Thursday, 16 April 2015

American fact and Australian fiction, or, what I've been reading lately


Christ is Risen! Le Christ est ressucit√©! Kristos voskrese! 

It's the Pascha season, where we go around greeting each other in as many languages as we can muster. My reading, as usual, has all been in English, but with authors in two countries half a world apart. My reading list is often at the mercy of my library's hold system, combined with whatever caught my eye from the staff picks shelf, so my monthly reading list rarely has much of a theme. This time around, however, it turned out that every novel I read was written by an Aussie, and my two non-fiction picks were authored by Yanks. I'm a day late, and my sense of a nice day in January is all a-fluster, but I'm linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy's Quick-Lit to report all the same.

Here's what I've been reading:

The House at Riverton, by Kate Morton
Somewhere along the line, Downton Abbey changed from a show I watched sometimes with my husband to my chosen method to while away an evening without him - something that blessedly only happens once in a blue moon. As daytime television simply does not happen, however, I have been going through Roaring Twenties withdrawal; which is why I was thrilled to discover that Morton's debut was set in precisely the same time period as my favourite British drama. The House at Riverton is a stunning tale of thwarted love, divided loyalties, and tragic misunderstandings. It takes the aristocratic family and staff of an aging English country manor through the social upheavals of the early twentieth century, as seen through the eyes of a lady's maid. A historical treat for any Downton fan.

The Hypnotist's Love Story, by Liane Moriarty
This complex and poignant novel does for stalkers what The Lovely Bones did for serial murderers: it reveals the criminal as an addict who knows she's doing wrong but can't seem to stop, and does so without diminishing the effects of her crimes on the victim and his family. The Hypnotist's Love Story also explores the different expectations placed on the survivors at the end of a relationship; be they male or female, jilted or widowed, none of Moriarty's characters are making a clean break or thinking of their exes' the way they think they should. The stalker is only the most extreme example. A love story full of quirk and compassion, self-revelation and messy endings.

Brain on Fire, by Suzanne Cahalan
A young journalist turns her skills upon herself to investigate her own rare case of a newly discovered auto-immune encephalitis, including the month in an epilepsy ward where she remembers little beyond her vivid hallucinations. Cahalan supplements what her family, friends, and doctors remember of her illness with fascinating detail on both the elasticity and vulnerability of the brain, the fine line between neurology and psychiatry, and how close she came to falling through the cracks of the american medical system.

Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott
Finally picking up something by Anne Lamott was a lot like my first taste of Terry Pratchett: what on earth possessed me to assume I wouldn't love such a brilliant, hilarious writer? Bird by Bird tackles the nuts and bolts of a writer's life with all its neuroses, wisdom, boredom, and joy. It's quotable, relatable, and had me doubled over with laughter more times than I can count. Worth picking up as a reader, writer, or just as comic relief.

The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion
A brilliant but anal professor  - with what looks suspiciously like Asperger's symptoms - creates a survey to find the perfect wife...only to bump into a woman who's completely unsuitable yet the most fun he's ever had. You can see where it's going, but the ride is anything but predictable. A great story of learning to let yourself love and the difference between the way you really are and the ways you act to protect yourself when you feel you don't belong.

That's it for this month's round-up. Do pop over to Modern Mrs. Darcy for many more fun little reviews.