I recently read Mark Manson’s book The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A Fuck. It should be noted that this is the first non-fiction book that I have ever completed. When I eventually get around to typing up all of my book reviews, this one […]
The collected works of Liane Moriarty, Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train, Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl;it seems as though the past few years the genre of domestic thrillers was born thanks to some truly epic female authors. I don’t quite know what it is about these types of books, […]
Nicole Alexander will always hold a special place in my heart. Not only is she a phenomenal author, but she was the first woman to feature as a #WCW of mine on my old site, Don’t Ask Leah. She didn’t know me at all, but from just one simple email requesting an interview with her, she gave me her mobile number and told me to call her anytime. When I finally worked up the courage to dial her number, she was generous with her time, her stories and her entire being. She divulged details about her writing process, her family, her life in rural Australia and about herself to me that left me feeling inspired, fulfilled and completely in awe of her.
River Run had been sitting on my bookshelf for a while before I picked it up recently, I hate to admit. The thing that everyone needs to know about Nicole Alexander’s work is that even if the blurb or the subject matter doesn’t appeal to you strongly or seem as though it is going to be up your alley – trust me, it is. I have never been a huge fan of historical fiction and generally speaking, when I see that a book’s story takes place any time before the present day, it tends to deter me from wanting to read it.
“It is January 1951, and after a year away Eleanor Webber has returned home to River Run, her family’s sprawling sheep property in western New South Wales. Fleeing a failed love affair back in Sydney, she hopes for some time and space to heal.
But with shearing of over 25,000 sheep about to commence, and the infamous and moneyed Margaret Winslow and her husband Keith staying in the main house as her mother’s guests, that dream is quickly dashed.
More worryingly, her half-brother Robbie is increasingly running wild, playing tricks on his governess, antagonising the jackeroos and obsessing about a communist invasion. Though only eleven, Robbie has appointed himself guardian of the property and, in his treehouse by the river, he readies for an imminent attack. Armed with a gun.
Then, with a storm looming and tensions rising in the shearing shed, a mysterious stranger appears on the horizon.
And in one disastrous moment young Robbie entangles Eleanor in a situation that will have serious repercussions for every member of the Webber family.”
When I picked this book up from the bookstore, I bought it without reading the blurb because I trust her writing and her talent for story-telling so inherently. Even when I started reading it, I didn’t turn to the back of the book to see what I was in for – instead, I read it page by page and let the story unfold. I went into the book blind and it did not disappoint.
First of all, the fact that River Run takes place over one week for the duration of the book means that the pace is slow and allows for a lot more detail to be expressed. I am a fast reader and usually churn through books at a rapid pace, but I found that because the timeline was only a week it actually changed my reading habits. It was almost as if I was reading it in real time. Not only that, but I found myself making the conscious decision to not read too much in one sitting. That isn’t how you read Nicole Alexander’s work, not because it isn’t gripping or page-turning or anything like that, but because her love of the Australian landscape and the respect she has for its description and retelling deserves the reader’s time and attention.
Our protagonist, Eleanor, is my kind of woman. For her time she is rebellious – she has relocated to Sydney and spends her time with a very progressive (sexually speaking) crowd at a time where that was still frowned upon for a woman. She also writes and illustrates comic books and graphic novels – a woman after mown heart. She retreats to her family home in the country after having her heart broken and her writing stolen by said heartbreaker. Already for me, that amount of detail was enough for me to care about what happened to her deeply.
Though I am completely oblivious when it comes to sheep shearing and the running of a farm, it did not mean that those elements of the story were lost on me. Quite the opposite, in fact. Nicole Alexander writes with such devotion to her background and the rural lifestyle that you cannot help but become completely consumed by it as if it were your own life and experiences. Simply from reading this work of fiction, I was granted access into the reality of the processes that take place on a sheep farm. I would never seek out such information as it isn’t something I necessarily want to learn about, but through reading this novel I learned so much and became rather fixated on how everything runs in the country. In my opinion, that is the mark of a brilliant writer: someone who invites you into their world so subtly that you don’t realise it, furthermore, how much you belong there.
The pace of the book unexpectedly quickened when the climax of the plot was revealed and it was only then that I started completely devouring the pages – any spare moment that I had, I spent in the world of River Run. It was a perfectly timed turn of events and enhanced the reading experience for me, definitely. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and enjoyed reacquainting myself with Nicole once more.
I was insanely excited to read this book; as soon as I learned of its existence, I was intrigued. Non-fiction, autobiographies and memoirs are not something that I read often, nor are they what I enjoy reading (which sometimes I think is a bit strange […]
Swedish authors are incredible. If you haven’t read a book by a Swedish author, do yourself a favour – buy one and read it immediately. I was first introduced to Swedish authors when I read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. It took me three attempts before I managed to get through (and past) the first chapter. The names were unfamiliar and hard to pronounce and even though I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, there was just something different about the way that he wrote as opposed to an American, English or Australian writer. It was as if he was saying things without writing the words.. as if I was reading between the lines without even meaning to. Once I got through the first book of that trilogy, I devoured the other two. And then more recently, I read The Girl in the Spider’s Web and The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye by David Lagercrantz who continued the Millennium series after Larsson’s death.
A couple of years ago I read I Am Behind You by John Ajvide Lindqvist and absolutely loved it. It confused me and challenged everything I thought I knew about story-telling in the most brilliant way. Once again, it were as if Lindqvist was saying far more than the words he provided on the page. I really want to read his 2015 release I Always Find You and only JUST realised that the horror movie Let the Right One In is based on one of his novels with the same name. I had no idea but want to read immediately.
Anyway, I went into one of my favourite bookshops on my lunch break, Better Read Than Dead, and came across The Cult on Fog Island. A few things drew me to this book:
- The cover? LOVE.
- The size of the book? Huge and perfect.
- Swedish author? Check!
- Did the title remind you of Shutter Island? Yep.
- Do I find cults incredibly eerie and creepy? You ‘betcha.
As soon as I started reading The Cult on Fog Island by Mariette Lindstein, I was hooked. It was the kind of book that I found myself thinking about while I was working, while I was cooking or while I was watching a movie with Pete. All I wanted was to be reading. The book’s protagonist, Sofia, attends a seminar hosted by the infamous ‘wellness’ and life coach Franz Oswald who then invites her to visit the island and see what his program and course is all about. Once there, Franz offers Sofia an incredible job and in that moment she can’t think of any reason why she shouldn’t take him up on the offer. Once she is there though, and after signing on for a two year contract, things aren’t what they seem on the island. And Franz? Well, he is not at all what he seemed.
What follows is a truly addictive and thrilling read. I loved how gradually the circumstances on the island got worse and worse, and how closely we were able to follow alongside Sofia. Sofia, as a character, I found really easy to be interested in. She was really well written even though we aren’t given a whole lot of background information about her or where she came from before the island. I actually didn’t mind not knowing much about her as it meant I went into the story with her completely unbiased and unaware of what state of mind she was in when she decided to go to the island (besides the crazy ex). I did have moments where I thought to myself, “SURELY you aren’t going to go along with this, SURELY?!” but then, when we were let in on her inner monologue and her thought processes, everything made sense and had reason.
I do love a good, atmospheric read and Lindstein absolutely nails that in The Cult on Fog Island. To go with the ominous nature of the cult and the mental decline of their leader, the description of the weather and the surrounding conditions sets the scene perfectly. As I was reading it, I could envisage the cliff face that was so often referred to and the sound of the violent swells of the sea. I could feel the change of the seasons as they came and went in the book, the chill in the air as Christmas approached the island. I have to admit that I do rate a book based on the way it handles the sensory elements of the story and this one scored big time. BIG time.
I also learned that the author, Mariette Lindstein, is a former Scientologist! I only found that out after I read the book and it made me think back to all the details and experiences that our protagonist Sofia lived through on the island, and how removed the the cult’s leader Franz was from reality – what real life events took place to inspire these fictional ones? The knowledge that Lindstein was a part of what has come to be known as a modern day cult made me reassess the book as a whole – was it more of an exposé than a work of fiction?! That thought alone excites the hell out of me!!
When I found out that this book was the first in a trilogy (again, I found this out after I finished the book), it made me SO KEEN to read the next one and left me even more excited to find out where the second book would go. The Cult on Fog Island could very easily be a stand alone novel, though you are left with questions at the end it still feels like the story was wrapped up nicely. Props to Lindstein for the ending as it is one that does leave you wondering where what how but in a way that doesn’t take away from the conclusion. I am so intrigued to see what she does with the second instalment of this trilogy and it just can’t be published soon enough!
(I also passed this one onto my boss after I finished and she loved it as well. Rave reviews all round!)
Where do I even begin?! Seriously. This year may have been hard, and challenging, and completely gut-wrenching at times, but it has also been rewarding and the most life-changing, transformative period of my life. And, I do feel that Summer 2018-19 is going to be […]
I first came across The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society when I was working in Angus & Robertson in Chatswood. It was a new release and I remember reading the back of it and feeling immediately drawn to the main character, Juliet Ashton. She is a witty writer stumped by a sever case of writer’s block. Out of the blue, she receives a letter from one Dawsey Adams of Guernsey – by chance he’s acquired a book Juliet once owned – and, emboldened by their mutual love of books, they begin a correspondence and she is introduced to the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society and its members (a colourful bunch). Juliet, emboldened and inspired by their letters opts to visit the island of Guernsey, a trip that completely turns her life upside-down.
I don’t know how I didn’t realise it before, as I flicked through the book many times during my shifts at Angus & Robertson, but the book’s story is told in its entirety through letters. Normally, I steer extremely clear of books that aren’t comprised of simple chapters – the odd letter here and there I don’t mind, but I have never been able to stick with a novel that isn’t just plain ol’ storytelling. Until now.
Not only am I madly in love with the edition that I have of Mary Ann Shaffer’s The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society which I picked up second-hand from Gertrude & Alice in Bondi, but I really enjoyed this story and the way it was told – at least for the first 60-70% of the book..
Overall, I think that the book was intriguing, interesting and really beautifully compiled. Readers are actually able to derive a lot of detail from the letters which I wasn’t expecting, and the story flows really well. For me though, I need all the other text around the letters and the dialogue to really grasp a story. I have always been told that I am a very descriptive writer, and maybe that is what I subconsciously look for in a book as well. I love reading about the intricacies of an English garden, or the sound of waves crashing against a cliff face or in-depth descriptions of the way someone looks. I felt that that was missing in this book. The voice of a narrator allows for unbiased descriptions, allowing for the reader to completely control the imagery the words evoke for them whereas I found that I couldn’t picture things as they were described when it was with the voice of one of the characters. Towards the end of the book I also found that I was skipping letters from the characters whose storylines I found boring.. which isn’t a great sign.
I won’t end on a negative note though. I really loved the character of Juliet and how sassy she was. I found that I could relate to her whilst also wanting some of her traits to be my own. I also found myself very invested in her relationships with the men around her, and loved that I didn’t know who she was going to end up with. I also really want to acknowledge how different this book is, it is unlike anything I have ever read before and that deserves mentioning. For a book that had a lot of things working against it for me personally (letter form, historical setting, references to war – none of which I enjoy reading about), The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society was a beautifully written book, and I want to comment on the ending, but I won’t for fear of ruining it for those of you want to read it.