Summer has been particularly tough here in Australia with devastating bush fires burning throughout most of our wonderful country, our skies are filled with smoke and our hearts are heavy.
It’s now mid January, a time when so many are heading back to work to begin the new year, for a few of us we are still dragging out the last of the holidays and are trying not to think of our inboxes or growing to do lists…so this blog is for those those that are either still away from the office, or have a chance in the evening to pick a book up and pretend you are poolside once more.
Whisper Network by Chandler Baker
Sloane, Ardie, Grace, and Rosalita have worked at Truviv, Inc. for years. The sudden death of Truviv’s CEO means their boss, Ames, will likely take over the entire company. Each of the women has a different relationship with Ames, who has always been surrounded by whispers about how he treats women. Those whispers have been ignored, swept under the rug, hidden away by those in charge. But the world has changed, and the women are watching this promotion differently. This time, when they find out Ames is making an inappropriate move on a colleague, they aren’t willing to let it go. This time, they’ve decided enough is enough. Sloane and her colleagues’ decision to take a stand sets in motion a catastrophic shift in the office. Lies will be uncovered. Secrets will be exposed. And not everyone will survive. Explosive, timely, resonant and relatable (I’ve just finished it): if you love Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies or Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere, you will love Whisper Network.
A Half Baked Idea by Olivia Potts
When my mother died, I was cooking. I was not a cook. I did not cook. I ate high-street-chain sandwiches, supermarket filled pasta, and more takeaway kebabs than I was comfortable admitting. My rare, haphazard forays into the kitchen led to fallen cakes, burnt biscuits, and stringy stews. But I had also recently started dating a man, a man who was very keen on cooking, and whom I was keen to impress. One weekend, he suggested we cook together for friends. And I thought, Oh god, that sounds like a terrible idea. But I said, “Sounds great.” And so I found myself standing in a kitchen that was not my own, baking a cake alongside a man I didn’t know. Meanwhile, 275 miles away, my mother was dying.
At the moment her mother died, Olivia Potts was baking a cake. She was trying to impress a man, a cooking enthusiast who would later become her husband. Grief-stricken by the news, Olivia took to the kitchen. She came home from her job as a criminal barrister miserable and tired, and baked soda bread, pizza, and chocolate banana cake (mostly unsuccessfully). It brought her comfort, and so she concocted a plan- she would begin a newer, happier life, filled with fewer magistrates and more macaroons. She left the bar for Le Cordon Bleu, plunging headfirst into the eccentric world of patisserie. Interspersed with recipes ranging from passionfruit pavlova to her mother’s shepherd’s pie, this is a heart-breaking, hilarious, life-affirming memoir about dealing with grief, falling in love, and learning how to bake a really, really good cake.
The Weekend by Charlotte Wood
I just finished this book after two friends recommended it to me. It’s really good. Raw, honest and slightly scary to see what may lie ahead, but good. People went on about death bringing friends together, but it wasn’t true. The graveyard, the stony dirt, that’s what it was like now. They knew each other better than their own siblings, but Sylvie’s death had opened up strange caverns of distance between them. Four older women with a lifelong friendship of the best kind: loving, practical, frank and steadfast. But when Sylvie dies, the ground shifts dangerously for the remaining three. Can they survive together without her? They are Jude, a once-famous restaurateur, Wendy, an acclaimed public intellectual, and Adele, a renowned actress now mostly out of work. Struggling to recall exactly why they’ve remained close all these years, the grieving women gather for Christmas at Sylvie’s old beach house, not for festivities, but to clean the place out before it is sold. Without Sylvie to maintain the group’s delicate equilibrium, frustrations build and painful memories press in. Fraying tempers, an elderly dog, unwelcome guests and too much wine collide in a storm that brings long-buried hurts to the surface and threatens to sweep away their friendship for good. The Weekend explores growing old and growing up, and what happens when we’re forced to uncover the lies we tell ourselves. Sharply observed and excruciatingly funny, this is a jewel of a book, a celebration of tenderness and friendship that is nothing short of a masterpiece.
Grand Union Stories by Zadie Smith
The Grand Union is a dazzling collection of short fiction by Zadie Smith who has established herself as one of the most iconic, critically respected, and popular writers of her generation. In her first short story collection, she combines her power of observation and her inimitable voice to mine the fraught and complex experience of life in the modern world. Interleaving eleven completely new and unpublished stories with some of her best-loved pieces from The New Yorker and elsewhere, Smith presents a dizzyingly rich and varied collection of fiction. Moving exhilaratingly across genres and perspectives, from the historic to the vividly current to the slyly dystopian, Grand Union is a sharply alert and prescient collection about time and place, identity and rebirth, the persistent legacies that haunt our present selves and the uncanny futures that rush up to meet us. Nothing is off limits, and everything, when captured by Smith’s brilliant gaze, feels fresh and relevant. Perfectly paced and utterly original, Grand Union highlights the wonders Zadie Smith can do.
Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie
This is a suspenseful and heartbreaking story of an immigrant family driven to pit love against loyalty, with devastating consequences. Isma is free. After years of watching out for her younger siblings in the wake of their mother’s death, she’s accepted an invitation from a mentor in America that allows her to resume a dream long deferred. But she can’t stop worrying about Aneeka, her beautiful, headstrong sister back in London, or their brother, Parvaiz, who’s disappeared in pursuit of his own dream, to prove himself to the dark legacy of the jihadist father he never knew. When he resurfaces half a globe away, Isma’s worst fears are confirmed.
Then Eamonn enters the sisters’ lives. Son of a powerful political figure, he has his own birthright to live up to, or defy. Is he to be a chance at love? The means of Parvaiz’s salvation? Suddenly, two families’ fates are inextricably, devastatingly entwined, in this searing novel that asks: What sacrifices will we make in the name of love?
Going Under by Sonia Henry
Dr Katarina ‘Kitty’ Holliday thought that once she finished medical school and found gainful employment at one of Sydney’s best teaching hospitals that her dream was just beginning. The hard years, she thought, were finally over. But Kitty is in for a rude shock. Between trying to survive on the ward, in the operating theatre and in the emergency department without killing any of her patients or going under herself, Kitty finds herself facing situations that rock her very understanding of the vocation to which she intends to devote her life. Going Under is a rare insight into the world of a trainee female medic that takes an unflinching look at the reality of being a doctor. It explores the big themes; life, death, power and love through the eyes of Dr Holliday as she loses her identity and nearly her mind in the pressure-cooker world of the hospital. But it is also there that Kitty might find her own redemption and finally know herself for the first time. Darkly funny, sexy, moving and shocking, Going Under will grip you from the opening page and never let you go.