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
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.
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.
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.
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.