Elena Ferrante’s — My brilliant friend *****

Elena Ferrante’s — My brilliant friend *****

From childhood, Elena and Lina are friends. Throughout the 1950s, they know nothing of Naples, the city they live in beyond the impoverished suburb they inhabit. Elena struggles to be first in class, but realises she will always be second to Lina. When they reach adolescence, their lives take different directions, but will either of them be able to escape into a different life from their deprived mothers?

This is a compelling step into the Italian mentality of the times, from the limited lives of the women to the overbearing macho mentality of the men who frequently react with violence.

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Richard Flanagan’s — Death of a river guide *****

Richard Flanagan’s — Death of a river guide *****

Alijaz is a river guide on the only remaining Tasmanian River that has not been dammed, the Franklin. In an attempt to save a tourist who’s fallen into the river, Alijaz gets trapped in the rapids. While he is trapped, his dreams take him on an unforgettable journey.

Beautifully written, I didn’t want this story to end while at the same time, hoped Alijaz would survive.

Best editing tip ever

Best editing tip ever

I learned this tip from one of our critique facilitators, author, Julie Ferguson, who led our local writing group for decades. Unfortunately (for us) she has since moved cities, but I haven’t forgotten her many gems of advice while editing.

Read aloud. Two things happen when I read aloud. Firstly, I hear what I’ve written more clearly than merely reading in my head. Secondly, when I stumbled on a phrase, it usually means there’s something not quite right with what I’ve written.

Tim Winton’s — The shepherd’s hut

Tim Winton’s — The shepherd’s hut

After Jaxie’s abusive father accidently dies, Jaxie heads for the West Australian wilderness fearing he’ll be blamed. When he’s desperate for water, he comes across an abandoned shack with a water tank. But as he explores the lonely countryside, he soon discovers he is not the only one who’s run away from his past nor is he safe once he discovers an even bigger secret.

Jaxie’s voice adds to the adventure of isolation in the back country. Just couldn’t put Winton’s latest novel down.

Katherine Boo’s — Behind the beautiful forevers *****

Katherine Boo’s — Behind the beautiful forevers *****

A cast of characters in Annawadi slums near Mumbai’s airport are hopeful when India’s economy starts to bloom. Some are metal thieves, others collect recyclable garbage, but when their day is done, they live in close proximity to everyone so that there are few secrets.

This is a must read with the focus on a Muslim family striving for a better life. It reads like fiction, but was actually the author’s observations and research during her three years living in Mumbai.

Sharon Bala’s — The Boat People

Sharon Bala’s — The Boat People

A 2018 Canada reads contester was inspired by the over five hundred people who arrived on Canada’s west coast from Sri Lanka.

We learn of Mahindan’s life in Lanka where he was a mechanic at the mercy of both the Lankan government and the Tigers; in Canada, Grace, a hard line adjudicator has a tough stance on those who don’t arrive through the proper channels; and Priya, a lawyer dragged into working with the refugees when she wants to specialize in corporate law.

What will happen to the refugees who are turned back? How will the Canadian officials’ characters change after working with the Tamils for months? This is absolutely the best read on the crisis in Lanka (that still continues today for anyone not Buddhist) and what Tamils have had to endure to stay alive.

Tanya Talaga’s — Seven Fallen Feathers *****

Tanya Talaga’s — Seven Fallen Feathers *****

Journalist, Tanya Talaga chronicles the lives and deaths of seven First Nation teens in Thunder Bay who lost their lives after moving from remote Ontario communities to attend secondary school in the city.

In this non-fiction account, we learn about life in Thunder Bay for First Nation teens; about the parents and First Nation communities who come together to search for the children when they disappear; and their contact with police and how the Thunder Bay RCMP handle each case.

This is a well written, must read for all Canadians so we grasp the systemic culture within the police force, the community, and the government at large.