age novel. It is a really hard one to critique or to explain why I liked it, suffice to say that I really did.

A Gate at the Stairs is published by Faber.

I was a bit sceptical about this book while I was reading the first 40 or so pages, but my friend Cath said it was one of the best books she had read this year, so under her recommendation I persevered. Once I allowed myself to believe that 13-year-old country boys could be that witty and articulate and I generally embraced the awesomeness of those said characters (after all, it is a pretty long time since I was 13), I became enthralled with the story and hooked on it's suspense. Another great coming-of-age novel, with a murder mystery to boot. My heart warms to read strong Australian storytelling.

Jasper Jones is published by Allen and Unwin.

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