A STAND-OUT MONTH OF READING WITH THREE BRILLIANT DEBUTS.
Molly Bloom, William Collins, $24.99
By the time this issue goes on sale you will have had a chance to see the movie of this true story. In Colorado Molly’s father was a martinet who coached her to national standard as a skier, but she chose to ignore her talents and be a gofer for a bullying boor who ran a poker game. In Los Angeles Molly learns the ropes and sets up her own game, pays her taxes, makes sure the hired bimbos don’t turn tricks. Soon Hollywood stars are beating down the doors. Molly doesn’t play. She creates ambience. Tips alone reach $50,000 a night. How can it be this easy? Standover gangsters move in. Blood and bruises. She takes her game to New York. Tipped off by her enemies, the FBI swoop. Next thing you know she’s in handcuffs. Her lawyer can prove her innocent of crimes but the cost is unaffordable. Ouch.
THE RIGHT GIRL
Ellie O’neill, Simon and Schuster, $29.99
Freya attributes the turnaround success in her hitherto drab but pleasant life to the Bbest app (O’neill’s invention) that everyone is using. It makes all major decisions for you based mostly on what you’ve bought, but on a swathe of other factors as well. Bbest has picked the perfect match for Freya: Mason. He’s as thrilled as she is. Meanwhile Freya’s appless grandfather is in trouble. Maybe Grandad is right and Bbest has an evil plan. Even if you’ve guessed the ending, this is an edge-of-the-seat read.
Caitlin Macy, Simon and Schuster, $29.99
Three mothers whose children attend New York’s most cherished preschool: Gwen is mousy, Philippa is envied, worshipped almost, Minnie (named after Minnie Mouse) is, as they say, Something Else. Their respective husbands supply the exquisite humour. I don’t think I have ever read any novel that so well evokes what goes on in the minds of young children. Whether you are primarily a parent, a professional, or if (like Philippa), you couldn’t give a stuff about what other people think, offspring included, this brilliant debut will rattle your cage.
THE PEARLER’S WIFE
Roxane Dhand, Bantam, $32.99
In 1912, Britain sent out a team of ex-royal Navy divers to oust Japanese and Aboriginal pearl divers in Broome who earned a fraction of what the white British divers (with no pearling experience) had been promised. As you can imagine, the pearlers who “owned” the cheap divers were ropable and nasty events ensued. This slice of history has been splendidly brought to life by Dhand in her debut novel.
HAPPINESS FOR HUMANS
P.Z. Reizin, Sphere, $29.99
Four artificial intelligence entities, Aiden, Aisling, Sinai and Denise, are machines that can learn. They soon outstrip their two-legged managers Jen and Steeve (sic). Halfway through, there’s a pivot I didn’t see coming. A comic masterpiece.
NO ONE IS COMING TO SAVE US
Stephanie Powell Watts, Penguin, $32.99
It’s been billed as an African-american version of The Great Gatsby. However, I didn’t much like TGG (beaut writing, tedious characters) whereas this debut novel is a stunner. Local boy, now a mega millionaire, returns to court his childhood sweetheart. She’s married to a thicko. The story rolls out in the head of the young woman’s mother performing a mental dance we can all identify with: “Have I got everything altogether wrong here?”
GRACE KELLY, HOLLYWOOD DREAM GIRL
Jay Jorgensen and Manoah Bowman, Dey St, $59.99
In this lavish tribute to Kelly’s six-year career, and then the years as Princess of Monaco, and her tragic death at the wheel of her Rover 3500 in 1982, the most startling piece of information is how her career started. The Hollywood director Fred Zinnemann needed a budget-priced female lead in High Noon. Jay Kanter, a talent scout, showed him a postage stamp-sized shot of a 22-year-old unknown, Grace Kelly, and Zinnemann said, “Sign her”. No audition. Heartbreaking news for the acting fraternity. Forget about talent and technique, it’s all about looks.