IF YOU’RE HANKERING FOR A HOMEGROWN ROMANCE, YOU’LL LOVE AUSSIE AUTHORS VANESSA MCCAUSLAND AND ALEXANDRA JOEL
THE YEAR WE FELL FROM SPACE
Amy Sarig King TEXT, $17
When Liberty Johansen looks at the night sky, it’s a new world every night — what will she see in the patterns of the stars and the planets this time? Her maps find new inspiration every time. But then her mum and dad separate. Astronomy was something she shared with her dad, and suddenly he is no longer there. As her world falls apart, so does her ability to make sense of the night sky. Now she never sees her dad, her mum is sad, her little sister is scared, and the kids at school are being mean. Liberty has to find a way past her anger and her dream that her parents could get back together again. But she also has a big secret she does not want to tell. Amy Sarig King shows skill and empathy in tackling the difficult and emotionally fraught journey kids can face through their parents’ divorce. She manages to create an accessible and engaging story about serious mental health issues in young teens, which is no easy feat.
VERDICT: Shining bright
THE LOST SUMMERS OF DRIFTWOOD
Vanessa McCausland HARPERCOLLINS, $30
Don’t sell this Aussie romance short by judging it by its flowery cover. Memories of childhood summers and first love in a fictional riverside NSW town, combined with family tragedy and uncertainty, set up a read with much more substance. The book follows Phoebe who has escaped to the city, chasing a fulfilling career, marriage and the approval of her imageconscious mother and sister Camilla. But the pursuit of those goals is tainted by the shock loss of another sister, Karin. Trying to make sense of her life and plagued by doubts about Karin’s death, Phoebe returns to the neglected family cottage seeking alone time and comfort. She rediscovers a teenage lover at a neighbouring property called Driftwood (hence the title) and starts to unravel secrets Karin took to her grave. Chief among those is why Karin was found in the river when she feared water. Vanessa McCausland, a journalist by trade, is a natural storyteller who weaves love, loss, mystery and secrets into a satisfying tale. CARINA BRUCE
VERDICT: Easy reading
THE DEVIL UPSTAIRS
Anthony O’Neill BRIO BOOKS, $30
Cat Thomas is a hard-nosed American financial investigator with a big bank, who moves to historic Edinburgh to take up a new job. She loves her new flat, except for the rude neighbour upstairs who makes her life hell by making noise that keeps her up all night. In desperation, she accepts help from a friend who takes her to a seance, where she literally makes a deal with the devil. Melbourne-born, Edinburgh-based Anthony O’Neill has written a book that feels like a crime thriller with fantasy overtones. It works well. The passages where Cat is listening to the noises upstairs are just plain irritating but once you get past that, you see the moral dilemma Cat has created for herself. The love interest introduced late seems a little underdone but those quibbles aside, it’s an entertaining read that’s written with a loving eye on the architecture of Edinburgh and with some interesting, well-developed characters.
THE PARIS MODEL
Alexandra Joel HARPERCOLLINS, $33
The adage that truth is stranger than fiction is no more apt than in Alexandra Joel’s debut novel. Set post-World War II, it follows glamorous Aussie Grace Woods, who goes from working on a sheep station into a prized job as a mannequin for Parisian fashion designer Christian Dior. At first glance, Grace’s new career lets her flee heartache in Australia. But as she steps out with France’s rich and famous, there is still no escaping family secrets and a complex personal life that may also threaten her safety. Joel uses her experience as a fashion editor to set up Grace’s glam world, even dropping in famous names from the era, such as artist Pablo Picasso, philosopher Jean Paul Sartre and future US First Lady Jacqueline Bouvier (Kennedy). A postscript from Joel adds spice to the story, revealing that Grace was a real-life Australian who defied personal tragedy and drama to become an acclaimed model. CARINA BRUCE
VERDICT: True inspiration