BOOK CLUB

A FAIRY­TALE ROMANCE, A RIP­PING WWII YARN, A COMIC’S FIC­TION FORAY, AND A JOHN GREEN SPE­CIAL

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FAIRY­TALE Danielle Steel PAN MACMILLAN, $29.99

It is per­haps ap­pro­pri­ate that pro­lific au­thor Danielle Steel has taken on a clas­sic fairy­tale in her lat­est novel, be­cause her char­ac­ters of­ten seem to live far from the real world. Putting her spin on Cin­derella, Steel has wo­ven the tale of Camille Lam­me­nais, whose idyl­lic life in the Napa Val­ley turns sour af­ter the death of her mother. Just six months af­ter the loss, Camille’s fa­ther is en­snared by a glam­orous French­woman with an agenda of her own. Camille is de­ter­mined to mark her own mark on the fam­ily vine­yards, but the in­tro­duc­tion of Count­ess de Pantin to her life changes ev­ery­thing. Com­plete with evil step­mother, a sprightly 82-year-old as the fairy god­mother, and a deca­dent set­ting filled with over the top par­ties and el­e­gant wine in­dus­try types, this is an es­capist beach read. It does tend to fit the Steel for­mula, but it works and pro­vides a lit­tle in­sight into a world far re­moved from the reader’s own. There’s plenty of charm in this fairy­tale.

VIC­TO­RIA NU­GENT

VER­DICT: Es­capist glam­our

BAR­NEY GREATREX Michael Veitch HACHETTE, $35

There may be only a few ded­i­cated World War II his­tory buffs who have heard of Bar­ney Greatrex. Un­til now. This is an ex­tra­or­di­nary story of a young Aus­tralian who, with a mix­ture of pro­found good luck and tim­ing, man­aged to be­come some­thing of a hero to the French Re­sis­tance. Greatrex was from Syd­ney, the el­dest of three chil­dren. By 1941, Greatrex had joined the RAF Bomber Com­mand. It was on his 20th mission that Greatrex’s crew came un­der at­tack from en­emy fight­ers and Greatrex reached for his para­chute. To say any more would spoil the rest of the tale, which ends, re­mark­ably, with Greatrex in one piece, and fly­ing back to Eng­land. Years later, his work with the Re­sis­tance led to the French govern­ment con­fer­ring on him the Le­gion of Honour. This is a stir­ring and pre­vi­ously un­told story about the trans­for­ma­tive ef­fect of luck and courage. It de­serves a wide au­di­ence.

NICK RICHARD­SON

VER­DICT: Thrilling

DEADLY KERFUFFLE Tony Martin PAN MACMILLAN, $30

It’s sub­ur­ban Aus­tralia in 2006 and the war on ter­ror has the me­dia in full flight, fu­elling the para­noia of the proudly white res­i­dents of fic­ti­tious Dun­lop Cres­cent. The ma­jor­ity of these Aussies get their undies in a twist with the ar­rival of what they be­lieve is a Mid­dle East­ern ter­ror­ist fam­ily. Re­tired wid­ower Gor­don is our main pro­tag­o­nist, a man happy at home in his peace­ful rou­tine and the oc­ca­sional beer with his mate, the scare­mon­ger­ing Herb Tur­gent. But a crazy chain of events en­gulfs Gor­don and quickly blows up into a gi­ant racial mess, not helped by his neigh­bours, some white su­prem­a­cists and a fright­fully para­noid ASIO which sees any­thing as a threat. Through sting­ing satire, Martin’s comedic smarts, and with in­spi­ra­tion from ac­tual news­pa­per let­ters to the edi­tor, this cast of sit­com-es­que char­ac­ters take you on a rol­lick­ing sub­ur­ban ad­ven­ture in a comic thriller where your laugh-o-me­ter will be con­stantly ping­ing.

PAUL HUNTER

VER­DICT: Laugh, I nearly burst

TUR­TLES ALL THE WAY DOWN John Green PEN­GUIN, $28

John Green has had a spe­cial place in many hearts since the pub­li­ca­tion of the phe­nom­e­nally suc­cess­ful The Fault in Our Stars. It looks like he’s done it again with Tur­tles All The Way Down, aimed at a younger au­di­ence. Aza, 16, has OCD and anx­i­ety, which make ev­ery­day events bru­tally dif­fi­cult. Luck­ily, her friend Daisy has been through ev­ery­thing with her. When Daisy hears of a $100,000 re­ward for in­for­ma­tion about a miss­ing bil­lion­aire — and dis­cov­ers Aza has a link to the bil­lion­aire’s son Davis — she’s keen to get in­volved. Aza dis­cov­ers her old con­nec­tion to Davis is still there, but that doesn’t stop the de­struc­tive thought spi­rals when she is anx­ious. She knows her ob­ses­sions put pres­sure on re­la­tion­ships. The char­ac­ters are as en­gag­ing as Green’s many fans will ex­pect, even though the miss­ing bil­lion­aire plot doesn’t make much sense (as with the au­thor plot in The Fault in Our Stars).

CORINNA HENTE

VER­DICT: Pulls the heart­strings

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