Books

Country Style - - CONTENTS - RE­VIEWS ANNABEL LAW­SON

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.

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