Review: The Road Trip by Beth O’Leary


Title: The Road Trip

Author: Beth O’Leary

Published: 29th April 2021, Quercus

Status: Read April 2021 courtesy Hachette Australia

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My Thoughts:

The Road Trip is Beth O’Leary’s third entertaining romcom novel, following her success with The Flatshare and The Switch.

Addie, her sister Deb and rideshare passenger, Rodney, have just begun the eight hour drive from Chichester to Scotland to attend a close friend’s wedding when they are rear ended by a Mercedes. The driver is Addie’s ex-boyfriend, Dylan, accompanied by his best friend, Marcus, heading to the same event. With the Mercedes out of action, Addie reluctantly offers the pair a ride in Deb’s Mini Cooper.

Unfolding from the alternating perspectives of Addie and Dylan in the ‘Now’ and the ‘Then’, the physically uncomfortable conditions created by five adults crammed into Deb’s car are almost secondary to the emotionally fraught atmosphere caused by the tumultuous history between Addie and Dylan in particular. I thought the narrative structure worked well to reveal to what happened between them in the past, and their current status with one another.

The road trip itself is beset by a chain of mishaps, from endless traffic (it’s a Bank Holiday weekend) to a breakdown, punctuated by Deb’s need to pump breastmilk, country music singalongs, and Marcus’s less obnoxious tantrums, providing plenty of humour. There’s always an edge of tension though as Addie and Dylan try to navigate their unexpected reunion, complicated by the presence of Marcus who played a significant role in their breakup.

O’Leary’s characters are interesting, all with their own lighthearted quirks, but many of them also struggle with serious issues such as clinical depression, alcoholism, addiction, sexual assault, and difficult family dynamics, making this story a little darker than her previous novels. And while there is a happy ever after for Addie and Dylan, as befitting the romance genre, it’s more mature than a fairytale ending.

Funny and engaging with a bit of edge, I enjoyed The Road Trip.

++++++

Available from Hachette 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

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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: The Iron Raven by Julie Kagawa

Title: The Iron Raven {The Iron Fey: Evenfall #1}

Author: Julia Kagawa

Published: 24th February 2021, HQ Young Adult

Status: Read March 2021 courtesy Harlequin Australia

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My Thoughts:

With The Iron Raven, Julie Kagawa begins a fantastic and dangerous new adventure to delight fans of the Iron Fey series.

It’s not strictly necessary to be familiar with the Iron Fey series which includes the four books of The Iron Fey (The Iron King, The Iron Daughter, The Iron Queen and The Iron Knight) and The Iron Fey: Call of Forgotten trilogy (The Lost Prince, The Iron Traitor and The Iron Warrior), plus various novellas, to enjoy The Iron Raven, though it certainly enriches the experience. It’s been six years since I read The Iron Warrior, yet details came flooding back as I read.

In the Iron Raven, Kagawa places Puck aka Robin Goodfellow at the centre of the narrative for the first time, and the story unfolds from his perspective as a dangerous monster spreading hate and discord stalks the realm of faerie.

It begins when Kieran, son of the Iron Queen, former prince of the Iron Court and King of the Forgotten, asks for Puck’s help. Joining the King, and Keiran’s personal guard Nyx in the Inbetween, the trio confront a seemingly invulnerable mass of darkness and fury, but despite a fierce battle, the monster escapes into the NeverNever.

Puck finds himself changed by the experience, not only does he again have horns and cloven hooves but traits of the Robin Goodfellow of old are also bleeding through. While he continues to spout quips and make light of every situation, Puck finds himself simultaneously battling the re-emergence of his darker nature. I enjoyed having Puck tell the story in his own irreverent way, and being privy to his thoughts. His inner turmoil is interesting, as is the history he reveals of himself.

Some of that history naturally involves Puck’s relationship with his closest friends, Ash, the Winter Prince, and Megan, The Iron Queen. I loved seeing the trio reunited here, and fighting side by side again. With the monsters escape, Puck and Nyx travel to the Iron Court to ask for their help, but in their company, Puck is reminded of his hurt and resentment when Megan chose Ash over him, and under the sway of the monster he has to fight the temptation to make them pay.

Luckily for them, Nyx, the silver-haired Forgotten Sidhe assassin who once served The Lady and now serves Kieran, provides Puck with somewhat of a distraction. Singularly unimpressed by his legendary reputation, and his ego, Nyx is more than a match for Puck, and their developing connection was very entertaining.

There’s not really anything new or unexpected in The Iron Raven, it has a similar feel, rhythm, tone and progression to the other books in the series. This was a little disappointing because there was potential for Kagawa to add some maturity to the story, and the characters, to reward the fans who were teenagers when the earlier series were first published but are now likely well into their twenties.

Nevertheless, with Puck’s wit, plenty of action, and high stakes, The Iron Raven is an entertaining read. Evenfall is coming.

++++++

Available from Harlequin 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

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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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Review & Giveaway: Grace Under Pressure by Tori Haschka

 

Title: Grace Under Pressure

Author: Tori Haschka

Published: 3rd March 2021, Simon & Schuster Australia

Status: Read March 2021 courtesy Simon & Schuster

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My Thoughts:

Grace Under Pressure is a witty, wise and warm debut novel from Tori Haschka about motherhood, marriage, friendship, and modern life.

With the world’s worst, or perhaps best, timing the lives of three friends, Grace, Petra and Shelly all implode on practically the same day. Seeking solace and support, the women, with five (and a bit) young children between them, decide to create their own ‘mummune’ – sharing Grace’s Northern Beaches home, the bills, childcare, cooking, and all the other ‘life admin’ tasks mothers manage daily. The arrangement seems like it could be the perfect answer to the pressures the three are under, but perfection is a fragile thing.

Many mothers will find their experiences reflected in the protagonists of Grace Under Pressure, as I did, whether it’s the attempt to juggle work/life balance, to overcome sleep deprivation, to cope with post-natal anxiety, or the pressure to do everything right, particularly under the critical gaze of peers and social media. In theory the idea of a ‘mummune’ seems excellent, there is truth to the old adage, ‘it takes a village’, and Grace, Petra and Shelly, with a little advice from neighbour Christine, find a rhythm that benefits all of them, but maintaining it proves a little trickier than they expect.

When we are introduced to Grace, the central character, she appears to have it all – a beautiful beachside home, a handsome globe-trotting husband, two cherubic children, and a successful career as the author of four popular wholefood cookbooks – she lives a life carefully curated for Instagram. But when she unexpectedly falls pregnant with her third child, the facade begins to falter, and the pressure to maintain it threatens to break her. I felt desperately sorry for Grace who is so caught up in who she thinks she should be, that she’s lost who she is. Haschka does a great job of portraying Grace’s external, and internal struggles to meet the mythic standard that motherhood, in fact womanhood, is expected to achieve.

Of course the other two ‘mummune’ members, Petra and Shelly, share similar anxieties, though are far less consumed by them. Petra, Grace’s best friend since college, is too furious at her husband for not only gambling away their life savings but also for hitting her when she confronted him with the truth, and too focused on forging a life of her own to worry much about what anyone thinks. It was Shelly I probably had the most affinity for, not only because we share a name, but my eldest daughter was also born after a long labour (and then an emergency caesarean) and she too was not a ‘sleeper’, though unlike Shelly, I thankfully had a husband who could occasionally gave me a break. In terms of parenting philosophy however, I had/have much more in common with Grace’s neighbour, Christine. While she had twins, I had 3 children in 3 years (plus an elder child), so pragmatism was more important to me than perfectionism when they were all younger.

This is a strong debut from Haschka who captures the madness of modern motherhood. Well written, with relatable characters, and plenty of moments that made me laugh, cringe, and sigh in recognition, I really enjoyed reading Grace Under Pressure.

++++++

Available from Simon & Schuster Australia

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GIVEAWAY

Courtesy Simon & Schuster Australia

I have 1 print edition of

Grace Under Pressure by Tori Haschka

to giveaway to one lucky Australian resident.

Please leave a comment on this post and

CLOSED

Congratulations Katherine

*PLEASE NOTE: Only Australian residents are eligible to enter*

Entries close 27th March 2021

The giveaway will be determined by a random drawing on March 28th and the winner will be notified by email within 48 hours

Review: The Husband Poisoner by Tanya Bretherton

Title: The Husband Poisoner: Suburban women who killed in post-World War II Sydney

Author: Tanya Bretherton

Published: 23rd March 2021, Hachette Australia

Status: Read March 2021 courtesy Hachette

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My Thoughts:

“Her recipe for murder was simple.”

The use of rat poison has long been a favoured method to commit murder – arsenic, strychnine, phosphide, warfarin, and thallium are common ingredients, as deadly to humans as they are to rodents. Ubiquitous and inexpensive, until relatively recently, deaths caused by rat poison were also difficult to detect, and many a victim went to their grave, often after a slow and painful decline, their cause of death attributed to illness, suicide, or accident.

In post war Sydney, rats were a public health concern, and most households would have kept, and used, some sort of rat poison. Thallium – a colourless, odourless, and tasteless substance, was used in several brands of rat poison from around the 1920’s, and it was the main ingredient in a product called Thall-Rat which was available for sale in Australia.

In The Husband Poisoner, Tanya Bretherton focuses largely on two women who were found guilty of administering Thall-Rat to commit murder in the post World War II period. Yvonne Fletcher killed both her first and second husbands by regularly dosing them with Thall-Rat, while Caroline Grills poisoned several family members. All of their victims suffered in agony, with the toxin causing symptoms that ranged from severe muscle pain to blindness, and even madness. Their stories are tragic, yet fascinating and well told by Bretherton who primarily writes in a narrative style, humanising both the victims, and their murderers.

In telling these stories, Bretherton also explores the social context of the period, and the circumstances which gave rise to a spree of poisonings. Fletcher and Grills weren’t the only ones to seize on thallium as a means for murder, between March 1952 and April 1953, ten deaths and forty-six hospital admissions were attributed to thallium, leading to the newly established Poisons Advisory Commitee amending the Poisons Act in 1953, regulating its sale.

It seems somewhat incongruous that a book about poisoning also includes recipes for pikelets, jam roll-poly, roast pork, and potato and bacon pie, among others, but it was through the provision of banal family meals, sweet treats, or soothing hot drinks, that many victims were poisoned. The use of rat-killer as a murder weapon is a decidedly domestic crime, and the perpetrator is almost always a member of the same family.

I was less interested in the tangent Bretherton followed with regards to the two detectives, Fergusson and Krahe, who investigated both Fletcher and Grills. Though interesting men, their character deficits didn’t seem particularly relevant to the subject at hand.

Well researched and written, The Husband Poisoner is a fascinating and macabrely entertaining read and will appeal to those who enjoy the genres of true crime and history.

++++++

Available from Hachette Australia

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Review: The Girl Explorers by Jayne E. Zanglein

Title: The Girl Explorers

Author: Jayne E. Zanglein

Published: 2nd March 2021, Sourcebooks

Status: Read March 2021 courtesy Sourcebooks/Netgalley

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My Thoughts:

While The Girl Explorers by Jayne E. Zanglein was not exactly what I was expecting, I found it ultimately to be a fascinating and inspiring book, highlighting some of the intelligent, daring and determined women who rebelled against expectations and paved the way for women to participate in what were traditionally male pursuits.

“Fifty percent of the world population is female, but only .05 percent of recorded history relates to women.”

The Society of Woman Geographers was founded in 1925 after the exclusively male Explorers Club refused to lift its ban on women members, condescendingly dismissing their ‘suitability’ for exploration, and their many achievements. Founded by Blair Bebee/Niles, a travel writer and novelist; Marguerite Harrison, a widowed single mother and a journalist who became US spy in Russia just after WW1; Gertrude Mathews Shelby, an economic geographer; and Gertrude Emerson, an expert on Asia and editor of Asia Magazine, membership was extended to women whose “distinctive work has added to the world’s store of knowledge concerning countries on which they specialized.”

Settling on the term “geographers” instead of explorers because it was flexible enough to encompass explorers, scientists, anthropologists, ethnographers, writers, mountain climbers, and even ethnographic artists and musicians, the stated aims of the Society were, “…building personal relationships among members, archiving the work of its membership in the society’s collections, and celebrating the achievements of women.”

“With the passage of time—as so often happens with women’s careers—the names and contributions of these explorers tended to sink from sight, their achievements questioned or minimized.” – Elizabeth Fagg Olds, newspaper correspondent and former president of Society.

Though the Society accepted ‘corresponding’ members from any country, The Girl Explorers tends to focus on American adventurers. I recognised only a few names, icons such as aviator Amelia Earhart, anthropologist Margaret Mead, former US First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, and author, Pearl S. Buck. While I did think that it was a shame that the author wasn’t perhaps as inclusive as she could have been, I was nevertheless still fascinated by what I learned of the many women I’d never heard of.

Of the founding members, I considered the life of Blair Bebee née Rice (later Niles) to be particularly intriguing, in part because her story is the most complete, but also because of the sheer breadth of her achievements. I was also captivated by the intrepid mountaineer, Annie Smith Peck, who in 1895, at the age of 45, became the third woman to ascend the Matterhorn, though the first to do so in knickers (men’s knickerbocker trousers) and without a corset.

Zanglein’s narrative sometimes feels a little scattered and occasionally seems to veer off-topic, however the tone is personable, and what I learned was so interesting, I found I didn’t much mind. I highlighted screeds of information as I was reading that really doesn’t have a place in this review, but that intrigued me.

“Their stories change our history…”

The Society of Woman Geographers still exists today, they maintain a museum and library on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. with a robust membership that continues to meet regularly, and supports women geographers with fellowships and awards. I’m glad to have learnt more about organisation and the amazing women who are part of it.

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Available from Sourcebooks

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Review: Florence Adler Swims Forever by Rachel Beanland

Title: Florence Adler Swims Forever

Author: Rachel Beanland

Published: 3rd February 2021, Simon & Schuster

Status: Read February 2021 courtesy Simon & Schuster Australia

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My Thoughts:

Rachel Beanland draws on her family history in Florence Adler Swims Forever, a tender, character-driven debut novel.

On a sunny morning in the summer of 1934, as Esther and Joseph Adler stroll along the Atlantic City Boardwalk and their granddaughter Gussie, and houseguest Anna wade in the shallows, their daughter, Florence dons her bright red bathing cap and heads into the ocean. A champion swimmer, twenty-year-old Florence is training to swim the English Channel in just a few weeks, so no one expects that an hour later, her lifeless body will be dragged from the water.

Florence Adler Swims Forever unfolds from multiple perspectives exploring the decisions made, and the changes wrought, in the wake of Florence’s untimely death. Esther and Joseph are devastated by the loss of their youngest daughter, but Esther in particular is worried about how the news will affect their oldest, and makes the decision that she not be told. Fannie, Gussie’s mother, is in hospital on bed rest waiting the birth of her third child, her second having been born too prematurely to survive, and is growing increasingly annoyed that her sister hasn’t visited. Freed from the daily care of his wife and daughter, and taking advantage of his distracted in-laws, Fannie’s husband Isaac grows more distant, chasing a foolish dream. Seven year old Gussie, sweet and precocious, has an innocent’s clear-eyed view of the changes in her world, but is bewildered by its nuances. Anna, a young German Jewish woman whom Joseph has sponsored to study in America on the strength of a long ago association with her mother, is somewhat uncomfortable to find herself in the midst of this family tragedy, especially when her own threatens. Stuart Williams is the outlier- a Gentile, a handsome lifeguard, swim coach, and reluctant heir to a Boardwalk hotelier. He thought himself in love with Florence, and in the aftermath of her death strikes up a friendship with Anna.

The novel examines several themes, including those of grief, love and family, but most significantly, the sacrifices parents will make to protect their children. Esther forgoes some of the traditional rituals of mourning of the Jewish faith, and attempts to represses her own devastating sense of loss to safeguard the health of her remaining daughter, as does Joseph. Joseph also willingly compromises his financial resources to protect Fannie from her husband’s weakness. Fannie meanwhile spends three months confined to her hospital bed in the hope that the child she carries will be born healthy. Anna’s parents, concerned by the political climate in Germany as Hitler ascends to power, insist she travel to America, and pull whatever strings they can to see her safely out of the country. Issac, in complete contrast, selfishly abandons Gussie in pursuit of his own dreams, and betrays the support offered by his own father. Stuart’s relationship with his father is a little more nuanced, though the man definitely has his faults, he does care about his son’s future.

Beanland grounds her story well in time and place, with vivid descriptions of the beach and boardwalk of Atlantic City, and the Adler’s baking empire. Fannie is obsessed with the Dionne quintuplets born earlier that year and battling for survival, in part because her late son, Hyram, spent some time in an incubator on display at the Boardwalk, just as they did. The author also touches on the anti-semitism rife not just in Europe as the Nazi party began to gain a foothold, but also in America.

With a measured pace, Florence Adler Swims Forever is a meditative, poignant, and engaging read, suited to a languid summer afternoon. Be sure to read the Author’s Note at the end of the book.

++++++

Available from Simon & Schuster Australia

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Review: The Cold Millions by Jess Walter


Title: The Cold Millions

Author: Jess Walter

Published: 18th February 2021, Viking

Status: Read February 2021 courtesy PenguinRandomHouse Australia

++++++

My Thoughts:

“All people, except this rich cream, living and scraping and fighting and dying, and for what, nothing, the cold millions with no chance in this world.”

The Cold Millions is a sweeping historical novel set at the beginning of the labor union movement in Spokane, Washington, focusing on two brothers, Gregory and Ryan Dolan. At 21, Gig is a charming, surprisingly articulate young man, Rye, only 16, is his brother’s shadow. Orphaned, they have joined the mass of itinerant workers, tramps riding the freight trains in search of work where they can find it. While Rye’s one wish is simple – a job, a home, a family; Gig gets wrapped up in the energy and chaos of the Free Speech Riots as The Industrial Workers of the World, aka Wobblies, fight for change. When the brothers are arrested during a riot, their paths diverge. While Gig endures a brutal incarceration, Rye is quickly released and is determined to free his brother. Soon he too is bound up in the cause, and is courted by a man set on stopping it.

Told with acumen, compassion, wit, and a hint of nostalgia, this story is ambitious in scope. Walter explores a dramatic period of social change and its issues – wealth vs poverty, ownership vs labour, rights vs responsibilities, nationalists vs immigrants, arguments that have still not been resolved in the US a century later. Yet this is also a coming-of-age story, an intimate tale of brotherhood, love, friendship, loyalty and betrayal, and even a murder mystery.

While Rye is the story’s anchor, there is a large cast of characters. Walter draws real historical figures into the novel including Police Chief John T. Sullivan who was a strict enforcer of law, and a vigorous defender of Spokane against the Wobblies, and their activities; the ‘redoubtable, estimable, formidable’ Elizabeth Gurley Flynn a young activist and orator, and takes inspiration from others to create a distinct, colourful cast. Brief vignettes from the perspectives of people who cross paths with the brothers interrupt the linear narrative, but also enrich it.

I feel Walters has been influenced by several classic American novels, particularly those by John Steinbeck, and perhaps Mark Twain and others, with similarities found in themes and characters.

While I don’t feel the connection with the history in the way an American might, The Cold Millions is an entertaining, fascinating, and unexpectedly timely novel.

++++++

Available from Penguin Australia

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Review: The Paris Affair by Pip Drysdale

Title: The Paris Affair

Author: Pip Drysdale

Published: 3rd February 2021, Simon & Schuster

Status: Read February 2021 courtesy Simon & Schuster

++++++

My Thoughts:

“Well, it began like any anti-love story. With Chapitre Un.”

Having landed a dream job as an arts and culture journalist for The Paris Observer, Harper Brown is enjoying her new life in the City of Love, though love is last thing she’s interested in. Still nursing a broken heart after the demise of an eight year relationship, Harper doesn’t want normal – she just wants to impress her new boss, work her way onto the features desk, and has just one rule- do no harm.

It’s rare that I’m surprised by the direction a story takes, but Drysdale managed to do so in The Paris Affair. The first quarter or so of the novel reads more like a romcom, so I wasn’t really expecting the twists in this tale that sees Harper caught up in an art world scandal, and become the target of a serial killer. While not a strong thriller, there are certainly moments of tension, and the pace is persuasive.

Harper Brown is a very appealing protagonist. Though not without her flaws, with her generally pragmatic and confident attitude, she stands out from the more typical insecure, capricious, aged 20-something protagonist in contemporary fiction. Though her cynicism about love is a little intense, it’s also understandable, and her obsession with true crime podcasts is a fun trait.

The Parisian setting will likely charm readers (personally I don’t care much for the place), as will the chapters headed in French, though Drysdale does provide a glimpse of the city’s shadows. The story is firmly grounded in the here and now as Harper scrolls through Instagram, browses though Tinder, texts with friends, and makes her way around the city via Uber.

I found The Paris Affair to be a quick, entertaining and satisfying read.

++++++

Available from Simon & Schuster Australia

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