Friday, 29 July 2016

Abbey's Bookseller Picks ~ Book Reviews from 131 York Street

"Compelling and bittersweet"

Music and Freedom
ZoĆ« Morrison

On an orange orchard in rural Australia, from age three Alice Murray has been learning to play the piano. When her talents are soon recognised, Alice’s mother sends her to boarding school in England. As doors open and opportunities present themselves, Alice continues her musical education abroad all the while trying to reconcile her deep yearning to return home to her mother, with her dream of becoming a concert pianist. It’s during her time spent in a musical summer program at Oxford that she meets Edward, an intriguing, seemingly worldly economics professor. What she believes to be a powerful love, Alice soon realises is a harrowing force threatening to destroy and isolate her from the sanctuary of her music.

This compelling, bittersweet novel is a beautiful exploration of the transcendental nature of music and the restorative powers of love. In later years, as music once again makes its way into Alice’s life, she begins to realise that resurrection is never an impossibility, and that what is broken can, with a little faith and determination, be mended. Lyrical and intelligent in its style, this book will stay with you well after you have turned the last page.

Jessica Slade
More reviews from Jessica

"Suspense and humour"

The House at the Edge of Night
Catherine Banner

I am sure this writer will be compared to Louis de Bernieres but to me she has produced a truly original story and written it in a straightforward style of her own. Off the coast of Italy lies the island of Castellamare, remote, old fashioned and almost untouched by monumental events happening elsewhere in the world. But, change is inevitable and will bring both happiness and despair to the inhabitants of this small and rocky outpost. It’s a long book but a real ‘page-turner’ and has suspense and humour in every chapter.

Peter Smith
More reviews from Peter

"An absolute treasure"

Memories: From Moscow to the Black Sea

Every now and then you are fortunate enough to come across an author that you know you will be re-reading long into your golden years, and to that short but cherished list I now introduce Teffi. What a discovery! It only took a few chapters of her modern voice, charm and intelligent observation to wholeheartedly win me over.

A Russian writer from the early twentieth century, she was so widely read that she could count both Lenin and Nicholas II as avid readers. Only recently translated for English speaking audiences, her autobiographical account of leaving revolutionary Russia and her uncertain journey as a refugee is a timely release.

The journey itself is at times so distressing that it is a testament to her character and naturally humorous disposition that can still make you laugh. This book was an absolute treasure to me, as is Teffi herself, and I am so delighted to have discovered her!

Sian McNabney
More reviews from Sian

"Witty and literary"

Black Teeth
Zane Lovitt

Four oddball loners become entwined in a very strange and novel situation. Revenge and murder, and very enjoyable. Witty and literary, Zane Lovitt’s writing pops with youthful invention and has that irresistible pull as to what happens next. 

Jason Ginaff goes by many names. This is due in part to his hyper-vigilant attitude to privacy and also to his consulting work, utilising his keen skills in accessing information online about corporate job candidates to unearth embarrassing or compromising stuff they’d forgotten or thought they’d deleted. He’s an accomplished liar.

Jason has also been seeking out the father he never knew. And now he’s found him - former Detective Glen Tyan, known as ‘The Polygraph’ for his ability to suss out a liar.

Rudy Alamein is a man-child whose stunted development arose from the tragic murder of his mother thirteen years ago, for which his father was incarcerated. Rudy wants Glen Tyan dead.

And then there’s Elizabeth.  

As the day of reckoning draws nearer, some very intriguing aspects about the murder of Cheryl Alamein are unearthed.

When I finished reading this, I kind of wished I was starting out again. Very, very enjoyable. I’ll be seeking out Lovitt's debut, The Midnight Promise (Winner: Best First Fiction - NED KELLY AWARDS 2013), and anything else he cares to write.

Craig Kirchner
More reviews from Craig

"A thoughtful book"

The Bone Sparrow
Zana Fraillon

Subhi is of Rohingya descent, but he was born in Australia. Unfortunately, he was born in a detention camp, where he has spent his whole life. By nature he is optimistic and good-natured, though little in his external circumstances could be said to be hopeful - his mother is withdrawing from life, his older sister is either angry or contemptuous, his father still hasn't made it to Australia, the camp has little in the way of resources.

Yet Subhi is attracted to stories and they to him - the most powerful is the Night Sea, and the wondrous creatures and gifts it contains keep him  hopeful. Then one night Jimmie, who lives beyond the fence, makes her way over it and meets Subhi.

An unlikely friendship develops as they exchange stories. Jimmie is struggling with the loss of her Mum and the absence of her father, and poverty and neglect are part of her life, but together Subhi and Jimmie discover the true power of storytelling… A thoughtful book along the lines of Morris Gleitzman's novels.

Lindy Jones
More reviews from Lindy


Small Town Talk: Bob Dylan, the Band, Van Morrison, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix & Friends in Woodstock
Barney Hoskyns

Hoskyn's new book is about the artistic/bohemian community of Woodstock, from its beginnings in the early 1900's and its peak during the 60's and how Dylan embraced it, then abandoned what was once an isolated, artistic community but soon turned into a tourist haven. Brilliant.

Greg Waldron
More reviews from Greg

Since 1968 ~ Abbey's 131 York Street (next to QVB) Sydney ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Abbey's ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Notes from Eve Abbey ~ August 2016

There is a splendid book in the New Releases which will interest all our legal eagle customers and others interested in politics and law.

By Ian Hancock, an Editorial Fellow of the Australian Dictionary of Biography, and published by Federation Press, it is Tom Hughes QC: A Cab on the Rank.

There is a great portrait of him on the cover backing up the description “a lion of the Law”. A meticulous account of Tom’s childhood and his time in England as a Sunderland Pilot during the Second World War is followed by an even more meticulous account of the very many important cases Tom Hughes ran during his long period at the bar from 1952 to 2012 plus tales of political in-fighting when Hughes was Federal Attorney General. His 90th birthday was celebrated by the Bar Association in 2013. “He may be the last of the traditional barrister class but on his own he could draw a crowd, persuade a jury and ensure that judges paid attention”. Of course his other claim to fame is that he is Lucy’s father and thus father-in-law to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

An unusual Australian biography is Our Man Elsewhere: In Search of Alan Moorehead by Thornton McCamish. I say unusual because it also includes the activities and reactions of the author who has indeed set out to remind us of a famous Australian author who seems to have gone out of fashion. Alan Moorehead was a journalist par excellence. His first big success was the book he wrote about Gallipoli, reissued recently for the centenary of that battle. He was a famous war correspondent and then later took to travel writing.

He led a very cosmopolitan life, friendly with Hemingway and other writers of the period. Although he did write a few novels they were never the success of his travel stories. Who can forget The White Nile and then The Blue Nile, both with wonderful illustrations in large glossy paperbacks? There was a sad end to his life when he suffered a major stroke which left him unable to speak or write. Today his daughter, Caroline Moorehead, carries on his tradition of finding good true stories to tell-such as Village of Secrets: Defying the Nazis in Vichy France and A Train in Winter: A Story of Resistance, Friendship and Survival at Auschwitz, or Priam’s Gold: Schliemann and the Lost Treasures of Troy, as well as a biography of Freya Stark.

If you like true story adventures we have just the book for you. It is The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare: Churchill’s Mavericks Plotting Hitler’s Defeat by Giles Milton. Despite the real seriousness of these activities, which did indeed help defeat Hitler and the Nazis, I think the people involved, mostly men with double-hyphenated names, with very good mathematical minds, had the time of their lives. They blew up the vital dry dock at St. Nazaire which kept the dangerous warship Tirpitz out of the Atlantic; they blew up viaducts and railways; they parachuted behind the lines and linked up with Partisans, they invented and manufactured all sorts of tricky bombs and special detonators; they worked sixteen hour days and celebrated hard afterwards.
They certainly had Churchill’s gleeful support. A good thing that Giles Milton has written this book so their names won’t be forgotten. Milton’s forte is fossicking around in the sidelines of history to find exciting overlooked adventurers. His most famous book is Nathaniel’s Nutmeg about how Britain came to own New York and lots of other things. A few of his other titles are White Gold, Russian Roulette, Fascinating Footnotes from History and Paradise Lost: Smyrna 1922. All of them are entertaining.

I’ve just read a terrific crime novel called The Dry: A Desperate Act in a Small Town with Big Secrets. It is by Melbourne journalist Jane Harper. It is a gripping story, as the title suggests. I hope she will write another one soon. This is a perfect description of a country town sweltering in the heat and trying to decide just who was actually the shooter.

I’ve also taken up the crime stories by Lesley Thomson, in a series called The Detective’s Daughter. These are set in the suburbs of London which are carefully described. Lesley is now referred to as “firmly established as one of our leading crime writers”, so I am pleased for her. Years ago she stayed with me in Manly when she first travelled to Australia. She began her first book sitting under my jacaranda tree. The books are very intelligent and credible. There are four in the series now – the last two are The Detective’s Secret and The House with No Rooms.

Keep well,


Since 1968 ~ Abbey's 131 York Street Sydney ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Abbey's ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Just Arrived! For Keeps: A Treasury of Stories, Poems and Plays Celebrating 100 Years of the School Magazine

For Keeps has arrived.

For the last two years I have been attending regular committee meetings of the The School Magazine Centenary Reference Group.  It really opened my eyes to see what the valiant people who put out four levels of The School Magazine for ten months of each year go through to bring school children interesting, entertaining and (quietly) educational material. Putting together an anthology was a time-intensive labour of love, fraught with bureaucracy and careful steps through the minefield of departmental procedures, but what a triumph the final product is!

The School Magazine is the oldest continuous children's literary magazine in the world (and the second oldest magazine in Australia!) It has entertained, educated and enthralled children for a century and many adults have fond memories of anticipating each monthly issue when they were at school. (In fact, I know of some customers who still have their original copies!) Many of our best and brightest writers and illustrators got their start with the Magazine, and it still fosters emerging talent whilst attracting established contributors. Then there is Noela Young, the illustrator best known for bringing Ruth Park's Muddleheaded Wombat to life - she still contributes to the Magazine after more than half a century!

Today it is published in four age levels, ten times every year. To celebrate its centenary, this beautifully produced anthology presents a delectable selection of extracts from editions throughout its history - and as you can imagine, that's a century of delights to pick and choose from. Each entry has the year it appeared on the outer margin and comes with its original illustrations. They are arranged in themes (People, Play, Place) with historic photographs that are guaranteed to evoke nostalgia in older readers, this is both a fascinating resource and a trip down memory lane for adults, whilst still managing to reproduce articles and stories that children of today can appreciate. A truly fine book that indeed lives up to the name 'treasury'!

Lindy Jones

Since 1968 ~ Abbey's 131 York Street Sydney ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Abbey's ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Friday, 1 July 2016

Notes from Eve Abbey ~ July 2016

In June we had an unusual book launch in Abbey’s.

Ye Xin is a successful Chinese author as well as the Director of the Institute of Literature at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences. His latest book Educated Youth, tells the story of one of China’s huge social experiments. During the Cultural Revolution many millions of Chinese high school graduates were sent to live and work in the countryside. In the 1970’s this policy finished and the “educated youth” were allowed to return – but not their families. Many took advantage of this to escape an unhappy marriage or just for another opportunity to begin life again.

Ten years later the children, now teenagers, began to turn up in the cities looking for their parents. Ye Xin’s novel follows five such children, who find their parents have remarried and have new families. Greed and self-interest struggles with a sense of love and duty. I recently saw a film about just this situation and I think we will see more such books and films.

Giramondo published this first translation into English by Jing Han, a Sydney academic. For the launching a big crowd of Chinese people turned up; many of them bought multiple copies – no doubt to press upon the younger generations. I think they will find the story engrossing.

Below - L to R: Alice Grundy, Ivor Indyk (Giramondo), Ye Xin, Jing Han.

Ye Xin - Educated YouthYe Xin - Educated Youth

We have more stock of Michael Wilding’s latest, Growing Wild, so I have had fun reading this memoir of one of our most prolific and varied writers, a real Man of Letters. This time he also writes about his childhood on the outskirts of Worcester in England, which he writes about very affectionately although resentful of class differences.

After a very successful schooling and then graduation from Cambridge University, Michael took up a post in the English Department of Sydney University, at only 21 years of age. He remains Emeritus Professor of English. Included amongst the long list of his publications are his work on Milton and on Marcus Clark, Lawson, Furphy and Stead. On the other hand the Seventies soon came along and the huge outpouring of Australian writing.

In this memoir he doesn’t talk about Wild and Woolley, the distribution press he began with Pat Woolley, importing and publishing new and radical authors, because he has already written a separate book on this - Wild and Woolley: A Publishing Memoir.

That was a rather exciting time, the time of the 'Poetry Wars' and big social changes. I remember that well. Abbey’s Bookshop was a centre for new books coming in from Book People in California, and Robert Adamson said in the Sydney Morning Herald “There’s only one place for poetry in Sydney. I can’t say the name, but it is within spitting distance of the Town Hall”. We liked that.

Michael has also been a prolific short story writer. As well as an amusing series of spoof detective stories, featuring the detective Plant (a reference to possible supervision from ASIO) and the best Campus Novel – Academia Nuts – he was also, along with Frank Moorhouse and Carmel Kelly, the founder of Tabloid Story, a small magazine for short story writers. While reading this memoir it is intriguing to see Michael’s style swerve from lightly amusing chat to serious academic references. If you were living in Sydney in those days you will find much to amuse you here.

Just for interest, you can still buy David Lodge’s very funny campus stories. All three are collected in Campus Trilogy: Changing Places, Small World and Nice Work.

After my glorious sweep through Tim Winton’s Cloudstreet I decided to read two of his memoirs. First I read Land’s Edge: A Coastal Memoir (reprinted in 2010) and then Island Home: A Landscape Memoir (published in 2015). I’ve come to the conclusion that anything Tim Winton writes is worth reading. Same can be said about Helen Garner. They are people thinking deeply about how they live in Australia. It was interesting to see in the latter memoir that Tim himself was almost drowned under a boat when he was young – as was the character Fish in Cloudstreet.

I am now reading This Orient Isle: Elizabethan England and the Islamic World by Jerry Brotton which has been a most interesting surprise. The author is also a Shakespeare expert so he reminds us of the many oriental tales used by Shakespeare and reminds us that Henry VIII liked to wear oriental style clothes and brandish a scimitar. There is a nice overview of what was going on in the period directly following Henry’s death up to the accession of Elizabeth – a time usually dealt with quickly.

In 1600 Morocco sent a formal proposal to Elizabeth to join forces to attack Spain (maybe to reclaim Andalus, maybe to attack Spain’s colonies in the New World). The Catholic Church was concerned about both the Rise of Islam and the Rise of Lutheranism so Elizabeth was a likely ally.

I’m now reading about the rise of the Joint Stock Company and the search for the North West Passage. I also recommend The Silk Roads: A New History of the World by Peter Frankopan who also wrote The First Crusade: The Call of the East. I haven’t yet read The Silk Roads – it has 672 pages so too big for me just now. It is worth noting that the first Professorship in Arabic Studies was begun at Cambridge University in 1632 and at Oxford University in 1636.

Keep well,


Since 1968 ~ Abbey's 131 York Street Sydney ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Abbey's ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Friday, 3 June 2016

Notes from Eve Abbey ~ June 2016

Have you read Tim Winton’s great book Cloudstreet(If you look it up make sure you call it thus because 'Cloud Street', two words, will only lead to confusion).

I think perhaps it is time to read it again. I know I held off a very long time because I’m not keen on big books but when I did read it I thought it magnificent and I do think, now, that I should read it again. It is hard to miss knowing about Cloudstreet. There have been a hugely popular play, a TV series and several editions and now there is to be an opera, composed by Australian George Palmer, with Gail Edwards as Director, just opened at the State Opera of South Australia. It is coming up to twenty five years since publication.

Tim Winton has sent a personal postcard to lots of independent booksellers thanking them for their efforts. He acknowledges Cloudstreet is a top example of the success of handselling by knowledgeable independent booksellers.

You must already know that Cloudstreet covers the lives of two large rural families who have met hard times and must move to the city where they both end up sharing a very large and rambling house. And you can share their lives for the next twenty years or so. Tim Winton is such a marvellous all-round writer I thought it a good idea to remind you of his stories for children such as Lockie Leonard: The Human Torpedo or Legend or Scumbuster or Bugalugs: Bum Thief, all of them fun. And upstairs in Language Book Centre you will find Weite Welt: Australische Geschichten or Singende Baum (Dirt Music in German) or Atem (Breath in German) or Respiro (Breath in Italian). What a treasure he is.

Donna Leon has come good again. Her latest is The Waters of Eternal Youth which is the twenty fifth book in her series featuring Commissario Brunetti and his colleagues and family. This is an unusual tale because Brunetti is asked to find out more about a tragic accident which happened many years ago. One which left the beautiful young Venetian woman brain-damaged, captured in eternal youth. It’s a good story and gives Donna Leon room to talk about the changes in Venice over the past years and what is happening now. Perhaps she doesn’t allow her books to be translated into Italian so she feels free to criticise the Government.

Who Bombed the Hilton has proved to be an unanswerable question. We certainly would like to know. When this outrage took place Abbey’s still operated Henry Lawson’s Bookshop in the Royal Arcade beneath the Hilton which meant we had to staff the little tobacco kiosk which sold the newspapers in the foyer of the Hotel. After the explosion the whole place was locked down. Peter Milne had to run across the road from Abbey’s in the Queen Victoria Building and, after being cleared by security, take the daily papers which had been dropped off in George Street, up the escalator to the kiosk.

Some people still wonder about this event in 1978 when a bomb was exploded in a street rubbish bin outside the Sydney Hilton while the Commonwealth Heads of Government were meeting inside. What was the object of the bomb? Who let it off?

Thirty years later there is no answer but Rachel Landers who has spent years searching the archives has put together an intriguing possibility. Some readers will remember the passionate seventies for Vietnam War protests, or the dismissal of the Whitlam Government. The Hilton Bombing was part of that scene. Of course there was the usual outbreak of nutters, all claiming to either be the bomber or to know the bomber. If you were out protesting in the seventies you will certainly enjoy this book.

Awfully pleased that Magda Szubanski’s Reckoning: A Memoir has won the NSW Premier’s Award for Non Fiction. It is beautifully written. Was her Polish father really an assassin (as he called himself)?

I recently read the latest novel from Marion Halligan called Goodbye Sweetheart. She has more than twenty to her credit and many of them have won awards or been short-listed for awards. All are eminently readable and display a positive view of the world. Goodbye Sweetheart is about a prominent lawyer in Canberra who dies suddenly while swimming in the hotel pool. And then… we have separate chapters about the various people who loved him. This could be called an Entertainment with a capital E! Such fun. Everyone has their own life to get on with but Marion tells us delightful details. Nothing is missed. Enjoy.

Grantchester has finished on TV but there is a new, fifth episode due soon in the series written by James Runcie (which seems a very appropriate name). It will be Sydney Chambers and The Dangers of Temptation. Earlier titles are Sydney Chambers and the Perils of the Night; Sydney Chambers and the Problem of Evil; Sydney Chambers and the Forgiveness of Sins; and Sydney Chambers and the Shadow of Death.

I am looking forward to reading Michael Wilding’s new memoir called, appropriately, Growing Wild. Such good reviews we ran out of stock but good to see it's come back in.

Keep well,


Since 1968 ~ Abbey's 131 York Street Sydney ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Abbey's ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

On Removing Parallel Import Restrictions or 'a zombie-hydra-vampire-monster is eating our culture'

"You’ve got nothing to lose but your culture."

Have you ever thought how many people go into a book?

Between the writer and the reader there are literally dozens of others: Agent, publisher, copy and line editors, formatters and type setters and proof readers, printers, suppliers of paper and ink, the people in the warehouses and drivers of delivery trucks, and then more people in other warehouses, this time of distributors, and more drivers of vans, and don’t forget there will be people in the publishing houses working out print runs and marketing campaigns and publicity and selling the book to retailers, and then in the shop there will be people who see the publisher’s rep and order it (so then there are people in the distribution channels processing those orders and pulling the book from their warehouse and packing it off) and someone in the shop receiving the stock and putting it on the shelf in all its pristine paper gorgeousness and then there’s you, the buyer. A publisher once told me it takes more than a hundred people to produce any book.

Yes, it’s a lot. It’s a thriving industry, the Australian book industry. It employs thousands, turns over billions of dollars each year, doesn’t ask for subsidies and contributes to the life and soul of the nation. For what really isn’t a lot of money, maybe a round of drinks or a meal out or a couple of movie tickets, the average Australian book represents not only great value, but a brick in the wall of our culture, a lot of people being employed and contributing to the economy and something you can keep forever (barring accidents in the bath and paper-munching insects, but you get what I mean!)!

Why am I going on at length about this?

Because I fear that in an industry dedicated to stories, we don’t tell our own story of how books come to exist. And because we don’t, every few years the industry has to keep fighting a zombie-hydra-vampire-monster called Removing PIR (or, Parallel Import Restrictions). Every few years it seems we have to keep hacking off its head and thinking we have finally found the right spike to drive through its nasty heart – I know our beloved and greatly lamented Peter Milne fought against it at least three times in the past – but the beast keeps reappearing.

Now this can be quite a tedious legal eye-glazing discussion which you will find in greater detail elsewhere, but if you aren’t allergic to nutshells, let’s just summarise it as a protection measure whereby Australian book publishers have 30 days to establish copyright on a title, and if it's released in that time, retailers can’t import it from overseas. Publishers try their damnedest to get the titles in in timely fashion, but yes, occasionally a title is released overseas before it is available here, and yes sometimes it’s cheaper. (Though if you have ever gotten an American mass-produced book, you certainly know where the money has been saved!)

New Zealand abolished PIR on books a few years ago. This month the NZ Book of the Year was announced – a fine book by Stephen Daisley who was born and bred in NZ but now lives here. It was published in Australia, and is set in WA in the 1950s. The NZ Book of the Year has almost nothing to do with the land that has given it its finest literary award. New Zealand publishing is in dire straits – local authors approach Australian publishers because their local publishers have disappeared. And as for prices – books cost more in NZ than they did before repeal. Who says cheap book prices remain cheap???

Yes, Australian publishers have vested interests in retaining PIR.

And perhaps it could be argued as an employee of an iconic independent bookshop, I have a vested interest in being able to read and sell books that explain and elucidate my country. And maybe moreso because I have participated in judging Australian books for important awards. But when every publisher I know sees loss of territorial rights and therefore loss of money equaling a lessening of ability to invest in our own homegrown authors and writing, I can’t help but feel outraged. And if you feel a little outrage yourself, contact your federal parliamentarian. Go on. You’ve got nothing to lose but your culture. The industry – and all the people it represents, the authors and publishing house employees and printers and warehouse workers and drivers of delivery vans – well, we have a little more at stake.

Lindy Jones

More information and opinion on Parallel Import Restriction (PIR)

Any discussion around this topic quickly comes down to two propositions: Price - 'What’s wrong with cheap books? Cheaper is better, right?' and Globalisation - 'But everything is global now, right?'

The first is an example of a very narrow focus and the second takes the broadest possible view. As with most things in life, the truth lies somewhere between.

In their open letter to the Prime Minister, authors Peter Carey, Richard Flanagan and Tom Keneally point out with calm logic that regarding price, market forces have actually been applying downward pressure on prices for some years even within the current system of PIR. On globalisation, they point out that the retention of PIR is merely staying in line with the practices of other English language publishing regions such as the US and Britain.

The Open Letter:

Globalisation as a positive notion is thought of as spreading activity and access globally. Yet we also see it restricting activity, clumping it. e.g. manufacturing clumped into China, based purely on lowest cost. The weakening of local publishers can only clump English language publishing even further from our shores.

The predominant thrust of Lindy’s message is to highlight the largely hidden and very human activity, the small army of Australians involved in bringing a new book into the world. In the link below, author Melina Marchetta gives a very personal example of this, illustrating the path from author through to the finished book, and in her case, even on to the production of an Australian film. At the film launch a friend observes “Every person in this room is here because of something you did”. And there are no doubt many authors in the 23 years since that are emerging with Melina’s novels as formative influences. And on it goes.

Melina Marchetta’s Post:

What I see each day: Being a reader who values novels with a well-developed sense of place, it can resonate even more when that place is recognisably Australian. In addition to that, I work as Marketing Manager at Abbey’s and see so many of the authors, sales reps and publicists all fully investing their passion for a book conceived, developed, produced and marketed in Australia. This delicate chain of interdependencies is what makes the Australian book industry a thriving cornerstone of our culture.

Now time for action.
If the above has meant anything at all to you, you might like to add your signature to the petition at, hosted by the Australian Society of Authors (link below). I have! Craig Kirchner

Save Australian literature: stop parallel importation of books

Since 1968 ~ Abbey's 131 York Street Sydney ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Abbey's ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Notes from Eve Abbey ~ May 2016

Charlotte Wood’s latest book, The Natural Way of Things has won the Independent Booksellers’ Book of the Year Award and also The Stella Prize. And no wonder.

This is not a charming story. I had to read it in short bursts. The writing is brilliant – good enough to read aloud. The story concerns a small group of young women who have been duped, captured and imprisoned in a remote, deserted and decaying outback station. They all have one thing in common. They have been involved in a sexual scandal concerning an older, powerful man. There is an electric fence around the perimeter of the valley and they are “looked after” by two men and a woman who seem capable only of derision and insults. Be sure to read this.

Each new book from Charlotte Wood strikes out in a new direction but each time she displays her incisive depiction of people and places. Her previous books include The Children; Love and Hunger: Thoughts on the Gift of Food; The Submerged Cathedral; Animal People, and Brothers & Sisters: Anthology of Stories from some well-known Australian authors. The Submerged Cathedral was short-listed for the Miles Franklin.

I’m now reading Julian Barnes’ latest book called The Noise of Time. Reviewers have called this a masterpiece and so it seems. In this slender book, the third person narrative refers to three different periods in the life of Russian composer, Dmitri Shoskatovich, his troubled relationship with Stalin and the Communist Party, and his efforts to retain his artistic integrity. Very moving. If you know anything of the life of this famous composer you will find extra enjoyment in this. You could also read Testimony: The Memoirs of Dmitri Shoskatovich edited by Solomon Volkov.

The very best news for Helen Garner was announced recently. She is one of the recipients of the 2016 Windham-Campbell Prizes which means she is awarded a little more than $200,000 as one of the Non-fiction awards in this generous but little known prize which does not ask for entrants. Many of her readers will be pleased for her. Her three most famous books are The First Stone, This House of Grief: The Story of a Murder Trial and Joe Cinque's Consolation: A True Story of Death, Grief and the Law. We also have stock of True Stories: Selected Non Fiction as well as the fiction which first made her famous – The Children’s Bach, Postcards from Surfers and Monkey Grip. Her latest book is titled Everywhere I Look which Lindy Jones has described as "Drawn from articles she has contributed to different journals/papers/books over the past decade or two, and loosely organised by theme, each is a small but perfect jewel, or a quiet sip of sanity in an increasingly incoherent world."

The inimitable Robyn Williams has written to celebrate his show on Radio National. It is called In Love with Betty the Crow: The First 40 Years of ABC RN’s THE SCIENCE SHOW –a show which he describes as “a selection of compelling conversations”. Fans of the show, like me, will really enjoy this and others will be enticed to become regular listeners.

Biographer Suzanne Falkiner has chosen a better-known subject for her latest book, called Mick: A Life of Randolph Stow. She has had access to an enormous amount of letters and diaries and of course interviews with friends still living, so this is a very detailed account of the life of Stow, regarded as one of our greatest writers. He was the second winner of the Miles Franklin Award and has also received the Patrick White Award. There is a new edition of his poetry The Land’s Meaning: New Selected Poems and you will find many poems quoted in the biography. We have stock of his fiction including To The Islands, Visitants, Tourmaline, The Girl Green as Elderflower, The Suburbs of Hell, Merry-go-Round in the Sea and Midnite.

Did you read Penguin and the Lane Brothers: The Untold Story of a Publishing Revolution by Stuart Kells? If you did you will know already that Richard, one of the younger brothers of Sir Allen Lane, came to Australia as part of a scheme to train young men as farmers. They were known as the Barwell Boys, named after a Premier of South Australia, who began the scheme. And you will know that Richard is the brother most interested in writing. At only eighteen years of age he kept an excellent diary about his adventures, good and bad, in a very foreign country, which he regularly sent home to his parents in Bristol. He was in the country three years and moved from filthy shack to grand house, complete with billiard table. These diaries have now been edited by Stuart Kells and his wife Fiona, as well as Richard’s daughter and granddaughter. They prove to be a fascinating, well written account of rural life in Australia between the wars. Very enjoyable.

Did you like the Man Booker Prize-winning novel by Yann Martell called Life of Pi? If you did you will be ready for another challenge in his new book The High Mountains of Portugal which also features animals in strange places. Take the plunge for this is a beautifully written book – part ghost story, part fable, part quest.

Booker Prize winner Anita Brookner died in March, in her eighties. She seems to be out of favour as only a few of her novels appear as in stock at Abbey's but there was a time when we would have all of her titles in stock. And that might mean 23 or 24. Although she was in her fifties before she began writing fiction, after that she published a new novel almost every year. I know I waited anxiously for the next one! She was a lecturer at the Courtauld Institute, and like an art historian, she was able to tease out the meaning in her stories. The first one, called A Start in Life, began with the remark ‘Dr Weiss, at forty, knew her life had been ruined by literature.’ As soon as I saw that I knew I must read it. Her stories were mostly about middle-aged females suffering isolation or disappointment. One critic famously remarked “I could strangle her characters with the sleeves of their own cardigans”. Nevertheless I recommend these finely crafted stories. Try your library if no luck at Abbey’s. Her most famous title was Hotel du Lac which won the Booker Prize.

I was eagerly awaiting the new book from Graham Swift, author of Last Orders, Waterland an England and Other Stories. It is called Mothering Sunday: A Romance and is set in 1924. Orphan Jane Fairchild, maid in an affluent middle-class household, has nowhere to visit until she receives a secret phone call from her lover, the charismatic son of her employers’ friends and neighbour. An intense day follows as Jane visits him in his own house, which she has been instructed she must enter by the front door. As the day proceeds small hints are offered to the reader. Perhaps all is not well? Jane becomes a famous author who carefully avoids this day when interviewers ask her about her youth. This is a lovely book. Very English!

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