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Stories of Perth by Alice Grundy

This collection of 12 short pieces are connected by Perth, the most isolated city in the world. I came to read it thanks to Reading Matters who returned to Australia after 20 years in London. Having lived on the east coast she was new to the area, so she picked up this book. I’m mighty glad she did. Much as I want to remember and write about all of the selections, I will focus on just a few...

spill simmer falter wither by Sara Baume

Kim of Reading Matters made a list of eight great novels using the second person point of view. Who could resist that list? I was drawn to the title of this one when I realized these four seemingly random words capture the seasons. And I was ready for a low key book and this one seemed to be about a lonely man and his connection to a one-eyed dog. Ray does speak in the second person to his dog...

The Siege of Krishnapur by J.G. Farrell

This 1973 Booker Prize winner is the story of a siege in a fictional town during the actual Indian Rebellion of 1857 when the East India Company controlled the country. The British inhabitants find it difficult to give up their social structures in the face of the attacks of the sepoys and deaths by cholera and starvation. Their dedication to various irrational beliefs they are unwilling to...

Soviet Milk by Nora Ikstena

This short book by a well-known Latvian writer is on Reading Matters’ list of favorite books by women in translation. It is told through two narrative voices, a mother born in 1944, and her daughter born in 1969, alternating in short sections. The mother’s lifespan is roughly the same as the Soviet Union’s domination of Latvia, 1944-45 ending in 1989-90 with the dissolution of...

Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney

Having read Sally Rooney’s second book, Normal People, I was interested in moving back into her orbit. As I mentioned in writing about that book, while I was happy to accept her terms and live in that world, I was glad to get back to my own world of “normal people.” Frances, the narrator of this one is in college and along with her former girlfriend Bobbi, does spoken word...

Thomas and Beal in the Midi by Christopher Tilghman

This is Tilghman’s third book featuring the Mason family; the first Mason in this country was given a land grant in Maryland when as a Catholic, he fled England in the 1650s. The books are Mason’s Retreat and The Right-Hand Shore. Thomas and Beal appear in the latter book; they were close as children then fell in love and had to leave not just the Retreat, but the continent because he...

Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia by Anita Heiss

Anita Heiss compiled these 50 short pieces by Aboriginal people in Australia and has gathered a pleasingly varied anthology of voices. I read that some of the stories are by well-known figures, but they were all unknown to me. Some were successful in sports, some are musicians, some were quite young. I loved them all and grew addicted to the six readers. Many spoke of their parents’...

Spies by Michael Frayn

When I recently read A Life of My Own by Claire Tomlin, I learned that she is married to Michael Frayn. I so admired his book Headlong, I was moved to read this one. I was surprised by how disconcerted I was by this book, as I was expecting a light-hearted romp involving young boys playing spy games during wartime. The narrator begins the tale by describing the sensation he has each spring when...

The House at the Edge of Night by Catherine Banner

It’s the time of year for beach reads and this book qualifies as pleasingly as you could imagine. I’ve had hours of happy entertainment as I weeded, cooked, and cleaned. Not exactly the beach, but there it is. The multi-generational story is set on a fictional island off the coast of Sicily and begins around the turn of the 20th century. The characters abound:  the doctor who began...

Barracoon by Zora Neale Hurston

This short book came out of a series of interviews Hurston had done as an anthropology student several years before she wrote the book in 1931. She interviewed a man brought to the US on the last ship importing enslaved men and women which had been illegal for 50 years by that time. The account of her conversations with Cudjo Lewis about his life in Africa, his time as an enslaved person, and his...

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