Thursday, 5 October 2017

Notes from Eve Abbey ~ October 2017

I recently sent out an SOS to the booksellers in Abbey’s — I wanted a recommendation for a good non-fiction book, as a change from fiction. I received prompt replies and am now looking forward to some interesting reading. Siân suggested a book from a Russian writer who was famously popular in the Twenties and Thirties and whose work has recently been re-published and is popular again. Memories: From Moscow to the Black Sea by Teffi relates her adventures as she escaped from Moscow after the revolution. Published by the New York Review of Books. There are plenty of notes and a list of Further Reading for those interested in the reactions of ordinary people during the Revolution, although when I say this I must also say that Teffi was not an ordinary person!

Greg suggested At the Existentialist Café: Freedom, Being and Apricot Cocktails by Sarah Bakewell, Lindy suggested Anaesthesia: The Gift of Oblivion by Kate Cole-Adams, while Dean suggested Ghost Empire by Richard Fidler. I’m going to read them all soon.

At the Existentialist Cafe by Sarah Bakewell Anaesthesia by Kate Cole-Adams Ghost Empire by Richard Fidler

In January 2009, experienced Australian journalist John Lyons arrived in Israel as the foreign correspondent for the Australian newspaper, together with his wife Sylvie le Clezio, a photo journalist, and his eight-year-old son Jack. They stayed until January 2015. He has now published Balcony Over Jerusalem: A Middle East Memoir describing these fascinating years. This book will disappoint supporters of Israel. In Israel, there is much to admire, but the treatment of Palestinians living in Israel and the expansion of the Jewish Settlements on the West Bank is very troubling.

Lyons finds he can write as much criticism as he likes in Israel, but when such criticism is published overseas, there is an immediate reaction from supporters of Israel. The reasoning behind this is that readers of the Israeli local press are committed to the idea of Israel and accept that certain things do indeed happen, but such criticism in overseas media harms the image of a successful Jewish state. There are plenty of people ready and willing to obstruct such reports. There is no doubt that Israel wins the media battle. The latter parts of the book are really useful in trying to make sense of the Middle East - about the struggle between Sunni and Shia, about how Hamas works and the aims of the Netanyahu government, as well as a bit of history. His most alarming conclusion is that before too long the Jewish population in Israel will be a minority.

A Balcony Over Jerusalem by John Lyons

If you’re feeling a little unhappy about the state of the world, I recommend you read Live Lead Learn: My Stories of Life and Leadership by Gail Kelly, former CEO of St George Bank and Westpac. She now has numerous other roles, including a continuing member of the G30 and the Global Board of Advisors to the US Council on Foreign Relations, director of Woolworth Holdings in South Africa, director of the Country Road Group and David Jones in Australia, Ambassador for Women’s Empowerment for Care Australia and Adjunct Professor at the University of NSW. With seven pages of interesting photographs, this book is full of heartfelt advice for anyone who leads a group, from a true leader. It is really unusual to find someone so consistently thoughtful and kind. You’ll feel better about the world when you read this memoir of a generous-hearted businesswoman.

Live Lead Learn by Gail Kelly

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, 21 September 2017

Lindy Jones' Reviews ~ September 2017

Lindy Jones ~ Miles Franklin Literary Award Judge and Australian Bookseller's Association Inaugural Bookseller of the Year 2011


Sophie Green
Taking place over three years, this traces the friendships and changing lives of a small community just outside the outback town of Katherine. It follows a formula - the standoffish woman, her misfit friend, the English rose daughter-in-law, and the outsider and the abused wife - all women needing to prove their worth in a male-oriented world. Together they find friendship and succour while attempting to find something finer (and more literary) in their difficult lives. And yes, while it isn't wildly original, it is an enjoyable, competent and satisfying read, probably best accompanied with a plate of scones and a pot of tea!

Robert Drewe
What better set-up in order to dissect attitudes, skewer pretensions and tell lots of stories, than a huge family gathering? On a hot November weekend at his newly acquired vineyard near Ballarat, barrister Hugh Cleary is hosting a family reunion to celebrate 160 years since Conor Cleary arrived in Australia. Amongst the attendees is his notorious rock star brother Simon/Sly, who thinks he’s dead and is the complacent host to Conor’s ghost; sister Thea, a doctor with a family health revelation; their father Mick, a die-hard Richmond fan still nursing a grudge about being made redundant years ago; cousin Doug, who was part of the team that sacked Mick; cousin Ryan, Catholic priest/ex-Afghanistan forces padre with a secret crush. Then there’s the strangely familiar teenager, tattooed and disruptive, who in a Puck-like way spreads mischief and spite wherever he goes.

With such a vast number of characters to choose from, Drewe has sly fun commenting on family, society and history. Sometimes a little stretched with so many characters, and occasionally veering towards stereotype, this is nonetheless an entertaining read, the family dynamics leading to many humorous set pieces, and Drewe’s descriptive powers perfectly capturing the landscape.

Sarah Winman
This third book from Winman is very different from her others (When God was a Rabbit; A Year of Marvellous Ways). There's no magic realism - something I love as a reader, though others don't - but there is the beautiful writing and fully fleshed believable characters that have characterised her work. I'll go so far as to say this is my favourite book of the year so far, and I don't really think it will be topped. In all ways this is a perfect book, from its narrative structure to its depiction of loss, grief, friendship, love and survival.

It's almost impossible to describe this book without giving away the plot, such as it is, but it is about a man who has lost everything he valued. Ellis works in an automotive factory, going through the motions after the two loves of his life died five years previously. He is haunted by grief and regret and the sheer weariness of keeping going when there seems to be nothing left to live for. The reader learns what he has lost, but we also see the first shoots of regrowth… An entirely believable and truly moving story, one you can go back to and read again and again. I have - four times now. I suspect I will keep this one close!

Michael Robotham
One of the very best writers when it comes to twisty crime writing, this new book has all the psychological dramas and hidden motives any fan could wish for! Agatha is a shop assistant, and she is pregnant. She is also fixated with Meg, one of her customers, who is also pregnant, but lives a different sort of life - one that Agatha knows about because she not only watches Meg very carefully but reads her mummy-blog.

Appearances deceive, because Meghan is not having quite so perfect a life as Agatha believes. Both Agatha and Meghan are hiding secrets, and as they come closer to delivering their babies, the story starts to become very gripping indeed… Told through both characters' voices, this is a compelling thriller, and as Robotham can do so easily, there are always more surprises even when you think everything is revealed!

Mark Brandi
When Ben is eleven, the girl next door commits suicide. A new neighbour moves in, and asks Ben to do small jobs for him around the yard. It's the late 80s and Ben has been brought up to be polite and helpful. Ben's best friend, Fab, is a bit of a tearaway, exceedingly loyal, and the victim of unacknowledged (though well known) domestic violence.

They do everything together but Ben starts to become distant, and as they grow older they grow apart. As the narrative switches in time, the reader starts to see what has happened and a chilling story is revealed. Atmospheric and gripping, with a veracity to place only someone who has grown up in a small town can convey, it is the sort of book you read in one sitting, but stays with you for much longer.

Melanie Cheng
This won the Victorian Premier's Literary Award for Unpublished Manuscript last year, and is of the high calibre you would expect from such a prestigious award. It is a collection of short stories, and the main theme is how people of different backgrounds try to find a place to belong in contemporary Australia. A medical student from Hong Kong meets his white girlfriend's country family for the first time; the Indian doctor who is targeted by an Italian patient who hasn't improved after his broken bones were set in casualty; the girl who finally admits to her Syrian background in a tourist setting; the Chinese grandmother made to feel burdensome. But there are also tender and perceptive stories about motherhood, loneliness and ageing. Sympathetic, clear-eyed and insightful writing.

Inga Simpson
Many people dream about making a tree change. When Simpson and her partner fell in love with ten steep acres of bush in the Sunshine Coast hinterland, they succumbed to its allure without quite knowing just what they were taking on. Within a short time they followed their hearts and purchased the adjoining block to set up their own writers’ retreat business, threw in their jobs and slaved – only for the GFC (and other factors) to drop them so deep into debt that their dream, and their lives, started to unravel.

This book interleaves natural science and personal story, description and reflection. Many chapters start with a particular tree found on the block - its growth and habit, the fauna it supports and its human usage - before flowing into Simpson’s life and labours. She learns to look, to see, and finally to recognise not only the trees on her property, but also her own possibilities and strengths. While each of her novels (Mr Wigg; Nest; Where the Trees Were) has shown a strong connection to land and nature, this book allows her to expand her concerns and observations, and to preserve and celebrate her trees in words - a fine addition to the genre of Australian nature writing.


M. A. Bennett
Greer has had the choice while her father is on an extended filming job to stay with her rather dull aunt or to take a place at St Aidans the Great boarding school. She's smart so it seems a good idea to go to the school, with its extensive educational programmes. However, it caters for an entirely different class of people, and she soon finds herself friendless and struggling amongst the privileged set.

But then she gets an invitation from the golden boy Henry de Warlencourt, embossed with the words: Huntin' Shootin' Fishin.' Thinking this is her entrée into the school's hierarchy, led on by Henry to think she is specially chosen, she accepts. It doesn't take long for her to realise that she and two others (also misfits in the school - the nouveau riche daughter of a tech king and the son of an Indian principality) are especially chosen, and that the hunting, shooting and fishing is for entirely different quarry than the animals on the isolated estate... A gripping, sometimes genuinely terrifying, novel - one that was hard to put down! Ages 14+

A. L. Tait
Gabe was left as a foundling on the steps of a monastery, and has known no other life than the cloistered and disciplined institution. Nor does he have any great curiosity about the outer world, thinking his life will always be ordered and neat - until a dying man thrusts a mysterious manuscript into his hands with instructions to take it to Aidan and no-one else.

Before he has time to blink, Gabe is swept up into a grand adventure, unable to return to the monastery, not knowing who to trust and on the run. Fortunately for him he falls into the hands of a notorious band of robbers - who happen to be girls with a mission of their own. A swift-paced adventure for readers 9-12.

Krystal Sutherland
Esther's family has been cursed, ever since her grandfather met Death's apprentice in Vietnam, and actually escaped the fate that was meant to be his. Each member has a great fear, and it will be the thing that kills them - her father is agoraphobic, her mother an addicted gambler who fears bad luck, and her twin brother can't abide the dark. When Esther is conned by Jonah, a former friend, and he makes off with her list of things she could potentially be killed by, it starts a strange and beautiful friendship.

Jonah is determined to help Esther surmount her fears, and challenges her to confront them - filming them as they go through the list. Unbeknownst to her, she is becoming a social media star… A likable and imaginative young adult novel, with interesting characters (including Death, who has a world-weary line of snappy but almost-compassionate rejoinders) and the stirrings of first love.

Pamela Allen
A new book from Pamela Allen is always going to be a treat, and this one is darling! A little boy and his mother pack a lunch, set out from Kirribilli to walk across the Bridge and go to the Botanic Gardens for the day. When they are there, they see an ibis caught up in a plastic bag, and with a lot of help, set it free. This is reminiscent of the well-loved Alexander's Outing and is a joyful portrait of the city with a quiet environmental message conveyed in simple rhythmic text and clean-lined illustrations - a book that will be enjoyed by resident and tourist alike!

Meg McKinlay, Leila Rudge
Once, there was a small rhinoceros who wanted to see the big world. And although the other rhinos told her how she had a good life already with everything a rhino could need, still she listened to her own heart and built a boat. Despite all of the others' doubts, she sails away and sees more than she ever dreamed, until she returns home to share her tales: and perhaps kindle the spirit of enquiry in an even smaller rhinoceros. With gentle and happy illustrations in coloured pencil and watercolour by Leila Rudge, this is a sweet encouragement to step outside the everyday and discover the world for yourself. Ages 3-5

Peter Schossow
Henry and his nanny Gulsa are on their way to visit Henry's grandmother in hospital. When Gulsa gets caught up on her phone, Henry, who is bored, decides to find Grandma for himself. After asking at the information desk and not having any luck, he sets off through the hospital looking for her, meeting all sorts of people from patients to doctors. Quite a lot of text and with illustrations that repay close attention, this is a sophisticated picture book (originally from Germany) with a simple storyline that may have the side effect of demystifying hospitals and how they work. Lower primary ages.


Bruce Whatley
Whatley is known for his simple illustration styles (Diary of a Wombat etc) or impressionist style (Fire) but this book is completely different. The inevitable comparison will be with Shaun Tan's Arrival as it is a work of graphite on paper, although unlike that other masterpiece this book does have text. Rather surreal text, which allows the reader to fill in the gaps and construct the meaning for themselves. Ruben is a small, almost stunted figure, living alone in a threatening city, but one day he notices another small figure slipping in and out of the shadows, and gives chase. From such beginnings grow possibilities of change... Will appeal to anyone who admires the artistry of children's illustration.

Emily Rodda
Quil Medway is an orphan who lives with her high-flying, loving but distant, aunt. Packed off to a holiday camp, 11 year old Quil gets the oddest feeling as her train goes through a small town on the other side of the mountains, and before she has time to reconsider, she gets off. She's drawn to an old shop, and when a cheeky dog and the shop's owner appear, it's the start of her finding a home and the real feeling of family… Told with all the considerable charm you would expect from one of Australia's best-loved authors, this is a lovely read for upper primary ages.

Scot Gardner
Sparrow is in juvenile detention, and on an exercise off the Kimberley coast when the boat taking his group back to the mainland catches fire. In a split instant and despite the fear of saltwater crocodiles and sharks, he decides to escape. Reaching the shore and eluding his pursuers, Sparrow has to survive on his wits and determination not to go back. As the reader follows him in his quest for survival in what could be a hostile and unforgiving landscape, we also learn the life that Sparrow is so desperate to escape, and that the wilderness doesn't hold as many threats as his past. Weaving in themes of survival, resilience and environmental awareness, this is an interesting and powerful novel for readers 13+

Claire Saxby, Julie Vivas
A blend of fact and story, this picturebook is part of a series of titles about Australian animals. It follows a little koala as he has to leave his mother's territory, and find a home of his own. In a different font below the main text, factual information is given that explains what is happening and why. With beautifully soft and expressive illustrations by Julie Vivas, this gently educational book is aimed at newly confident readers who aren't quite ready for a serious book full of facts.

J. A. White, Andrea Offermann
This is the final volume in the Thickety sequence, which has been one of my favourites! The Spider Queen is searching for the pieces of the first grimoire, and when she has them she will destroy the world out of sheer rage and spite. Kara and Taff need to find them before Rygoth does, but to do so will come at a dreadful cost. Kara must go back to the past to find the Princess who began the whole wickedness, and then unravel the web of lies and deceit to save those she loves, and those who trust in her. A satisfying conclusion to a clever series.

Frane Lessac
There are many A-Z books using Australian animals but this one is set apart by giving a handful of interesting facts on the featured creature (and by the distribution maps at the back of the book in case the young reader wants to know where they might find them!) Colourful slightly naïve and joyful illustrations show the animals in natural poses and simplified habitats. I rather liked that X stood for Crusader Bugs because the insects have a x-shaped cross on their backs! A book both useful and attractive, for ages 3-5.

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

Abbey's ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Notes from Eve Abbey ~ August 2017

I have been enjoying I’d Die for You and Other Lost Stories a collection of eighteen unpublished short stories by F.Scott Fitzgerald now published in a very fashionable pale green hardback with an interesting introduction by Anne Margaret Daniel. This is a book not only for Fitzgerald fans but also for aspiring writers. From letters Fitzgerald wrote to his agent Harold Ober they can see how Fitzgerald reluctantly adjusted his style to fit the demands of editors at Saturday Evening Post or Colliers, magazines which at that time published short stories and paid well for them also. There are photos of his altered manuscripts as well as photos of the man himself. Anne Margaret Daniel is a lecturer at the New School University in New York and has published extensively on Fitzgerald.

Her remarks in the Introduction and Editorial Notes amount to a mini biography. There are thirty pages of Explanatory Notes which, to me, just goes to show that Fitzgerald’s writing is now looked at in an historical context. This is a good time to remind you of A. Scott Berg’s book Max Perkins: Editor of Genius which has been reissued. I think a movie is on its way. Perkins was more than an editor – more a private counsellor and adviser not only to F.Scott Fitzgerald but to many other literary luminaries of that time including Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe. His own life was rather tempestuous also.

Max Perkins: Editor of Genius by A. Scott Berg

Howard Jacobson’s latest pot-boiler called Pussy: A Novel is not for everyone. It is a satire on a Particular Prominent Person and very funny. A sense of humour is needed as you follow the adventures of Prince Fracassus, heir to the Duchy of Origen and his tutor Professor Kolskeggur Probrius. Illustrations by Chris Riddell.

Pussy: A Novel by Howard Jacobson

We had a nice launching party at Abbey’s for a book about Ukrainian migrants by Olga Chaplin a member of a well-known family. It is called The Man From Talalaivka: A Story of Love, Life and Loss from Ukraine. A true story of a family cast off their farm by Stalin, sheltering from bombs in a Displaced Persons camp in Germany and finally making a new life in Australia. Very moving.

The Man From Talalaivka by Olga Chaplin

There are two excellent new science books for children (and others). They are Do Not Lick this Book by Idan Ben-Barak and Julian Frost. An amusing illustrated story about all the microbes on your skin. Probably best not to give it to a finicky child! The other is The Invisible War: A Tale on Two Scales by Ailsa Wild, Ben Hutchings, Briony Barr and Gregory Crocetti published by Scale Free Network and set during the First World War. The wonderful illustrations tell two stories - first from the view of a Victorian nurse aiding the troops and second from the view of gut microbes which fight to keep her body alive when she contracts dysentery.

Keep well,


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

Abbey's ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Monday, 5 June 2017

Notes from Eve Abbey ~ June 2017

Robert Dessaix's new book, The Pleasures of Leisure, is sure to please his many fans. It is rather like having a desultory conversation with a witty friend about life and philosophy in a rather nice place. There are plenty of allusions and you will feel good that you recognise them. His voice comes through clear, honest and personal. He suggests you should cultivate a talent to just loaf about. A pleasure indeed.

My favourite amongst Robert’s other books is A Mother’s Disgrace, which is a classic of Australian autobiography, while other pieces include Night Letters, As I Was Saying, and What Days are For. July will see new paperback editions of Arabesques: A Tale of Double Lives and Twilight of Love: Travels with Turgenev and Corfu: A Novel.

Arabesques by Robert Dessaix Corfu: A Novel by Robert Dessaix

Have you realised that Donna Leon's latest book is out now? I have not missed a single title and this is number twenty six. It is called Earthly Remains. She has been edging towards this subject for some time, showing her concern about what is happening to the Venetian lagoons. Commissario Brunetti too is showing signs of stress and takes off to spend time alone on a tiny island in the laguna, reading and rowing with an old fisherman who has a secret past.

Earthly Remains by Donna Leon

Did you enjoy My Name is Lucy Barton by Pulitzer Prize winner Elizabeth Strout? If so, you must now read Anything Is Possible which takes us on a tour around the various relatives and fellow residents of Amash, Illinois. When I first looked at the chapter headings I thought this might be a collection of short stories. In a way it is as each character gets their place in the sun. Lucy Barton, now a famous writer in New York, comes home for a visit which is a good excuse for memories to be brought out and retold. Very satisfying.

My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout Anything Is Possible by Elizabeth Strout

If you are new to Elizabeth Strout please read My Name is Lucy Barton before you read this latest one. The other titles are Olive Kitteridge, The Burgess Boys, Amy & Isabelle and Abide with Me. Upstairs in Language Book Centre you can find Mi Chiamo Lucy Barton. Remember if the stairs are a problem for you please ask one of our booksellers to show you the lift in the foyer.

I am admirer of the work of writer and historian Mark Dapin. He has written numerous things including a crime thriller, King of the Cross and a lovely story called Spirit House, set in Bondi, about a boy’s relationship with his Jewish grandfather who had been a prisoner of war with the Japanese. Recently he has been the editor for From the Trenches: Best Anzac Writing of World War One and the The Penguin Book of Australian War Writing while The Nasho’s War: Australian National Servicemen in Vietnam won several awards. He has now been commissioned to produce a splendid book Jewish Anzacs: Jews in the Australian Military, 435 pages including photographs and index.

It has a Memorial Roll of all those who served from the Boer War to Vietnam and Afghanistan including an Honour Roll of those who made the supreme sacrifice. For the Jewish faith the act of Remembrance (zachor) is an important duty so I am sure this book will be coveted by many families. Despite the title Mark apologises that Anzacs from New Zealand are not included but this work is being done now.

Did you watch a series on SBS about Scottish Manor Houses? I think the Scottish Tourist Board must have had a hand in this? I was especially interested to see the huge difference in visitor numbers when the The Da Vinci Code became such a huge bestseller. From just a few visitors to the Rosslyn Chapel suddenly hundreds were turning up each day. So I must remind you about the controversial original work published by Leigh, Baigent and Lincoln called The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail.

There was a court case about this – the authors claiming Dan Brown had used their book as a basis for his story. Interestingly both titles were issued by the same publisher. You can get the French edition of Da Vinci Code upstairs at Language Book Centre.

There is a King Arthur film starting now so I want to remind you of T. H. White’s famous epic The Once and Future King. 

Historical fantasy writer Mary Stewart also wrote the four book Merlin series beginning with The Crystal Cave, then The Hollow Hills, The Wicked Day and The Last Enchantment. Some of these might be out of print.

I am not a great fan of performance art but despite this I cannot miss a word of The Museum of Modern Love by Heather Rose which has recently won both the Premier’s Award for Fiction and the Stella Prize. The story revolves around a real event, one of Marina Abramovic’s famous events. This time it is called 'The Artist is Present' and is staged in New York’s Museum of Modern Art. Marina sat for seventy five days at a small table with one chair opposite. No talking – just meeting of eyes. It became the hit of the town – people queued to sit and art circles were agog.

Amongst the onlookers there is a famous composer, an art teacher from the south, the ghost of Marina’s mother and another ghostly commentator. Art lovers will not miss this and people like me who don’t get Performance Art will discover a thing or two. Bravo Heather Rose who has written other novels as well as books for primary age children under the name of Angelica Banks (which she uses when she writes with Danielle Wood). A writer not yet receiving the applause she deserves.

Birders will be all agog! There is a new Australian Bird Guide, published by CSIRO and with six authors and illustrators: Menkhorst, Rogers, Clarke, Davies, Marsaka and Franklin. According to Robyn Williams on the Science Show, who already has two other guides, this is a terrific achievement – ten years in the making. There are a few more species and digital imaging has allowed the illustrators to be even more precise and there is a huge digital database. Our resident birder Lindy Jones is probably fondling a copy right now.

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, 28 April 2017

Notes from Eve Abbey ~ May 2017

It doesn’t surprise me in the least that Abbey’s has sold a great many copies of The Word Detective: A Life in Words – from Serendipity to Selfie by John Simpson, former Chief Editor of The Oxford English Dictionary, or more colloquially the OED.

Not only are many of our customers wordy people, but here at Abbey’s we have a very special relationship with Oxford University Press, and also with Cambridge University Press. By special agreement, we have stocked every available title from these famous publishers. We have had a complete set of OED on our shelves, and in one magnificent moment even sold a leatherbound edition of the OED - I don’t think such a thing exists any more.

In the early days, we also had some of the limp fascicles that were published to keep people up to date while waiting for the real edition! Today you can subscribe to an online edition, which includes the Historical Thesaurus. You may even find that your library is a subscriber and you can access the OED there. Keep in mind the OED is a Historical Dictionary. Lexicographers search to find the first time a word was used - no simple task. The definition completes the task.

You will be amazed how much information is included in the online edition. Check it out for yourself. Meanwhile read this wonderful book, which is a mix of memoir and reference. John Simpson describes the work of the lexicographer and when he spies a tasty word, he takes time to digress and discuss just how this word was handled. So this is a book you can read bit by bit and enjoy the ride. Simpson uses his wry humour to describe his progress up the ranks in the dictionary underworld, culminating in the triumph of the online edition in March 2000. It is constantly updated. Have fun!

You can’t be interested in words and not know David CrystalHis books are as entertaining as they are instructive. Recent titles include: Making Sense: The Glamorous Story of English Grammar, Making a Point, The Story of English in 100 Words, and Spell It Out. More interesting to customers at Abbey’s could be The Oxford Illustrated Shakespearean Dictionary, written with his son Ben Crystal, or The Oxford Dictionary of Original Shakespearean Pronunciation or Think on My Words: Explaining Shakespeare’s Words. You can find these in our Shakespearean Studies section, where you will also find the plays, sonnets, cribs and audio books. Two more unusual titles you will find at Abbey’s are Begat: The King James Bible and the English Language and Tyndale’s Bible: St Matthews Gospel Read in the Original Pronunciation (audio book).

It’s not often that a novel is re-published in hardback fifty years after first publication.
The Watch Tower, Elizabeth Harrower’s distressing story of the psychological enslavement of two unfortunate sisters abandoned by their mother, is now available in a special hardback Collector’s Edition from Text Publishing. And to make it even more collectable, Elizabeth has been in to Abbey’s to sign copies of her book. It is a brilliant story of marital enslavement and the struggle to retain one’s sense of self. Both the hardback and paperback are available in Text Classics. Both include an introduction by Joan London.

I recommend, also in Text Classics, her three other novels written in the fifties – The Long Prospect, Down in the City and The Catherine Wheel – which have introductions by Fiona McGregor, Delia Falconer and Romana Koval respectively. More recent publications include In Certain Circles and A Few Days in the Country: And Other Stories. This last title contains the fabulous story Alice, first published in the New Yorker.

I enjoyed reading John Meacham’s biography of the 41st President of the United States, Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush. I guess George H W is one of the last of that American class of true gentlemen, always working for the good of their country and caring for their people – Presidents like Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Eisenhower. Who else could have had such preparation to become President? Member of Congress, Member of the Senate, Head of the CIA, Head of the Republican Party, Envoy to China and Vice President for two terms to the great hero Ronald Reagan. 

Well brought up, Bush was careful never to upstage Ronnie, although Nancy Reagan kept an eagle eye on everyone. Bush became a Texan businessman after service in the Air Force during the Second World War, but was brought up a New Englander – expected to succeed, but never ever to boast and always to be kind. One amazing impression I have gained is that American elections are a huge slog and cost enormous amounts of money! Where does it all come from? One more thing… although this is a very fat book (640 pages plus 240 pages of index, notes, bibliography and acknowledgements), it is a pleasure to read. Beautiful paper and nice typeface, it is best laid flat on a table while you read.

I really enjoyed Mark Colvin’s book Light and Shadow: Memoirs of a Spy’s SonIt would be useful to read if you were also to see the terrific play at the Belvoir Theatre called, unexpectedly, Mark Colvin’s Kidney. Mark Colvin is the ABC’s longest serving and most influential radio broadcaster. He still fronts PM. His memoir focuses especially on his relationship with his somewhat distant but loved father, a British diplomat. He discovers his father is also a spy, which explains how he came to spend his school holidays with his father in Outer Mongolia! 

Colvin reported on many world-shattering events, such as the Rwanda crisis and the Iran hostage crisis. You will see flashbacks to these in the play, but in reality the background of the play refers to the phone-hacking crisis involving Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World in the first decade of this century. The book and the play complement each other. Don’t miss them.

Have you noticed the photos of visiting authors which Craig takes and includes in our newsletters? We plan to create a place to show these permanently. I was surprised at one visiting author whose name is Malachy Tallack. He comes from the Shetland Islands, so I thought he was a bit out of his way! He is also a singer/songwriter. His first book, Sixty Degrees North: Around the World in Search of Home, was greatly admired as both a memoir and a travel log. The 60th parallel touches lower Norway, Sweden and Finland, Greenland, Alaska and the great spaces of Canada and Russia. He describes these places in beautiful clear prose. Not surprisingly, he ends up in the Shetland Islands. 

His new book is The Un-Discovered Islands: An Archipelago of Myths and Mysteries, Phantoms and Fakes. Be careful how you say this because he means islands which were once “discovered”, either in myth or fact, but no longer exist. Quite a fascinating story. I remember I once thought I could see Atlantis from the coast of Cornwall while sleeping out under the stars. The book is most beautifully illustrated by Katie Scott and would make a special gift.

Keep well,


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

Abbey's ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers