Thursday, 7 January 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

Monday, 30 November 2015

Notes from Eve Abbey ~ December 2015

I think it must be ten years since Anne Whitehead told me at lunch one day that she was going to write about an obscure story...

...a story about Napoleon's time on the island of St. Helena as a prisoner of the British after his defeat at Waterloo, and his aborted escape from Elba. It is a story with lots of tentacles, about his unlikely friendship with a precocious young woman named Betsy, who was the daughter of Thomas Trywhitt Balcombe, one of the owners of the store providing food and goods to the island as well as to passing ships.

Now in 2015, at long last, after deep research Anne's book called Betsy and the Emperor: The True Story of Napoleon, a Pretty Girl, a Regency Rake and an Australian Colonial Misadventure has been published by Allen & Unwin. This is a fascinating story made more interesting by the inclusion of Anne's research into early New South Wales. So much so that we have put the book in Australian History. It is certainly not fiction or biography and it will please many different people. The Australian connection leads down to Dame Mabel Brookes.

There is an absorbing picture of St. Helena, which Anne visited during her research; a fascinating picture of the pretensions and demands of the once-great Napoleon; an amusing picture of Regency society where, of course, Betsy Balcombe married a ne'er-do-well handsome rake; and finally, a friendly picture of Sydney society in the early days of the 19th century, where Thomas Balcombe was sent as Colonial Treasurer. When Napoleon first arrived on St. Helena with his retinue of supporters, he chose to live in a pavilion in the garden of Balcombe's residence while the house he was destined for was made ready. This took some time so Napoleon was a daily presence in the life of the Balcombe family. In fact it seems to me that the effect of these meetings remained with them all their lives.

It is a coincidence that Tom Keneally stumbled upon this story two years ago when he saw an exhibition of Napoleonic memorabilia in Melbourne. His book, a novel written in the voice of Betsy, is called Napoleon's Last Island and is a good read. Both books were reviewed together by Phillip Dwyer, an academic who has himself written two books about Napoleon, and is now writing another book about Napoleon's time on St. Helena! His books are Napoleon: The Path to Power 1769-1799 and Citizen Emperor: Napoleon in Power 1799-1815. I think I am going to have to read these.

Isn't it amazing how the aura around Napoleon remains? When I was in Paris with Hilary Nicholson we spent a whole day in Les Invalides and came away like stage-struck teenagers marvelling at the exploits and glory of Napoleon. It took some days to remember how many people died along the way. What enormous self-belief he had! And convinced others to agree! Remember the sardonic fable written by Simon Leys (Pierre Ryckmans) about Napoleon's escape from Elba called The Death of Napoleon. As a final bit of trivia may I point out the family name Tyrwhitt in Balcombe's mode of address? Can it possibly be the same family which keeps putting inserts in the local newspapers offering well-made shirts to order? Such an unusual name and so difficult to say or spell!

[Editor's note: I too have been set off on a 'Napoleonic' reading trail after reading The Count of Monte Cristo. I've heard it said that Napoleon tops the list as the most popular biographical subject and we certainly have quite a few of them in stock: Vive le Napoleon au Abbey's!]

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, 5 November 2015

Notes from Eve Abbey ~ November 2015

I had trouble starting the latest Pulitzer Prize winner for Fiction...

 – All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr – mainly because it seemed too dense – too many details but I did come to revel in this fine book. The author took ten years to finally finish this so take the time to enjoy it. There are two contrasting stories: one about a blind girl whose father works in the Museum of Natural History in Paris where he is in charge of all the keys, and another about a boy and his sister living in an orphanage attached to the mining community in Essen. Their stories finally meet in the small town of St. Malo which was almost totally destroyed by Allied bombing at the end of the Second World War. Marie-Laure has unwittingly become the keeper of a precious stone hunted by the Nazi treasure seekers, while Werner has become a fabled fixer of radios, uneasily serving his Nazi commanders.

Many people at home enjoy the afternoons on ABC Radio listening to Richard Glover’s cheerful approach to life, as well as his columns in the newspapers. He has written a thoughtful and amusing memoir called Flesh Wounds in which he recalls his life growing up with an uncaring mother who is also deceiving every one about her own identity. Quite remarkable really that he has turned out such a well-adjusted, cheerful and amusing person. Many thanks go to his loved wife, scriptwriter and author Debra Oswald. Dare I say “this is a nice book”?

I did enjoy The Waiting Room by Melbourne writer Leah Kaminsky. This is mostly set in Israel where the main character is both a mother and a doctor. Her uneasiness in living daily with the threat of some sort of attack is multiplied by her anxiety for her small son. Her days are also interrupted by the voice of her dead mother, once a holocaust survivor, and now giving her daughter regular advice. Will she remain in Israel with her loved Sabra husband or will she return to Melbourne?

Famous Irish writer John Banville has a new novel out called The Blue Guitar. His books are always finely written and this time you could call the work a “stream of consciousness”. Oliver, the narrator and main character was once a successful artist but now has returned to the small town which was his childhood home. He confesses to a secret delight in stealing small things but stealing his friend’s wife is not so small! The novel covers just one year, the current year in Oliver’s life, told as he writes on a large jotter in the kitchen.

Are you enjoying the television detective series called Vera? I am. The stories come from some of the novels written by Anne Cleeves. I recently read, and enjoyed, the latest in the Vera series, which is called The Moth Catcher. These stories are all set around Newcastle in County Durham and I was happy to note there was not much blood and gore! A friend tells me that the stories Anne Cleeves has written which are set in the Shetland Isles are especially good so I have ordered the first two in the series – Raven Black and White Nights. They are being reissued just now, no doubt as a result of the success of the Vera TV series. I noticed that The Moth Catcher is dedicated to “Brenda with Thanks” so I assume this to be Brenda Blythen who plays Vera on TV. My friend tells me that it is worth reading the Shetland series in correct order as things happen in the lives of the characters.

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