BOOK CLUB

LOFTY KNOWS WHAT IT FEELS LIKE TO HAVE THE ODDS STACKED AGAINST HIM, BUT HIS MEM­OIR MAKES A BIG IM­PACT ALONG­SIDE A GRIP­PING FIC­TION DE­BUT

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THE WOMAN FROM SAINT GER­MAIN J R Lonie SI­MON & SCHUS­TER, $30

Amer­i­can au­thor Eleanor Gor­ton Clarke is liv­ing in France dur­ing World War II with an en­vi­able sup­ply of Ch­ester­field ci­garettes and ex­pen­sive per­fume. She ap­pears more for­tu­nate than the rest of the pop­u­la­tion un­der Ger­man oc­cu­pa­tion, ex­cept when it comes to the men in her life and her frus­trat­ing de­ci­sion-mak­ing skills. Af­ter Pearl Har­bor is bombed, the strong, self-in­dul­gent Eleanor leaves Paris en­trusted with a valu­able, first-edi­tion copy of James Joyce’s Fin­negans Wake. As the plot thick­ens, Eleanor’s be­liefs — and the reader’s — are in­creas­ingly chal­lenged. Mean­while, other key char­ac­ters — enig­matic Henk and the mul­ti­lay­ered Kom­mis­sar Bauer — play cat and mouse, im­pact­ing Eleanor’s life in sev­eral ways. This is a well-re­searched book, with the au­thor us­ing his play­wright and script­ing skills to high­light the plight of Nazi-oc­cu­pied France. Be pre­pared for some in­ter­est­ing twists.

WENDY MA­SON

MY LIFE IN SHORT — A MEM­OIR Ian “Lofty” Ful­ton HARPERCOLL­INS, $33

Born with dwarfism, Ian “Lofty” Ful­ton spent his child­hood in Tas­ma­nia be­ing bul­lied and hu­mil­i­ated. An op­por­tu­nity to work in a re­gional ra­dio sta­tion led to him be­com­ing an on-air an­nouncer, where peo­ple could hear his voice but not see his height. While Ful­ton bat­tled feel­ings of in­ad­e­quacy and de­pres­sion, he cul­ti­vated his voice to be­come a lead­ing an­nouncer and voiceover artist. Of­ten peo­ple meet­ing him for the first time were sur­prised. He writes, “They were no doubt fas­ci­nated by the para­dox of some­one so short sound­ing so tall.” While Ful­ton’s vo­cal cords be­came the mus­cle he con­stantly strength­ened, he suf­fered de­bil­i­tat­ing back pain and even more ag­o­nis­ing re­la­tion­ships. Ul­ti­mately, Lofty is the story of the strug­gle of ris­ing above prej­u­dice. Both har­row­ing and up­lift­ing, it is a pow­er­ful re­minder of the cru­elty of judg­ing peo­ple by their ap­pear­ance, and a story of courage and per­se­ver­ance.

JEFF MAYNARD

CALL ME EVIE J P Po­mare HACHETTE, $30

A Mel­bourne teenager adopts a new iden­tity and is kept iso­lated by an older man in a small beach town in New Zealand. She is told it’s for her own good, that she has done some­thing ter­ri­ble and is in dan­ger if peo­ple find her. But she can’t trust her­self, never mind some­one else, and she strug­gles to find her truth. Told in alternatin­g time lapse chunks from “be­fore” and “af­ter” the crime, the back­story is clev­erly in­ter­wo­ven and slowly re­vealed. The nar­ra­tion by 17-year-old Evie some­times slips, but it must be hard liv­ing in the head of a teenager. Although it is a com­ing-of-age book, with all the angst of hos­tile school friends and in­ter­net abuse, it will ap­peal to adult read­ers. The un­der­ly­ing threats, grip­ping sto­ry­line and un­re­li­able nar­ra­tion in this de­but novel will have you guess­ing un­til the end. The set­ting in a small bush ham­let, with­out in­ter­net or mo­bile ac­cess, adds to the men­ace. You may never see the ro­mance of an iso­lated holiday shack in the same way again. I en­joyed this book and raced through it in just a few days.

KA­RINA BARRYMORE

DUPED Abby Ellin HACHETTE, $33

Abby Ellin fell hard for the re­mark­able, hum­ble, heroic Navy SEAL who courted her so charm­ingly. They had heaps in com­mon, he made her laugh and he’d done so much that was in­cred­i­ble — in­clud­ing or­ches­trat­ing the raid on Osama bin Laden. Some of it sounded too good to be true, but she ig­nored her doubts and just en­joyed his com­pany. When the cracks fi­nally be­came too ob­vi­ous, she knew she’d been colos­sally conned. Badly hurt by the en­counter, she vowed to be more care­ful, but then it hap­pened again. Those twin ex­pe­ri­ences sent Ellin on a jour­ney through ev­ery­thing she could find out about com­pul­sive liars and why so many peo­ple be­lieve them, even when it’s ob­vi­ous they shouldn’t. She dis­cov­ers his­tory is crammed full of ex­am­ples. As she in­ves­ti­gates, she en­rols in a course about how to spot a liar and the facts be­hind poly­graph test­ing. Ellin is an en­ter­tain­ing writer, though there’s not a lot that’s new in this.

CORINNA HENTE

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