Reading Rewards - reviews

Watching Edie

Watching Edie by Camilla Way

Edie was the kind of girl who immediately caused a stir when she walked into your life. And she had dreams back then - but it didn't take long for her to learn that things don't always turn out the way you want them to. 

Now, at thirty-three, Edie is working as a waitress, pregnant and alone. And when she becomes overwhelmed by the needs of her new baby and sinks into a bleak despair, she thinks that there's no one to turn to ... But someone's been watching Edie, waiting for the chance to prove once again what a perfect friend she can be. 

It's no coincidence that Heather shows up on Edie's doorstep, just when Edie needs her the most. So much has passed between them - so much envy, longing, and betrayal. And Edie's about to learn a new lesson: those who have hurt us deeply, or who we have hurt, never let us go, not entirely.

Heather was an overweight, friendless 16-year-old, an academic achiever with strict parents who had moved to the good side of a rather grim English town. Heather struggled to fit in, so when new arrival Edie, one of the cool girls and a budding artist, is happy to be her friend she’s surprised and becomes besotted with her.

But Edie, who lives with her sick, disinterested mother and hasn’t seen her father for years, has fallen for bad boy Connor. It’s not long before Edie is in all kinds of trouble, with drugs, alcohol and her increasingly abusive relationship with Connor. Heather tries to help Edie by hatching an escape plan but this only leads to a terrible event that destroys their lives.  A chilling story of two friends with a shared and shameful past that has each of them in their clutches and won’t let go.

Why we love it: 
Watching Edie is a gripping psychological thriller about friendship, jealousy, obsession, and lies that hooked us from the start.

~ from The Team at Better Reading

Baby Doll

Baby Doll by Hollie Overton

You've been held captive in one room, mentally and physically abused every day since you were sixteen years old. Then, one night, you realize your captor has left the door to your cell unlocked. For the first time in eight years, you're free. This is about what happens next ... 

Lily knows that she must bring the man who nearly ruined her life to justice. But she never imagined that reconnecting with her family would be just as difficult. Reclaiming her relationship with her twin sister, her mother, and her high school sweetheart, who is in love with her sister, may be Lily's greatest challenge. After all they've been through, can Lily and her family find their way back after this life-altering trauma?

Wow, what a great example of Domestic Noir! This story starts with Lily and her daughter Sky (who was fathered by her captor) escaping from their prison of eight years and running for their lives, only to realise that they are just a few kilometres from home. Just imagine being kept in one room and being used like a "baby doll" by this man is unthinkable. 

This is the story of what happens once Lily returns home.  She finds her twin sister is now having a baby with Lily's high school sweetheart, and her captor is a well known and respected man in society. The book changes viewpoint all throughout the story from Lily, to her mother Eve, her twin sister Abby and her former captor, Rick. 

I found myself completely engaged in this story very early on and that momentum continued right till the end. Oddly enough, the story begins AFTER the main event is over and done with, which is an interesting way to write a book. This is Hollie Overton's debut novel and I will definitely be keeping her future books on my radar. It will appeal to fans of Gone Girl and Girl on the train.

~ Janine

The Radium Girls

The Radium Girls: they paid with their lives, their final fight was for justice by Kate Moore

As a war raged across the world, young American women flocked to work, painting watches, clocks and military dials with a special luminous substance made from radium. It was a fun job, lucrative and glamorous - the girls themselves shone brightly in the dark, covered head to toe in the dust from the paint. They were the radium girls. 

As the years passed, the women began to suffer from mysterious and crippling illnesses. The very thing that had made them feel alive - their work - was in fact slowly killing them: they had been poisoned by the radium paint. Yet their employers denied all responsibility. And so, in the face of unimaginable suffering - in the face of death - these courageous women refused to accept their fate quietly, and instead became determined to fight for justice. 

Drawing on previously unpublished sources - including diaries, letters and court transcripts, as well as original interviews with the women's relatives - The Radium Girls is an intimate narrative account of an unforgettable true story. It is the powerful tale of a group of ordinary women from the Roaring Twenties, who themselves learned how to roar.

In the early twentieth century radium was thought to be a “wonder drug”, promoted as giving anyone who took it a “healthy glow”. In these early years it was not known that radium is actually a poison, which causes horrific cancers, disfigurement and death. So, the US girls who flocked to work in the factories to paint clock faces with this luminous substance had no reason to doubt their employers’ reassurances that it would do them no harm. 

They followed the instructions to lick their paintbrushes dipped in radium solution before applying it to the clock-faces and dials, the better to obtain a fine point for the delicate work. But soon the women started getting sick – jaws literally disintegrated, red cell blood counts plummeted and hideous tumours grew. Yet still the owners of the factories denied there was any danger in the work they were doing or in the way they were instructed to carry it out.

This incredible book tells their story, how they fought for years for recognition that the radium paint was toxic, and for many more years for compensation for their injuries through the courts. It is an amazing and outrageous story of employer neglect and deceit, and how these cases became the trailblazers for workplace health and safety regulations which we take for granted today.

We all owe these women an enormous debt of gratitude. Read it and be thankful.

~ Teresa

The Couple Next Door

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

From the cover:
Your neighbour told you that she didn’t want your six-month-old daughter at the dinner party. Nothing personal, she just couldn’t stand her crying.
Your husband said it would be fine. After all, you only live next door. You’ll have the baby monitor and you’ll take it in turns to go back every half-hour.
Your daughter was sleeping when you checked on her last. But now, as you race up the stairs in your deathly quiet house, your worst fears are realized. She’s gone.
You’ve never had to call the police before. But now they’re in your home, and who knows what they’ll find there…

Anne and Marco are the parents of little Cora. Cora goes missing in the middle of the night, the front door found open and the back door unlocked. But the parents weren’t home at the time. They were at a dinner party next door. With extreme grief and guilt, they need to work with the police to find their daughter. The parents are guilty of leaving their baby unattended, but are they guilty of child abduction or even murder? 

All may not be what it seems as the police race against the clock to find little Cora. There are so many twists and turns in the plot, maybe a little too much at times. It is a quick and easy read with the element of suspense. However I lost some confidence in the author towards the end of the book, as the plot got too busy for me, and the ending in my opinion, disappointed. 

This is a debut novel for Shari Lapena. Shari has worked as a lawyer and English teacher and has now turned to writing fiction. The Couple Next Door is worthy of consideration for those who are lovers of suspense and thrillers.

~ Narelle 

Davitt Awards shortlist

Sisters in Crime has announced the longest shortlist (28) for its 16th Davitt Awards for best crime books written by Australian women. “The reason for such a long shortlist is simple,” said Jacqui Horwood, the Davitt Judges wrangler, “there are just so many outstanding debut books. The crime writing sorority is bursting with new and exciting authors with so many different takes on the genre.

“Non-fiction crime also packed a punch this year and we had trouble winnowing down the list. All round, the judges were thrilled by the enormous variety of protagonists, plots, places and perspectives and the high standard of writing.”

The Davitts are named after Ellen Davitt, the author of Australia’s first mystery novel, Force and Fraud, in 1865. The awards are handsome carved polished wooded trophies featuring the front cover of the winning novel under perspex. No prize money is attached.

Adult fiction:
Medea’s Curse: Natalie King, Forensic Psychiatrist by Anne Buist
Fall by Candice Fox
Give the Devil His Due by Sulari Gentill
Storm Clouds by Bronwyn Parry
Time to Run by J. M. Peace
Resurrection Bay by Emma Viskic

Black Widow by Carol Baxter
Why Did They Do It? by Cheryl Critchley and Helen McGrath
The Sting by Kate Kyriacou
Wild Man by Alecia Simmonds
Behind Closed Doors by Sue Smetherst
You’re Just Too Good to Be True by Sofija Stefanovic

In the Skin of a Monster by Kathryn Barker
Medea’s Curse: Natalie King, Forensic Psychiatrist by Anne Buist
Time to Run by J. M. Peace
Please Don’t Leave Me Here by Tania Chandler
Double Madness by Caroline de Costa
Risk by Fleur Ferris
Good Money by J. M. Green
The Lost Swimmer by Ann Turner
Resurrection Bay by Emma Viskic 

Australian crime writer Liane Moriarty will present the awards at a gala dinner at Melbourne’s Thornbury Theatre on Saturday 27 August, 7pm. After talking about her ‘life in crime’ with true crime author Vikki Petraitis, Moriarty will present six awards: Best Adult Novel; Best Young Adult; Best Children’s Novel; Best Non-fiction Book; Best Debut Book (any category); and Readers’ Choice (as voted by the 600 members of Sisters in Crime Australia).

~ Deb.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband, and father of three school-age children. 

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes darkness comes from unexpected places.

I’ve been a Harry Potter fan for years, so I’m sure you can imagine my excitement when I heard there was going to be another book in the series!  As I heard more about it, my enthusiasm waned - it wasn’t going to be a novel like the previous books, it would be the script from the new London play; it wasn’t even going to be written by J.K. Rowling, only based on a story of hers. I went from eagerly awaiting the Cursed Child’s release to “Yeah, I’ll suppose I’ll read it when it gets released”.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was released on Sunday (31 July, 2016), with the Library having copies ready to be borrowed by the public by Monday afternoon. I took my copy home with me and was more than pleasantly surprised.

Without giving away any spoilers, the book opens with the closing scene from The Deathly Hallows, allowing readers to picture it clearly and adjust to the new “script” format. From there it is a whirlwind of new faces, old faces, magic and mystery. I loved every minute of it and have my fingers crossed that the play will come to Melbourne so I can see it performed on stage.

~ Leanne

The Lost Swimmer

The Lost Swimmer by Ann Turner

Rebecca Wilding, an archaeology professor, traces the past for a living. But suddenly, truth and certainty is turning against her. Rebecca is accused of serious fraud, and worse, she suspects – she knows – that her husband, Stephen, is having an affair. Desperate to find answers, Rebecca leaves with Stephen for Greece, Italy and Paris, where she can uncover the conspiracy against her, and hopefully win Stephen back to her side, where he belongs. There’s too much at stake – her love, her work, her family. 

But on the idyllic Amalfi Coast, Stephen goes swimming and doesn’t come back. In a swirling daze of panic and fear, Rebecca is dealt with fresh allegations. And with time against her, she must uncover the dark secrets that stand between her and Stephen, and the deceit that has chased her halfway around the world.

I loved this book. The description of the coast of Italy and its people are beautiful.  The twists and turns in the plot are puzzling and I did find myself worrying at how little pages there were left to tie everything up, but Ann Turner manages to do just that with aplomb.

~ Claire

The Saddler Boys

The Saddler Boys by Fiona Palmer

Schoolteacher Natalie has always been a city girl. She has a handsome boyfriend and a family who give her only the best. But she craves her own space, and her own classroom, before settling down into the life she is expected to lead. 

When Nat takes up a posting at a tiny school in remote Western Australia, it proves quite the culture shock, but she is soon welcomed by the inquisitive locals, particularly young student Billy and his intriguing single father, Drew. 

As Nat's school comes under threat of closure and Billy's estranged mother turns up out of the blue, Nat finds herself fighting for the township and battling with her heart. Torn between her society life in Perth and the rural community that needs her, Nat must risk losing it all to find out what she's really made of - and where she truly belongs.

This delightful rural fiction book is set in Western Australia. Fiona Palmer has written from experience because she herself lives in a small town in WA on a farm with her husband and children. I really loved this novel - it was well written and easy to listen to. The story flowed naturally and held me spellbound as the characters developed and relationships formed with intriguing twists and turns. She touches upon modern issues such as single parenting, small town matters, bullying, domestic abuse and children who are developmentally challenged. I listened to the audio book which was excellently narrated by Danielle Baynes. It is also available in print format.

~ Janine

Last Painting of Sara de Vos

The Last Painting of Sara de Vos by Dominic Smith

In 1631, Sara de Vos is admitted as a master painter to the Guild of St. Luke's in Holland, the first woman to be so recognized. Three hundred years later, only one work attributed to de Vos is known to remain - a haunting winter scene, At the Edge of a Wood, which hangs over the bed of a wealthy descendant of the original owner. 

An Australian grad student, Ellie Shipley, struggling to stay afloat in New York, agrees to paint a forgery of the picture, a decision that will haunt her. Because now, half a century later, she's curating an exhibit of female Dutch painters, and both versions threaten to arrive. 

As the three threads intersect, The Last Painting of Sara de Vos mesmerizes while it grapples with the demands of the artistic life, showing how the deceits of the past can forge the present.

Just as in “All the Light We cannot See” the story here is very strong and propels the reader along. The setting is in three eras and three continents with the interconnecting thread "At the Edge of a Wood.  All the characters are believable and it’s refreshing to see a fictional Australian woman featured prominently in what is now an international best seller. 

I listened to the audio and although I admire Edoardo Ballerini, the voice actor, unfortunately he’s unable to pull off the Aussie accent. He does, however, inadvertently manage South African very well! I did find this off putting and it has made me aware of the complexity of our lingo! 

This book was highly enjoyable and I’d recommend it to all art lovers, and lovers of contemporary historical fiction. 

~ Ali 


Blame by Nicole Trope

Anna and Caro have been firm friends since they met at their local early childhood centre with their babies. For the next ten years the two of them become great friends, always there for the each other in their lowest times. But all that changes in just one day when a terrible accident tears both of their families apart. The narrative alternates between the two women’s voices. Each of their stories is shocking and there’s blame on both sides, but who is really at fault and which one of them is lying?

Why we love it: 
Blame is an intense and shocking novel, a darkly humorous story that cuts straight into the broken lives of two suburban women whose experience of motherhood are a far-cry from rosy social media stereotypes.

~ from The Team at Better Reading

Ned Kelly Awards - shortlist

The Australian Crime Writers Association has announced the shortlists for the 2016 Ned Kelly Awards for the best in Australian crime writing. The judging panel is made up of booksellers, book industry luminaries, readers, critics, reviewers and commentators.

The 2016 shortlists are:

This year’s fiction award is shaping up as a battle of the heavyweights with five former winners on the list, including two multiple winners and rounded out by rock musician, author and screenwriter Dave Warner whose eighth novel is his first in fifteen years.

Mark Dapin - R&R 
Garry Disher - The Heat
Candice Fox - Fall
Adrian McKinty - Rain Dogs
Barry Maitland - Ash Island
Dave Warner - Before it Breaks 

The True Crime shortlist features authors tackling subjects that range from the operation to unmask the killer of schoolboy Daniel Morcombe - The Sting by Kate Kyriacou; the now infamous Graham Thorne kidnapping for ransom in 1960 - Kidnapped by Mark Tedeschi; and a long-forgotten murder that captivated Melbourne society in 1949 - Certain Admissions by Gideon Haigh; plus Martin McKenzie-Murray's A Murder Without Motive and 
Rebecca Poulson's Killing Love.

Tania Chandler - Please Don't Leave Me Here
J M Green - Good Money
Mark Hollands - Amplify
Gary Kemble - Skin Deep
Iain Ryan - Four Days 
Emma Viskic - Resurrection Bay 

This year’s NED KELLY AWARDS will be presented during the Melbourne Writers Festival at a free event including live music, storytelling and door prizes on Sunday August 28 at 4.00 p.m. at TOFF IN THE TOWN, 252 Swanston St, Melbourne VIC 3000.

For further details, contact the Australian Crime Writers Association

~ Deb

Journey's End

Journey's End by Jennifer Scoullar

When Sydney botanist Kim Sullivan and her husband inherit Journey's End, a rundown farm high on the Great Eastern Escarpment, they dream of one day restoring it to its natural state. Ten years later, however, Kim is tragically widowed. 

Selling up is the only practical option, so she and her children head to the mountains to organise the sale. The last thing Kim expects is for Journey's End to cast its wild spell on them all. The family decide to stay, and Kim forges on with plans to rewild the property, propagating plants and acquiring a menagerie of native animals. But wayward wildlife, hostile farmers and her own lingering grief make the task seem hopeless. That is, until she meets the mysterious Taj, a man who has a way with animals. Kim begins to feel that she might find love again. But Taj has his own tragic past - one that could drive a wedge between them that can not be overcome.

This is the first book I have read by author Jennifer Scoullar - a local living in Pakenham Upper on a beautiful property in the hills - and it certainly won't be the last!  It's a story of friendship, renewal, racism, war, wild life rescue, rainforest, love and environmental issues. Jennifer writes with such knowledge about environmental matters, but it's not surprising. Her father set up a nursery specialising in native plants, long before it was fashionable to so, and passed on his lifelong love of horses and the bush.  

I was glued to this book and really didn't want it to end. It will go down as one of my best reads this year.

~ Janine

Breaking Cover

Breaking Cover by Stella Rimington

#9 Liz Carlyle series.
Back in London after a gruelling operation in Paris, Liz Carlyle has been posted to MI5's counter-espionage desk. 

British relations with Russia are tense in the wake of Putin's incursions into the Ukraine. Discovering that an elusive Russian spy has entered the UK, Liz needs to track him down before he completes his fatal mission - and plunges Britain back into the Cold War. 

Meanwhile, following the revelations of Edward Snowden, the intelligence services are in the spotlight. MI6 hires Jasminder Kapoor, a controversial civil rights lawyer, to explain the issues around privacy and security to the public. But in this new world of shadowy motives, Jasminder must careful about whom she trusts. One night Kapoor is brutally mugged and almost raped in a seemingly random attack, but is saved in the nick of time by a feisty Norwegian who happened to be passing by. She strikes up a romance with the handsome banker but there’s something about him that seems too good to be true.

Why we love it: 
In Breaking Cover, veteran MI5 insider and author Stella Rimington delivers a clever, fast-paced and timely espionage thriller that reflects up-to-the minute current events and her own insider knowledge of the intelligence services.

~ from The Team at Better Reading 

Rain Music

Rain Music by Di Morrissey
Narrated by David Tredinnick

Brother and sister Ned and Bella Chisholm are struggling with a family tragedy that has set them on opposite paths. After taking off to pursue his musical dreams in Far North Queensland, Ned disappears. When Bella goes in search of him, she finds herself in remote Cooktown, the isolated, little-known gem of the far north of Australia, and a place where both Ned and Bella's lives will be dramatically changed forever. This is one story told through two sets of eyes.

Di Morrissey is part of the Australian fiction landscape. Her first novel, Heart of the Dreaming, was published in 1991 and became a best-seller, establishing a demand for Australian-based stories.  All her novels are inspired by landscape with environmental, political and cultural issues woven into mass market popular fiction. Rain Music was inspired by her adventures in Far North Queensland - its characters, its forgotten history, its modern dilemmas.

I've read, and forgotten, a lot of Di Morrissey novels over the years. They are holiday fodder, airport gate lounge fillers, but nonetheless entertaining for a short while with their character-driven plots, artless dialogue and immediately recognisable Aussie settings.  Morrissey's audiobooks are nearly always narrated by Kate Hood whom I find intensely irritating to listen to, but when I saw the talented David Tredinnick noted on this one, I couldn't resist.  He's just as good as always, and she's still Di Morrissey, as always.

~ Deb 

The Natural Way of Things

The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood

Two women awaken from a drugged sleep to find themselves imprisoned in a broken-down property in the middle of nowhere. Strangers to each other, they have no idea where they are or how they came to be there with eight other girls, forced to wear strange uniforms, their heads shaved, guarded by two inept yet vicious armed jailers and a ‘nurse’. The girls all have something in common, but what is it? 

What crime has brought them here from the city? Who is the mysterious security company responsible for this desolate place with its brutal rules, its total isolation from the contemporary world? 

Doing hard labour under a sweltering sun, the prisoners soon learn what links them: in each girl’s past is a sexual scandal with a powerful man. They pray for rescue – but when the food starts running out it becomes clear that the jailers have also become the jailed. The girls can only rescue themselves.

The novel is set somewhere in the Australian outback, so isolated there are no made roads, and takes place at an abandoned sheep farm. This farm becomes the institution for ten young women who have been drugged, abducted and imprisoned there. They are under the surveillance of two men, Teddy and Boncer, and one woman, Nancy, a sham-nurse. All three are nasty, vindictive and brutal.

The only link for these ten incarcerated women is all have had sexual encounters of some kind or another which has been blamed on them. Now they are there to pay the price. The Natural Way of Things demonstrates the animal instincts which can be found in all of us when we have, or need, the will to survive.

However, this book left more questions than answers for me. Although it was an easy, quick and intriguing read, I found myself disappointed with the protagonists’ acceptance of their plight in a dystopian environment. There were so many contradictions with Verla and Yolanda, two women who seemed strong in so many ways and yet still allowed weakness in other ways. This title would be worthy of consideration for book groups though, as it can create great discussion on the themes of abandonment, survival, brutality, and power.

~ Narelle

The Twisted Knot

The Twisted Knot by J. M. Peace

A marked man. A damaged cop. A town full of secrets. After her abduction and near death at the hands of a sadistic killer, Constable Samantha Willis is back in the uniform. Despite being on desk duty, rumours reach Sammi that Someone in Angel's Crossing has been hurting little girls, and before long a mob is gathering to make sure justice is served. So when a man is found hanging in his shed, the locals assume the pedophile has finally given in to his guilt. That is, until Sammi delves further into the death and uncovers a dark family secret, an unsolved crime and a town desperate for vengeance.

J M Peace is an Australian serving police officer based in Queensland, and you can tell that she writes with experience and gives you a great insight into policing, especially in a small town.

I absolutely adored the first book in this series "A Time to Run" . This book - #2 in the series - is an edge of your seat read and keeps you guessing until the very end which had a fantastic twist that I did not see coming at all.  I eagerly look forward to reading her next book to continue the story of Constable Sammi Willis.

~ Janine

Breaking Cover

Breaking Cover by Stella Rimington
#9 Liz Carlyle series.

Back in London after a gruelling operation in Paris, Liz Carlyle has been posted to MI5's counter-espionage desk. British relations with Russia are tense in the wake of Putin's incursions into the Ukraine. Discovering that an elusive Russian spy has entered the UK, Liz needs to track him down before he completes his fatal mission - and plunges Britain back into the Cold War.

Meanwhile, following the revelations of Edward Snowden, the intelligence services are in the spotlight. MI6 hires Jasminder Kapoor, a controversial civil rights lawyer, to explain the issues around privacy and security to the public. But in this new world of shadowy motives, Jasminder must careful about whom she trusts. One night Kapoor is brutally mugged and almost raped in a seemingly random attack, but is saved in the nick of time by a feisty Norwegian who happened to be passing by. She strikes up a romance with the handsome banker but there’s something about him that seems too good to be true.

Why we love it: 
In Breaking Cover, veteran MI5 insider and author Stella Rimington delivers a clever, fast-paced and timely espionage thriller that reflects up-to-the minute current events and her own insider knowledge of the intelligence services.

~ from The Team at Better Reading 

The Trap

The Trap by Melanie Raabe

Twelve years ago, Linda Conrad’s sister Anna was brutally murdered. Her killer was never identified, but Linda glimpsed his face as he escaped. 

Now, all these years later, she’s just seen him again, on TV. He’s become a well-known journalist, and Linda - a famous novelist and notorious recluse - knows no one will believe her if she accuses him. So she sets out to trap him, writing a thriller called ‘Blood Sisters’ about the unsolved murder of a young woman. And agrees to give just one interview.  At home.  To the only person who knows more about the case than she does. But is he the killer - or is she losing her mind?

What ensues will have the reader wondering what is real and unreal, as well as a whole lot of tension built into the mix. This enthralling story leads the reader to doubt their predictions as to the book’s ending, and the twist at the end will have you reeling. It is beautifully staged, using narrative in the present as well as excerpts from Linda’s new novel, to tease the reader with fact and fiction. 

This was a debut novel for Melanie Raabe, and translated from German by Imogen Taylor. A great read for fans of psychological thrillers.

~ Narelle


The Australian Literature Society Gold Medal is awarded annually for an outstanding literary work in the preceding calendar year. The Medal was inaugurated by the Australian Literature Society, which was founded in Melbourne in 1899 and incorporated into the Association for the Study of Australian Literature (ASAL) in 1982.

The medal was originally awarded for the best novel published in the previous year but, since 1937, other literary forms have been eligible for consideration. No nominations are required, though ASAL members are invited to propose potential winners to a judging panel.

On this year's shortlist:

The World Without Us by Mireille Juchau 
Forever Young by Steve Carroll 
Mannix by Brenda Niall  
The Other Side of the World by Stephanie Bishop
Clade by James Bradley

Works of life writing:
Second Half First by Drusilla Modjeska 
One Life: Story of my Mother by Kate Grenville

Short Story collections:
Six Bedrooms by Teegan Bennet Daylight 
A Few Days in the Country by Elizabeth Harrower.

The judges awarded the 2016 Australian Literature Society Gold Medal to Brenda Niall for Mannix.

The judging panel said: "Niall’s Mannix stood out as a meticulously researched work, ambitious in its scope and
beautifully and patiently written.  Brenda Niall is that kind of writer who remains throughout the book both a master storyteller completely in control of the wealth of material she uncovers and an unassuming presence whose skill and gift create a work of sheer craftsmanship."



Batavia by Peter FitzSimons
Narrated by Richard Aspel

This true story begins in 1629, when the pride of the Dutch East India Company, the Batavia, is on its maiden voyage en route from Amsterdam to the Dutch East Indies, laden down with the greatest treasure to leave Holland. The magnificent ship is already boiling over with a mutinous plot that is just about to break into the open when, just off the coast of Western Australia, it strikes an unseen reef in the middle of the night. 

While Commandeur Francisco Pelsaert decides to take the long-boat across 2000 miles of open sea for help, his second-in-command Jeronimus Cornelisz takes over, quickly deciding that 250 people on a small island is unwieldy for the small number of supplies they have. Quietly, he puts forward a plan to 40 odd mutineers how they could save themselves, kill most of the rest and spare only a half-dozen or so women, including his personal fancy, Lucretia Jansz - one of the noted beauties of Holland - to service their sexual needs. A reign of terror begins, countered only by a previously anonymous soldier Wiebbe Hayes, who begins to gather to him those are prepared to do what it takes to survive... 

The author has a distinct style with his wonderful fictionalised non-fiction – as mentioned in previous reviews he ‘breathes life into tales that have either been long forgotten, or told and retold a hundred times’. (I've read and reviewed Mawson and Eureka previously here on RR.)

Like most Australians, I'd heard snippets about the wreck of the Batavia but was not aware of the whole story.  And what an amazing story it is!  The wreck of the Batavia has inspired books, radio and TV documentaries, plays and an opera. Lust, jealously, greed, madness, deception, rape, murder - all the classic ingredients conspire in the Batavia story to produce a scenario that is truly frightening.

Richard Aspel has his narrating skills sorely tested in this book – the Dutch names are a real mouthful, but it all sounded authentic to me.  As with audio books, it’s always interesting to see unfamiliar words actually in print; take a couple above for example.  In the audio book Jeronimus is pronounced Hero-nee-mus, Lucretia is pronounced Loo-cra-tee-ah (not Loocreesha as you would read it), and Wiebbe Hayes pronounced as Feeber Hize.

Although the cruelty of the times is quite breath-taking, I was enthralled with this book, it was a real historical eye-opener. The introduction is a tad long-winded, but Peter FitzSimons has done well yet again .  We have this title in downloadable e-book and e-audio, plus audio CD and MP3, as well as print and large print formats.

~ Deb