The Toymaker is an absolute firecracker of a novel. It will bewitch you, fascinate, emrage and educate you. It will also break your heart. Set in Melbourne past and present, wartime Prague and the living hell of Auschwitz, The Toymaker is a fable of contemporary Australia and the twisting, turning rivulets that make us who we are. A deft storyteller, Liam Pieper has created one of Australian Fiction’s most intriguing characters in Arkady Kulakov. Review by Myoung
My travelling days seem over (for now). Therefore, a book like The Discreet Hero is a godsend as it keeps the wanderlust at bay. It is set in the stultifying heat and noise of Piura and Lima, Peru where locals take refuge from the noonday sun with drinks such as Inca Kola and espresso cut with milk. Where peddlers hawk their molasses candies and empanadas on the boardwalk. We get to see the city through the eyes of its inhabitants exposing the sediments of time, weather and enterprise not always privy to the tourist: “He thought of the old mansions that had lined this seawalk when he was a kid. They’d fallen into disrepair one after the other because of the havoc caused by El Nino: the rains, the river overflowing its banks and flooding the neighbourhood. Instead of rebuilding, the whites had made their new homes in El Chipe, far from the centre of town.” Local peculiarities surface too; heroically standing up to blackmailers when blackmailing is all but expected, consulting with holy women and God alike. All this without having to ferret out my lapsed passport.
This month we are reading the 2015 Stella Prize winning “The Strays” by Emily Bitto.
WHERE: Candelo Books 208 Carp St Bega
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Having loved Gillian’s previous novels, The Mint Lawn and The Grass Sister, I eagerly awaited this her third novel, now sixteen years later. I was not disappointed. Set in rural NSW, the novel begins pre world war II with 14year old Noah and her father droving pigs. They arrive at One Tree Farm where Noah gives birth alone by the creek to her uncle’s baby. A grim start and one that sets the tone for the book brilliantly. Though certainly it has its heart-rending moments, it’s not a grim book, but one that tells of the harsh realities of life on the land in an age where cars and technology were only just arriving.
The horses are central characters in this book, as is the landscape itself, their essence beautifully captured in Gillian’s prose. The world of country show high-jumping and it’s people do seem to jump out of the pages. It’s especially about the women of the land, two generations of high-jumpers. It also tells of the lore and myth of the country, tender love, families and their rivalries. She manages her themes beautifully, weaving them in and around the narrative and has a real talent for matching her writing style to the period, putting the reader right there. I loved this book.
review by Sue