What I’ve Read Recently

Here are many of the novels and short story collections I’ve read in the past year or so. I’m very selective about what I buy to read, which is why most of these have been given a good rating. If the rating is four or five stars, consider it worth reading, three so-so, and two or one steer well clear.

American Rust
Philipp Meyer 

And the Mountains Echoed
Khaled Hosseini 

Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter
Mario Vargas Llosa 

Christos Tsiolkas

Bitter Wash Road
Garry Disher

Burial Rites
Hannah Kent 

Delicate Truth, A
John […]

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Spies: Michael Frayn

Michael Frayn is a master story teller, and this novel is an excellent example of his craft. He seamlessly interweaves different points of view to relate an episode in the narrator’s early history, perhaps when he was about nine or ten (his age is never mentioned). The events occur during the Second World War, a time of blackout curtains and fear of German spies.

The narrator is Stephen, an old man who returns to the cul-de-sac in the suburb where his […]

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My Notorious Life: Kate Manning

In 19th-century New York, Ann Trow Lohman became a notorious midwife and abortionist. In doing so she attracted the attention of Anthony Comstock, the self-appointed guardian of public morality, who railed against contraceptives and questionable literature. He had himself appointed as a special agent of the United States Postal Service so that he had a mandate to arrest those he suspected of immorality. He became her nemesis. Though she grew rich and influential, he eventually trapped her, leading to her […]

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Solomon Northup: 12 Years a Slave

I’ve not seen the film, but if it’s faithful to the story it’s based on, then it must make for harrowing viewing.

Written in 1853 after regaining his freedom, the book records the kidnapping, enslavement, and eventual release of Solomon Northup, an African American who was a free citizen of New York. Northup was an educated, sober, and capable individual, married with three children, when he was tricked by two white men into journeying with them to Washington. There he was drugged and put into […]

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Andrew McGahan: Last Drinks

I bought this after reading a review by Debra Adelaide, whose judgement I normally respect. However, this time it proved to be misplaced.

It starts off well enough, but after a while it digresses into a history of the Inquiry during Bjelke-Petersen’s reign in Queensland. Interspersed with that are dissertations on alcoholism and occasionally a return to the central storyline. By the 38% mark (thanks, Kindle) I realised I’d lost interest in the murder investigation and parked the book in my […]

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