THE TRIVIA MAN
DEBORAH O’BRIEN, BANTAM, $32.99 Let me confess. I watch Eggheads and The Chase every weekday. But even if you’re not a UK television quizzer, you’ll embrace this tale of a team that wants to win a trip to the Hunter Valley. No medical terms are mentioned but we get that Kevin has Asperger’s syndrome. Maggie is a brilliant quiz contestant but her chosen lover is side-splittingly awful. Wound into the tale are some wry insights into how some NSW health practitioners deal with Asperger’s, and how our educators respond to an unusually clever child.
AUSTRALIAN FARMING FAMILIES
DEB HUNT, PAN MACMILLAN AUSTRALIA, $29.99 Deb Hunt admits she’s not well qualified to write about rural Australia. She was born in the UK and she’s a vegetarian. However, you can’t help liking her flustered adjustments as, one by one, farmers destroy her expectations. That cheese commercial with the sweet old man, so proud that his herd provides work for his sons — forget it. Virginia and Steve Chilcott must breed supersize cows in order to make a bare five cents a litre profit. Two-year-old Will Cobb’s collision with a machine pushed his forehead to the back of his head. Twelve agonising hours later he was in surgery where, miraculously, the damage was mended. Most quixotic of all is Cath Marriott’s story. One day her four young children told their widowed mother that she was ‘unsuitable’ and they were leaving home. Along came Penny, a neighbour’s daughter, and introduced the children to creative fantasies. The problem, whatever it was, subsided.
THE LADIES OF THE HOUSE
MOLLY MCGRANN, PICADOR, $29.99 The novel opens with the deaths of three residents in one of London’s most discreet boroughs. We wait for a detective to appear — the writing’s very good, so maybe Mcgrann will give us a new iconic solver of crimes, another Poirot? No. This is the tale of the rise of a pimp in post-war London’s West End. When the pimp’s unaware daughter decides to sell the 20 posh houses she inherits from him, she discovers a world within a world where there are unwritten rules. A unique perspective on a transformative era.
WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE (ESPECIALLY ME)
JOEL MEARES, BLACK INC, $27.99 Generation Y infuriates with its dismissal of maturity as some kind of disease. Thirty-ish Meares has a proper job. He’s the arts editor of The Sydney Morning Herald. His 10 essays rarely reach beyond introspection about his body, his intractably curly hair and bad reactions to stimulants. I loved it when he went to New York to live, judged it and moved back in with his mum in Sydney’s Matraville. He has found a mate now and settled down. Endearing.
THE SIMPLE ACT OF READING
DEBRA ADELAIDE, VINTAGE, $29.99 Twenty-one antipodean poets, novelists and academics tell what they first read in childhood and what followed. A fascinating collection of testimonies that inspire and beckon. Non-readers don’t know what they’re missing.
THE COUNTRY WIFE
ANNE GORMAN, BANTAM, $34.99 The death of two of Anne’s siblings was God’s punishment, so her mother believed, for an attempt at contraception. Eleven children survived. When Anne was five, her mother was sent to a psychiatric hospital. After the death of Anne’s father, her mother discharged herself and took over the family textile business. Anne married a farmer. Within six years they had five children. Her husband died a decade later. Like her mother, Anne became both parent and provider. She served as head of the Australian Government’s task force for the International Year of the Child. Her story is told with unblinking honesty. The message is: keep going, no matter what.
THE LOST SWIMMER
ANN TURNER, SIMON & SCHUSTER, $29.99 A professor of archaeology at a fictional Sydney university and her husband set off for Europe to quash an evil plot brewing back home. There’s some excellent armchair travel and the emotional turmoil is very well done.
A bumper crop this month. Curl up by the fire and give these treasures the time they deserve.