Excellent finale to the 1960s civil unrest trilogy
By Ralph McAllister
A mixed bag of books this month so let’s start with the best of a rather indifferent collection.
Greg Iles fans will need no encouragement to read the final part of his trilogy, Mississippi Blood.
This one spends most of the time in the courtroom as racial tension, bigotry and violence take centre stage in this gripping conclusion to the 1960s civil unrest in the Southern States.
The parallels with today are too obvious to dwell on, but this long 650 page saga is well worth attention as it is written by one of the best writers of the genre.
But best to read first the other parts of Natchez Burning.
You will not be wasting time.
Impressive debut Australian novel
The Dry by Jane Harper is an excellent debut novel set in outback Australia, opening with a tragic family slaughtering.
This is a skilfully written account of an unpopular cop returning to face some particularly nasty local prejudice.
Flashbacks help us understand why the tension builds.
The popular success of the book bodes well for this young talented author.
Great novel on a papal election
Conclave by Robert Harris is another historical and meticulously researched novel from an expert in the field.
This time the subject is the election of a new pope, all told from the perspective of the people inside St Peters in Rome.
Gripping and compulsive with a final climactic scene which will leave you gasping.
Worthy New Zealand prize winner
Meanwhile nearer home The Wish Child by Catherine Chidgey is this year’s New Zealand Ockham Prize winner.
It is about two children surviving in Leipzig and Berlin during the Second World War.
I thought I had read enough accounts of survival during this period of history, but Chidgey offers a fresh and original slant, where the wish child hovers omnisciently and guides the youngsters through the challenges of survival.
A stunningly written and moving work.
I wish I could be enthusiastic about Arundhati Roy’s latest The Ministry of Utmost Happiness but this sprawling account of India and Kashmir troubles just didn’t do enough to hold my attention.
But don’t rely on my opinion, it has been long listed for the Man Booker.
The Museum of Modern Love by Heather Rose is another I did not finish.
A novel based on the work of Marina Abramovic,we meet people who come to the Museum of Modern Art to sit and stare at the artist.
No touching, no speaking and this in 2015 was the setting for 75 days of people watching.
Some interesting writing, but no real development of character or plot.
Guess what? Another uninspiring experience.
I did warn you of this mixed bag!