Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Miles Franklin 2014 Longlist

Australia’s most prestigious literary award was established through the will of the writer Stella Miles Franklin, best known for her novel My Brilliant Career. The bequest came as a surprise to the literary world as Franklin had told nobody – save her trustees – of her plans.

Miles Franklin had first-hand experience of the struggle to make a living as a writer and was herself the beneficiary of two literary prizes. She was also extremely conscious of the importance of fostering a uniquely Australian literature. She wrote,

"Without an indigenous literature,
people can remain alien in their own soil."

Accordingly, the Award is presented each year to a novel which is of the highest literary merit and presents Australian life in any of its phases.

The Miles Franklin was first awarded in 1957. Since then, the annual announcement of the winner has become an event anticipated and discussed throughout Australia and around the world.

The Life and Loves of Lena Gaunt by Tracy Farr

The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan The Railwayman's Wife by Ashley Hay

Mullumbimby by Melissa LucashenkoThe Night Guest by Fiona McFarlane

 Belomor by Nicolas RothwellGame by Trevor Shearston

My Beautiful Enemy by Cory TaylorEyrie by Tim Winton

The Swan Book by Alexis WrightAll the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld

Buy these books at Abbey's (131 York Street Sydney) ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Abbey's ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Notes from Eve Abbey ~ April 2014

Have you stumbled across archaeologist Neil Oliver talking about the Vikings on SBS? Well I’m sure you have because he is that nice man who often fronts up on Coast. But this is not about those rough Vikings marauding and killing but about the traders who journeyed, not only to Ireland and England but also down the Russian rivers to Constantinople! Very interesting. A friend spent some happy time browsing in Abbey’s recently and she happened to come home with Ibn Fadlan and the Darkness: Arab Travellers in the Far North.  It turns out in 922 AD Ibn Fadlan encountered Vikings on the Volga River and is one of several Arab travellers who left meticulous descriptions of these encounters. Do click on this title... as it is a Penguin Classic it is only $9.95. I was happy to see her arrive home with three very different books – the result of browsing. Checking the database is convenient and fairly quick but peeping inside the covers of books with intriguing titles is even more fun.

Ibn Fadlan and the Land of Darkness: Arab Travellers in the Far NorthPlain Tales from the Raj: Images of British India in the 20th CenturyKipling Sahib: India and the Making of Rudyard KiplingAshoka: The Search for India's Lost Emperor

My friend also brought home yet another book by Charles Allen, historian and travel writer, whose most famous book is Plain Tales from the Raj, which used to be read on ABC Radio. He also wrote the definitive biography Kipling Sahib. This latest one is called Ashoka: The Search for India's Lost Emperor. British Orientalists have spent many years researching old monuments to discover more about Ashoka who was the first ruler of all India, who transformed Buddhism from a minor sect to a World Religion only to be forgotten for two thousand years.

The Sea: A Cultural HistoryThe Sea and Civilization: A Maritime History of the World

Her third book was The Sea: A Cultural History by John Mack who uses history, maritime archaeology, art history, biography and excepts from famous writers. He is fascinated by all aspects of the society of the sea – how seamen behave differently ashore, use different words for the same things, how the sea changes and what it means to us. (Ed: See also The Sea and Civilization: A Maritime History of the World by Lincoln Paine)

My friend lives in the country and does use the internet but she counts a visit to Abbeys as one of the highlights in any trip to town.

War Popular Penguins

Popular Penguins at $9.95 each have been a huge success – for everyone. It is so good to see certain backlist titles racing to the fore again and you certainly can’t complain that books are too expensive. Another new series is now coming out featuring military stories. They will have a khaki cover and most of the authors are Australian. The titles are Anzac to Amiens by C.E.W,.Bean, An Anzac’s Story by Roy Kyle, Patsy Adam-Smith’s The Anzacs, Australia in Arms by Phillip Schuler, Flesh in Armour by Leonard Mann, Generals Die in Bed by Charles Yale Harrison, Goodbye to All That by Robert Graves, The Middle Parts of Fortune by Frederic Manning, Storm of Steel by Ernst Junger and The Penguin Book of First World War Poetry edited by George Walter. War Popular Penguins are all only $9.95.

The LuminariesTracks

On the Trail of Genghis Khan: An Epic Journey Through the Land of the Nomads

I have finally finished reading Eleanor Catton’s book The Luminaries which won the 2013 Man-Booker Prize. 832 pages means I don’t rush into it but this has proved to be a book well worth the time and one ready to be read again soon after. Enjoy the language as well as the story, which as you may know is set on the wild west coast of New Zealand’s South Island during the Gold Rushes of the 1850’s. There is a most interesting review of this book by Julian Novitz in the Sydney Review of Books. Did you realise that each succeeding chapter is half the size of the previous chapter? I'd noticed this and wondered if the author was running out of steam or had simply realised that people like to get to the end!

It was a matter of coincidence that I have read the film-tie in edition of Robyn Davidson’s Tracks and Tim Cope’s On the Trail of Genghis Khan: An Epic Journey Through The Land of the Nomads. Two entirely different books: one very slender and one very thick, but both classic travel writing from a young Australian. Both highly recommended. I suspect I had not read Tracks previously but I have sold so many copies over the years I had begun to think I had read it!

Some nice recent news includes awards for Frank Moorhouse for Lifetime Achievement in Literature and the Patrick White Award to Louis Nowra for significant but inadequately recognised contribution to Australian literature. Bravo. Well deserved.

Keep well.


Buy these books at Abbey's (131 York Street Sydney) ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Abbey's ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Thursday, March 27, 2014

INDIE Awards 2014 ~ WINNERS

The Indie Awards 2014 books at Abbey's Bookshop 131 York Street, Sydney

The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan has been crowned as the Independent Booksellers of Australia favourite Australian book from last year and the winner of The Indie Book of the Year Award 2014. The individual category winners in Fiction, Debut Fiction, Non-Fiction and Children’s were also announced. From these four category winners the independent booksellers selected the best of the best - The Indie Book of the Year for 2014.

Upon announcement, Richard Flanagan said; " If there is a motif for my novel it is the circle, and it seems fitting that a book whose public life began with me speaking about it at the Leading Edge conference last year now sees me return here to thank you, the independent booksellers, for this award.

2013 was a golden year for Australian books. Across fiction, non-fiction, and children’s books there were so many outstanding works that sold in record numbers. In what is in many ways a time of despair and difficulty for those in the world of books, I want to thank Australian independent bookshops not only for this award but for making this small miracle possible.

Good Australian writing needs good Australian bookshops to prosper. Without them Australian writers are one more endangered species whose bush has been bulldozed. That we have not only survived, but shown that Australian writing remains popular and profitable is a great achievement that deserves celebration.

And for that the real prize goes to all the Australian independent booksellers who backed not only me with such passion and such commitment, but who have backed so many Australian writers. I am grateful for this prize, but I am indebted for that support. Without it I—and so many others— would not be writers. Ponder, for a moment, what Australia would be without Australian books. That they continue to be written is as much your achievement as it is our vocation. Thank you."

According to Galina Marinov, Buyer/Marketing Manager, Leading Edge Books, “As with all great literature, this is a book that can be read on many levels - a deeply moving novel of one man’s life, a devastatingly beautiful love story, a harrowing historical narrative daring us never to forget and most of all, as an ode to the resilience of the human spirit. All this makes it a dream book in the hands of independent booksellers – to read, to love and to recommend wholeheartedly to their customers.” 

The category award winners are:

The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan (Random House)

Girt by David Hunt (Black Inc) 

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent (Pan Macmillan) 

Kissed by the Moon by Alison Lester (Penguin) 

THE INDIE BOOK OF YEAR 2014 - The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan (Random House) 

Buy these books at Abbey's (131 York Street Sydney) ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Abbey's ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Friday, March 7, 2014

Notes from Eve Abbey - March 2014

There are plenty of aspiring writers around now that so many people have word processing in their computers. Let me suggest a shining example to you.

 Anne Patchett
Photo credit: Heidi Ross

Ann Patchett’s latest book, This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, is billed as a memoir although it is also a collection of non-fiction pieces which have appeared in such places as Vogue, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times or The Atlantic Monthly.

They all recall encounters in her life, whether it be about work, separation, divorce, love or friendships. They are all a joy to read while the opening piece, called Non-Fiction: An Introduction could be a manifesto for a would-be writer. And of course the final piece about setting up a bookshop in her home town is not to be missed! Ann Patchett is what may be called a jobbing writer.... she speaks directly to you about all sort of things and can turn her hand to any subject. Her work is totally pleasing and often very amusing. Her most famous book is Bel Canto about a terrorist attack on a President who has stayed home to watch his favourite TV show whilst The Magician’s Assistant and State of Wonder are also popular. Her versatile approach to writing reminds me of our own wonderful Ruth Park.

 Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life by Hermione Lee

Word processor help was certainly not around when great English writer Penelope Fitzgerald was writing her spare little masterpieces. Look inside the front and back covers of Hermione Lee’s wonderful new biography Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life. These are copied from manuscripts and are covered in deletions and scribbles. I suppose someone else eventually typed them?

Fitzgerald came from a famous clan of bishops and intellectuals. She wrote about them in her book The Knox Brothers, and also a biography of Edward Burne-Jones. She remained an ardent member of the Morris Society all her life. She liked to pose as a vague old lady but she was certainly not that. Her novels were first published at sixty and she was famous by eighty. My favourite book is, naturally, The Bookshop which ends something like this, "she sighed as she thought she lived in a town which didn't want a bookshop". Her last book, The Blue Flower, is called a work of genius. The biography, like Fitzgerald’s stories, is both sad and funny.

After her brilliant academic career she married a dashing Irish Guardsman who turned out to be a lost soul much given to drink. As editors of The World Review they were part of the literati in Hampstead. The World Review was one of the many magazines published by the Hulton Library which also included Lilliput. (Who remembers that?) Desmond Fitzgerald was supposed to be the editor and Penelope was also a regular contributor to BBC Script – which were often late as she worked with Desmond on the Review. Things go downhill rapidly and they end up on a sinking barge on the Thames which she writes about in Offshore (which won the Booker Prize in 1979).

After Desmond’s death Penelope becomes a valued teacher at some unusual schools in London, such as a college for future actors which she writes about in At Freddies. Lucky pupils! Just as this biography will be a treasure-trove for teachers and students of English literature as Hermione Lee spends a lot of time dissecting the novels.

As she grew older and more famous – listed three times for the Booker Prize and winning once – Fitzgerald spent more time writing essays and reviews as well as appearing on panels and as a judge. If you haven't already read Penelope Fitzgerald I am sure you will want to but if you have already read her I am also sure you will want to re-read her wonderful insightful novels.

Hermione Lee is a famous biographer and teacher of literature who has also written about Virginia Woolf, Elizabeth Bowen, Philip Roth, Willa Cather and Edith Wharton, so you might say she has the literary world covered.

Talking of aspiring writers... Australian Book Review has announced the closing date for the Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize. It will be 1st May 2014 and details can be found on

Keep well,


Buy these books at Abbey's (131 York Street Sydney) ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Abbey's ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Lindy Jones has been reading...

Lindy Jones ~ Australian Bookseller Association Bookseller of the Year 2011

The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert


Elizabeth Kolbert

Since life began on Earth, there have been five major mass extinctions: the Ordovician 450 million years ago; the late Devonian 375 million years ago; the Permian 250 million years ago; the Triassic-Jurassic 200 million years ago; and the Cretaceous 65 million years ago. Here in the Anthropocene (a name still being investigated as appropriate to describe the current epoch), we are perhaps in the midst of the Sixth Extinction that our race is instrumental in causing.

Kolbert is a journalist, rather than a scientist, but her ability to communicate scientific concepts is evident in this accessible and highly researched book. It blends history with cutting edge discoveries; it has a good overview of the development of the ideas of evolution and species dispersal, of the gradual understanding of the length of life on the planet.

Each chapter is arranged around the story of one species emblematic of an idea or problem, including: the Panamanian golden frog and the discovery of the devastating chytrid fungus; the idea of extinction as arrived at through the examination of mastodon fossils; coral and the acidification of the seas; the fragmentation of rainforest as told through a single tree species and the repercussions of climate change; or the desperate plight of American bats and a plague perhaps introduced by travellers visiting a tourist cave system.

In all of these things, human actions are the essential agency of change. It is perhaps hard to use the word ‘enjoyable’ when the subject is so terrifying, but I found this book absorbing and thoughtful, and it makes me want to read more on various subjects Kolbert covers – a sign that the book has engaged and stimulated in equal measure!

 The Enchanted by Rene Denfield


Rene Denfeld

A prisoner on death row watches and listens to what happens around him. We don’t know what he’s done, because he can’t face it himself. He hears The Lady try to make sense of one of his fellow inmate’s life and actions in an attempt to save him from execution; he sees The Priest lost in the maze of good intentions and diminishing faith; he watches the beginnings of something fragile between them. The prisoner shrinks from any contact, but reading and re-reading brings colour to his cell – that and the Horses.

Language is the enchantment in his dark world, and as the story unfolds, if we do not and can not condone, we come to understand the prisoner’s life. A powerful book best consumed in one sitting, then thought about quietly long afterwards.

Alice Hoffman

Coralie has been brought up by her slightly sinister father to impersonate a mermaid in his Museum of Extraordinary Things – a freak show on Coney Island in the early years of the 20th century. She is kept separate from human society to preserve the illusion of her otherness, but as the nature of mass entertainment changes, her father looks for different attractions. He also displays her in less innocent circumstances, as his business declines…

Eddie is a young man who rejects his Jewish background and feels betrayed by what he perceives as his father’s weakness. He becomes intrigued by photography, and when he witnesses a terrible tragedy, finds himself embroiled in both cover-ups and mysteries.

How these two disparate characters find each other and their true place in the world is a riveting and beautifully detailed read.

TaraShea Nesbit

It took me a few chapters to get into this novel, as it is narrated by a collective chorus of voices – the wives of the men involved in the Project at Los Alamos during WWII. Once I had gotten used to the multiplicity of storytellers, I found this thoroughly interesting. The women have come from all over the country, kept ignorant of their husbands’ works and dealing with life in an isolated and isolating place.

From the difficulties of maintaining their families, the jealousies and friendships and hardships of living in a town constructed for one purpose, the need to maintain secrecy and something of their own lives and the many and varied ways they coped (or didn’t) this is an admirable exercise in evoking place and time and experience.

Robert Glancy

Frank has been involved in a very bad accident. He doesn’t remember very much of his past life as a husband, employee in the family law firm (where there was none better at dealing with the fine print of contracts) and is being told who he was by his wife, his older brother and various acquaintances.

It’s rather puzzling though, the things he does remember don’t quite seem to fit with the pictures other people make of him and for him. And what is his younger brother trying to tell him in the strange and entertaining emails he keeps sending? As Frank’s past life gradually comes back to him, he starts to realise there are plenty of terms and conditions to living that he may not have been aware of in his previous incarnation…

I really enjoyed Frank and his gradual reawakening to life’s possibilities, and how the underdog can actually come out on top!

Lorrie Moore

A collection of eight short stories, this is the first from this celebrated writer in 15 years. Each story explores time’s passing and its effects on relationships. Very few of the characters are happy or even content; mostly they are in the ruins of personal relationships – marriages dissolving, friends dying, the aftermath of divorce and all the attendant griefs of failure.

Observant, occasionally poignant, tender and often just on the edge of something hopeful, these are fine examples of how the short story can often convey more than whole novels.

 This is the life by Alex Shearer

Alex Shearer

I think so far this year, that this is my favourite novel. It is a tender and sometimes poignant novel of two brothers and their loving but sometimes difficult past. The younger one has left his family and work in England to fly to Brisbane to be by his brother's side. Louis has brain cancer, it turns out, but he's not going down without a fight.

He has never quite found his place in the world, possessing both intelligence and principles in equal measure; nor has he ever really settled down as restlessness and his own eccentricities play against other people understanding him fully. Despite this, Louis' friends are true ones, and his younger brother adores and tolerates him. As the disease takes hold, and takes away, brotherly love supports, consoles, and deepens the understanding, that this is the life.

With a cast of beautifully drawn characters, and a feeling that this is not a novel but almost a memoir, the veracity of the descriptions and wonderful flashes of humour make this touching book quite special indeed.


Anthony Doerr

Marie-Laure loses her sight at the age of six. Her father, the locksmith for the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, helps her navigate her life by constructing intricate models of her surroundings. Werner is an orphan living in Zollverein who has an uncanny mechanical aptitude but in Nazi Germany is destined for the coal mines that claimed his father’s life.

As they grow, both Marie-Laure and Werner face challenges they can overcome, but the gathering forces of war are going to rip them from their accustomed lives. When Marie-Laure and her father flee Paris for St Malo, they are carrying what may be a precious and myth-shrouded jewel – or a decoy to fool the Nazi treasure plunderers. Werner also finds himself serving in St Malo, his talent for wireless engineering much in demand. He has succumbed to the ideology of his times, but uneasiness is always under the surface of his thoughts. When the Americans bomb St Malo there may be a chance for redemption…

An intricate novel but easily read as the alternating chapters follow first one then the other character. Beautifully plotted and very finely written, this was a moving, haunting story of the effects war has on innocence.

Marianne Kavanagh

Tess believes in soul mates. She’s pretty sure that the thoughtful, attractive and faithful Dominic is hers. George doesn’t believe in soul mates, but he does believe in music, love and doing the right thing. They’ve never met, but they have mutual friends, most of whom think Tess and George would be good together. It takes a few years, and plenty of mistakes before they do finally meet, but by then both are happily enmeshed with other partners. Or are they?

A charmingly entertaining and ebullient novel that is perfect for a lazy weekend (and will no doubt one day make a perfect Saturday afternoon rom-com movie!).

Buy these books at Abbey's (131 York Street Sydney) ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Abbey's ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Conversations in Crime Alley: NEWTON & NUNN on APRIL 10

Step aside Dalziel and Pascoe. Take a walk Cagney and Lacey. Newton and Nunn will be taking to the mics.

AUTHOR EVENT: Join Sydney author P M Newton and Swaziland-author-who-calls-Australia-home Malla Nunn for a free-ranging (and FREE) conversation about crime novels, crime authors and crime writing.

P M Newton spent over a decade as a detective in the NSW police force, including time in Sydney's southwest and the Drug Enforcement Agency. Her debut novel The Old School signalled her as being an exciting new home-grown crime writing talent and the follow-up Beams Falling has just arrived into store and went straight into our bestsellers.

Malla Nunn was born in Swaziland, South Africa, and currently lives in Sydney. She is also a filmmaker with three award-winning films to her credit. Her novels include A Beautiful Place to DieLet the Dead Lie, and Silent Valley.

We would very much like you to join us on the night ~ please RSVP to




Buy these books at Abbey's (131 York Street Sydney) ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Abbey's ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Friday, February 14, 2014

Coming of Age: Growing Up Muslim in Australia - Book Launch

We had a wonderful night on Thursday 13 February for the launch for Coming of Age, a book about Growing up Muslim in Australia.

Three of the book's twelve contributors appeared on the night - psychiatrist Dr Tanveer Ahmed, former Miss World Australia, Miss World Asia Pacific and charity ambassador Sabrina Houssami and novelist Randa Abdel-Fattah.

There were many candid, funny and touching stories of young people growing up juggling two cultures, as they aimed to fit in to the Australian culture of schools and their non-Muslim friends, whilst still participating in the customs and cultural norms of family and Muslim communities. Each speaker related how the journey had been very individual, with their resulting level of observance to Muslim doctrine being ultimately a very personal decision, and so the panelists ranged from devout to agnostic. It is this broader understanding of the spectrum of belief that exists among Muslims that needs to be conveyed to the Australian non-Muslim community.

“Aiming to demystify Islam and challenge ‘Islamaphobia’, the contributors succeed brilliantly at highlighting the diversity of Muslim culture and identity.” says Meredith Lewin in her review of Coming of Age: Growing Up Muslim in Australia, for Books+Publishing Magazine.

This is the nub of this book, and it is also summed up nicely by the heading of Sabrina Houssami’s contribution titled ‘Mishmash Muslim’. Admitting that her own beliefs and practice of her religion are less than strict or orthodox, she makes the striking observation that in the media we only hear about one kind of Muslim – the fundamentalist. Yet when considering other faiths, especially Christianity, we readily accept that followers come in various shades and hues across a spectrum ranging from lapsed to fanatical. The power of this book will be in teaching young minds that faith, of any kind, isn’t black or white.

Special thanks to Andrew Morello for his excellent MC contribution and to photographer Riz Rehman from Rizzography.

A special note of thanks also goes to Warringah Councillor Vincent De Luca OAM and to ABC Radio's Dr Rachael Kohn for attending the evening, and also to the book's publisher Allen & Unwin for working with us on the evening.

About the evening's Speakers

Dr Tanveer Ahmed is a Bangladeshi–Australian doctor (Psychiatry) and City of Canada Bay councillor who also sits on several Boards including The Australian Multicultural Council and the National Committee of the Australian Republican movement. His migration memoir is The Exotic Rissole.

Sabrina Houssami, Australian-born of Indian and Lebanese parents, is a former Miss World Australia and Miss World Asia Pacific, and was a runner-up in the Miss World 2006 competition. A member of Mensa, Sabrina is very active as a charity ambassador, having helped to raise over $5 million for charities across the world.

Randa Abdel-Fattah is an Australian-Muslim writer of Palestinian and Egyptian parentage. Her debut novel, Does My Head Look Big in This?, was published in 2005 and was the winner of Australian Book of the year for Older Children at the Australian Book Industry Awards 2006. Her most recent novel is No Sex in the City.

Andrew Morello was our moderator for the evening, a man with more than a little of the gift of the gab who, following his start as an auctioneer and real estate agent, became the winner of the first season of The Apprentice television competition show in 2009. As a result he joined Mark Bouris' Yellow Brick Road operation where he is Head of Business Development.

(note: the photos of the audience below are our own snaps)

Andrew Morello at Abbey's Bookshop 131 York Street, Sydney

Book launch at Abbey's Bookshop 131 York Street, Sydney

Book launch at Abbey's Bookshop 131 York Street, Sydney

Book launch at Abbey's Bookshop 131 York Street, Sydney

Buy these books at Abbey's (131 York Street Sydney) ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Abbey's ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers