The Wilder Aisles 

Janice Wilder has been a legend of Sydney bookselling for over 40 years.

November 2017

Gleebooks Bookshop - Wednesday, November 01, 2017
This year I have spent a lot of time at my home due to various ailments. While it was not always pleasant, it did give me a lot of free time to read. I thought  would spend this column revisiting some of those books, with some recommendations for a bit of holiday reading.

To start, here are some of the most loved, or the most entertaining of those I read. First up, Insomniac City by Bill Hayes. The story of the relationship between Bill Hayes and Oliver Sacks was such a lovely, inspiring story—it’s not just a love story between Bill and Oliver, but also a love story with New York. Bill, a photographer, spends a lot time—often at night—walking around, talking to strangers and sometimes taking their photos. There’s a lovely scene where Bill meets teenage boys at a skateboard park, and the boys open up and talk to Bill about the love of skateboarding. Being a bit of a night owl myself, I liked the idea of Bill walking the streets at night, meeting night people and taking photos along the way. A lovely book.

For a long leisurely read, on long summer afternoons, John Boyne’s The Hearts’s Invisible Furies, is one I can recommend. The story of adopted boy Cyril Avery and his subsequent life, is both funny and sad. This long book follows Cyril’s life from Dublin to New York and on to Amsterdam where he meets Bastian and forms a relationship with him. Bastian, a doctor, gets a job in New York. Cyril goes with him, and there life becomes settled and happy. Unfortunately, not for long. Once again Cyril’s life falls apart, and throughout the rest of the book, we learn of his attempt to get it back together again. This is just a small part of a gripping story, one that compels you read to the end. I loved this book.

And now for some crime. Andrea Camilleri’s Montalbano’s First Cases & Other Stories is great fun. It seems strange to refer to crime books as fun, if fun isn’t quite the correct work, a lot of crime fiction is certainly entertaining—certainly the ones I like to read. In this collection of Montalbano’s first cases Montalbano stumbles on a girl outside the court house in Vigata, with a gun in her purse. He has his work cut out identifying her, and finding out who she was trying to kill because she isn’t talking. In another story, Montalbano Says No, the detective has had enough and turns on his creator. There are lots of stories in this collection which should keep you happily occupied for some time. I must also mention the latest novel in the Montalbano series—A Nest of Vipers. I am often surprised how authors of long series keep up the standard—and while not all of Camilleri’s books are up to the mark, this one really hits the spot. It involves a brother and sister fighting over an inheritance and a man who seems to have been murdered twice. The dead man’s reputation in the village means that half the inhabitants have a reason to want him dead—so in fact he’s lucky to have only been killed twice. Again, Montalbano is challenged, as he tries to solve the case.

Another new crime novel I’ve really enjoyed this year is The Chalk Pit by Elly Griffiths. This features Dr Ruth Galloway, a forensic archeologist, who works with DCI Nelson, to solve mysteries involving bones. In this outing boiled bones are found in a tunnel underneath Norwich. Ruth is called in to ascertain the age of the  bones—and to her and Nelson’s dismay, they are of recent origin. So it looks as if Nelson has a murder on his hands. A rough sleeper goes missing, and it looks like he may be in one of the numerous chalk-mining tunnels under the city. Then a local woman goes missing and things become more serious. I  like Ruth and her adventures. They are always interesting and keep me entertained. I must mention that three of my favourite authors have new books out: Peter Robinson (Sleeping in the Ground—DCI Banks deals with a mass murder at a wedding), Louise Penny (Glass Houses—there’s a mysterious figure haunting Three Pines and Gamache investigates) and Ann Cleeves (The Seagull—the marvellous DI Vera Stanhope is up to her neck in corruption, cold cases and old enemies) ... So I’ve got plenty to be getting on with.

Some other recommendations I’d like to make from my recuperation reading are: The Pier Falls by Mark Haddon (of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time fame)—a collection of disturbing  short stories; Ann Granger’s Rack, Ruin and Murder—a very English village who dunnit; Wild Gestures by Lucy Durneen—another collection of short stories, set in Italy, South America and in a European Zoo. Also, two of my favourites—The Stars are Fire by Anita Shreve (very topical given the fires sweeping California at the moment) and See You in September by Charity Norman (doomsday cults and questions of faith set in idyllic NZ). Happy reading! Janice Wilder

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