Review: Still by Matt Nable

 

Title: Still

Author: Matt Nable

Published: May 2021, Hachette Australia 

Status: Read June 2021 courtesy Hachette/Netgalley

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My Thoughts:

 

“They killed him because he saw.”

 

Still is an atmospheric noir crime fiction novel from Australian Matt Nable, a former professional rugby league footballer turned film and television broadcaster/actor, and novelist.

Set in Darwin in 1963, Nable exposes a barely civilised, nascent city plagued by racism, violence and corruption. It’s mid summer, the tropical weather alternates between searing and brooding, as oppressive and threatening as the work it takes to survive in the Territory.

When Senior Constable Ned Potter finds the body of a man beaten and shot twice in the marshland of Darwin’s outskirts, he resents being told to stand down by his venal boss, Senior Sergeant Riley, who promptly declares the the death a suicide. Ned is quietly furious but resigned to doing nothing until he stumbles upon the bodies of another two men buried in a shallow grave. They too have been beaten and shot, and yet again Riley, this time backed by the Mayor, presents Ned with a fair accompli. But this time Ned can’t let it go.

Ned is a well-realised, complex character. Nable portrays a man wrestling with conscience, caught between what he knows is right and the risk of consequences, not only to his career, which he expects, but to his wife and newborn daughter. Burning silently at the injustice, he punishes himself for his perceived lack of control and courage, drinks excessively, not sure whether he is trying to forget his principles, or his fear.

Meanwhile, on her way home from visiting her father in his nursing home, Charlotte Clark finds a bleeding, broken man who begs her to hide him. Charlotte sets him up at her father’s empty property, instinctively concealing the man from her firefighter husband, who shares a cosy relationship with Senior Sergeant Riley.

For Charlotte, caring for the badly injured Michael is not only the right thing to do, despite society’s prevailing derogatory view, supported by her husband, of Australian aboriginals, but also provides her with a sense of control in a life where effectively she has none. Charlotte is a women representative of the era, a restless housewife with no practical means of escape from an unhappy marriage. The consequences of being discovered are dire not only for her, given the propensity for violence of her husband, but also for Michael, whose life is at risk.

The stakes are high for just about every character in Still, and with lives, and livelihoods, under threat the tension rarely wavers. While I do think the pacing was perhaps a little slow, my only real complaint with the novel relates to the timeline. There is a lack of immediacy in the resolution, which was necessary for one specific element of the plot, but I feel it didn’t work particularly well overall, and resulted in the conclusion losing some of its impact.

Nevertheless, Still has a lot to recommend it. I found it to be a compelling novel – superbly atmospheric, with nuanced characters and a strong mystery.

++++++

Available from Hachette Australia 

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Review: The Nancy’s by R.W.R. McDonald

 

Title: The Nancy’s {The Nancy’s #1}

Author: R.W.R McDonald

Published:3rd June 2019, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read May 2021 courtesy Allen & Unwin

++++++

 

My Thoughts:

I’ll be honest, as a preteen I much preferred Trixie Belden to Nancy Drew but I would leap at the chance to join The Nancy’s who feature in this delightful debut from New Zealand-born Australian author R.W.R McDonald.

Eleven year old Tippy Chan lives in a tiny town in South Otago. Her mother, Helen, a nurse at a local hospital, has won a two week cruise and so Tippy’s Uncle Pike, and his boyfriend Devon, have flown in from Sydney to look after her. It’s been a difficult year for Tippy after the death of her beloved father, and Tippy is a little anxious about her mother’s absence, increasingly so when first one of her best friend’s is badly injured in a fall from the town’s single lane bridge, and then her teacher’s naked headless body is discovered nearby. Tippy, a fan of the Nancy Drew mystery series, has the idea to investigate both incidents, a pursuit Pike and Devon indulge with a murder board written on a living room window in permanent texta, a mantra (Everyone’s a suspect), and matching t-shirts designed by Devon (after several attempts).

Calling themselves The Nancy’s, the three rely on their charm, insider’s knowledge (Pike grew up in Riverstone) of the town and its residents, and a little luck to try and solve the mystery but investigating a murder isn’t quite as easy as Nancy Drew makes it seem. The closer they get to finding the truth, the less Tippy is sure she really wants to know. I’m not sure how I feel about the mystery element of the novel, I thought the manner of death and the behaviour of the killer was unnecessarily outlandish, and it wasn’t as strong overall as I expected it to be, though it was satisfyingly resolved.

Whatever weakness there may be in the plot, I adored the main cast of The Nancy’s. Tippy is a delightful narrator – bright and quick, but still appropriately childish. She admires Nancy Drew for a number of reasons, so it’s no surprise she wants to emulate her. Still grieving the sudden loss of her father, the investigation is a way for her to gain some control over her life, and the things that scare her.

Uncle Pike, who looks like Santa Claus, only with tattoos, and Devon, described as Ken wearing Barbie, are outrageous characters with larger than life personalities. Irreverent, with a penchant for drink, swearing and innuendo, they are not really appropriate guardians for a child, but are warm, supportive, and fun which is exactly what Tippy needs. I found them absolutely hilarious, though I recognise their potential to offend.

There is variety in the supporting characters from elderly neighbours Mr and Mrs Brown and their granddaughter Melanie, an unctuous real estate agent, and a toothy tv presenter (who is also Pike’s ex-boyfriend), to a hard nosed journalist, a closeted policeman, and Tippy’s other best friend, Sam, and his family. The tiny community of Riverstone allows McDonald to explore the ironies of small town life, particularly as Pike and Devon make over goth girl Melanie to enter the annual beauty contest.

A murder mystery laced with mirth, The Nancy’s is a witty, warm, and wildly entertaining novel. I can’t wait to read about The Nancy’s next adventure in McDonald’s Nancy Business.

++++++

Available from Allen & Unwin RRP AUD$29.99

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Review: Flash Jim by Kel Richards

 

Title: Flash Jim: The Astonishing Story of the Convict Fraudster Who Wrote Australia’s First Dictionary

Author: Kel Richards

Published: 5th May 2021, HarperCollins Australia

Status: Read May 2021 courtesy HarperCollins Australia

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My Thoughts:

Though English has been considered the language of our country since it was invaded/colonised by the British in 1788, did you know that legally Australia has no official language? Neither did I! While our language today continues to adhere to the conventions of British English with regards to spelling and grammar, from very early on, Australian English began to develop its own unique quirks.

Slang, also known as flash and cant, was a term originally used to refer to the language used mostly by criminals in 16th and 17th century England and so it’s no surprise that it thrived in Australia, and took on a life of its own as British, Irish, and Scottish convicts mixed in the British penal colony.

In 1812 an opportunistic convict, James Hardy Vaux, heard the grumblings of the colony’s police and magistrates who were at a loss to understand much of the slang used among criminals, and always eager to press any advantage, presented his supervisor with ‘A New and Comprehensive Vocabulary of the Flash Language’ – Australia’s very first dictionary. Included as an Appendix in Flash Jim, browsing through the dictionary proves fascinating, revealing words and phrases both strange and familiar.

The bulk of Kel Richards Flash Jim however is a biography of James Vaux, drawing on several sources, mainly the man’s own published memoirs, ‘Memoirs of The First Thirty-Two Years of the Life Of James Hardy Vaux, A Swindler and Pickpocket; Now Transported, For The Second Time, And For Life, To New South Wales. Written By Himself.’

Flash Jim reveals a man who was an extraordinary character. Though born into a family able to provide him a good education and entry into a comfortable profession, James took his first step into a life of crime by embezzling from his employer at aged fourteen. Over the next few years, never satisfied with wages earned as a clerk, James indulged in a number of illegal activities from confidence scams to pick pocketing, with reasonable success, that is until inevitably, his luck ran out. Not that even being sentenced to transportation to New Holland on three separate occasions, seemed to deter his criminal impulses. Vaux, who used a number of aliases over his lifetime, seemed to have possessed an uncanny charm which often saw him turn even the most dire of circumstances to his advantage. I was absolutely fascinated by him, and his antics, marvelling at his ego and nerve, though as Richards regularly reminds us, Vaux’s own words can hardly be trusted.

It’s unclear just how much of Richards own creativity informs the retelling he has crafted, though I imagine he has taken some liberties. I thought it read well, though personally I would have preferred for the author to have found a way to integrate the story of the dictionary more fully into the narrative of Vaux’s biography.

James Hardy Vaux is the sort of incorrigible, dissolute character that Australians delight in claiming as part of our convict past so I’m surprised that I hadn’t heard of him before now, particularly given his twin achievements as the writer of Australia’s first dictionary, and the first true-crime memoir. I expect Flash Jim will be enjoyed by readers interested in Australian colonial history, the etymology of Australian English, or just a bang up yarn.

++++++

Available from HarperCollins Australia

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Review: Vanished by James Delargy


Title: Vanished

Author: James Delargy

Published: 5th May 2021, Simon & Schuster Australia

Status: Read May 2021 courtesy Simon & Schuster Australia

+++++++

My Thoughts:

“A family was missing. They had been in the town and then they weren’t. What they were even doing therein the first place wasn’t yet known. No one should have been there. No one had for close to fifty years.”

James Delargy has followed his impressive debut novel, 55, with another compelling thriller set in Australia’s unforgiving outback, Vanished.

Tasked to investigate the disappearance of the Maguire family, Lorcan, his wife Naiyana, and their six year old son, Dylan, from Kallayee, an abandoned town on the edge of the Great Victoria Desert, Major Case Squad Detective Emmaline Taylor is puzzled by what she finds left behind – a home on the brink of collapse, its contents ransacked; blood smears, though not enough to suggest a fatality; a tunnel littered with chocolate bar wrappers, a dead end, like all their leads seem to be, until she finds a body being savaged by a pack of dingo’s on the outskirts of town.

Unfolding from multiple perspectives, shifting between before and after their disappearance, it soon becomes apparent that the Maguires left Perth to set up home in the remote West Australian ghost town not in the spirit of adventure, but because they had few alternatives available to them.

Though the Maguire’s tell themselves they are in Kallayee to become closer as a  family, the cracks in their marriage are obvious. They lie to themselves as much as they lie to each other and eventually neither Lorcan nor Naiyana are particularly sympathetic or even likeable. If not for the presence of Dylan I’m not sure I’d care much what happened to them. I liked Emmaline a lot though, she’s smart, determined and interesting.

Clever plotting ensures there are several possibilities, from the benign to the ominous, that may explain the family’s disappearance. Even though we are privy to information Emmaline is not, Delargy doesn’t share everything with the reader, subtly undermining what we think we know, allowing for surprising twists.

Short chapters ensure a good pace, and the author effectively builds the suspense in both timelines. The desolate, broken landscape creates a claustrophobic, hostile backdrop to the story that adds to the tension.

Vanished is a gripping, atmospheric thriller with an unexpected but satisfying conclusion.

++++++++

Available from Simon & Schuster Australia

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Review: The Rose Daughter by Maria Lewis

 

Title: The Rose Daughter {Supernatural Sisters #7}

Author: Maria Lewis

Published: 13th April 2021, Piatkus

Status: Read April 2021 courtesy Hachette Australia

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My Thoughts:

The Rose Daughter is the seventh book in the Supernatural Sisters urban fantasy series from award-winning Australian author, Maria Lewis, but don’t be afraid to jump right in, it works perfectly well as a stand-alone. Just be prepared as you’ll want to add the rest of the series on your TBR list as I did.

The daughter of a forbidden union between an earth elemental and a selkie, Dreckly Jones was born the prisoner of the Trieze, raised by her father in a cell buried under a hill in Scotland. Since her escape she has largely heeded her father’s advice -to be careful; to hide who she is; to not be a hero. For the last eight years or so, she has made her home on a boat in Sydney Harbour, shucking oysters at the Fish Markets when she’s not putting her artistic skills to work forging identification papers for those in need.

Though she looks as if she is in her early 40’s, Dreckly is more than a century older, and the narrative alternates between her past and present. Dreckly is an appealing, well-crafted character. I liked her wit, and found her to be smart and resourceful, though not without her flaws. As a sprite, her ability gives her powerful control over air which she wields in unusual ways.

I was intrigued by her backstory, which has Dreckly travelling the world from Scotland to Hollywood, from behind enemy lines in wartime France to Africa, where she finds family, adventure and love. The ‘past’ narrative skilfully builds Dreckly’s character so that the decisions she makes in the present, make sense.

In the present, there are rumours that the Trieze, who govern the supernatural world, are abducting other supernaturals. Mindful of her past experiences, and her promises to her father, Dreckly battles with her conscience when she is asked for her help. Lewis builds the tension as the Trieze’s nefarious plans are revealed, and provides exciting action when the supernaturals take a stand.

I liked the world in which the story is set with an interesting mix of supernaturals who live alongside, but hidden, from most of humanity. Lewis succinctly explains the history and politics, and while it’s obvious there are links to story and characters from previous books, they don’t have any notable impact on this story.

Offering interesting characters, exciting action, and romance, I found The Rose Daughter to be an entertaining read. I’m delighted to have discovered Maria Lewis and I hope to be introduced to the other ‘sisters’ before the next book in the series is released.

++++++

Available from Hachette Australia

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Review: Second First Impressions by Sally Thorne

 


Title: Second First Impressions

Author: Sally Thorne

Published: 13th April 2021, William Morrow Paperbacks

Status: Read April 2021 courtesy William Morrow/Edelweiss

++++++

My Thoughts:

Second First Impressions is a charming romantic comedy from USA Today bestselling, Australian author, Sally Thorne.

Ruthie Midona is twenty-five years old but is more at ease among her fellow residents at the Providence Luxury Retirement Village, where she has lived and worked for six years, than among her peers. When her boss takes a vacation, leaving Ruthie in charge, she is determined to prove herself worthy of the responsibility. She doesn’t have the wherewithal to indulge the too-personal questions of the young and pretty temp, Melanie, or the attentions of the property owner’s vainglorious son, Teddy, who on their first meeting mistook her for an elderly woman, but both are determined to impress Ruthie with the need to lighten up and live a little.

It’s a case of opposites attract for the staid, straight-laced Ruthie and the carefree, charismatic Teddy. I enjoyed the chemistry between them as their inevitable romantic relationship developed, providing moments of both tenderness and passion. Their connection sparks change in one another, but I like that Thorne is clear that the changes they want to make are in pursuit of their own life goals, not about pleasing the other.

Ruthie has been stuck in a rut ever since a shadowy incident in her past. Encouraged by Melanie and her Sasaki Method* (*patent pending), Ruthie recognises she needs to step out of her comfort zone. The friendship that forms between the two women is lovely, and important to Ruthie’s personal growth.

Teddy has his own issues that he needs to deal with, including a rocky relationship with his father and older-half sister. His goal is to earn enough money to buy into a tattoo business, but commitment is something he’s been avoiding for much of his life.

The cheeky, imperious Parloni ‘sisters’ are a wonderful addition to the story. Aged 91 and 89 respectively, Renata and Agatha are enjoying growing old disgracefully, and delight in tormenting Teddy (in a very un-PC manner) in his role as their personal assistant.

Old age residences seem to have become a popular setting in fiction recently. I liked how Thorne linked it to both Ruthie’s past and Teddy’s future. And the turtles that roam the grounds are a cute additional element.

With appealing characters, a sweet romance, and plenty of well-timed humour, I found Second First Impressions to be a delightful, feel-good read.

++++++

Available from HarperCollins 

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Review: Something to Hide by Fleur McDonald

Something to Hide by Fleur McDonald

 


Title: Something to Hide {Detective Dave Burrows}

Author: Fleur McDonald

Published: 30th March 2021, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read April 2021 courtesy Allen & Unwin

+++++++

My Thoughts:

Something to Hide is the fourth engrossing rural suspense novel to feature Detective Dave Burrows, though the seventh in which he appears, by bestselling Australian writer Fleur McDonald.

Something to Hide brings closure to the undercover assignment investigating a stock theft ring that resulted in Dave being shot and the escape of the ringleaders,  brothers Bulldust and Scotty, in Without A Doubt. Set a few months after the events of Red Dirt Country, Dave’s relationship with his wife, Melinda, is just getting back on track when, while grocery shopping, she’s confronted by a stranger with a message for her husband.

Dave’s been expecting the ruthless brothers to seek their revenge ever since the judge carelessly revealed his identity during his testimony in the case, and now that they’ve finally made their first move, Dave is keen to end the threat. McDonald develops a tense, fast-paced plot as the inevitable confrontation between Dave and Bulldust edges ever closer. Not knowing when, or where it will take place, but assuming it will be deadly, ensures suspense remains high throughout the story, particularly as both men grow more reckless in their pursuit of each other.

Stonewalled by the Major Crimes squad tracking Bulldust and his brother, Dave’s partner, Bob, tries to distract him with another case involving stock theft, moving the action from Perth back to Barrabine, adding a further layer of interest to the novel. It also reunites Dave with his mentor and handler on the undercover case, Spencer, who, in a shocking twist, gets caught up in Bulldust’s vendetta.

The entire situation is the last straw for Mel who issues Dave an ultimatum, insisting he choose between her and the job. McDonald explores Dave’s struggle to make such a choice, and the fears that drive the spouse of a police officer to demand one. Though I do not find Mel to be a likeable character, McDonald’s skill with creating authentic characters ensures I do sympathise with her concerns. Unsurprisingly, Dave remains hopeful that he can still have it all, until tragedy ensures the decision is made for him.

Though Something to Hide could be read as a stand-alone, I wouldn’t recommend it given it provides closure to two major threads developed in the previous books, plus you’d be missing out on what is an excellent series. Well crafted, with exciting action, Something to Hide is a stellar instalment, and I can’t wait to discover how Dave moves forward from here.

++++++

Available from Allen & Unwin RRP AUD$29.99

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository I Booktopia I Amazon

******

If you’ve enjoyed this review, (and even if you haven’t) please consider donating to the charity Fleur McDonald founded, DV assist, which offers information, resources and practical support for those experiencing or concerned about others who may be experiencing domestic and family violence in regional, rural or remote Western Australia experiencing family and domestic violence.

Click here to learn more about DVAssist.org.au

Review: Welcome to Nowhere River by Meg Bignell


Title: Welcome To Nowhere River

Author: Meg Bignell

Published: 2nd March 2021, Michael Joseph

Status: Read March 2021 courtesy PenguinRandomHouse Australia

++++++

My Thoughts:

Centred on the small (fictional) town of Nowhere River in the Tasmanian Highlands, Welcome to Nowhere River is a charming novel from Meg Bignell about family, friendship and community.

In a bid to revive the standards of the Nowhere River township, affected by drought and a dwindling population, the imperious president of the St Margery’s Ladies’ Club announces a contest. The member who conceives of, and develops the most effective idea to revitalise the riverside village (while upholding a standard of decorum) will be crowned Miss Fresh & Lovely, and win $100,000. With such high stakes, the competition has no shortage of entrants and soon the community is a hive of activity as plans are put into action.

“Everyone knows everyone, but no one knows anyone at all.”

Among the residents vying for the crown are three women who are central to the novel – Carra, her mother-in-law Lucie, and local farmer, Josie. Each have their own reasons for entering the competition, but all are distracted by personal issues. Carra, married to Nowhere River’s local golden boy, Duncan, and the mother of infant twins, is overwhelmed and unhappy. Lucie’s grief for her young daughter who went missing in Nowhere River decades before, resurfaces; and the viability of Josie’s family farm, already struggling due to drought, is further threatened. I enjoyed getting to know these well crafted characters, I empathised with their challenges, and wished the best for them all.

Welcome To Nowhere River also has a lively raft of supporting characters, including eccentrics like the elderly Cliffity, who collects gnomes and ferrets, and the grumpy grocery store owners, the Pfaff’s. I delighted in getting to know the members of this community, aided by snippets from Lucie’s Miss Fresh & Lovely project interviews with a dozen or so residents. Fair warning, there a few with a mouth on them, but mostly they should make you laugh with their very Australian turn of phrases. Living in a country town myself (beside a river no less) I found the dynamics of the community familiar, especially in regards to the importance of the Show to the town, and in what is a rather extraordinary coincidence, (MINOR SPOILER) this week (March 2021) my town was ravaged by flood, just as Nowhere River is.

“It always amazes me…how there are no secrets in this town, but so many mysteries.”

While Welcome To Nowhere River is largely a character-driven story, there is a thread of poignant mystery in relation to the fate of Lucie’s missing daughter. There are also some twists as the story unfolds, and some surprises in the epilogue.

Written with warmth and humour, celebrating character and community spirit, I found Welcome to Nowhere River to be a delightful read, much as I did Meg Bignell’s debut novel, The Sparkle Pages. I’m already looking forward to her next.

+++++++

Available from PenguinRandomHouse Australia 

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Review: One Last Dance by Emma Jane Holmes

One last dance quote


Title: One Last Dance: My Life in Mortuary Scrubs and G-Strings

Author: Emma Jane Holmes

Published: 3rd March 2021, HQ Nonfiction Australia

Status: Read March 2021 courtesy Harlequin Australia

++++++

My Thoughts:

One Last Dance is a unique memoir by Emma Jane Holmes, who for a time was employed in both the taboo industries of death, as a funeral assistant, and sex, as an exotic dancer.

In the wake of a bitter separation, Emma Jane Holmes has to start again and so decides to fulfil a life long dream by finding employment at a funeral home. Whether it’s collecting the body of a deceased person, assisting with burial preparation in the mortuary, or standing graveside she revels in her new role, she describes her activities with candour in this fascinating memoir. Facing death is uncomfortable for most of us, especially if it’s our own, so some details might be confronting, but I agree with Emma Jane that demystifying the subject is beneficial. The squeamish may not appreciate the details of a decomposing corpse, or the processes involved in preparing a body for viewing but I did find it interesting, though it’s cemented my wish to go directly from the morgue to a crematorium oven, leaving my loved ones to choose what they wish to do with my ashes.

While Emma Jane loves her job, she finds she is struggling to pay her bills, and to supplement her income, answers an ad for an agency that supplies scantily clad/topless waitresses. In the second half of the book, she explains how she came to be an exotic dancer under the the alias Madison, working nights at a Sydney strip club, while continuing to work at the funeral home during the day. Emma Jane enjoys dancing, not just the extra money, but also the friendships she forms with her colleagues (though to be truthful they seem pretty shallow). She feels strongly that like death, sex work should be de-stigmatised, and I agree with her advocacy. Emma Jane does find it difficult to juggle the two jobs though, and eventually has to make a choice between them.

Written with sensitivity, humour and a casual, confiding tone, One Last Dance provides insight into two very different worlds few of us have access to.

Though I’ve read several nonfiction memoirs about the funeral industry including Good Mourning by Elizabeth Meyer, Smoke Gets In Your Eyes by Caitlin Dougherty, and The Undertaker’s Daughter by Kate Mayfield, this is the first from the Australian experience. It’s not the first memoir of an Australian exotic dancer I’ve read though, having recently finished Sunshine by Samantha C. Ross, who may well be the ‘Samantha X’ Emma Jane refers to in her Acknowledgements.

++++++

Available from Harlequin/HarperCollins Australia

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Review: Tipping by Anna George

Title: Tipping

Author: Anna George

Published: 3rd March 2021, Viking

Status: Read March 2021 courtesy PenguinRandomHouse

++++++

My Thoughts:

When her fourteen year old son, Jai, is suspended for his part in creating a ‘hot or not’ Insta-story it proves to be a tipping point for both Liv Winsome, and the exclusive grammar school her sons attend.

“Twenty five years ago she was a high-achieving student, and today she was a high achieving mother (and wife). A super-doer. Or so she’d thought.”

Liv, a legal investigator, mother to twins, Jai and Oscar, and nine-year-old Cody, and wife to Duncan whom she describes as a “A pleasant, human stocking filler.”, is stressed and tired of being all things to all people. To the horror of her family, Liv decides to divide the overwhelming physical and emotional burden she carries amongst them. It’s a rare mother who has not dreamed of doing the same, I laughed out loud in recognition when Liv’s family presented their lists of responsibilities, which amounted to a fraction of her own nine and a half pages.

Liv has good intentions – to stop her hair falling out by the handful, to teach her sons responsibility, to encourage her husband to develop his emotional range, to make just a few tweaks to ensure a better life for them all. And she’s not going to stop there, she’s determined to hold her sons conservative school to account for what she considers are their subtle, and not so subtle, misogynistic practices. Liv is excited as real change begins to happen, but things soon begin to go awry on the home front, particularly when Duncan has his own epiphany on work/life balance, and Carmichael Grammar is none too receptive to the idea of permanently disrupting the status quo either.

George’s characters are well-drawn, realistic and relatable. Liv is pretty intense, but there are aspects of her character, and her family’s dynamic I found familiar. So too with Jess Charters, whose 14 year old daughter’s sexy selfie was one of those shared, though she is quite a different character from Liv. I didn’t particularly care for Duncan, but I thought his perspective was a valuable addition to the story. Children and teens are notoriously difficult to portray authentically but I thought George did it well.

Elements of the story related to institutional gender bias/ sexual harassment are very timely given current events in Australia (this week was the #March4Justice). George explores a wide range of responses to the issues raised among both sexes, and several age groups. I found the focus on calling out the subtle signs of sexism throughout the school’s physical environment particularly thought-provoking, as it happens parent/teacher night is next week and I’ll be looking at my children’s school with a new perspective.

The story moves at a good pace, but I do think Tipping was a little long, with a few minor threads and characters that didn’t add anything of substance to the narrative.

A story of family, change, activism and the search for equilibrium, Tipping is witty and fun, but it is also a thought-provoking, and even inspiring novel. I also believe it would provide excellent material for a book group discussion, especially one with a mixed membership.

+++++

Available from PenguinRandomHouse Australia

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