BOOK CLUB

SMALL-TOWN SE­CRETS, BARNESY’S RE­DEMP­TION, JUMP­ING THE GEN­DER DI­VIDE, AND IN DEEP ON ALI

Townsville Bulletin - Townsville Eye - - Read -

LIT­TLE SE­CRETS Anna Snoek­stra HARLEQUIN HQ, $30

Any­one who grew up in an Aussie coun­try town and dreamt of get­ting out — at any cost — will have some sym­pa­thies for Rose Blakey. She’s work­ing at the lo­cal pub in tiny Colm­stock with her best friend Mia, in de­spair be­cause her lat­est ap­pli­ca­tion for a news­pa­per cadet­ship has been re­jected again. She has to find a story to make them fi­nally pay at­ten­tion. And then she no­tices some­thing un­usual: her lit­tle sis­ter play­ing with a doll that looks un­can­nily like her. She dis­cov­ers there are more around town, each look­ing eerily like its new young owner. Rose senses the begin­nings of a story the news­pa­per might be in­ter­ested in. She gives those creepy dolls a dark and dan­ger­ous un­der­cur­rent, and the pa­per loves it. But as she pur­sues a fol­low-up, the stakes seem to be get­ting higher. There’s a mys­te­ri­ous new man in town, and her per­sonal safety seems to be un­der threat. Mel­bourne au­thor Anna Snoek­stra is mak­ing a name for her­self in the lo­cal thriller/mys­tery mar­ket and Rose is a com­pellingly like­able but flawed hero­ine. A bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of how jour­nal­ism works would have helped.

CORINNA HENTE

VERDICT: Se­crets have power

WORK­ING CLASS MAN Jimmy Barnes HARPER COLLINS AUS­TRALIA, RRP $50

This is the rau­cous, high-deci­bel se­quel to Cold Chisel front­man Jimmy Barnes’ har­row­ing book on his child­hood, the best-sell­ing Work­ing Class Boy. Barnes be­gins with the for­ma­tion of that iconic band in 1974 and the mem­oir bar­rels through years of booze, drugs, groupies and, ul­ti­mately, huge com­mer­cial suc­cess. It’s a fas­ci­nat­ing in­sider’s view of the Aus­tralian mu­sic in­dus­try and the highs and lows of fame. How­ever, be­neath it all hov­ers Barnes’ peren­nial per­sonal in­se­cu­ri­ties, doc­u­mented so can­didly in Work­ing Class Boy. He con­stantly flirts with self-de­struc­tion and death, and it’s fas­ci­nat­ing how, at his low­est ebb, he man­ages to mar­shal enor­mous re­serves of en­ergy to en­sure his sur­vival, yet again. This is not just a tale of doom and gloom. It has pas­sages that are up­roar­i­ously funny. But in the end, Work­ing Class Man is a torch song to the heal­ing power of mate­ship, love and fam­ily.

MATTHEW CON­DON

VERDICT: A roller­coaster ride

MAN­HAT­TAN BEACH Jen­nifer Egan HA­CHETTE, RRP $33

This his­tor­i­cal novel could not be fur­ther from Jen­nifer Egan’s quirky Pulitzer Prize-win­ning A Visit From the Goon Squad. Man­hat­tan Beach opens dur­ing the Great De­pres­sion, with pre­teen Anna vis­it­ing gang­ster Dex­ter Styles with her bag­man fa­ther. It is a visit that will change the course of Anna’s life. Sev­eral years later, her dad dis­ap­pears, leav­ing Anna, her mother and dis­abled sis­ter Ly­dia to fend for them­selves. Anna goes to work in the Brook­lyn Naval Yard to do her bit for the US war ef­fort. But Anna is dif­fer­ent from the other girls. Qui­etly feisty, she be­gins to har­bour am­bi­tions to be­come a diver. As she butts up against the so­cial mores of the time, Anna grap­ples with the idea of what it takes to be a good girl. And she con­tin­ues to won­der what hap­pened to her fa­ther. Her search for an­swers sees her worlds col­lide. Man­hat­tan Beach does have its lulls, but Egan picks up the pace with a ster­ling fin­ish.

SHEL­LEY HAD­FIELD

VERDICT: Epic

ALI: A LIFE Jonathan Eig SI­MON & SCHUS­TER AUS­TRALIA, RRP $50

Muham­mad Ali’s life and times — the stu­pen­dous box­ing ca­reer and tur­bu­lent per­sonal jour­ney — have been doc­u­mented sev­eral times but never as well as this all an­gles record from the day he was born un­til his death at 74 last year. Su­perbly writ­ten with fas­ci­nat­ing de­tail based on enor­mous re­search — 500 in­ter­views, se­cret FBI records plus re­veal­ing new method­ol­ogy in box­ing anal­y­sis — this is not only one of the best sports books but an in­sight­ful so­cial es­say about a deeply trou­bled era for hu­man rights in Amer­ica. For those of us who watched in awe as Ali be­came one of the 20th cen­tury’s defin­ing fig­ures, it is a bit­ter­sweet read. That’s be­cause the ir­re­sistible charisma and the phys­i­cal and cul­tural courage that made him so pop­u­lar were coun­ter­bal­anced by his fair share of char­ac­ter flaws, stripped bare here. Even his ring record is shown to be more flat­ter­ing than it should be.

RON REED

VERDICT: A knock­out

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