The Geography of Friendship, by Sally Piper

They haven’t seen each other for years, but here they are, falling onto the same old pattern as though there’s no other worth considering. Maybe it’s more to do with the place they’re walking through. Maybe the land has designs on them – maybe it always had – robbing them of the power to choose alternatives.

It’s been twenty years since they first walked the rail as teens, and twenty years since their friendship fell apart. Now, Samantha, Lisa and Nicole are walking the same trail, in an attempt to salvage something, even though it is clear to at least two of them what its they are trying to salvage.
That first hike was meant to be an adventure, a kind of coming of age in the wilderness, but what happened in those five days changed all of them, and severed their friendship. Will revisiting the scene of those terrible five days really mend their friendship, and will it help each woman to heal the wounds which continue to effect their lives?

The Geography of Friendship is a finely woven story. the use of three perspectives, and the shift bewteen the events of the past, the present and those in the intervening years, could become complicated, but rather makes for a pleasing complexity as the reader gets to know each woman and gradually piece together what has happened.

Absorbing and satisfying.

The Geography of Friendship, by Sally Piper
UQP, 2018
ISBN 9780702259975

The Yellow House, by Emily O’Grady

‘They’re weird,’ Wally said.
‘They’re family,’ Mum said. ‘Your aunt and your cousin.’
‘If they’re family, then why’ve we never met them?’ Wally asked. ‘Why’ve we never even heard of them?’

Ten year old Cub is excited when her aunt and cousin move into the long empty house next door to theirs. Cub’s family – her parents, older brother Cassie, and twin brother Wally – are outcasts, ostracized by the town for the terrible crimes committed by her grandfather before Cub was born. Cub has limited understanding of why they are hated, but her only friend in the world is Wally, so she has high hopes that Tilly, her cousin, will be her new best friend.

But the presence of Tilly and her mother don’t create the kind of change Cub is hoping for. Rather, the tensions that have been bubbling beneath the surface seem to rise up, and when Cassie brings home a new friend, Ian, the tension rises.

The Yellow House, winner of this year’s Vogel Literary Award, is gut-wrenching story of family secrets, betrayal and inter-generational disadvantage. Seeing events through the eyes of Cub gives the story an intriguing perspective – Cub is naive and innocent, in many ways, and the readers must navigate and interpret events only through Cub’s understanding.

Unsettling to read, this is a well-woven haunting tale.

The Yellow House, by Emily O’Grady
Allen & Unwin, 2018
ISBN 9781760632854

Book of Colours, by Robyn Cadwallader

She lifts a hand towards the bundle, but lets it drop again. Anticipation is a strange creature. For nearly two years she has waited for this moment, and now it is here, she doesn’t want to unwrap the parcel. How long has she imagined the illuminators with brush and quill, bent at their desks day after day, choosing colour and gold leaf. How long has she waited to see their work. But now she doesn’t want to look inside.

When Mathilda orders a prayer book made, she imagines it as a thing of beauty, both a sacred object and a symbol of the status she and her husband will hold. But when it is delivered, almost two years later, much has changed. For the illuminators, too, life has changed. In their small shop in London, a team of five have worked on the illustrations, each with their own things to prove and their own reasons for being there. The creation of the book is as complex as their lives, and the life of the woman for whom it is intended.

The Book of Colours is a complex, well woven story of life in 14th century England. Set against the backdrop of real events, and with a strong cast of characters from all walks of life, the story alternates between the events in the months after the book is delivered, and those in the time it is being worked on in London. The richness and complexity of the illuminations in the book are echoed in the rich, complex lives of the characters, particularly Will, an illuminator with a troubled past, Gemma, the wife of the master illuminator whose shop Will works in, and the Lady Mathilda, for whom the book is destined. Gemma’s husband, John, their son and other minor characters are also presented as rounded, intriguing characters.

Like the precious book in the story, this is a book which will stay with the reader fora long time.

The Book of Colours, by Robyn Cadwallader
Foruthe Estate, an imprint of Harper Coolins, 2018
ISBN 9781460752210

White Gum Creek, by Nicole Hurley-Moore

For an instant as he approached the counter, there was a warm, tingly flare erupting somewhere in her core. She told her friends – she even told herself – that all she wanted to do was reach out and help this guy. She didn’t exactly know how she was going to go about it but he needed to be around people again.

When his wife died in a tragic accident, Nick Langtree became a recluse, living alone in a caravan on his farm, punishing himself for Sophie’s death. But it’s been six years and his friends think it’s time he forgave himself and allowed himself some happiness. Tash Duroz, in particular, wants to reach out to him. But deep down she knows she’s kidding herself that she just wants to be friends with Nick. What she feels is something else.

Nick is hardly aware of Tash, though he appreciates her friendliness when she serves him at the bakery. he is, though, willing to start getting his life back on track. If only strange things didn’t keep happening around the farm. It’s almost as if Sophie is haunting him – but maybe there is someone who has a grudge against him.

White Gum Creek is a story about dealing with heartache and grief and forging new beginnings, as well as friendship and self-forgiveness. With an element of mystery to keep the story moving forward, it is a satisfying, engaging read.

White Gum Creek, by Nicole Hurley-Moore
Allen & Unwin, 2018
ISBN 9781760631109

The Family Next Door, by Sally Hepworth

‘A single woman?’ Barbara said, eyes still on her crossword. She tapped the base of the pencil against her lip. ‘In Sandringham? Why wouldn’t she get an apartment in the city?’
‘Single women can live in Sandringham! Maybe she wanted to live by the beach.”
”But it’s an unusual choice, wouldn’t you say?’ her mum said. ‘Especially Pleasant Court.”

On the surface Pleasant Court lives up to it’s name, as a pleasant place to live. The culdesac is a peaceful, family street where everyone knows everyone. Essie, Fran and Ange are all happily married, with two children each. Essie may have had a breakdown after the birth of her first child, but her second is now six months old, and she’s coping fine, even if she does sometimes envy the lives of her two friends. the arrival of a new neighbour, though, is unexpected, and becomes the catalyst for change. What Isabelle is doing there is unclear – but it could lead to big changes inthe lives of the three friends.

The Family Next Door is, in part, a reminder that the outward lives of our neighbours are often a far cry form their reality. Told from the alternating third person perspectives of the three women, readers are party to their individual battles and turmoil. At the same time, it is Essie and her family whose storyline is most dominant, with Essie’s battle with postnatal depression, her relationship with her mother and her connection with the new neighbour, Isabelle, both intriguing and moving.

In parts wryly soap-operish, in the vein of Desperate Housewives, this is a compelling, moving read which will suprise as it entertains.

The Family Next Door, by Sally Hepworth
McMillan, 2018
ISBN 9781760552176

The Twentieth Man, by Tony Jones

He reached the Adria Travel Agency and went straight inside. The Serb, Risto Jadorovski, sat at a desk, talking on the telephone. Jadorovski waved to him, indicated that he should take a seat. A young woman was behind the shop counter. She smiled at him. She was a pretty young thing. He hesitated, staring back at her. Then he put down the shopping bag, turned and walked back out through the glass door.

It is 1972 and someone has planted two bombs in Sydney’s CBD, in a terror attack which shocks the country. Young journalist Anna Rosen knows at once which group will be responsible. She has been investigating the Ustasha movement, and is sure they are behind the attacks. With the impending visit of the Yugoslav prime minister, it is vital that police find those responsible. But for Anna, there’s is a more personal reason. Her former lover, Marin Katich, is linked to the Ustasha. He has been missing since he and twenty other would-be revolutionaries sneaked into Yugolsavia. As Anna’s journalism career flourishes, her connection with Katich keeps her from being completely objective.

Based on true events, this fictional account of the events of the early seventies, from journalist Tony Jones, is an intriguing look at the politics and personalities of the time.

https://t.dgm-au.com/c/328195/69171/1880?u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.booktopia.com.au%2Fthe-twentieth-man-tony-jones%2Fprod9781760295004.html, by Tony Jones
Allen & Unwin, 2017
ISBN 9781760295004

Hello, Goodbye, by Emily Brewin

I wish I could laugh too but I can’t because I’m supposed to be the serious one. the one who toes the line and never takes risks; who wears her school dress below the knees and keeps a Bible in the drawer next other bed. Ma raised me that way.

May Callaghan has been raised to be a good girl. Her mother is a devout Catholic, and she thinks May will do the right thing; say her prayers, live devoutly, then marry well. But seventeen year old May has a secret boyfriend. Sam is a star footballer, and the way he makes May feel leaves her questioning what her mother has taught her. Fed up life in her small town, may lies to her parents and sneaks to Melbourne to visit Sam. there her eyes are opened to a whole other world: including a liberal thinking shared household heavily immersed in the anti-war movement.

With her parents struggling through problems of their own, and Sam called up for service in Vietnam, May finds herself very alone facing the biggest challenge of her life.

Set in the midst of the Vietnam War,  Hello, Goodbye is a moving coming of age story. Whilst May’s relationship with Sam, and her journey through an unplanned pregnancy, are central to the story, subplots involving issues of the impact of war, conscription, family relationships, women’s rights and more are skilfully entwined.

A powerful, emotional read.

Hello, Goodbye, by Emily Brewin
Allen & Unwin, 2017
ISBN 9781925575101

The Figures on the Lake, by Peter O’Shaughnessy

What are these ghostly figures?
Stark, angular and bright
against the salt lake’s crystal surface
they disturb its blinding light…

Since 2003, a remote salt lake near Wiluna, in Western Australia, has hosted a set of sculptures installed, as part of the Perth Arts Festival’s 5oth anniversary, by internationally renowned artist Antony (now Sir Antony) Gormley. based on the townsepople, the figures dot the crystal white sal lake and attract visitors from around the world, drawn to this remote part of the country to view and talk about art.

The Figures on the Lake a selection of poems, sketches and paintings recording and responding to the beauty of the figures. Artist and poet Peter O’Shaughnessy has visited the sculptures many times, and, following the success of an exhibitions of paintings interpreting the sculptures, was moved to produce a book honouring the sculptures and their story.

The idea of a series of art and poetry inspired by another series of artworks is a wonderful one, and the book is a delight to browse. Proceeds from sales of the book help to support cancer charities.

Available from the author, in Bunbury Western Australia, or through the Wilunatic Press Etsy Store.

The Figures on the Lake, by Peter O’Shaughnessy
Wilunatic Press, 2017
ISBN 9780648055914

Forgotten, by Nicole Trope

Finally they are in the queue to get back out onto the main road.
Coffee, here I come.
‘Mum…’
‘Not now, Aaron, I’m trying to concentrate.’
The traffic has built up in only a few minutes and cars scream past the service station. Malia feels her headache settle in.
This day is never going to end.
‘But Mum…’
‘What Aaron, what?’
‘Where is baby Zach, Mum? Where is he?’

It’s early morning, and already Malia knows it’s not going to be a good day. Her husband Ian has confessed to losing money on the pokies last night – money that could have paid the bills that are piling up. She’s got three kids to get ready for school and daycare. And there is no milk for breakfast. She has to get all three children into the car to make the short drive to the service station so that they can have breakfast. But something terrible happens while she’s buying the milk and suddenly her day is as bad as a day could be. Baby Zach is gone, and she is surrounded by police.

Ali Greenberg is a Detective newly returned to work from maternity leave. She’s been itching to be given a case to solve, but her boss is not sure this is the case for her. She knows better than anyone else around what it is Malia is going through. It might be a better idea to stay at the office – but she feels compelled to help Malia get her baby back.

Jackie is down on her luck. She has said sorry a thousand times, but still she has been punished for a terrible mistake. A strange turn of events gives her what she sees as a chance to put her life back together.

In one hot, troubling day, Forgotten follows the troubling, heartstopping race to find an abducted baby and reunite mother and child. The stories of four women who don’t know each other become inextricably intertwined, and readers will have their hearts in their mouths as the day unfolds.

Well crafted, this is a dramatic tale.

Forgotten, by Nicole Trope
Allen & Unwin, 2017
ISBN 9781760296773

Ache, by Eliza Henry Jones

Annie has never been the sort of person to have nightmares. But since the fires on the mountain, her dreams have changed. They have developed a pattern, as though the fire changed the landscape of everything inside her. The ridges and curves.
Her dreams are steady, the same things flickering across each night. Ash and bubbles and dark water that movs like waves.
Since the fires, since leaving her nana on the mountain, Annie has dreamt of ash. She’s dreamt of drowning.

A year ago, Annie was visiting her grandmother up the mountain when a terrible fire ripped through the area. Since leaving her nana behind to die, Annie has tried to keep her life in the city from completely falling apart. But her daughter, Pip, is traumatised, her husband Tom is angry, and Annie herself is haunted by what happened. Now, she needs to go back to her childhood home to try to get her mother’s life back on track. But being there also means confronting her own demons, and helping Pip find equilibrium.

Ache is a moving story of survival and rebuilding in the face of adversity. A whole family, and a whole community, have been impacted by the fire, and Jones captures the range of emotions and experiences which might be expected from such an event as well as examining the ways survivors can find a new normal in order to move forward.

Beautiful.

Ache, by Eliza Henry Jones
Fourth Estate, Harper Collins, 2017
ISBN 9781460750384