She be Damned by M.J. Tjia
An aristocratic, Victorian, female sleuth? Or someone with something to hide, resented by those in the upper echelons of society? Or someone openly displaying a way of life that is, well, not quite up to the – perhaps hypocritical – standards of the suppressive, gentrified class to which she aspires?
For us all, the different halves of our life, past and present, work and home are normally separate. Sometimes, however, they interfere with other and even overlap, as is the situation with Heloise Chancey in She be Damned, for her former existence amongst the less savoury slums of Victorian London becomes the subject of an investigation.
The Teacher’s Secret by Susanne Leal
We all know what evil in schools looks like, right? There’s huge amounts of coverage in the press. So the tag for this is ‘Acclaimed Aussie novel exploring good & evil in schools’. Right. We know what it’s about; we’re led there.
Except that’s not quite true. It’s probably better to say that Secret ‘explores life, petty bureaucracy and its associated nastiness in an around a fired, male teacher at a school in a small community’. It’s a mix of a number of stories put together, each a tale of an individual in a small town and the link between them all being the school – whether their children attend, whether they’re a teacher/janitor or whether they’re linked to it in some way.
Blame by Paul Read
The sudden death of his father forces a reformed addict to come to terms with long-held resentment.
It’s worth mentioning that the subject matter is not one that holds my attention – in some ways, perhaps, it’s too close to the bone, and perhaps the flood of misery memoirs in recent years has deadened the market for otherwise well-written books like Blame. Yet the subject matter is important and an integreal part of life: a brilliant research chemist makes his own drugs (Breaking Bad), reforms and builds a life away from family (Street Cat) whilst dealing with a problematic mother and father (Curious Incident). And there’s a childhood diary, a possible love triangle, misundertanding of betrayal…
The Magician’s Lie by Greer Macallister
[This is the UK release of an award winning and soon-to-be-filmed US best-seller.]
When does an illusion become more than an illusion? When does a story, our personal history, become more than a story we tell ourselves and become the truth that defines who we are? Is it, perhaps, only the unlikely nature of the tale that makes the onlooker think that they are being told a lie?
But what if it is all true, or mostly true bar one, little lie…
Song of the Stork by Stephan Collishaw
War is not a grand narrative, but the accumulation of grief on individuals and, here, a specific individual. I was unsure of its exact location, though there is a renowned Selo in Poland and numerous villages of Selo in Russia. Frankly, the exact location of the village doesn’t matter as the The Song of the Stork by Stephan Collishaw follows the life of a Jewish teenage girl during WWII, firstly after the Nazis come through and kill her friends and family, and then as she tries to survive the constant threat.
And the soul-crushing impact of the atrocities of war on an ordinary individual is what The Song portrays.
Dare to Remember by Susanna Beard
It’s rare that you pick up a book and find it resonates with your own experience, especially experience that is intensely personal. Just like the protagonist here, I once had an accident in which I very nearly died. Like her, my memory of the event has gone and I have no recollection of what happened: it’s a blank. I’ve also been closely involved with death and bereavement. Understandably, then, I was curious to see how other writers treat such an emotive combination. My experience has frequently resulted in disappointment as both are often treated too lightly or with little real insight.