Monday, 5 December 2016

Notes from Eve Abbey ~ December 2016

I fully recommend Mark Colvin’s journalistic memoir, Light and Shadow: Memoirs of a Spy’s Son.

The ABC’S esteemed journalist has given us a potted history of the last fifty years as he describes the adventures of himself and others as well as a touching memoir of his youth and his relationship with his father who was, indeed, a spy.

Have you read any of the novels written by Elizabeth Jane Howard? They  are all set in the Home Counties among upper-middle class people (like herself), very observant and perceptive. They used to be regarded as romantic but as time passes her books are admired for the very truthful picture they paint of that sort of English family. The five books which make up the Cazalet Chronicles are The Light Years, Marking Time, Confusion, Casting Off and All Change.

A TV version was made of the first two and I think now BBC radio is also broadcasting them. There are two collections of good short stories as well. They are called The Long View and Getting it Right. I’ve just read her biography Elizabeth Jane Howard: A Dangerous Innocence by Artemis Cooper and it is absolutely full of literary gossip.

She was always known as Jane, she was a prodigious entertainer and cook, still writing in her nineties and famous also for her three husbands and many lovers, who included Arthur Koestler, Laurie Lee and Cecil Day-Lewis (only the best literati). Her first husband was Peter Scott, (the birdlife man) and longest lasting third husband was Kingsley Amis. Martin Amis publicly thanks her for making sure he got a proper education. As he says, “rescuing me from the arms of Harold Robbins and such like”. Hilary Mantel is a fan.

Artemis Cooper, daughter of John Julius Norwich and granddaughter of Lady Diana Cooper, is of course in a good position to write such an enjoyable biography. Her previous effort was Patrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure which was the authorised biography of the greatest travel writer of the twentieth century, who was great pals with Lady Diana Cooper and Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire, and lots of other women also.

Just out now you can have Dashing to the Post: The Letters of Patrick Leigh Fermor selected and edited by Adam Sisman (who recently wrote John le CarrĂ©: The Biography. His introduction to the letters, could serve you as a shortened version of the biography of the gad-about known as Paddy.

Frankly, I can see why he hadn’t finished the third volume of his account of his famous walk, in the Thirties, from London to Constantinople. He spent an awful lot of time writing letters – but rather wonderful letters. Artemis Cooper and Colin Thubron (another great travel writer), finished the third volume for him after he died in his nineties. The three volumes are called A Time of Gifts, Between the Woods and the Water and The Broken Road: From the Iron Gates to Mount Athos.

For another amusing and interesting book from this time try Deborah Devonshire’s Wait for Me: Memoirs of the Youngest Mitford Sister. It was a New York Times Bestseller. Artemis Cooper is married to Antony Beevor with whom she wrote Paris after the Liberation: 1944-1949. I won’t go on about Antony Beevor, except to say ALL HIS BOOKS ARE GOOD. I am sure you know him.

Admirers of the writings of Jan Morris will pounce upon Ariel: A Literary Life of Jan Morris by Derek Johns, who was her literary agent. For some, her most famous book is Conundrum describing her transition from male to female but I prefer her wonderful descriptions of places such as Oxford, Venice or Sydney, or Spain. She preferred not to be known as a travel writer because, as she said, she didn’t move around!

As James Morris she was known for many fascinating works of history including the Pax Brittanica Trilogy describing the British Empire. This is made up of Heaven’s Command: An Imperial Progress, then Pax Brittanica: The Climax of Empire and finally Farewell the Trumpets: An Imperial Retreat. These will fit in nicely with Julia Baird’s wonderful new book on Victoria: The Queen - An Intimate Biography of the Woman Who Ruled an Empire.

For a bit of satirical fun I recommend the latest adventures of Plant, Michael Wilding’s investigator who is now investigating decriminalisation of marijuana, In the Valley of the Weed.

Distinguished historian and intellectual Inga Clendinnen died recently. You will find all of her books available at Abbey’s varying from The Cost of Courage in Aztec Society and her essays Reading the Holocaust, Agamemnon’s Kiss, Tiger’s Eye: A Memoir, True Stories: On History, Truth, Aboriginality and Politics, Dancing with Strangers, about the arrival of settlers in Australia, even The History Question: Who Owns the Past? which appeared in a Quarterly Essay.

I was in Abbey’s for the launch of Naida Haxton’s memoir called Res Gestae: Things Done. Naida was the first practicing female barrister in Queensland and later became the Editor of the NSW Law Reports. Her book will inspire many more legal females.

The shop was looking lovely – absolutely full of books! Don’t forget that upstairs you can find Language Book Centre and Galaxy Bookshop for science fiction. If you want to use the lift ask one of the staff to show you where it is located in the lobby.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all,


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

Abbey's ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Lindy Jones picks her famous fives for 2016

December already?!! Whatever happened to the other months that were supposed to separate last year from this!

Even subtracting the four months I spent solidly reading for the Miles Franklin Award (and yes, the winner, Black Rock White City by A S Patric, I thoroughly recommend, as I would any of the short-listed titles) it seems far too soon to be contemplating end-of-year lists - but here goes!

And remember - you can always sit down with a cuppa and look through our Summer Reading Catalogue.

Five Books with Pictures for Children You Read To.

Lucy Ruth Cummins
A surprise ending and a surprise middle and such a LOT of fun to read out loud!

Jeannie Baker
The best book for young naturalists about migratory birds' flyways. These pictures are definitely worth more than a thousand words.

Brendan Wenzel
They did indeed - but does a child see a cat the same way a flea does? Or a dog or a bee or a mouse or a bird? A clever book about perception.

Jo Pritchard
A lovely first counting book with simple but sweet illustrations, featuring a male Satin Bowerbird decorating his bower.

June Factor & Alison Lester
First published in 1987, this sweet little book is a celebration of a special summer’s day.



Five Books with Pictures for Children who can read for themselves.

Judith Rossell
Delightful heroine, enthralling adventure, charming illustrations. A worthy sequel for the award-winning Withering-by-Sea.

Megan Shepherd
Heart-wrenchingly beautiful story guaranteed to move the tender young female reader. Sophisticated pencil drawings (by Levi Pinfold) that don’t condescend.

A F Harrold
A bullied girl. A boy who has a secret. Troll music and a shadow-munching cat. And more atmospheric illustrations by Levi Pinfold.

Richard Roxburgh
Yes, the talented actor wrote it. He also drew the pictures. And you know what? It's a funny story too.

Paul Jennings
The well-known author writing the sort of story that gained him legendary status, teamed with Craig Smith's humorous drawings.


Five Children's Books with Pictures to Give to Friends who Can Read For Themselves (because picture books shouldn't be exclusively for littlies).

A beautifully produced collection, which just goes to show how lucky generations of school kids, teachers, writers and illustrators are, to have had access to this magazine.

Danny Parker
Gloriously expressive illustrations by Freya Blackwood. A train journey or a metaphor for life and friendship or just a beautiful experience.

Guy Gordon
Sometimes you only pretend you aren't interested, sometimes there's a reason. A true friend persists in finding out, and helping. Clever mixed-media artwork.

Janet Hill
Twenty important lessons to ensure happiness, health and harmony for any pooch or person. Whimsical illustrations.

Jory John & Lane Smith
You think you have problems? Try being a penguin… particularly when interfering walruses give opinions! Try keeping a straight face reading this!



Five Books for adults with pictures that add to the enjoyment of reading.

Doug Purdie
When my garden consists of more than a dozen pots along the landing, this will be my bible. But even now, it is extremely useful. And beautifully photographed.

Caroline Eden & Eleanor Ford
I bought this for a friend but she’s not getting it! Onion Flatbread, Melting Potatoes with Dill, Sour Tomato Sauce, Shah’s Crown, Plov …and beguiling photos from the region make me want to go there. Now.

Ted Sandling
Okay, I don’t know anyone else who gets the same pleasure in gathering up odd bits and pieces, but this man does! And he understands their history! I want to go mudlarking on the Thames. Now!

Judith O’Callaghan, Paul Hogben, Robert Freestone
Interesting chapters cover all aspects historical, cultural and design-oriented, but it is the stunning photographs that draw you in.

Mark Avery
You didn’t think I wouldn’t include a bird book now would you?! A fabulous compendium with exquisite ornithological illustrations and engaging essays on different birds around the world.



Six Books that don't need pictures because the words are vivid enough!

Mairtin O’Cadhain
A rollicking romp entirely in colourful dialogue – and the characters are all dead and buried! Considered the greatest Irish-language novel of the 20th century, only recently translated into English.

Ann Patchett
What happens when a bottle of gin is taken to a christening party? Wonderful characters, an interesting structure and a totally satisfying read.

Maria Semple
Takes place over a single day, but what a day! Clever, observant, witty, poignant, fabulous!

Jess Kidd
A truly intriguing structure revealing in tantalising fragments the story of a girl’s disappearance, a young man’s quest and the eccentric characters in a scenic Irish village.

Melina Marchetta
'Pick it up, can’t put it down' stuff. A sidelined policeman, a bomb attack on a bus full of students including his daughter, a link to a notorious terrorist attack of the past… a great blend.

Mena Calthorpe
Text Classics #100: a long-lost novel that wonderfully evokes post-war Sydney, full of recognisable characters and vivid descriptions.



Five Books that don't need pictures (because the words are everything!)

Oxford University Press
Two volumes, chock-a-block full of schmick Australian words. Every lover of words NEEDS this.

Maxine Beneba Clarke
A poet’s sensibility, a young girl’s cry of pain, a woman’s search for strength. And a thoughtful examination of prejudice.

Helen Garner
Essays and articles and polished, expressive, perfect prose.

Stan Grant
Passionate, personal, powerful. Thoughtful, thought-provoking. Essential reading. If there aren’t answers yet, then we should still keep asking the questions until there are.

(Ed: Stan Grant won the 2016 Walkley Book Award with this memoir.)

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

Abbey's ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Monday, 31 October 2016

The Scholl Case - Interview with journalist Anja Reich-Osang

The Scholl Case:
The Deadly End of a Marriage

Anja Reich-Osang

On a cold December morning in 2011, a woman's body is found in a forest near Berlin, hidden between tall trees under dry leaves and moss. She has been strangled in cold blood. The victim's husband, Heinrich Scholl, is devastated. He is well respected in the community, a former mayor, and had been happily married-or so it seemed-for almost fifty years. Three weeks later he is arrested, and after an eighteen-month trial is sentenced to life. To this day he pleads not guilty.

Can this charming, courteous man possibly be a killer? Journalist Anja Reich-Osang followed the case from its beginning and talked to family, friends and Heinrich Scholl himself. She tells an utterly gripping story of marriage, sex and politics, in which nothing is as it seems.

ABBEY’S BOOKSELLER PICK —— The fascinating thing about this book is how it draws you into the lives of the couple at the centre, the Scholls. Well structured, it begins with the last day of Brigitte Scholl’s life in 2011 and the subsequent arrest of her husband Heinrich Scholl, before rewinding 50 years to when they first met in the East German town of Ludwigsfelde. Reich-Osang, herself originally from East Germany, sets out the less than desirable manner in which Heinrich and Brigitte came to be married. From there the pattern of their lives unfolds.

The ‘can do’ abilities of ‘Heiner’ inspire admiration as he achieves in his various jobs (at one time he was a circus manager) and eventually becomes Mayor of Ludwigsfelde, a position he held for 18 years. Likewise, the strength and certainties of 'Gitti' who was the proprietor of a beautician boutique with a loyal customer base. As the book proceeds, however, we begin to see the flip-sides of these character traits. Yet despite the grim end to Brigitte’s life, this is not especially dark or depressing to read. The prose and tone that Reich-Osang strikes makes this much more a revealing examination around the foibles of lives and the hidden side to an otherwise success story.

The other aspect that is so interesting in this story is the setting, straddling the creation of East Germany and then the fall, with glimpses into life behind the Wall and after. The case caused a sensation in Germany at the time. The prologue reveals the tug-of-war mind games that the journalist/author has with the character of Heinrich Scholl, who is still serving time for the murder and steadfastly sticking to his claim of innocence. Did he do it? Over to you…

Craig Kirchner
More reviews from Craig

I spoke with journalist Anja Reich-Osang about the married couple at the centre of this tragedy and about the writing of her book.

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 ~ November 2016

A.S.Patric’s novel Black Rock White City has won the Miles Franklin 2016 Award.

The author is not only a writer but also a bookseller. He works at one of the Readings Bookshops in Melbourne. This is his first novel and fits well into the guidelines of the Miles Franklin Award in that the story concerns refugees from Sarajevo.

Jovan and his wife Suzana might have been university lecturers at home but now, in Melbourne, Jovan is an indispensable cleaner in a hospital and Suzana does domestic cleaning. They still maintain their Croatian identities even amongst their friends who also come from the Balkans.

The book is an interesting look into the multicultural suburbia of our main cities. Many readers expected The Natural Way of Things to win the award but this novel illustrates a different community, which is a nice change.

I’ve discovered another new writer, in the crime genre. Jock Serong is an ex-lawyer now living in rural Victoria whose first novel Quota won the Ned Kelly Award for Best First Crime Novel last year. The story is set in a seaside country town where abalone fishing is the main industry – that’s where the title Quota comes from! Someone is trucking the excess abalone up to Melbourne to sell under cover. There has been a murder on a trawler and small town rivalries are clouding the picture. There is eventually a trial at the Supreme Court and this is where Serong’s ease in writing dialogue comes to the fore. Justice is shown to be fickle but the conclusion is very satisfactory.

I did first read The Rules of Backyard Cricket, which involves betting on cricket matches as well as the rivalry between two brothers. One becomes Australian Cricket Captain and the other is the showy Australian Representative, always hitting the headlines as well as the long balls. I really loved both these books. They are the sort of books which you are reluctant to finish. More please! Text Publishing has done a great job with these books – the cover for The Rules of Backyard Cricket certainly pulls you in.

The Whole Wild World is a memoir by long-time Sydney journalist Tom Dusevic and Croatian migrants are again in focus. It is good to read about the efforts of new arrivals – sharing houses and helping each other. I’m sure many people will identify with these memories as well as the schoolyard adventures and teenage angst. Recommended. The title comes from mishearing the saying “the whole wide world”.

I read in The Australian recently that yet another translation of Cervantes’ Don Quixote has been donated to the Cervantes Collection held in the Mitchell Library’s Friends Room. There are more than a thousand different editions and translations in the collection which was begun by Dr. Ben Haneman. The room is open Tuesdays from 10am to 4pm. The new addition is in Gurani, the native tongue in Paraguay, delivered in person by the Ambassador. I was moved to see how many different editions were available at Abbey’s Bookshop. Over eighty editions of Don Quixote are listed but when I filtered this to show only the titles in stock the answer was five. But five very interesting choices. The Penguin Classic edition has the famous introduction by John Rutherford, the Vintage edition has an introduction by Harold Bloom, while the Canterbury Classic edition is an especially nice production. But what about these….? Little Master Cervantes is a board book for babies, illustrated and with simple text in Spanish and English. Or from Restless Classics, there is a special deluxe edition for the 400th anniversary with woodcut illustrations and access to a series of video lectures discussing the work.

I had very great pleasure reading the surprise hit of the year which is The Shepherd’s Life: A Tale of the Lake District by James Rebanks. The author is a shepherd on a small farm on one of the fells. He is the third generation and appreciates the traditions and compromises that have to be made.

He chooses to carry Herdwick sheep, one of the old breeds. His description of the various tasks he must do will certainly stop you thinking that a farmer has lots of time. He absolutely loves and admires his sheep. His description of the lambing season and the tricks of the trade when “showing” his sheep at the annual fair are wonderful.

He wasn’t interested in education when he went to school but in his early twenties, after reading many books, he gained entrance to Oxford University where he did well. However, he always wanted to return to the farm and has managed to find enough outside employment so that he and his family can earn enough to continue farming.

Beatrix Potter’s legacy gains an admiring mention. A biography of Beatrix Potter, Over the Hills and Far Away: The Life of Beatrix Potter is out now. A lovely edition including some of her own illustrations. As well as a variety of Peter Rabbit stories in the children’s section , we have some in either Italian or French upstairs in Language Book Centre.

On Thursday November 24th there will be a book launch at Abbey’s for the memoir written by my cousin Naida Haxton, A.M. The book is called Res Gestae: Things Done and will be launched by David Jackson A.M. Q.C. Naida was the first female to practice at the Queensland Bar. If you are interested in things legal you are welcome to join us.

Thursday 24 November
6PM for 6.30PM
02 9264 3111 or

Keep well,


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

Abbey's ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers