THERE ARE A LOT OF STRONG WOMEN AND MEN IN THIS MONTH’S SELECTION. BE INSPIRED.
KOH-I-NOOR William Dalrymple and Anita Anand, Bloomsbury, $24.99
The 190-carat whopper reached Queen Victoria with a history of bloodbaths and intolerable luxury alongside utter submission. Indians, then Persians, Afghans and Sikhs owned the stone. It wasn’t even sparkly. Dutch cutters assured QV that they could make it glitter without weight loss. They lied. When she got it back it was a mere 93 carats. But, boy oh boy, it glittered. For derring-do this yarn is hard to beat.
NOT JUST LUCKY Jamila Rizvi, Penguin, $35
When this book arrived I’d just been watching an interview with Ursula Burns, the first African American female CEO to head a Fortune 500 company. She’d joined Xerox with a good engineering degree but hadn’t expected to be spotted and placed in the fast lane. “What’s your secret?” asked the interviewer. Did she say “brains”, “leadership” or “vision”? No. She said, “I was lucky”. Rizvi, presenter and commentator, is a regular on Australia’s ‘Most Influential’ lists. Her most rousing chapter is about “managing up like a boss”. Hustle, she says.
DIAMOND SKY Annie Seaton, Macmillan, $29.99
In Seaton’s thriller Dru Porter’s job is to monitor everything which impacts the site of the Matsu diamond mine in the Kimberley. When the mine closes down it will be her job to restore it to its former state. Little does she know that she’s the suspect in an investigation into stolen uncut gems. Fleeting memories of her lurid adventures in Dubai tease the reader. Ultimately, the need to feel safe trumps material considerations.
JANE AND ME: MY AUSTEN HERITAGE Caroline Jane Knight, The Greyfriar Group, $32.95
Knight adds something unique to the seemingly inexhaustible Austen brand. She’s a descendant and lived in Austen’s brother’s manor, Chawton House, until she was 16. Then it was sold and Knight felt usurped, adrift in London. She came to Australia, glad to be far away from intrusive nostalgia, and started a literacy foundation to help the least educated. Eventually her destiny caught up with her. Janeites long to hear her memories. The Austen brand shows no sign of diminishing.
DONALD HORNE: SELECTED WRITINGS Edited by Nick Horne, La Trobe, $32.99
The problem for intellectuals in Australia is usually poverty. When Horne took up his first academic appointment in 1973 he was “paid less than half his income at The Bulletin” but it enabled him to do more research and to travel. Horne’s 1964 book The Lucky Country characterised us as ‘strongly inimical to ideas’; he deduced that cleverness was considered unaustralian. These accusations were appreciated by the unblushing targets. His son Nick has compiled a collection of extracts spanning economics, history, politics and sociology.
THE WOMAN IN THE WOOD Lesley Pearse, Penguin, $32.99
Pearse’s perceptive novel opens in 1960. Twins Maisy and Duncan, 15, see their mother dragged off in a van. Their chilly father dispatches them to live with his even chillier mother. She hires a tutor. His kindness and the beauties of the New Forest seem like paradise after what the awkward pair suffered at home in London. They spy on a lone woman living in the woods. She’s angry at first but becomes their ally when Duncan disappears and horrors gradually come to light.
THE VANISHING AMERICAN ADULT Ben Sasse, St Martin’s Press, $36.99
What happens, sociologically, in the US usually finds its way here. Senator Sasse from Nebraska has two young daughters. When asked to recommend books for their peers they’d prove their intellectual maturity by producing impressive lists. Then the family went on holiday and the air-conditioning broke down. The girls could not adapt, or make the best of things. Sasse decided to look into this behaviour. His discoveries led to this book which outlines a wider problem — creeping passivity — there’s a cohort out there that will never accept the responsibilities of adulthood. Sasse has evidence. And solutions.