Author: welloflostplots

Book Review of The Woman in the Window

woman windowI saw a friend reading this and asked if I could borrow it after seeing it on a number of recent “must-read” lists.  When she passed it over with that facial expression we all make when something isn’t that good, I was a little surprised.  I’m not really now that I have read it.

Anna is a shut-in, isolated in her New York home after a traumatic accident.  She spends her days watching old movies, chatting online (ironically she is a psychologist), playing chess online… and watching her neighbours through the viewfinder of her camera… is this starting to sound familiar?  Oh!  And she drinks too.

Then, one day she sees something unspeakable… the murder of a woman she has befriended across the road, the wife of a controlling, abusive husband.  She makes powerful allegations to the police, but is not believed when a woman answering to her name presents herself.  And then they discover all the wine bottles….

If you are thinking Hitchcock’s Rear Window, you’re absolutely right.  A.J. Finn borrows shamelessly from the classic film, referencing the film-makers body of work relentlessly throughout the film, which at least lets the reader know the MARKED similarities are intentional.  While lacking originality, it’s not a dull read.  It’s easy and just engaging enough to fill a plane or train ride very pleasantly.  I was myself stuck on a train for two hours recently with this book, and it kept me very entertained.  Pick it up if that is the type of read you are going for.

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Awed Book Review of Philip Zimbardo’s Man Interrupted

man-interrupted.jpgI keep reading these wonderful books for work, and often I think I have found the best one yet.  As my latest passion takes me into an exploration of masculinity and how to help grow good men, I finally picked up this wonderful title by Philip Zimbardo – famed psychologist behind the Stanford Prison Experiment.

As of this day, this is one of my favourite professional reads, and possibly the best book on boys I have read.

It is certainly the most detailed – and the most researched.  Zimbardo ranges broadly over relevant topics such as porn, peer and romantic relationships, parenting, video games, academic achievement, drugs, feminism and more.  Why are girls doing better than boys in schools?  Why are they finding themselves so disconnected to modern women?  Why do they occasionally display those behaviours we would describe as toxic?

What’s more impressive, is that this is one of the few books I have read that is also totally solutions-oriented. The entire final section of the book breaks down key actions we can take to support men to live their best lives… whether you be a parent, woman, teacher, or a politician.  And men themselves, reading this book.  Zimbardo lets them know what  they need to do right now.

I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that this is an important book that everyone who has something to do with young men should read.  It’s also incredibly readable, so I promise you wont regret it.

Book Review of The Golden Age

The-Golden-Age-by-Joan-LondonI picked this one up as an option for VCE English next year.  It is a lovely, soft, and lyrical novel surrounding the patients, nurses and families who visit The Golden Age, a hospice for children with polio in the 1950s.

At the centre of the novel is Frank, an intense Hungarian Jew who emigrated with his family to Australia after the rise of Hitler.  Frank was introduced to poetry by another man he connected to in hospital, who died whilst receiving treatment in the dreaded iron lung.  Armed with a prescription pad in lieu of proper notepaper, Frank writes down free verse that inspires him – and he is largely inspired by beautiful Elsa in the girls’ ward.

This is a quiet story of connecting and losing connection.  I found it slow in places, but was still committed to getting to the finish.  I’d be hesitant putting it on a text list for this reason too.  This is no easy read and the payoff is subtle and perhaps, short lasting.  Lacks deep impact.

Book Review of High Five To The Boys

high five boys.jpgThis is a cute and inspiring read aimed at young people, arguably young men.

It celebrates male Australians who have made a difference in a variety of areas – from the entertainment industry to science, politics, charity and the environment. Some are well known, like Hugh Jackman, and others are lesser known but equally as fascinating.

This is a great gift, and a great staple for school libraries.  It shows men a variety of ways to be successful and challenges some of those stereotypes about masculinity that can be so damaging to them living fulfilling lives.

Book Review of The Nowhere Child

This is my second award-winning novel in a row!The-Nowhere-Child-by-Christian-White

Christian White’s clever premise won him the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for his reasonably engaging mystery, The Nowhere Child.

Kim Leamy has what she thinks is a fairly ordinary life. Then she is approached by a complete stranger – an American – who believes she is Sammy Went, a girl who went missing from his home town at the age of two.

What follows is a believeable unravelling of story and character. Once the seed of doubt is planted, Kim begins to interrogate her past, as best she can since her mother passed away just a few years ago. But it is clear there are secrets in her past – secrets her step-father seems unwilling to share.

Kim follows the trail to America, and reader is treated to a dual narrative – Kim’s present story and the days following Sami’s disappearance.

The most rewarding part is the depiction of small town mentality and those that do – and don’t – fit in. And the power held by the local fundamentalist church – who practice snake handling as a test for purity.

The outcome isn’t entirely unexpected, but still reasonably satisfying.

 

Book Review of Pulitzer Prize Winning Less

LessI picked this up a recent trip to Readings in Carlton, and there was just something so endearing about the blurb for this novel… and then the giant sticker proclaiming that it had won the Pulitzer Prize this year.

Andrew Sean Greer’s Less is just as expected – a well-written and endearing novel about an aging gay writer – Arthur Less – who in a desperate attempt to have a legitimate excuse to skip the marriage of his long-term lover, accepts every offer possible that takes him out of the state- and even out of the country. Less just happens to be turning 50 around about the same time. And his latest novel, has been rejected by his publisher.

Witty, affable and charmingly sincere, Less is an engaging subject. It’s also lovely to enter his world of writers – and the mindset of writers who can never be sure of their own genius. But it’s apparently not that Less is a bad writer – his second last novel wins an international prize on his strange journey. It’s apparently that he’s a bad gay – always making his characters suffer. Somewhere on his journey amidst the broken heart, the self-flagellation, the nostalgia, the injuries, the madness and the alcohol, he completes a re-write of the new novel, and in turn, rewrites himself.

The novel is also intriguingly narrated by a disembodied narrator who moves closer and closer to the action of the narrative as the novel progresses, only to be revealed just as the story closes. Sweet, smart and honest – while this won’t be the book of the year for me by a mile, I dare you not to like it.

Book Review of Station Eleven

Station ElevenEmily St John Mandel’s Station Eleven skips back and forward between the world as we know it today, and a dystopian landscape 20 years in the future where most of humanity has been wiped put by a superflu.  Starting over, survivors cling to many things to give life meaning… artefacts from the past (many of which tie the narrators together) and religion especially.

It’s a land where an unraided house is a rare luxury, and the knives tattooed on your wrist signify the lives you have been forced to take.  Some turn to the prophets who seem to dominate the isolated towns… others choose a life of wandering, not sure they will ever find a safe place to call home.  For these, memory is painful – “the more you remember, the more you’ve lost”.

It’s hard to determine a central character… but the action centres around two things.  The first is an actor who dies of a heart attack just as the pandemic becomes apparent.  The second is a science fiction world portrayed in a comic book carried by Kristen, a young survivor.  This world is the Station Eleven of the title – a space station that provides a haven for those who survived an alien takeover from Earth.  No wonder she holds it so closely… when a safe place seems so hard to find here.

There are a lot of beautiful and poignant moments here – not the least of which is the irony of a world in which Star Trek: Voyager provides ancient wisdom “Survival is insufficient”.  This is the mantra of a group of troubadours travelling and performing Shakespeare across a world that in many ways, seems to have lost hope.  What incredible juxtaposition.

This is a readable but clever book that is on the VCE English text list for 2019.  Worth consideration.