THIS MONTH’S PICKS EXPLORE THEMES OF LIFE AND LOSS.
I LOVE YOU TOO MUCH
Alicia Drake, Picador, $29.99
A narcissistic mother, her feckless boyfriend and guilty husband, a new half-sister, a difficult girlfriend and the housemaid, whose children are growing up without her back in the Philippines — these are the components that make up the life of 13-year-old Paul, who lives in the chic sixth arrondissement in Paris. Drake’s poignant novel leaves us with a broken adolescent but the reader has no doubt that eventually he will heal.
Joe Clement and Matt Miles, Black Inc, $34.99
Addicted, in a trance, falling behind in every way: physically, psychologically and educationally. That’s today’s children. Two teachers, Clement and Miles, have collected the facts. Why don’t teachers complain? Well, here’s why. In the years before screens became classroom essentials your average class was a scene of mayhem. Nowadays it’s blissfully silent, each student fixated on screens. They make suggestions at the end of each chapter. However, the reality is that adults are digital immigrants, and any change of behaviour can come only from within the peer group.
Jojo Moyes, Penguin, $32.99
Moyes follows Louisa, whom readers learned to love in Moyes’ novel Me Before You, through a periplus of unfamiliar experiences. Still mourning Will, Louisa hurls herself at New York and becomes companion to the flawed but touching Agnes. Too much happens, money talks too loudly, but that’s the way it is in the Big Apple.
Fiona Mccallum, HQ , $29.99
I’ve grumbled before about novels which tell you that a character raised her cup, sipped her tea, returned the cup to the saucer, dabbed her lips with a napkin — no, make that a paper napkin printed with yellow roses. Yes, Mccallum occasionally dawdles. However, the theme of her 10th novel is sudden and catastrophic loss and the weird spectacle of normal life jogging along for others. Life, one sip at a time, is sometimes how grief manifests itself.
THE AFTER WIFE
Cass Hunter, Trapeze, $29.99
If you’ve been following robotics you’ll know the ones used as carers in Japan since 2011 are a huge success. What human qualities they lack are projected onto them by their owners rather as we humanise dogs and cats. Hunter’s novel takes us a few stages further on from the current carer models. When Rachel, who designs robots, dies in a crash, her laboratory partner Luke presents Aidan, her shattered husband, with an android copy. He’s horrified, but it was Rachel’s secret masterpiece. He agrees to have ‘it’ in the house. Daughter Chloe rebels. And yet there are hidden pluses. Rachel the gynoid (female android) does not contradict Aidan and she is patient with Chloe’s problems, a good listener. All very believable.
THE UNEXPECTED EDUCATION OF EMILY DEAN
Mira Robertson, Black Inc, $29.99
Robertson’s debut novel takes place in 1944. Emily’s father sends her to relatives living in the Victorian bush so that she will not witness her mother’s declining mental health. Uncle William, returned from the war, expands her intellectual horizons. Naughty Aunt Lydia thrums with sensuality. Claudio, the Italian prisoner of war, has good judgment when it comes to 14-year-olds. Emily’s fury at being sent away subsides.
ME AND MCDUFF
Leslie Oschmann, Rizzoli, $44.99
Holland is one of few places where a freelance artist can make a living from what she creates. Leslie Oschmann quit America, got a flat in Amsterdam and bought a pedigreed fox terrier: Mcduff. She visits the tip where she collects paintings “whose first life has expired” and repurposes the canvases, turning them into bags. When an entrepreneur offered her riches she couldn’t bear to leave Mcduff even to attend a meeting. Her adoration for this animal wrings the heart. There are gorgeous collages throughout to feast your eyes on “the subtle patterns of discarded ephemera”. Dog lovers, freedom lovers, give yourself a treat.