Things To Look Forward To 

David Gaunt has owned Gleebooks with partner Roger Mackell since 1976.

August 2018

 - Tuesday, July 24, 2018
Well, I can’t share the happy snaps from my glorious holiday last month (I could actually, these days, courtesy of Apple, but it’s not the same as those slide nights of old). However, here’s some random observations on what I’ve been reading, on holiday and since, that I’d like to share:

Adrian McGinty’s splendid ‘Sean Duffy’ crime series is set in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. Been around a few years, but I’ve only just got to them. I started with the sixth, and most recent (I’ve since read the first, and you could start anywhere). I found the title irresistible, Police at the Station and They Don’t Look Friendly (nod to Tom Waits). And the book was too, first-rate dialogue, plotting, characterization, and a cool, laconic cynicism, totally right for the time and place of the ‘Troubles’. It’s a  cracker of an opening, with Duffy digging his own grave as reward for solving the crime, and the standard holds from there.

Dervla McTiernan’s The Ruin is also first-rate crime fiction set in Galway, Ireland, and a very good first novel. To call it a police procedural is to sell it short, such is the intricate plotting and interweaving of forensic policing with authentic characters, moral dilemmas and a rich sense of Ireland’s complex past.

The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer: again, a new author for me, but this American novelist has been around for more than twenty years (interestingly, The Wife (2003) has just been released as a film). I will read more of her. The Female Persuasion is witty, thoughtful and insightful, and full of brilliant, sharply observed life. It’s deliberately arch title begs the question of what kind of legacy second-wave feminism has left for contemporary young women. A coming-of-age story with a slightly improbable air of optimism at its end, and some glaring constraints of artifice in plot, this is nonetheless an incisive, thought-provoking, imaginative book for our times.

Warlight  by Michael Ondaatje: a wonderful writer, whose books are few and far between, so it’s great that Warlight doesn’t disappoint. Elegiac, and beautifully manipulative in the way it reveals a mysterious, concealed past, this is a story which thrills is it unravels its secrets. Only a craftsman of Ondaatje’s skill could carry it off. 

White Houses by Amy Bloom: is a short, but densely and intelligently written novel about a much-covered subject, the ‘White House’ of Franklin, and, more significantly, Eleanor Roosevelt. What gives it a unique, and fascinating perspective is that the ‘inside’ story is being told through another real-life person, Lorena Hicock—aide, close companion and sometime lover of Eleanor. I found the book a small miracle of compressed wit, at once moving and full of acerbic observation about politics and power.

The True Colour of the Sea by Robert Drewe. I’ll never forget the excitement and thrill The Bodysurfers created more than thirty years ago. It was a superb collection of stories, that, almost in one book, turned our attention from the bush to the beach as the focus of Australian life. In August, we have a new collection of stories, where subjects big and small, comical and serious, are fleshed out with the ocean as setting, or participant, or giving us ‘true colour’ —vibrant and engaging 

Her Mother’s Daughter  by Nadia Wheatley: I’m part-way through this absorbing, and very moving memoir. It’s an important document in Australian social history (both of Wheatley’s parents played significant media roles in, after World War 2, when they worked collaboratively together. But theirs was a profoundly unhappy marriage, and at the core of the book is a tribute to the mother who died young, and whose life she celebrates.          

Lastly, an invitation to come and hear Leigh Sales, on October 2nd, when she will mark the publication of her new book On any Ordinary Day with an event at the Seymour Centre (booking details here). Essentially a book about how ordinary people endure the unthinkable, (the subtitle: Blindsides, Resilience, and what Happens after the Worst Day of Your Life, tells it all), this is also a very personal story, and Sales brings her formidable journalistic skills, and great compassion and wisdom to her subject. David