What We're Reading 

Hidden gems, hot favourites, slow burners and the odd guest columnist.

July 2016

 - Wednesday, July 06, 2016
Judy: I finished Amy Liptrot’s autobiographical The Outrun ($35) feeling glad to have met her. Extremes are what she knows growing up in the dramatic landscape of the Orkney Isles with a bipolar father and a mother who takes to evangelical Christianity. In London, alcohol becomes an addiction and she goes way down and out of control. The rest of the story is of her return to the Orkneys and her painstaking determination to live without the alcohol which has been her necessity for so many years. She explores, she walks, she links herself to the land, to the birds, to the skies, to the community—online, as well as islanders, and to the present moment. She provides herself with the sensations and excitements and discoveries that her vitality so needs. She places herself by means of maps and cross-references, she anchors herself to the planet. She is lively, intelligent and courageous. This, of her winter sea-bathing: ‘The cold water is cathartic. It’s refreshing like the first drink; it offers transformation and escape, like drowning. I am so thirsty and full of desire.’

Janis: I have just read Emily Maguire’s An Isolated Incident ($33)—’ a psychological thriller about everyday violence, the media’s obsession with pretty dead girls, the grip of grief and the myth of closure’. I found it very interesting—especially the relationship between the sister of the dead girl and the journalist who is desperate to get the full story at whatever cost.

John: A Hero in France by Alan Furst ($33): Mathieu is the leader of a Resistance cell that smuggles British airmen from occupied France into Spain. The streets of wartime Paris are full of Germans and collaborators—who are perhaps an even greater threat. His life and those of his comrades is precarious. There is a little time for every day life and every relationship brings risk. It seems unlikely that Mathieu will survive. Alan Furst is the master of espionage fiction set around the World Wars.

Andrew: All praise to Louise, my colleague in the children’s department. As I rushed out of the shop on a Friday recently, I asked her, on the spot, for a bedtime picture book for a toddler who was going to spend a first night away from his own bed. She handed me Owl Babies ($17). ‘It’s really good for controlled anxiety’, she proffered nonchalantly, ‘and the illustrations are magnificent’. That Saturday night, as the east coast low raged around my house, and Sydney flooded, we got tucked in to Owl Babies, and I was instantly transported to a childhood world lit only by moonlight. One moment vast, luminous, and frightening, but in a revelatory instant, warm and safe and protected. No wonder, published only in 1992 it is now considered a classic. In truth, the text by Martin Waddell is a tad cute; but Patrick Benson’s illustrations could sustain a person of any age through their own long dark night of the soul.