Books

THIS MONTH’S PICKS EX­PLORE THEMES OF LIFE AND LOSS.

Country Style - - CONTENTS - RE­VIEWS ANNABEL LAW­SON

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.

SCREEN SCHOOLED

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.

STILL ME

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.

MAK­ING PEACE

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.

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