Eugenia Kim’s — The Calligrapher’s Daughter *****

Eugenia Kim’s — The Calligrapher’s Daughter *****

Najin doesn’t want to live a traditional Korean life, but her father tries to force her into a marriage with an aristocratic family. Her mother, defying the obedient wife tradition, arranges a position for her in the king’s court as a companion to a young princess. With Japan’s control over the country and the dying monarchy, Najin’s life becomes oppressive. When she unexpectedly finds love, they are soon separated and she must face Japan’s attack on China and Pearl Harbour while her husband is an ocean away.

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Lisa See’s — Shanghai Girls *****

Lisa See’s — Shanghai Girls *****

Two sisters, Pearl and May, lead exciting lives in Shanghai until their father’s once rich lifestyle is gambled away. Their father is forced to sell his daughters to men in California seeking wives. Escaping from invading soldiers, they journey across to U.S.A. to begin new lives with the strangers they’ve married.

Timothy Bottoms’ — Conspiracy of Silence *****

Timothy Bottoms’ — Conspiracy of Silence *****

This is a history of Queensland’s early European settlement that I was never taught. The novel documents an era during the 1800s when pastoralists claimed millions of hectares of Queensland’s interior for cattle and sheep grazing. When Aborigines objected, speared a sheep or approached waterholes they’d used for thousands of years, graziers either demanded the native police “disperse” the Aborigines or killed most of the tribe themselves.

This is a difficult truth, revealing massacre after massacre of thousands of Aborigines perpetrated by white settlers and/or native police while the state government turned a blind eye because many of the government officials had vested interests in the grazier properties.

A must read for those who don’t want a glossed over version of history.

Patricia Duncker’s — Miss Webster and Cherif *****

Patricia Duncker’s — Miss Webster and Cherif *****

Forced to retire for her out dated French lessons, Miss Webster is a cantankerous old woman living alone in her English cottage. After she recovers from a serious illness, she holidays in Morocco. Within weeks of her return, she is confronted with a handsome young Arab on her doorstep, the son of a woman she befriended at her North African hotel. When she allows Cherif to stay overnight before he finds accommodation on campus, it is the beginning of her transformation. Cherif is introducted to a different world from his desert upbringing, while he hides a lie until he can no longer conceal the truth.

This book is set after 9/11 and during the Iraqi war. I loved Duncker’s tongue in cheek humour and her take on the small mindedness of the villagers when they meet Cherif.

Michael Lewis’ — Boomerang ******

Michael Lewis’ — Boomerang ******

If you’re interested in the financial bubble that burst across the world during 2002 to 2008 then this book will interest you. As well, if you’re no financial expert with a grip on the jargon, this is a must read.

Lewis’ journey examines, not only the United States’ debacle, but he travels to Iceland, Greece, Ireland and Germany to unlock the mystery of why these countries suffered the worst.

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.