Staff Recommendations

Anne, Chris & the team give your their favourites & recommended must-reads for the year.

The Boy Behind the Curtain book coverThe Boy Behind the Curtain (signed copies available)

by Tim Winton

All our days, both of us have tried to avoid trouble, and yet it’s been our business. Without strife the cop and the novelist have nothing to work with.

Beginning with a reflection on his childhood fascination with guns, and ending with a return visit to the NGV, Winton’s new memoir The Boy Behind the Curtain is a real treat for fans. He is a private man, but if you have ever heard him speak you will know he is by nature thoughtful and reflective. The range of subjects in The Boy Behind the Curtain is broad: the allure of risk taking in a piece giving the book its title; in ‘Havoc’ a description of the impact of a traumatic motorcycle accident his father was involved in when Winton was a boy; ‘Twice on Sundays’ reflects on the role of religion and spirituality in his life; ‘Using the C-Word’ is a look at class and its role in his life as well as the life of the nation and in ‘The Demon Shark’ he examines our obsession with sharks. Other topics include Elizabeth Jolley, our treatment of refugees and the family’s ancient but embarrassing car.

Nobody is better at writing about landscape and our connection to it than Tim Winton. Reading his fiction is just about as close as you can get to diving into the sea or walking barefoot in the dirt without actually taking a step yourself. In one of the most beautiful chapters in the book ‘Chasing Giants’ he tells of paddling out with his wife in search of whales as they travel up the WA coast.

Then, beneath me and slightly ahead, I saw a shadow. For a moment it looked like the profile of a whale swimming across my path along the seabed. But we were in only 5 meters of water and the scale was all wrong. A moment later I realized it wasn’t the whole creature I was seeing. This was only its tail. Right beneath me. Getting bigger by the instant, scything up underfoot.

FORMAT: Hardback | PRICE: $45.00

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His Bloody Project book coverHis Bloody Project

by Graeme Macrae Burnet

His Bloody Project, Graeme Macrae Burnet’s Booker Prize shortlisted second novel, is a tightly constructed historical page turner. Though entirely a work of fiction, it is presented as a collation of documents relating to a triple murder that took place in the Scottish Highlands in 1869. A young crofter, Roderick Macrae, brutally murdered 3 members of a neighbouring family, confessed immediately to the crime and was prosecuted. The novel includes Roderick’s own account of the event, case notes from visiting physicians, witness statements, and an account of the trial. As there is no doubt about Roderick’s guilt, the real focus is on his sanity at the time, and in this matter there is much disagreement. His Bloody Project is just that – bloody. It is also clever, at times funny, and often tragic. (Recommended by Barb)

FORMAT: Paperback | PRICE: $19.99

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Heroes of the Frontier by Dave Eggers book coverHeroes of the Frontier

by Dave Eggers

Beset by what feel like insurmountable problems, single mother Josie flees her home in Ohio and sets off with her two kids, Paul and Ana, in an old RV to explore Alaska. Imagining a new life without the lawsuits, the guilty conscience, the next to useless ex-partner and the infuriating other parents at her kids’ school, Josie drifts across the state encountering a litany of kooky characters and situations. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to matter how far she goes or how many glasses of wine she drinks, Josie cannot avoid her own past or the reality of present day America. By turns hilariously funny, biting and poignant, Dave Eggers’ new novel is a fabulous read. (Recommended by Barb)

FORMAT: Paperback | PRICE: $32.99

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The Shepherd's Life by James Rebanks book coverThe Shepherd’s Life

by James Rebanks

This book is just fabulous. James Rebanks farms sheep in The Lake District in northern England. His family has been raising sheep there for centuries and the connection between the people and the land is tangible in every word he writes. The knowledge that is passed done from generation to generation is ancient, as is the breed of sheep they raise, but James himself mixes traditional ways with a few thoroughly modern twists. Having left school at 15 he later went back to education and got a double first at Oxford, subsequently working as a Unesco consultant to supplement his farm income. He has a Twitter following in excess of 82000 and writes about his life and the landscape like a dream. (Recommended by Barb)

FORMAT: Paperback | PRICE: $24.99

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My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout book coverMy Name is Lucy Barton

by Elizabeth Strout

After a routine operation young New York mother of two Lucy Barton picks up an infection that sees her hospitalised  for weeks. One afternoon she turns to find her own mother sitting in a chair at the end of the bed. It is years since the two have seen each other and Lucy is overwhelmed with emotion. Her mother stays by her bedside for five days and the two women talk, in a restrained way, about the past. Lucy’s childhood in rural Illinois had been one of extreme poverty and occasional violence. Although she found a way out and eventually made a new life as a writer, Lucy knows she is a product of her past. Many years later she will reflect on those pivotal five days spent with her mother and the glimpse she had into the other woman’s life. Elizabeth Strout won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction with the wonderful Olive Kitteridge and in My Name Is Lucy Barton she has again produced a stunning portrait of motherhood, loneliness, strength and frailty. There aren’t many writers who combine such tough clear sightedness and gentle generosity, and Strout deserves her place on this year’s Booker Prize longlist. (Recommended by Barb)

FORMAT: Hardback | PRICE: $35.00 Paperback | PRICE: $22.99

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Barbarian Days by William Finnegan book coverBarbarian Days

by William Finnegan

Now in his mid sixties, William Finnegan has been surfing for over half a century. Barbarian Days, his Pulitzer Prize winning memoir, tells of a lifetime obsession with surfing that has seen him travel the world in pursuit of the perfect wave. Finnegan is a staff writer with The New Yorker, his work often focusing on war, violence and social upheaval. His descriptions of what it is actually like to be in a wave are both exquisite and precise, his acknowledgement of the nostalgia of the surfing world laconic, and his
analysis of the social protocols hidden beneath the veneer of ‘surf cool’ unsparing. Above all, Barbarian Days is a book about beauty and danger, about wanting to be nowhere else but in the wave, and simultaneously anywhere else but in the wave. (Recommended by Barb)

FORMAT: Paperback | PRICE: $24.99

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Music and Freedom by Zoe Morrison book coverMusic and Freedom

by Zoe Morrison

What a wonderful debut novel this is. In Oxford in 2005 an elderly woman, Alice Murray, spends her days performing four tasks. She files away sheet music; she burns all her husband’s books and papers; she makes mysterious phone calls and she strikes notes on a Steinway. Alice is also slowly starving herself to death. And then she hears music, a piano being played. It sounds as though it is coming from next door, but she knows the house to be vacant. Whoever is playing the music is making mistakes and Alice can not stop herself from sounding out corrections on her own piano, thus beginning a musical conversation that will save her life.

Alice was sent to England as a young girl by her mother who believed that there she would receive a better education than in rural New South Wales in the 1930s. A gifted piano player, she wins a scholarship to the Royal College of Music in London and at a summer school in Oxford one vacation she meets Edward, an economics professor, and agrees to marry him. As soon as they arrive home after the wedding however, Alice discovers that something is wrong. Edward is a tyrant and Alice finds herself trapped and isolated, without the means or wherewithal to escape. Initially she seeks refuge in her music, but eventually even that is taken from her.

This is the story of a woman abused, a woman who loses the will to live and then finds it again through love and music. (Recommended by Barb)

FORMAT: Paperback | PRICE: $32.99

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The Last Painting of Sara de Vos by Dominic Smith book coverThe Last Painting of Sara de Vos

by Dominic Smith

Ellie Shipley is curating an exhibition of paintings by female Dutch painters for the Art Gallery of New South Wales. When her boss excitedly informs her an American collector,  Marty de Groot, has offered the loan of At the Edge of a Wood by Sara de Vos for the exhibition, she has to inform the gallery that she has already secured the loan of this particular painting, but from a private collection in Amsterdam. Obviously one of the two is a fake, an embarrassing but not unique problem in the art world, and the gallery decides to ascertain which one is genuine before informing the owner. What is embarrassing for the gallery however, could spell professional disaster for Ellie, who decades previously in New York City forged a copy of At the Edge of the Wood herself, which she knows was substituted for the original belonging to Marty.  For years she has feared discovery and now she is convinced her secret is about to be revealed and public humiliation will follow. Alternating between the  seventeenth, twentieth and twenty first centuries, Dominic Smith tells the stories of the painter, the forger and the collector. (Recommended by Barb)

FORMAT: Paperback | PRICE: $32.99

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Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift book coverMothering Sunday

by Graham Swift

This beautiful novella from Booker Prize-winning novelist Graham Swift takes place entirely on one day in 1924. It is Mothering Sunday, when by tradition domestic staff are given the day off to visit their mother. Jane Fairchild, a young housemaid, has no mother to visit. She is an orphan, a foundling, left on the doorstep of an orphanage 22 years previously. Thinking she will spend her day of freedom reading, Jane’s plans change when she is summoned by Paul Sheringham, the son of a neighbouring estate, Upleigh. Paul and Jane have been secret lovers for years now. At first he used to slip her a sixpence, but nowadays no money changes hands, “mutual interest in the transactions cancelling any need for purchase”. Paul is soon to be wed to the daughter of another local family and today, the house at Upleigh being entirely empty, he brings Jane into his own home for the first time ever. They spend an idyllic couple of hours together before Paul departs to dine with his fiancé, leaving Jane alone to wander the house. As the reader, we know that this will be their last day together, a turning point in Jane’s life, and one she will reflect back on for all her remaining days. Things were changing in England during this inter-war period, for the country as a whole, but also for girls like Jane. (Recommended by Barb)

FORMAT: Hardback | PRICE: $29.99

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Our Souls At Night Book CoverOur Souls At Night

by Kent Haruf

Early one evening in the small town of Holt, widow Addie Moore leaves her house, walks down the road and knocks on the door of Louis Waters. She has a proposition for him. She’s lonely, and she thinks he might be too. She senses Louis, a widower, is a good man and wonders if he would like to spend the nights with her. It’s not a sexual proposition she explains, she just wants to have someone lie next to her, someone she could talk to, maybe confide in. Addie has decided she’s done with living her life by other peoples’ rules and she thinks Louis might feel the same. What unfolds is a tender story of the growing relationship between Addie and Louis. Marriages, parenthood, tragedy and death are all revealed in the nighttime, and during the day, the people of Holt begin to talk. This small elegant novel is one to treasure. Recommended by Barb

 

FORMAT: Paperback | PRICE: $19.99

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View our Summer 2016/2017 catalogue ➲

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