The Journal is thus principally concerned with western individuals churning up other people’s cultural and physical environments with their motorbikes and all-night beach parties, blithely unaware of their largely egocentric and instrumental approach to the world they despoil. What one might accept initially as gently accurate satire of youthful pretensions becomes the unsettling suspicion that we are meant to take much of this seriously – that the novel is as blind as many of its characters.
The Well Deceived is a magnificently realized novel full of wonderful invention and wicked characterizations. From its steam-powered motor vehicles to its urban squalor, it seldom ceases to enthrall and amuse and bewilder. It is angry and sad, refusing to accept defeat although defeat is assured.
In clear, often compelling prose, Stephanie Laterza’s debut novel, The Boulevard Trial, offers us a contemporary story of moral dilemmas, confused intentions and missed connections that frequently result in disappointing resolutions and, at times, even tragic consequences. The traumas of the novel’s characters bleed into their ongoing personal experiences like an unchecked, gaping wound.
Kalman’s courage in tackling difficult subjects (unplanned pregnancy, psoriasis, adultery, anorexia, autism, depression and death) her gift for language, and her understanding of human nature make Tiny Feet Dancing a book to keep and reread.
Trams. Cats. Circles. We are immediately alerted by these allusions to Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita (1966) that we should expect the unexpected in Black Queen White City, an ambitious novel that aspires to paint its own universe (no less) by means of framing devices, parallel worlds and an eccentric cast of characters that includes the white city of Zagreb itself, where the author was born.
In Exile from Petersburg takes you right into the life of a high calibre intellectual named Abram Saulovich Kagan and is set within the turbulent times of early 20th century Europe. His son Anatol Abramovich Kagan contributed to this informative biographical account, he also happened to be the father-in-law of the book’s editor, Michael Atherton. This book is well presented in an easy to read and informative style.
Ackland handles these themes carefully and subtly – never overstating or diagnosing Thistle or Audra, or giving us too many answers in the mystery, but treating all of the characters with a kind of tender acceptance that is unconditional. Mysteries remain. Time moves forward. Memory is entirely unreliable, but the clues it leaves us are all we have. Little Gods is a poetic book full of beauty, loss, and resilience, exploring what remains in our lives as we move past our pivotal transitions and crises.
The Water Rabbits exposes the limitations of the review process to an embarrassing extent. It is entirely artificial to read this book from cover to cover more or less in one sitting. It is doubly artificial then to sit down and think of things to say about it. The Water Rabbits needs to be read in small doses; indeed, its stories, dialogues and occasional poems and photographs are arranged in small doses. Sense needs to be made of each individually before the collection can be grasped as a whole.
While each story can stand alone, reading them all together in a single volume is an enormous advantage. One of the major accomplishments of Hairway to Heaven is its interconnections and associations, its themes and variations, which gradually resolve themselves – effortlessly, beautifully – into a novelistic whole. Hairway to Heaven is a very good book indeed.
To call Scorn a work of righteous anger would barely do justice to its earth-shattering rage, its apocalyptic howl of protest, its caustic humour, irony and indignation. The power of these emotions literally cannot be contained; the novel overspills its own boundaries, spreads outwards into the world by means of its copious epigraphs and epilogues, illustrations, quotations and allusions – even mixing genres and providing external links.