Book Bites

Sunday Times - - Review -

A Book of Amer­i­can Mar­tyrs ★★★★ Joyce Carol Oates HarperCollins, R290

Who the mar­tyrs in this book are is not en­tirely clear. Although it ini­tially seems that the nar­ra­tive cen­tres on the di­vid­ing line be­tween pro-choice and pro-life, Oates adeptly teases out the com­plex­i­ties. The plot is driven by the mur­der of

Gus Voorhees, a doc­tor pro­vid­ing abor­tions in Musk­agee Falls, Ohio. The per­pe­tra­tor, Luther Dun­phee, be­lieves he has been cho­sen by God to “de­fend the de­fence­less”. With Voorhees dead and Dun­phee im­pris­oned, the wives and chil­dren of th­ese men are ren­dered wid­owed, a sin­gle par­ent and fa­ther­less: mar­tyrs. An in­ter­ro­ga­tion of grief, courage, re­li­gious fun­da­men­tal­ism, abor­tion and fam­ily re­la­tions, this is one of Oates’s finest cre­ations. ● L S. Chantelle Gray @CGrayvH

The Tat­tooist of Auschwitz ★★★★★ Heather Mor­ris, Zaf­fre, R270

Based on the true story of Lale and Gita Soklov, Slo­vakian Jews who sur­vived Auschwitz and fi­nally made Aus­tralia their home. One of the most hor­rific sym­bols in the Nazi death camps was the blue num­bered tat­toos. Lale was given the job of tat­too­ing pris­on­ers marked for sur­vival. With a rare amount of free­dom, he bar­gained his way through the camps and tried to help the im­pris­oned. His courage and de­ter­mi­na­tion to sur­vive is al­ready pow­er­ful, but add in meet­ing the love of his life in the camp, Gita, who was wait­ing to be tat­tooed, and you’ve got a book that will likely make your best reads list. ● L S. Jes­sica Le­vitt @Jessle­vitt

★★★★ Bit­ter Francesca Jakobi, Orion, R295

It’s 1969 and Gilda has worn white and a net veil to her son Reuben’s nup­tials — sym­bolic of the toxic re­la­tion­ship she has with him. Then you get to know the com­plex Gilda; how she was un­cer­e­mo­ni­ously sent to board­ing school in Eng­land by her un­feel­ing Ger­man par­ents. The chap­ters are short be­tween past and present and Jakobi’s imagery trans­ports you from bombed Lon­don streets to the any­thing-goes vibes at the end of the swing­ing ’60s, from the se­vere colours of war to the colour­ful dresses and free­dom of the fly­away bob. You get to know why Gilda left Reuben, why she is stalk­ing his wife, and why she is so alone. A ter­ri­fy­ing and poignant por­trait of a lonely woman. ● L S. Jen­nifer Platt @Jen­nifer­d­platt

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