Book Review – The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

Joan Didion’s poignant memoir, The Year of Magical Thinking, is an account of her experience dealing with grief during the first year following the sudden death of her husband, the writer John Gregory Dunne. John and Joan had been married nearly 40 years when he suffered a fatal heart attack one evening in their New York apartment. To make a tragic event more complicated, the couple had just returned home from a visit to the hospital where their only daughter was comatose after a struggle with pneumonia. Thus, the surreal experience of dealing with bereavement was compounded for Didion by worries about her daughter’s health, and the necessity of informing her of John’s passing when she eventually regained consciousness.

Read Megan’s latest book review here …

Book Review – The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford

” … this is not just a story about childhood. It’s about what happens to those relationships and that family nonsense when everyone starts growing up, moving in different directions, and having families of their own.”

Megan Koch revisits one of her favourite books about changing relationships and vital friendships.

These Precious Days – by Ann Patchett

These Precious Days is a collection of personal essays by Ann Patchett, the prize-winning author of several wonderful novels (Bel Canto and Commonwealth stand out as particular favourites) and the gorgeous memoir Truth and Beauty. She writes with such elegance and sensitivity, that no matter what topic she chooses to explore, I have complete trust in her ability to craft an interesting story about it. Her work is reliably enjoyable.
Read Megan Koch’s review of this beautiful book by Ann Patchett.

The Midnight Library by Matthew Haig

At the age of 35, Nora feels she is a complete failure. In her younger days she showed great promise, but she has allowed fear, anxiety, poor decisions, and the unrealistic expectations of others to squash her true potential. As a result, she has achieved little of real significance in terms of a career or personal relationships. When her cat dies and she loses her job, it is the last straw. Overcome by regrets and …

A friend like henry by Nuala Gardner – Book review

A true story of an autistic boy and the dog that unlocked his world. This book became a personal journey of reassurance and encouragement as I read through this empowering story.
Every parent waits with anticipation for the birth of their child and especially their first born. But what awaited Nuala and Jamie Gardner was ‘an unknown and harrowing journey’ for them and their cherished son Dale. ‘Every waking minute with him was a maelstrom of conflict as they plunged from one violent tantrum to the next.’
Read Heather Pfieffer’s review of this book filled with inspiration and hope.

The Color* of Water – by James McBride – Book Review

This is the story of “Ruth”, the name she called herself, being born Ruchel Dwajra Zylska, an Orthodox Jew. She always thought she was different and lived this out all her life. Her family lived in a mixed-race community and owned a general store where Ruth worked. She was closely watched by her parents and to get some “away” time, she and her sister would sneak out at night and meet boys. When she discovered …

Marking Time – A Chronicle of Cancer by Valerie Volk– Book Review

Everybody is touched by cancer – be it family, friends, or acquaintances. Marking Time is a wonderful collection of verse that describes the first diagnosis through the stages to the hoped-for remission. Most beautifully written, it is deeply moving in sadness, patience, loneliness, and hope. The ‘Book Club in the Mallee’ has had some of its members read and then pick the poem that spoke to them the most. The following are some of their …

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson – Book Review

Ernest Pettigrew is a retired, widowed army Major living in the small rural English village of Edgecombe St Mary. He leads a quiet, respectable, and predictable life with a small circle of friends and a slightly distant relationship with his only son, Roger, who is upwardly mobile and ever on the lookout for ways of advancing himself. A chance meeting with the village shopkeeper, Mrs Jasmina Ali, just moments after hearing of his younger brother …

GIRT: The Unauthorised History of Australia by David Hunt

Do you like a laugh? Then read Girt. Our National Anthem tells us that Australia is “girt by sea” but did you know that girt is an old-fashioned word for “encircled”? Hunt explains this with humorous overtones. Did history classes at school bore you because you had to learn about the Tudors and the Stuarts rather than about Australia? Then read Girt and learn about Macarthur, a couple of Wentworths, Flinders and others. Hunt informs …

People of the Book – by Geraldine Brooks

 “ . . . it’s amazing what you can learn about a book by studying the chemistry of a breadcrumb.” This statement in the opening chapter of this book sets the scene for the story. There are two streams of narrative – present-day from 1996 to 2002 – and historical components reaching back to from 1944 to 1480. Both streams are meticulously researched and intriguing. Australian book conservator, Hanna Heath, receives a commission from Sarajevo …

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles – Book Review

It is 1922 in post-revolutionary Russia as a Bolshevik tribunal finds an unrepentant Count Alexander Rostov guilty of treasonous writing and corruption. He is sentenced to indefinite house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel in Moscow near the Kremlin. Despite his cramped living conditions in a tiny attic room, he remains in good spirits and eventually finds fulfilling and creative ways to fill his time. Although the hotel, at first, seems an oasis at …

The book 'All the Light We Cannot See" is pictured on timber table top.

All the Light We Cannot See – Book Review

Perhaps the biggest challenge for any author is to bring their story to full life, making the characters real and the scenes tangible. Most books do a decent job of this, expressing their story in a way that allows readers to sufficiently understand the story. Anthony Doerr, however, brings this to a new level as All the Light We Cannot See develops a surreal sense of empathy within you as the reader. All the Light …