How I wish I could write like Charlotte Wood! Not surprisingly, this writer has received many accolades for her work, and it’s not hard to see why. The Weekend was shortlisted for the 2020 Stella Prize, and gently weaves together themes of friendship, grief, longing, disappointment, resilience and hope. I knew these characters. I really knew them. I knew what they looked like, how they carried themselves, what made them happy, sad, resentful, and what made them tick. My knees hurt when they walked up the stairs, I could smell the dog and I sensed the frustration of being misunderstood. I was all of these characters, and I was none of these characters. I was in the car, I was in the treehouse, I was by the water. I truly lost myself in this book.
I had read a few reviews of this book that questioned why these characters were friends in the first place. I didn’t question that for a minute. Shared histories and shared memories often drive friendships over time, even as situations and circumstances change. Wood’s characters were flawed and self-obsessed, and very real. The scenario was a perfect device for confronting personal histories, successes and disappointments, while questioning the future. This book is a tribute to those friendships that weren’t discarded when things got tough or when feelings got hurt, but endured and are enduring.
This book had been a constant in social media feeds for a while, but it only jumped on my ‘must read’ list after I heard Christian White on the ‘So you want to be a writer’ podcast. I now have ‘The wife of and the widow’ on my must-reads list as well. Winner of the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award, ‘The nowhere child’ lived up to the hype of being a fast-moving thriller, with whiplash-inducing twists and turns throughout. I read it in a day, mostly because I have zero self-control when it comes to chapters that end with a cliff-hanger. Typically, I tend to gravitate towards more lyrically written, slower-paced books that delve deeply into each and every character. ‘Nowhere child’, in contrast, was a rocketing read and felt like a guilty pleasure. (Surely it will be seen on Netflix in due course…) From an aspiring author’s perspective, I was struck by the level of sophistication in the writing, the detail in diverse settings and the tight, intersecting storylines. I was also struck by the fact that this is White’s debut novel! Can’t wait to read more in the future, although my next read will probably be a more sedate one.
A couple of years ago, Tristan Bancks received well-deserved accolades for Two Wolves. For many years, I had been lamenting the absence of books for upper primary that were gripping, thought-provoking and accessible, yet not filled with inappropriate language or 'mature themes'. At the time, I thought Two Wolves was revolutionary.
I had been eager to read Detention since last year, and recently devoured it in one sitting. It did not disappoint. One of the things I love most about Bancks' writing is the respect he shows to his young audience. He presents complex ethical dilemmas without preaching or patronising. As with Two Wolves, the reader is goaded into asking, "what would I do?" throughout every chapter. The young protagonists are both attempting to escape from vastly different types of detention - one imposed by the government, and one imposed by poverty and a dysfunctional family. Bancks avoids the temptation to gloss over his minor characters or have them morph into stereotypes, and instead draws them with depth and nuance. Their small roles help paint a much bigger picture. Similarly, the sparse settings and barren landscape provide a perfect backdrop for the gritty and tense storyline.
I loved this book. Bancks is a master of intelligent writing that connects with the reader in a deep and profound way.
Please find here an assorted mix of what I tend to read - new books, old books, birthday gifts, gifts to myself, books from my to-be-read pile, fiction, non-fiction, memoirs - basically a weird assortment of goodies! My comments here are simply thought-bubbles, rather than formal book reviews. Stream of consciousness. Please share your comments and connect. I love a reading community!