Novels You Should (and shouldn’t) Read

Ralph McAllister asks: ‘What have these four novels got in common?’ —

MILKMAN,
LINCOLN IN THE BARDO,
THE SELLOUT, and
A BRIEF HISTORY OF SEVEN KILLINGS

Yes ,they all won the last four ‘Man Booker awards for best novels,we know that.

But the common factor ,my dear readers ,is that your more or less than esteemed critic,
disliked or loathed all of them.

The point was reached where I even threatened my favourite two bookshops with picketing if MILKMAN  won this year.

It did.

But when Tilly at Unity Books and Kaye at Paper Plus threatened to instal security guards at the doors of their wonderful establishments to prevent my demonstrations, I succumbed.

I sulked in my tent and consoled myself ,thinking at least I was one of the first to predict The Luminaries would win,even before it was longlisted.
And who would disagree with the sublime Hilary Mantel winning her second Booker with BRING UP THE BODIES?

All this a preamble to my offering suggestions for your holiday reading ,after my last article dealing with the best in the non fiction category.

I am tempted to call this year the year of Oz with the staggering number of truly excellent novels from that country.

We expect quality from the brilliant Tim Winton and we get it from his THE SHEPHERD’S HUT,an epic story of adolescent Jaxie trying to flee his past ,by journeying across the arid wastelands of Western Australia ,where he meets a disgraced priest ,amongst other problems ,challenging his survival.

With THE LOST MAN Jane Harper confirms ,after the huge success of her first novel THE DRY,that she is at the forefront of younger Oz novelists.
This new thriller tries to determine why an intelligent middle aged farmer would leave the security of his isolated farm in the outback to commit suicide”
Bleak and brilliant with major twists and a devastating climax,this is a must for those who like the genre.

You could also consider SCRUBLANDS by Chris Hammer,Oz journalist turned novelist.
Again we are in the outback ,with a chilling opening  chapter ,as a priest steps out of his church and kills five parishioners.
Journalist Martin returns home to file a story on the impact on the small town a year later.But it isn’t long before ghosts from his past resurface.
Powerful stuff.

But my two Books of the Year (drum roll please) would have to be BOY SWALLOWS UNIVERSE by Trent Dalton,a shimmering ,terrifying tale of two boys growing up in the drug ridden Brisbane of the eighties?
The story is shot through with love and luck,danger and violence.
Think CATCHER IN THE RYE meets TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD,this is that good.

Let it share first  equal place (eat your heart out Booker!) with John Boyne’s A LADDER TO THE SKY.
Boyne leapt to fame with THE BOY IN STRIPED PAJAMAS  some twenty years ago.
Now he has created another success ,this one about Maurice a somewhat inadequate author who ,in his plagiarism will stop at nothing to gain fame and notoriety .
It takes him about fifty years, in a trip that is funny,scary, gay and hugely entertaining .

And it is not set in Oz!

Happy reading

Back after Hogmanay

Ralph

Hi Ralph
I am Jill’s sister Ann and she sent your book recommendations from the Kapiti News. I wondered if I could be added to your list please.
I totally agree about your comments re Booker Prizes. I have just struggled through half of Milkman considering it for my book group book. I have abandoned it as a waste of time as often I feel with the Bookers. I even felt the Luminaries could have had a good edit. Sometimes the literary verbage gets in the way of a good read and my conclusion is the Booker Judges like verbal diarrhoea, as do wine and art critics – in my view.
We are enjoying having Jill and now down in the Catlins with sister Carol too. Not only stunning in scenery and New Zealand bush but also a peaceful place for the soul and good reading.

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