A FAIRYTALE ROMANCE, A RIPPING WWII YARN, A COMIC’S FICTION FORAY, AND A JOHN GREEN SPECIAL
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.
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.
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.
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).
VERDICT: Pulls the heartstrings