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Our gr reviewers' selection of five-star books from the first half of 2019.
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Archive Discoveries

  • 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 >
  • The changing moral code and shift in gender roes of World War II provide the backdrop for JENNIFER RYAN's debut novel The Chilbury Ladies' Choir. She tells MAUREEN EPPEN about the people and events that inspired the story. Read on >
  • KIRI FALLS was introduced to the works of English novelist Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-65) when she saw the 2004 BBC production of North & South. Last year, the 150th anniversary of Gaskell’s death, Kiri decided to make a pilgrimage to the newly renovated Manchester home of the great lady. Read on >
  • Novelist and journalist MAGGIE ALDERSON spent her gap year as a ‘ferocious punk rocker’ working at an advertising agency and starting her own punk fanzine, for which she interviewed Bob Geldoff and Billy Idol. She went on to become the editor of Evening Standard and Elle in London. She also spent eight years in Australia as editor of Cleo and Mode, and covering fashion shows in Milan and Paris for The Sydney Morning Herald. Now back in the UK, Maggie has just released a new novel, The Scent of You. She tells us why reading fairy stories is good training for any writer, who her literary crush is, and why War and Peace is the most emotionally involving books she's ever read. Read on >
  • The mystery surrounding Agatha Christie’s 1926 disappearance provided the inspiration for On the Blue Train, the second novel of US-based Australian author KRISTEL THORNELL. She tells MAUREEN EPPEN how her research led her to parts of England where the celebrated mystery author lived – and to the North Yorkshire hotel wher she spent jer 'lost' days. Read on >
  • As a teenager, GAYLE FORMAN was so obsessed with ‘80s movie star Molly Ringwald that she started to imitate the actress’s trademark nervous lip bite – and now she has a permanent scar. After seven bestselling YA novels and a successful movie adaption of one of her books, she talks with ANGUS DALTON about her first book for adults, Leave Me. Read on >
  • PEPPER HARDING is the pen name of a writer from San Francisco. The Heart of Henry Quantum, Pepper’s new novel, follows a scatterbrained husband’s erratic journey through the streets of San Francisco as he hunts down his wife’s Christmas present – a bottle of Chanel No. 5. Along the way he runs into his former lover, Daisy. We asked the author about his new novel and the eccentric thought journeys that appears throughout its pages. Read on >
  • Australian author of literary and crime fiction DOROTHY JOHNSTON writes about the real-life kidnapping of a camel, coming home to Victoria’s Bellarine Peninsula, and how she came to write Through a Camel’s Eye. Read on >
  • In her latest novel, Melbourne author JANE RAWSON adds an air of otherworldliness to the story of her ancestor who survived a 19th-century shipwreck. She talks to MAUREEN EPPEN about history, aliens and the benefits of having been a ‘hack writer’ for 25 years.  Read on >
  • Born in London, retired doctor TONY ATKINSON spent the first years of his life in a cage dangling out of a window. But he went on to serve the Queen and Winston Churchill during his early career as a footman and waiter, which he recalls in hilarious stories in he memoir, A Prescribed Life. Read on >
  • For some women, bad men cast an irresistibly magnetic spell. Melbourne-based author LAURA ELIZABETH WOOLLETT examines this often fatal attraction in  The Love of a Bad Man, a collection of 12 stories based on the lives of real women who sought the love of criminals. In this extract from ‘Eva’, the author imagines the post-coital thoughts of Eva Braun, who met Adolf Hitler when she was 17. Read on >

Book Reviews in this issue

  • When one’s choices are so limited, can one be blamed for the choices one makes? Koe’s first novel is primarily focused on three characters: the anti-Nazi German actress, Marlene Dietrich; the German actress-director, Leni Riefenstahl (whose films were supported by Hitler); and the Chinese-American actress, Anna May Wong. Though the book’s historical gaze may have been sharpened if its length was shortened ( perhaps by limiting some of its tangential narratives), this novel is undoubtedly a stunner. Read on >

  • I loved this stunning book so much. Augusta and Parfait learn that home isn’t necessarily the place where we’re born. Sometimes you must leave your home behind to find your real home. Both Augusta and Parfait blame themselves for the tragedies that occur in their lives and wonder if they could have done more to prevent them. But life can’t be rewound and they must continue on, overcoming their grief and finding joy again. Augusta is a captivating narrator and this is a story of hope and love as much as loss, with the characters lingering in your mind long after you finish the book. Read on >

  • The Blue Rose is a guilty pleasure; it offers much and asks for little in return. I imagine it would be the perfect summer read – when these cold days give way to lazy afternoons on the beach, The Blue Rose will be a perfect companion. Read on >

  • There is a wonderfully generous Australian flavour to this novel. The characters are authentic, there’s Henry Lawson poetry quoted during public speeches, and there’s even an optimistic ending. Read on >

  • As psychological thrillers go, this is clever and fastpaced. At the beginning I was unsure I would like it, as seemingly the twist in the tale (Abbie’s artificial intelligence) is sprung at the very beginning. But Abbie’s uncertainty about her former life and what she doesn’t remember gives the novel a fine sense of suspense, and the ethics of replacing someone with a robot is very interesting. Read on >

  • Lippman has forged a sublime, suspenseful tale that flows along so wonderfully that it perhaps obscures its own genius. A stylish, rich novel from one of crime’s very best. Read on >

  • This book is justifiably receiving massive hype. It’s unlike anything I’ve read before and it’s utterly engrossing. You may empathise with these women or you may disagree with their choices but you will be swept up in their stories and not be able to forget them. Read on >

  • It’s strong stuff, as are his unflinching descriptions of his gay sexual encounters during his travels in Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, India, Vietnam and the Philippines; his own violence; suicidal tendencies and psych ward notes, right to the end of the book. He’s a fine writer, making this book equally fascinating and depressing, but definitely not for sensitive souls. Read on >

  • Hertmans advises the book is a mixture of detailed research and enthusiastic imagination. Hamoutal’s story is in the documents,. The author has imagined what she was like with some reverence and interspersed his own adventures in retracing her steps. This was a time when society was in a great deal of flux, and it doesn’t always make for easy reading, but it is very well done. Read on >

  • This story is of a road-trip that takes place over 10 days. Daphne, the central character and narrator, is close to an emotional breakdown and, on a whim, abandons her stable life and heads for the Californian desert with her toddler, Honey. Early on, we learn that her husband, a Muslim who had been legally living in America, has been sent back to Turkey by the American immigration authorities and Daphne’s efforts to secure his return have stagnated in opaque bureaucracy. Read on >

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