Books

THIS IS THE MONTH FOR HAM­MOCK READS, BUT FOR­GET THE EV­ER­MORE FOR­MU­LAIC BEST­SELLER LIST. WHILE YOU ARE LY­ING THERE, YOUR LIFE COULD CHANGE.

Country Style - - CONTRIBUTORS - RE­VIEWS ANNABEL LAW­SON

LETHAL WHITE

Robert Gal­braith (J.K. Rowl­ing), Sphere, $32.99

Fans of Cor­moran Strike and his busi­ness part­ner Robin were teased when, at the end of JKR’S third novel about their de­tec­tive agency, Strike burst into Robin’s wed­ding. She smiled at him and then turned to say “I do”... to the lugubri­ous Matthew. Nooooo! It’s a mur­der mys­tery, of course. But so much more. Rus­tle the cur­tains of this plot and you’ll see needs that cry out to us; those who are help­less against ex­ploita­tion and need kindly min­ders, those whose greed un­der­mines our ef­forts to main­tain a civil so­ci­ety. But this is JKR — no lec­tur­ing, just be­witch­ing en­ter­tain­ment.

BOYS WILL BE BOYS

Cle­men­tine Ford, Allen & Unwin, $32.99

Cle­men­tine Ford is prob­a­bly known to you. She wrote Girls Will Be Girls, a book to for­tify young Aus­tralian women against a so­ci­ety that aims to ed­u­cate and pro­tect them but of­ten fails. Her ‘boys’ book is noth­ing short of hor­ri­fy­ing. Be pre­pared for foul lan­guage and foul deeds and all of it here in Aus­tralia. Don’t lose faith in hu­man­ity. In the end the perps are vic­tims, too. So start reach­ing out now.

AN ANONY­MOUS GIRL

Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekka­nen, Macmil­lan, $29.99

And here’s yet an­other ex­cep­tional piece of fic­tion to send shiv­ers down your spine. There’s an ad­ver­tise­ment: “You’re in­vited: seek­ing women aged 18 to 32 to par­tic­i­pate in a study on ethics and moral­ity con­ducted by a pre-em­i­nent NYC psy­chi­a­trist. Gen­er­ous com­pen­sa­tion. Anonymity guar­an­teed. Call for more de­tails.” A very in­tel­li­gent make-up artist, barely sur­viv­ing in New York, is sucked in and who wouldn’t be? The sus­pense builds right up to the last pages. Read it in one fell swoop.

NEW JERUSALEM

Paul Ham, Wil­liam Heine­mann, $45

It’s about a Chris­tian sect that flour­ished briefly 500 years ago and was ex­punged. In his af­ter­word, Ham says we are in dan­ger of such a thing hap­pen­ing again — he cites ji­hadism but hints at some­thing closer to home, hunger for lead­er­ship driv­ing us to fol­low strong men even when wis­dom and hu­man­ity are lack­ing. Ba­si­cally, this is the tale of John of Lei­den, who in the 1530s, like Luther, re­coiled from what Catholi­cism had be­come — a hot­bed of cor­rup­tion and ex­ploita­tion. He started a move­ment ded­i­cated to the teach­ings of the Ser­mon on the Mount. The city of Mun­ster, where Lieden held sway, was be­sieged by a bel­li­cose bishop who starved the New Jerusalemites into sub­mis­sion. In the mean­time, John had taken 16 wives and, when one stood up to him, he clum­sily be­headed her in the city square and tram­pled her corpse. John and two hench­men were ex­e­cuted and sus­pended in cages from the church spire. Af­ter 50 years what re­mained of them was ti­died away, though the cages swing there to this day.

FEAST FOOD OF THE IS­LAMIC WORLD

Anissa Helou, Blooms­bury, $80

Mid­dle Eastern food has al­ways made more sense for Aus­tralia than what our colo­nial her­itage handed down. In­stead of knives and forks and hunks of meat, we should choose more ca­sual din­ing, a se­lec­tion of flavour­some dishes to be deftly scooped into flat­breads. There is a snag. Helou’s food orig­i­nated in kitchens full of women with no dis­trac­tions, happy to shop, chop and deal with a tym­pany of pots and pans. How­ever, by mak­ing large quan­ti­ties and freez­ing in por­tions, the mod­ern cook can save time and ef­fort. North African breads are pure de­light, Saudi camel meat­balls can be made with kan­ga­roo. Among the faster food op­tions are syrup-soaked fritters (you shape the bat­ter with your bare hand) and sword­fish skew­ers rolled in cumin — vapours waft up from the fire like moun­tain mist. In­ci­den­tally, Helou re­cently moved from London to Si­cily where Arabs ruled more than a thou­sand years ago. You could call it the cra­dle of fu­sion cook­ing.

THE MOTHER-IN-LAW

Sally Hepworth, Macmil­lan, $29.99

I don’t think I’ve ever be­fore had such a feast to spread be­fore you. Here’s a third trea­sure to join JKR’S and Har­ri­son’s (read on). Hepworth’s novel pits stern par­ent­ing (yes, the mother-in-law) against af­fec­tion­ate but ad hoc rear­ing (three very young chil­dren and then the fam­ily busi­ness fails). Be­fore you know it there’s a dead

body and taunt­ing sce­nar­ios. In­her­ited wealth — masses of it — poses the usual ques­tions. By the time the five po­ten­tial sus­pects had been put on the spot, my vi­sion of the sit­u­a­tion had un­der­gone a 180-de­gree swerve. Which is what you want from a novel, isn’t it?

FLY! LIFE LESSONS FROM THE COCK­PIT OF QF32

Richard De Crespigny, Pen­guin Vik­ing, $32.99

Four hun­dred and sixty-nine peo­ple aboard QF 32, eight hours fly­ing time to Syd­ney Airport, and then an en­gine ex­plodes. Twenty-one of the 22 sys­tems go down. This is shap­ing up to be the worst dis­as­ter in Qan­tas’s his­tory. Thanks to the crews on board and on the ground, the plane lands safely and no-one is hurt. De Crespigny, cap­tain on that fate­ful trip, de­cided that there were life lessons to be learned. Lead, Fol­low or Get Out of the Way are the choices. There are plenty of sur­prises, ev­i­dence that turns in­stinct up­side down. (Try the cush­ion test on page 147.) To­wards the end of the book Coral, Richard’s wife, adapts his global rea­son­ing to strate­gies for a happy mar­riage. Hav­ing looked at her check­list you may want to set­tle for an al­most happy mar­riage. As Richard says, fail­ing well is part of the plan.

ALL AMONG THE BAR­LEY

Melissa Har­ri­son, Blooms­bury, $29.99

Here’s a novel I’d take with me to that leg­endary desert is­land. It starts in what is, for me, fa­mil­iar ter­ri­tory — a farm where mod­ern equip­ment, med­i­ca­tion, meth­ods and ex­per­tise are wel­come but not al­ways af­ford­able. The old ways live on. How­ever, this is fur­ther back in time than I re­mem­ber. In 1934 south-east Eng­land, 13-year-old Edith has just left school and oc­cu­pies her­self on her par­ents’ farm. Her only recre­ation is read­ing. Her mother knows Edith is young for her age but her fa­ther in­sists Edith will go to the an­nual dance, more­over, even in a bad year, she will have a proper frock, not her sis­ter’s cast-offs. The birds, the wild­flow­ers, the trees, the surg­ing scents, the old men with un­canny skills, the old women in witch­craft flood past, un­leash­ing mem­o­ries if the reader is older and an in­tense cu­rios­ity in younger read­ers. Con­stance, a self-styled jour­nal­ist from London, turns up wear­ing trousers. Tsk. She has ideas about the farm­ing life that most farm­ers would de­scribe as ‘high­fa­lutin’. “Oh, you should make your own but­ter,” she says to Edith’s flat-to-the-boards mother. The san­dalled scrib­bler then scoops up Edith and paints a fu­ture where Edith’s brains can flour­ish and she can meet so­phis­ti­cated men as op­posed to grabby farm boys. I’m not go­ing to give away the fab­u­lous plot switch but what Con­stance brings to this hal­lowed place is deadly. There’s a tiny twig of ha­tred in al­most ev­ery­one that can flame forth and de­stroy. To­day we are on the brink of dan­gers, which Con­stance had the power to bring to pass. Be­ware.

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