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Film review with Clive Hodges Four stars The Bookshop A young widow opens a bookshop in an English coastal townPG (mild themes) Director: Isabel Coixet (The Secret Lives of Words) Cast: Emily Mortimer, Bill Nighy, Patricia Clarkson, Honor Kneafsey, Julie Christie (narrator) In 1959, Florence Green (Emily Mortimer) buys the dilapidated ‘Old House’ in the small coastal town of Hardborough, East Anglia, takes over the unsold stock of a business in London that has closed, and opens a bookshop. Reading is not a past-time that’s widely popular in Hardborough. The townsfolk are convinced that the bookshop of kind-hearted Mrs Green, widowed during World War II, will fail – not for economic reasons or lack of readers but because the formidable, ruthless and vindictive Mrs Violet Gamart (Patricia Clarkson), self-appointed patroness of all public activities in the town, wants ‘Old House’ to be an Arts and Cultural Centre. Florence does have supporters. There’s young Christine (Honor Kneafsey), worldly beyond her years, who helps out after school; and Edmund Brundish (Bill Nighy), the local squire, a voracious reader and Florence’s best customer. The film moves at a leisurely pace. A pace that allows us time to appreciate whatever is on the screen, be it conflict, embarrassment, unresolved tension or moments of reflection. A pace that allows time for the cinematographer (Jean-Claude Larrieu) to linger on water, trees, fields and tall grass wavering in the wind. Isabel Coixet, the director, wrote the screenplay which she based on a novel by Penelope Fitzgerald. The movie - filmed in County Down, Northern Ireland and Barcelona, Spain - won three of Spain’s Goya Awards (best film; best director; best adapted screenplay) earlier this year. The cast performs magnificently. Florence: naïve, courageous, and trusting; Christine: precocious and determined; Edmund: reclusive and supportive; Violet: persuasive, highly motivated, and effective. This painfully tender movie – rigorously unsentimental – wormed its way into my affections. It’s a film that touches the emotions with an ending that’s bitter-sweet. 
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Archive Discoveries

  • The rugged beauty of England’s Lake District looms large in the latest psychological thriller by Perth-based author SARA FOSTER. She shares her passion for the natural world and her concerns about the potential impacts of electronic media with MAUREEN EPPEN. Read on >
  • AOIFE CLIFFORD is the winner of the Scarlet Stiletto Award for one of her crime stories, but All These Perfect Strangers is her first novel. The Melbourne-based crime novelist talks with us about New Year’s resolutions, her Irish poet grandfather and the similarities between writing a novel and creating a papier-mâché puppet.  Read on >
  • Most of Lonely Planet’s publications can fit snugly at the bottom of a backpack, but The Travel Book is a volume best left at home on the coffee table to inspire adventures.  Read on >
  • Aristotle said that metaphor consists in giving a thing a name that belongs to something else. Shakespeare used metaphor when he wrote ‘All the world’s a stage’, drawing parallels between the planet and a theatrical performance space so that we might more easily understand what the world is like. Metaphors, by likening one thing to another, help us to understand things, or aspects of them, that might otherwise be difficult to comprehend. In Metaphors Be With You, DR MARDY GROTHE takes a historical look at how metaphors have been used to understand a huge range of topics, from adversity, beauty and curiosity through to love, war and vanity. Read on >
  • Who would have thought that in the largely homogeneous country of China that there could be a group of people who could trace their lineage back to invading Romans? TONY GREY uncovered this intriguing bit of information while travelling in China, and here he tells how he came to write his historical novel, The Tortoise in Asia, which tells the story of Romans travelling along the Silk Road in ancient times. Read on >
  • Ed Yong – science reporter for The Atlantic and blogger for National Geographic – has just published his first book, I Contain Multitudes: The microbes within us and a grander view of life. We asked him to tell us about his reading life.   What are you
reading now?
 Patient H.M. by 
Luke Dittrich, because 
my editor for my own 
book sent me a galley
 copy! I’m glad she
 did. Henry Molaison 
was arguably the most
influential patient in
all of neuroscience.
 After an operation to
cure his epilepsy, he lost the ability to form new memories – think Memento – and so taught us much about how our memories work. Dittrich is the grandson of the surgeon who operated on Molaison, and he brings a deeply personal flavor to the incisive reporting and colourful writing that characterise this book. What are your three favourite books?
 The Song of the Dodo: Island biogeography in the age of extinctions by David Quammen is natural history writing at its finest – a witty, insightful tour of the planet’s islands and what they tell us about our increasingly fragmented world. The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell offers genre-hopping stories but delivers a deep fable about hope and nihilism; I stared silently out a window for the longest time when I finished 
it. Being Wrong: Adventures in the margin of error by Kathryn Schulz is a wondrous study of human error that blends literature, science and philosophy. Read on >
  • When she was 16, MADELAINE DICKIE went to Denpasar, the capital 
of Bali, on a language exchange program.
 Since then she has been fascinated with Indonesia; she has lived and studied in our northern neighbour for three years and
 she speaks Indonesian fluently. Her first novel, Troppo, tells the story of Penny, an Australian expat who flees from her career- minded boyfriend in Perth to a seemingly carefree 
life of surfing in Indonesia. Madelaine tells us how she came to write the novel. Read on >
  • SABRINA HAHN has been WA’s go-to dispenser of green-thumb advice to radio listeners for more than 20 years. Now, in Sabrina’s Dirty Deeds, she shows you what to do in your garden and when to do it. In this extract she outlines how to encourage good predatory insects. Read on >
  • He has worked as a wilderness guide, a ranch hand and a dogsled musher – and he’s also a skilled marksman. But ERIK STOREY, a lover of the great outdoors, has come in out of the wild for long enough to turn out his first novel, Nothing Short of Dying. A thriller set in the mountainous landscape of western Colorado, it features Clyde Barr, a man with a military past who is fresh out of prison. We talked with Erik recently about dealing with rejection, the lure of western Colorado and his number-one tip for surviving in the wild. Read on >
  • After reading a few thrillers lately I got to thinking about writers in the crime and thriller genres and the research they need to do to make their books seem real. Research can be an exciting part of writing any book. Determining how a killer might think and how their victim could become entrapped is one thing, but I can’t imagine looking at dead people or reading detailed reports of the methods that serial killers use to stalk and murder their prey.That’s the sort of awful stuff police deal with and psychologically struggle with for the rest of their lives. But could even researching this sort of thing affect a writer?  Read on >
  • FIONA CAPP is the internationally published, award-winning author of three works of non-fiction, including her memoir That Oceanic Feeling – which won the Kibble Award – and five novels, including Gotland, which was shortlisted for the 2014 Queensland Literary Awards. Fiona lives in Melbourne and works as a freelance writer and reviewer. Her latest novel, To Know My Crime, is a story of blackmail, risk, corruption, guilt and consequences set on the Mornington Peninsula. We asked Fiona to tell us about the books that have shaped her view of the world. Read on >

Book Reviews in this issue

  • This story is dedicated to the Syrian people and to all refugees. Meeting the characters has increased my awareness of, and empathy for, the violence and injustice refugees face in their search for safety. Sensual descriptions of exotic foods and different landscapes, and thought-provoking philosophy increase the pleasure of this tale of courage and hope. Read on >

  • The tragic collapse of the West Gate Bridge during its construction in the 1970s killed 35 workers, many of whom were migrants. It was a tragedy that could have been avoided if the engineers and bosses of the construction team had had a greater focus on safety. Read on >

  • In a leafy and affluent area of Sheffield, two sets of neighbours meet over a back garden fence while one party is hosting a family barbeque. They are unalike in many ways - the Spinster family is white and English, and the Sharifullahs are from Bangladesh – but both have sprawling families, domestic worries and professional concerns. And both families are haunted by their histories – the Spinsters by decades of marital disharmony, and the Sharifullahs by the atrocities they encountered during Bangladesh’s War of Liberation in the 1970s. Read on >

  • Swan Song is based on 10 years’ research and it is brilliantly executed, with its multiple narrative threads and parallel time frames. It reads like a grand tragedy or, more precisely, a series of grand tragedies. However, the self-indulgent Capote soon becomes tiresome, as do the tales of gossip and pretence, and Swan Song becomes a chorus of denial and woe, its technical brilliance overshadowed by its subjects. Read on >

  • Cormac McCarthy springs to mind as an influence on this debut novel; his spare, harsh and uncompromising style is evident in every word. It is set in outback Queensland, and the atrocities detailed within strike right at the heart of Australia’s uneasy relationship with its own colonial history. Read on >

  • Flames is a slim book but it is an extremely evocative and imaginative work that builds the natural landscape into its narrative as a character in its own right. If there is a weakness, it may be that there is too much happening, too many details mutating inexplicably into others. That said, the richness of the imagery and the strange winding narrative that intertwines flight and flame, is undeniably powerful and it is refreshing to see the Australian landscape written about so vividly. Read on >

  • Take a couple of feisty young women born a century apart, add a dedicated naturalist, mix in a mysterious antipodean creature hailed as a hoax by the learned men of English science, and you have an historical romance set in Australia and England. Read on >

  • This is a well-written and considered novel, and enjoyable, however, there is so much going on that I felt that there were opportunities lost to know more about the major characters, to explore the potential of their relationship, and to explore in more depth their professions. Read on >

  • The Neighborhood is being marketed as a detective thriller, but this is a misleading description and perhaps creates a false impression about the novel. Read on >

  • It's 1942 and Eleanor Roy works for the Ministry of Food, arranging paintings and murals for the walls of Britain’s restaurants, bolstering hope during WWII. She lives with her sister, Cecily, a nurse recovering from losing her boyfriend in combat. On an expedition to convince artists to sign up to the program, she meets Jack Valante who, unlike the others clamouring to be paid for their passion at such a bleak time, refuses to enter into a contract. Read on >

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