So much fine reading on the selves of booksellers all around this city. As always the issue are the tomes sitting on my own shelves patiently, patiently. If one could only do without scribbling, fine film and television, the dailies, as well as the adventures to be had in Hobs. Therefore, some of the listings below have been published prior to the past twelve months, being from my backlog – a backlog seemingly ever increasing.
1. The Illuminations – Andrew O’Hagan. I’m not alone. Stephen Romei, the literary editor of the Oz, placed it at number one of his top international fiction reads for 2015, commenting that it was ‘…a contemporary story of family and war by the brilliant Scottish writer…’ I cannot do otherwise but agree with that b word. And to top it all off, it was based on the story of a ground breaking English/Canadian photographer who set a precedent for more of her gender to follow.
2. The Senator’s Wife – Sue Miller. I decided to read two of Ms Miller’s back catalogue that had been patient on my shelves for some time. Then I would purchase her latest. The former happened but as yet not the latter. But this work chronicling an episode in the marital wars and a most unusual love affair was a stand-out – particularly due to the generosity towards ageing of said wife.
3. The Short Long Book – Martin Flanagan. This was a garnering of yarns about a difficult to pin down character who is no doubt, given time, headed for national treasurehood. It’s by our country’s top sports writer – sorry Gideon Haigh.
4. Caleb’s Crossing – Geraldine Brooks. Set in pre-revolutionary US of A, this different take, based on real events, on the culture clash between the colonists and First Americans was riveting. Brooks makes history come alive and this is close to being a masterpiece of faction.
5. Holidays – William McInnes. Many books made me misty eyed during ’15, but only a smattering gave me a laugh. A great writer of larrikin humour is this fellow – and it also made me cry.
6. Stay With Me – Maureen McCarthy. At a time when domestic violence is never far away from the headlines and the remarkable Rosie Batty is Australian of the Year, this was a sobering, gritty and at times terrifying read. It brings it home, in fictional terms, as to just how dire it can all be.
7. When the Killing’s Done – TC Boyle. He’s the supreme exponent of wordsmithery and never fails to deliver. His new one awaits.
8. Hello Beautiful – Hannie Rayson. There were many more memoirs I wanted to read but this was the best of the few I did. Magda is being patient.
9. Mothers and Daughters – Kylie Ladd. Read two of hers this year and this was the better by a smidge.
10. New Boy – Nick Earls. If I was still teaching I’d request a class set of this. So much to ruminate on under the surface of this engaging read for tweens.
HMs – The Lake Shore – Sue Miller, Last Summer – Kylie Ladd, Funny Girl – Nick Hornby, Mr Mac and Me – Esther Freud, Be Near Me – Andrew O’Hagan, A Guide to Berlin – Gail Jones, Only in New York – Lily Brett.