Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Book Launch: Novel: Educated Youth by Ye Xin

A novel that touches the heart for the children left behind.

During the Cultural Revolution over fourteen million Chinese high school graduates were sent from the cities to live and work in the countryside. They were known as zhiqing – ‘educated youth’. They fell in love, married, had children. In the late 1970s the policy changed and they were allowed to return, but not their families. Many jumped at the opportunity, leaving spouses and children behind. Ten years later the children, now teenagers, began to turn up in the cities, looking for their parents.

Ye Xin's novel Educated Youth follows five such children, who have travelled across China from a province in the south west to Shanghai in the east, only to discover that their mothers and fathers have remarried, and have new families, in which there is no room for them. Their reappearance brings out the worst in the parents – their duplicity, greed and self-interest – and the best too, as they struggle to come to terms with their sense of love and duty.


ABBEY'S BOOKSELLER PICK —— Written in the nineties and only now available to the English language reader, this classic Chinese novel provides yet another example of grand social engineering undertaken by governments, only to be dismantled in years to come, by which time their policies have left a trail of broken families and abandoned children.

This is a warm and rewarding novel with insights into Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution and how the edicts were received and observed (or not) by those it sought to control. A novel that touches the heart for the children left behind. Craig Kirchner


‘With a mix of popular storytelling, psychological insight and startling candour about his generation, Ye Xin turns a slice of recent Shanghai life into an entertaining, touching novel. It’s great to have a fine English version of this Chinese modern classic.’ Nicholas Jose

Ye Xin was born in Shanghai in October 1949. He was sent to Guizhou Province as a zhiqing in 1969 and worked on the construction of the Hunan-Guizhou railway. His novels include High Sierra in Miaoling, The Ages of Idling Away, Family Education, Love Has No Choice and Shanghai Diary. He has won many awards including the October Prize and the National Prize for Best Novel. He is vice-chairman of the Writers’ Association of China and the Writers’ Association of Shanghai, and director of the Institute of Literature of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.
Dr Jing Han is the translator of Educated Youth by Ye Xin and she received her PhD degree in English literature from University of Sydney in 1995 and her MA in English and American Literatures from Beijing Foreign Studies University in 1986. Dr Han joined SBS TV in 1996 and she is now the head of SBS Subtitling Department. Over the last 19 years, she has subtitled more than 300 Chinese films and TV programs for the Australian audience including the currently showing TV series If You Are The One. Dr Han also lectures at Western Sydney University, teaching translation studies including audiovisual translation, literary translation and accreditation studies.

More on China...

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, 3 March 2016

Notes from Eve Abbey ~ March 2016

Sydney Booksellers, some publishers, customers and lots of ex staff turned out in force to remember Peter Milne on 27th January.

We found he was loved and admired by lots of people, not just our own indispensable advisor and friend. Peter's brother flew in from Perth and Fiona Stager from Avid Reader in Brisbane. Robert Milne went home with a beautiful condolence book signed by all. A fantastic photo of Peter beamed to all arrivals and in the window a huge In Memoriam poster shone out. We shall all miss him.

I've been reading The House by the Lake by Thomas Harding, which was one of our bestsellers at Christmas. This was an unlikely success. Harding is a descendant of the Jewish family which had to escape from an idyllic village on the outskirts of Berlin in the Thirties. What started as a curiosity about a home treasured in memory for his grandmother, became an overwhelming interest. He researched right back to the original estate, through various owners and tenants until finally he was able to convince the authorities that this quite ordinary house should be conserved.

Although the house is the main character, the people passing through are all interesting and tell the social history of Germany in the twentieth century. Most interesting of all is the barbed wire fence which was one day erected at the lake edge at the bottom of the garden. This eventually became the Berlin Wall! He calls it A Story of Germany, as indeed it is. Highly recommended and also, if you haven't read Stasiland by Anna Funder, I recommend you now read this fabulous account of the German Democratic Republic.

It is a happy choice that I am now making my way through John le Carré: The Biography by Adam Sisman.  It is over six hundred pages, of which fifty contain notes and then the index. Le Carrés real name is David Cornwell and Ronnie Cornwell, his father, was a consummate con-man who dominated the lives of his sons, David and Antony Cornwell. He is immortalised in A Perfect Spy, my favourite. At one point I feared author Adam Sisman had also been conquered by the charming Ronnie as the first one hundred pages are taken over by Ronnie!

This is a fascinating book. One can tend to forget the enormous success of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, le Carré's third book written while he was working in the secret services. And one can sometimes overlook just how many books Le Carré has written, and continues to write. He worked very hard, especially in the days before a word processor.

He was always diligent, revising proofs right up till the last possible moment and often contributed to the film scripts of his books and even, like Hitchcock, enjoyed a cameo part in several of the films. I think he was indeed addicted to writing. He became fabulously wealthy and very famous. The middle part of the book dealing with negotiations with publishers and film producers is gloriously full of trade gossip. He does become rather angry at the state of the world. He says he became more radical as he grew older and certainly agrees he has had a wonderful life. I think he wrote twenty three books, most of them classified as espionage thrillers, always with a political angle which often proved prescient.

A new book is due soon and his backlist is being reissued regularly as licences expire. These are the titles in his catalogue:

We also have a DVD set comprising Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and Smiley's People and a Spanish edition of The Constant Gardener Jardinero El Fiel. The biographer widely discusses reviews and plots of the books so you can sort out which title you can start with to dip into le Carré's marvellous catalogue.

Some of us have enjoyed the amusing novels by Michael Wilding featuring Plant the bumbling detective threading his way through bohemian Sydney. Michael has put on his academic gown again so this Emeritus Professor of English and Australian Literature has won the 2015 Prime Minister's Award for Non-Fiction for his latest book Wild Bleak Bohemia: Marcus Clark, Adam Lindsay Gordon and Henry Kendall: A Documentary.

It has also won the Colin Roderick Award. This is a book that has just evolved over the years since Michael was writing about Marcus Clark in the 70's. He has had suggestions and connections from all sorts of people who played a part in fossicking out the story of these three famous Australian authors. Everyone is pleased that it made it into print.

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, 7 January 2016

Colour your world in 2016

Colour your world in 2016

Like many people, the booksellers at Abbey's have watched the adult colouring book trend take off.

And we've also wondered how this arose (well, this has surely come from the US - right?) and what is all the fuss about?

Well, it turns out that there are some very real health benefits to this fad - so much so that I'm hoping it doesn't end and we might actually see some societal benefit as we all dial down the 'stress-o-meter' a notch or two. (and perhaps air-drop these and some coloured pencils into the world's war zones…)

Apparently the act of colouring moves your brainwave activity away from 'beta' towards more restful 'alpha' brainwaves and lowers your heart rate. If you're a perfectionist however, you'll probably want to stay away from colouring books with scenes. You'll just end up stressing about the correct colour of things.

But for now, the only stress you'll feel is choosing from our wonderful selection...

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

Abbey's ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Notes from Eve Abbey ~ January 2016

I picked up a copy of Chasing Lost Time: The Life of C. K. Scott Moncrieff – Soldier, Spy and Translator...

...written by a descendant, Jean Findlay. Scott Moncrieff's most important claim to fame is for his translation of Proust’s magnum opus Remembrance of Things Past, all seven volumes, as well as countless other items including the works of Pirandello and Stendhal. The accounts of trench warfare and meetings with various war poets are good. The spy bit is interesting – as an enthusiastic homosexual in those times he was practiced in deception. As a family descendant Findlay had access to family diaries as well as masses of letters, including those with Vyvian Holland, Oscar Wilde’s son. Perhaps this explains rather too much detail about his childhood. However, literati will enjoy this. It’s a picture of a literary lifestyle now passed.

I also read my first Henning Mankell crime novel over the holidays. It was called The Return of the Dancing Master and is one of the first books by this author before the introduction of Inspector Wallander. This is about the murder of a reclusive old man living in the forest, followed by several more deaths, all seemingly connected. Now I shall start on the eleven volumes featuring the troubled Inspector Wallander.

The first one is Faceless Killers followed by The Dogs of Riga, The White Lioness, One Step Behind, Sidetracked, Firewall, The Fifth Woman, The Man Who Smiled, The Troubled Man, The Pyramid (a prequel of short stories), and An Event in Autumn.

Unfortunately Henning Mankell died late 2015 so there will be no new novels. Wallander's daughter, Linda, assisted the Inspector in Before the Frost, the first of an intended offshoot series that Mankell didn’t continue because he was affected by the suicide death of the actress that played Linda in the Swedish television adaptation. Linda also assisted Wallander in An Event in Autumn.

Quicksand: A Memoir is due for publication early 2016.


Now for some very sad news. Peter Milne died just before Christmas. Our indispensable, seemingly everlasting Peter Milne. Readers of Abbey’s Crime Chronicle will feel bereft. Abbey’s and the book trade generally owe a great deal to him. Peter worked for Abbey’s from 1971 to 2011. That’s forty years of hard work, suggestions, insight and infallible memory and invigorating, cheerful company. I can’t count the hours that Peter devoted to ensuring Abbey’s is a great bookshop.

In addition he has been President of the NSW Booksellers Association (1976 – 1978; 1980), Junior Vice President of the Australian Booksellers Association in 1979, a co-writer of the first National Constitution for the Association and was made a Life Member in 1994. In 1997 he was awarded the Lloyd O’Neill Award for Services to the Book Trade.

His enthusiasm for crime writing led him to create the Crime Chronicle, a monthly list of new titles that now goes out to over 2,000 subscribers. He was a co-founder of the Crime Writers Association of Australia and led the booksellers case at the NSW Prices Commission hearing into book prices in 1978.

Peter retired in 2011 but was still on the end of the phone for me whenever I couldn’t remember some name or event. He was 75 years old. I shall miss him.

Details of the wake can be found here.


I also have to tell you about the death of Brian Johns, another book trade icon. Others will remember him in his roles as Managing Director of both SBS and later ABC but I remember him as an energetic publisher for Penguin in the 80’s, which were a golden age for bookselling and as Managing Director of the greatly appreciated Copyright Agency Limited. He was always an encouraging enthusiast for books. A terrific bloke. Thank you Brian.

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, 3 December 2015

Lindy Jones ~ Top Fives in 2015

Goodness gracious me! Is it really that time of the year again?

I could have sworn it was only a few months ago that I was reviewing my year's reading and recommending my Top Picks - is the calendar really telling the truth? Well, if it is, then here are the books I enjoyed most this year. Well, some of those are in our Summer Reading Catalogue, but I'll leave them aside for now - you can always sit down with a cuppa and look through here later: Abbey's Summer Reading 2015

Five Novels That Took Me Somewhere Else.

Naomi Williams
A fabulous mosaic of a novel recounting the voyage of LaPerouse, told by different characters as the expedition progresses. Just splendid!

Hanya Yanagihara
Totally absorbing, this is couched as the autobiography of a Nobel winner's time in Melanesia, with editor's footnotes - a form that could have failed spectacularly, but works brilliantly in this novel.

Sarah Winman
Magical, life-affirming, wise and warm novel set after WWII in a small part of Cornwall. A tender and beautiful story well served by the lush quality of its gorgeous prose.

Paula McLain
A fictionalised account of Beryl Markham's early life in Kenya, written with such verisimilitude you could believe you were listening to the real Beryl's thoughts.

Jean-Paul Didierlaurent
An eccentric loner who hates his book-pulping job, reads classic texts aloud to fellow commuters each morning. The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George was nice, but this one has teeth!

Five Novels About Difficult Things (Because Life Can Be Like That Sometimes).

Max Porter
A widower and his two sons learn to weather the aftermath of the death of their wife/mother, helped and sometimes hindered by Crow, a trickster figure who is not entirely reliable. A short but powerful novel.

Marion Halligan
Connections and ripples after the death of a prominent man, and the impact on those he leaves behind. Elegant and incisive prose, clear-eyed and cool.

Stephanie Bishop
Post-natal depression combined with the feeling of not belonging anywhere and the loss of sense of self in different forms, conveyed in an evocative style.

Louise O'Neill
A young woman who is far from being a likable or sympathetic character, suffers the greatest violations that no one should undergo. A clever, thought-provoking and yes, uncomfortable, novel.

Sofie Laguna
I know I said I wouldn't include anything in our catalogue, but I read this Miles Franklin Award winner three times, and it never lost its power on re-reading - and the fizz and spark of the prose still amaze.

Three Young Adult Novels an Adult Could Read and Two Adult Novels a Young Adult Could Enjoy.

Tommy Wallach
If you know the end of the world is coming in the form of an asteroid impact, how do you spend the last six months of life? A diverse group of teenagers discover the answers for themselves.

Patrick Ness
Because not every character in a book is The Chosen One, even if the world they live in is threatened by powers beyond their comprehension. After all, it's hard enough passing exams, dealing with your family and crushing on your best friend…

E K Johnston
A lovely and poetic recreation of a world steeped in the stories and traditions of the desert, and the sacrifices one sister will make for another.

Shirley Barrett
A young woman living in the whaling town of Eden at the turn of the century, and the year that everything changes for her.

Alan Bradley
I had to slip this in somewhere, but I do love Flavia de Luce! She has been shipped off to boarding school in Canada, but that doesn't mean the mysteries, or the murders, stay at home!

Five of My Favourite Picture Books ~ because the child in me needs books!

Viviane Schwarz
Because three of my favourite cats finally meet a dog - this just begs to be read out aloud!

Anna Kemp
And my favourite princess meets a frog, whose small size belies the extent of his ambitions! Another that HAS to be read aloud.

Eoin Colfer & Oliver Jeffers
Just look at the creators. I don't need to say anything else! But if I have to, then I will say, gorgeous. Quirky. Dreamy. Wonderful. Buy it for your best friend if you don't have a youngster to give it to…

Aaron Blabey
A vegetarian piranha convinces his friends that fruit and veges are fine to eat(even if they prefer flesh). Colourful and silly, in the best way.

Bonny Becker
Bears are almost always grumpy, but this one has plenty of provocation in the form of a most insistent mouse - who eventually forces him to admit books are good fun.

Five Books about my favourite non-book indulgence ~ apart from tea and chocolate!

Joseph Forshaw & William Cooper
The only way I'm going to own a William Cooper is by owning one of the books he illustrated. This superb monograph is for the true birding aficionado and worth every cent!

Penny Olsen
One of those splendid National Library productions, drawing on their collection of historical prints of raptors and owls.

Leila Jeffreys
Outstanding photographic portraits of some of our beautiful birds, capturing their 'birds'-onality (yes, it's a made-up word, but personality is speciesist!)

Fred van Gessel
Fred is the premier birdcall expert and this book not only introduces common Australian species, but comes with an excellent CD of their songs.

Gisela Kaplan
An academic tome, but quite accessible. Discusses the cognitive behaviour of Australian land birds.

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

Abbey's ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers