BOOKS.

THIS WEEK WE LOOK AT GRITTY MEL­BOURNE CRIME, A DYSTOPIAN NEAR FU­TURE, A VIET­NAM VET’S PRI­VATE HELL AND AN AP­PRAISAL OF AN ICONIC AUS­TRALIAN

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Gold Coast Eye - - CONTENTS -

TOO EASY J.M. Green SCRIBE, $30

The world of fic­tion is awash with fe­male de­tec­tives. If you pe­ruse the shelves of any Gold Coast book­store, you would assume half the women in the world are pri­vate de­tec­tives. The nov­els of J.M. Green are some­thing else, how­ever. Her hero­ine Stella Hardy is not a de­tec­tive, but a so­cial worker, given the grim and grimy task of sort­ing through the drug-ad­dled western sub­urbs of Mel­bourne, hop­ing to do good in her own small way. She gets dragged into the world of crime through her po­lice con­nec­tions. And she strug­gles with her per­sonal re­la­tion­ships. Green’s hero­ine is sharp and sassy and as hard-boiled as a 10-minute egg. In this lat­est novel, Stella gets mixed up with a bikie gang and some street kids. She has a dippy artist boyfriend who em­ploys a sexy nude model, her boss is hav­ing a cri­sis and a mys­te­ri­ous fake so­cial worker en­ters the scene. There is more than enough in­trigue to keep the pages turn­ing and enough classy di­a­logue to raise a wry smile. Don’t ex­pect up­lift­ing and joy­ful. Ex­pect some­thing as dark as Footscray in a mid­night black­out. BAZ BLAKENEY VER­DICT: Bleak but chic

ANNA Nic­colo Am­man­iti TEXT, $30

It is 2020 and the world has been dev­as­tated by a virus that kills adults, leav­ing only chil­dren not yet through pu­berty. In the Si­cil­ian coun­try­side, Anna looks after her brother, As­tor. Be­hind the locked bed­room door, the beau­ti­fully dec­o­rated re­mains of her mother lie on a bed. She wrote a de­tailed note­book be­fore she died, giv­ing in­struc­tions to help her chil­dren sur­vive, and to give them hope. But life is get­ting harder. As Anna scours the re­gion on sup­ply raids, she faces wild dogs and other dan­gers. One day, when she re­turns from a suc­cess­ful trip, As­tor is gone. Anna goes in search, find­ing a friend and many foes as she bat­tles to get her brother back into her care. A dystopian fu­ture that fea­tures a sav­age world of chil­dren isn’t new, nor is a killer virus, but Am­man­iti is a fluid and pow­er­ful writer who drags you along for the ride. The Ital­ian is best known for the in­ter­na­tional hit I’m Not Scared. CORINNA HENTE VER­DICT: Dystopian page-turner

THE REA­SON YOU’RE ALIVE Matthew Quick PICADOR, $30

This is a ter­ri­ble ti­tle, but not a bad book (from the au­thor of The Sil­ver Lin­ings Play­book) – and it has movie writ­ten all over it. For the first 50 pages, the racist, big­oted stream of con­scious­ness is jar­ring. But by page 50, I was be­gin­ning to quite like David Granger and, on oc­ca­sion, laugh out loud. An el­derly Viet­nam vet, he’s had brain surgery to re­move a tu­mour he be­lieves is the re­sult of ex­po­sure to Agent Orange dur­ing his tour of duty. He’s a tough bug­ger. For years he’s been in de­nial about the cru­elty and hurt he caused in the name of the US Army. But the chal­lenge of brain surgery leads him to con­front his big­gest de­mons – the way he treated a fel­low sol­dier he calls Clayton Fire Bear and his flawed mar­riage. The story tack­les some of the chal­lenges faced by vets when they re­turned from Viet­nam, in­clud­ing their men­tal health, and han­dling the lack of pub­lic hon­our that warmed sol­diers from pre­vi­ous wars. SU­SAN McNAIR VER­DICT: Jar­ringly good

THE ENIG­MATIC MR DEAKIN Ju­dith Brett TEXT, $50

Al­fred Deakin is one of the na­tion’s most im­por­tant his­tor­i­cal fig­ures but for two gen­er­a­tions he has largely slipped from view. Brett’s in­ci­sive and com­pas­sion­ate bi­og­ra­phy re­stores Deakin to the promi­nence he de­serves as a cen­tral fig­ure in Fed­er­a­tion. Aus­tralia’s sec­ond prime min­is­ter cut his po­lit­i­cal teeth in Vic­to­rian pol­i­tics, worked as a jour­nal­ist and was im­mersed, at var­i­ous stages, in spir­i­tu­al­ism. Brett bal­ances the per­sonal el­e­ments of Deakin’s life – the strength pro­vided by fam­ily, early ten­sions with his in-laws and ir­rec­on­cil­able dif­fer­ences be­tween sis­ter Cather­ine and wife Pat­tie – with his pub­lic per­son­al­ity. Deakin was ex­traor­di­nar­ily well-read, in­tel­li­gent and a gifted or­a­tor, but also bat­tled doubts, moral dilem­mas and suf­fered a lack of in­sight in key re­la­tion­ships. Brett re­veals the con­tra­dic­tion be­tween Deakin’s dis­taste for the horse­trad­ing and al­liances of pol­i­tics, and the over­rid­ing sense he could not turn his back on it. NICK RICHARD­SON VER­DICT: Out­stand­ing

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