BOOK CLUB

ABORTION RIGHTS DRAMA / WORDSMITH’S DILEMMA / FALL OF A MAR­ITIME HERO / WHAT MAKES CRICKET LE­GEND TICK

The Queensland Times - - WEEKEND -

A SPARK OF LIGHT Jodi Pi­coult ALLEN & UN­WIN, $33

Pi­coult steps into the mine­field of the US abortion rights de­bate with an an­gry father open­ing fire in a re­pro­duc­tive health clinic. A hostage cri­sis en­snares a doc­tor, nurses and ad­min staff, along with a woman there to ter­mi­nate a preg­nancy, an older woman at­tend­ing a check-up, an anti-abortion pro­tester pre­tend­ing to be preg­nant and school­girl Wren seek­ing con­tra­cep­tion. The sce­nario be­comes more com­plex when Wren’s father is called in as the hostage ne­go­tia­tor. Pi­coult starts with the drama of the siege and works back­wards to build insight into the char­ac­ters locked in the clinic. Her at­ten­tion to de­tail in pro­vid­ing med­i­cal facts of preg­nancy and abortion, US laws, the pro-life view­point and the emo­tion of the un­fold­ing events can’t help but spark de­bate on the rights of a preg­nant woman ver­sus those of an un­born child. And in typ­i­cal Pi­coult fash­ion, there’s a twist at the end.

CARINA BRUCE VERDICT: Emo­tional

THE GIRL ON THE PAGE John Pur­cell HARPERCOLLINS, $33

Osten­si­bly an in­side look at the pub­lish­ing in­dus­try, this novel is es­sen­tially a love let­ter to lit­er­a­ture. And doesn’t Pur­cell know his stuff. Amy is a crack­ing book ed­i­tor who is mak­ing a packet co-au­thor­ing air­port thrillers with au­thor Liam Smith. But the over­sexed and hard-drink­ing word wiz is given her most chal­leng­ing task — to help lit­er­ary le­gend He­len Owen de­liver a promised piece of com­mer­cial fic­tion. He­len’s been given a hefty fee for the book, but her old ed­i­tor has left the pub­lish­ing house, their copy of the man­u­script has dis­ap­peared and the au­thor is wa­ver­ing. He­len thinks she’s sold out, hav­ing lived hand to mouth her whole life writ­ing wor­thy fic­tion. Her hus­band, who’s been short-listed for the Booker Prize, is ques­tion­ing her in­tegrity. Amy, used to turn­ing over best­sellers, faces a co­nun­drum when she dis­cov­ers He­len has writ­ten three ver­sions of the book. One of them could be her great­est work ever.

SHELLEY HADFIELD

VERDICT: A turn up for the books

DARK WA­TER El­iz­a­beth Lowry PENGUIN, $33

Ship’s doc­tor Hi­ram Carver is naive and in­ex­pe­ri­enced when he takes his first post aboard the USS Or­bis in 1833. The pres­ence of Wil­liam Bor­den — a hero who saved his pre­vi­ous cap­tain and ship­mates af­ter a mutiny — calms Carver’s nerves and he de­vel­ops some­thing of an ob­ses­sion. So Carver is shocked when Bor­den loses his mind af­ter a fel­low sailor is flogged for in­sub­or­di­na­tion. Some years later, Carver is start­ing work in a Bos­ton asy­lum prac­tis­ing the then fledg­ling pro­fes­sion of psy­chi­a­try. The sub­ject of his old ob­ses­sion is de­liv­ered to the asy­lum by his des­per­ate fi­ancee, as Bor­den had failed to re­cover his senses af­ter his break­down on the

Or­bis and it is hoped Dr Carver might be able to cure him. Trips to freez­ing Nan­tucket, the echo­ing halls of the fore­bod­ing asy­lum and de­scrip­tions of ship life are enough to make

Dark Wa­ter’s pon­der­ous early sec­tion for­giv­able. A hard edit could have im­proved this novel, but its con­clu­sion packs a solid punch.

CLAIRE SUTHERLAND VERDICT: Gothic

BILL LAWRY: CHASING A CEN­TURY Var­i­ous Con­trib­u­tors HARDIE GRANT, $45

Bill Lawry’s cricket jour­ney has been long, di­verse and event­ful — a teenage prodigy, suc­cess­ful Test open­ing bats­man, oc­ca­sion­ally con­tro­ver­sial cap­tain, le­gend at club and state level and hugely pop­u­lar com­men­ta­tor. Now 81, with the TV rights chang­ing hands, he has drawn stumps — so it’s time to rem­i­nisce. The great man him­self hasn’t taken on this task, rather former team­mates in­clud­ing Keith Stack­pole, Neil Har­vey, Ian Red­path and Greg Chap­pell along with other friends and ob­servers dis­cuss what made Lawry tick. It adds up to an un­abashed ha­giog­ra­phy — scarcely a neg­a­tive note — and, to quib­ble, it is not im­proved by reg­u­lar rep­e­ti­tion, the lack of a stats sec­tion or the pho­to­graphs with no di­rect con­nec­tion to the sub­ject. That said, a feel-good trib­ute is en­tirely ap­pro­pri­ate and will be well re­ceived by those who re­mem­ber him in ac­tion and those too young to ap­pre­ci­ate how good Lawry was.

RON REED

VERDICT: Big in­nings

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