Ralph is slumming it in a hovel above Palm Beach on Waiheke Island. However, he is needless to say, spending plenty of time reading! His latest reviews.
Fiction mirroring reality
By Ralph McAllister
Perched above Palm Beach in Waiheke, reading again one of Ian McEwan’s finest novels, Saturday.
I was deeply involved with Henry Perowne, famous neurosurgeon and his battles with his conscience, his squash opponent and whether Blair was doing the right thing by invading Iraq.
Next minute the news started emerging about the Westminster atrocity, not fake news, but the real thing.
How often literature mirrors and reflects reality and proves that history does repeat itself.
Saturday is set in London in 2003 over one day during the huge demonstrations over the decision to invade Iraq.
Families split in their allegiances, consciences dark and foreboding dissected by McEwan’s scalpel, just as Perowne dissects his latest patient who, just happens to have invaded his home.
Superb writing by Viet Thanh
The Refugees by Vietnam Viet Thanh Nguyen is a collection of short stories by the Vietnamese American Pulitzer prize novelist of The Sympathisers.
Nguyen wrote in his first novel about a double agent spy during the Vietnam War, managing to make us laugh through the tears as he tried to please both sides in the conflict.
These stories were written before The Sympathisers, and describe the bewilderment of the various families who try to adjust to the American way of life.
They are touching accounts with lyrical, nay shimmering, prose that will delight readers.
Give it a miss
The Throwback Special by Chris Bachelder has the occasional funny scene, very occasional, as middle aged men gather to celebrate or commemorate a famous accident on the football field of years before.
They congregate in a sleazy motel, draw lots for teams which will form the next day’s re-enactment, while sharing or not sharing their sad, boring and indecisive lives and memories.
If you can be bothered to read this, break a leg will offer you a new meaning.
Avoid, unless you love American football or wish fuel to add to your own depression.
A National Book Award finalist. Sigh.
Winton’s short stories vintage material
If you know Australian Tim Winton, you will need little encouragement to read his latest collection of true stories, thoughts on hospitals, conservation, family tragedies and the creative processes.
The Boy Behind the Curtain is vintage Winton, searingly honest, evocative and sensitive.
Easily the best he has offered for a while.