Crime, satire, mystery, and historical novels to tick off your must-read list all feature in this month’s fabulous selection.
ALL DAY AT THE MOVIES by Fiona Kidman, Penguin.
For more than half a century, Dame Fiona Kidman has been one of New Zealand’s most outstanding writers, and with her latest novel, All Day at the Movies, she delivers more of her exquisite prose and smooth, absorbing storytelling. The journey of Irene Sandle and her four children begins in the closed-minded, post-war tobacco fields of Motueka and, over 55 years, wends through much of New Zealand and its social and cultural history – from unwed mothers and adoption, to domestic violence, interracial relationships and the protests of the 1981 Springbok tour – and the effects it all has on this splintered family. Each chapter is a distinct episode that reveals a little more of the complex, yet completely relatable, lives of Irene’s offspring. Another enriching read from the grande dame of New Zealand modern-day literature. SM
THE SELLOUT by Paul Beatty, Allen & Unwin.
This Booker Prize winning novel is a scabrous, comic assault on US race relations, designed to leave you gasping – for air, because it’s wickedly funny, and in admiration because Beatty says the unsayable things about how it feels to be a young black man in America. His chief character, Me, is locked in a court battle to save his neighbourhood, written off the LA maps, by reinstating slavery and segregating the high school. Yet the satirical plot matters less than Me’s rap-style commentary, taking aim at every assumption shared by black, white and brown Americans. A challenge, a circus and a brilliant shake-down of a book. JB
THE GOLDEN CHILD by Wendy James, HarperCollins.
It takes 48 hours to pulse through Wendy James’ rollercoaster 21stcentury story about parenting, which begins with navigating the trick-or-treating dilemma – to accompany or not? – but climaxes with the question, what age is my child legally responsible for criminal actions? Australians Dan and Beth are relocating home from New Jersey with their daughters, sweet Lucy and controlling Charlie, who’s implicated as ringleader in a poisonous initiation rite at her US school. After a new start at Hunter Ladies College, NSW, Charlie, in order to win favour with the it-girls, tricks shy friend Sophie into posing naked in selfies, which end up on the web. When Sophie’s mother finds her overdosed daughter, we are faced with a child monster, serial bully and even killer, if Sophie does not survive. A chilling novel of our time, with a truly shocking twist. KE
EGGS OR ANARCHY by William Sitwell, Simon & Schuster.
Winston Churchill wasn’t the only one with a rather demanding wartime job. Fred Marquis, later Lord Woolton, had to feed 41 million people against overwhelming odds. At the outbreak of World War II, less than a third of the food on British tables was produced at home. With English ships under siege around the world, black marketeers waiting to pounce on any vulnerabilities, and a rigid government bureaucracy to deal with, Woolton was fighting his own war. There’s a delicious story about Woolton dealing with a recalcitrant Egyptian sugar supplier, and the periodic appearances of Churchill, grumpily bemoaning rationing, are a treat. LM