The Starks have been warning us for years, and finally winter has come… But it’s not all bad. The cooler weather is an excellent excuse to cancel plans, grab a blanket and disappear into an endless pile of books, emerging only to make a fresh pot of tea every now and then. Here’s what a few of us here at the Centre have been curled up reading over the last month.
Jane McCredie, Executive Director
Ahead of her appearance at the Sydney Writers’ Festival, I read Hanya Yanagihara’s extraordinary and discomforting debut novel, The People in the Trees. It’s very loosely based on the story of Carleton Gajdusek, the Nobel Prize-winning scientist who helped elucidate the cause of the PNG disease, kuru, and was later convicted of molesting one of the 56 boys he adopted from the island.
Yanagihara’s book, set in the fictional Pacific island country of U’ivu, is narrated by Norton Perina, convicted paedophile and winner of the Nobel for his discovery of the secret of the islanders’ extraordinary longevity: the flesh of a rare turtle, eaten on their 60th birthday.
Unfortunately, although the turtle brings an extended lifespan, it offers no protection from dementia, leaving bands of centuries-old ‘dreamers’ to wander the forests.Despite that, Perina’s revelations spark a desperate race to commercialise the life-extending turtles, with devastating consequences for the culture and natural environment of the islands.
Sherry Landow, Membership & Development Officer
I bought as many books as I could carry at this year’s Sydney Writers’ Festival and have been savouring them ever since. There isn’t enough space here to go into all of them, so I will keep this limited to the book that best fits the bibliotherapy theme of the festival – The Novel Cure by Susan Elderkin and Ella Berthoud.
The Novel Cure works on the notion that stories can be nourishing; our ability to relate to the characters we read about means that we can often learn more from fiction than any self-help book. Set out as a reference book, the reader can look up their ailment (which can be anything from having a toothache to a stiff upper lip, jealousy to irritable bowel syndrome) where they will find a prescription for a novel that will help cure them.
Suffering from a broken heart? Try reading Jane Eyre. Common cold? The Princess Bride is for you. My personal favourite, however, is the ailment ‘tea, unable to find a cup of’. For this, they suggest The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, where one finds that there will always be tea no matter where you are in the universe. Perhaps that’s June’s reading sorted.
Claire Bradshaw, Intern
After reading the first book of Marie Rutkoski’s Winner’s Trilogy last month, I absolutely stormed through the rest of the series. The Winner’s Crime and The Winner’s Kiss got progressively more addictive as they went along, with lovely writing, a compelling story and some hard-to-define genre boundaries (fantasy with no magic? Historical fiction about a fictional history? I don’t know what it is, but I love it).
Then it was onto book two of another series: A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas. As I’ve previously mentioned, while I love this particular series, it strikes me as rather self-indulgent on Maas’ behalf – but I forgive her, because it’s so damn entertaining.
Yet more fantasy followed this (I have an addiction, OK?) in the form of The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman, a lovely little book that’s simultaneously dark, strange, poetic and whimsical. It’s my first foray into Mr Gaiman’s works, and I’ll definitely be seeking out more.
Finally, it was time to dive back into some literary fiction at the end of the month with Evie Wyld’s All the Birds, Singing. I adored this book. It has a bit of everything: a literary bent, an intriguing dual-timeline structure, mysteries to be unravelled and settings that envelope you whole. No wonder I devoured it in the space of a single weekend.