24/12/2017 04:42 PM


There have been a large number of excellent books published in 2017. Over the next month we will be posting a number of brief themed lists of suggestions of books we think would be perfect for seasonal gifts for pretty much everyone you know. Choose a list below to browse our recommendations. 

>> Don't forget, you can always come and talk to us, or e-mail us, about your specific gift requirements. 

>> List #1: COOKBOOKS

18/11/2017 07:27 PM

BOOKS @ VOLUME #50 (18.11.17). 
Find out what we've been reading.
Browse the week's new releases.
Be involved in our events and competitions.
Make the acquaintance of the VOLUME GIFT SELECTOR.

18/11/2017 06:47 PM

This week's Book of the Week is The Beat of the Pendulum by Catherine Chidgey.
This fascinating (and funny) new novel from the author of The Wish Child (winner of the 2017 Acorn Foundation Fiction Prize) is sieved and assembled from the great flood of words that washed over Chidgey in 2016. Both an experiment in form and an exercise in documentary rigour, this novel is revelatory of the actual texture of life and an interrogation of the processes of memory. 

{"Review" by THOMAS}:

What are you looking at?
Nothing. I’m not looking at anything.
Up there in the corner?
No, I’m concentrating. Trying to.
What on?
I’m writing a review of the new Catherine Chidgey book.
You’re writing a review on a Wednesday? But the deadline’s Saturday. You’ve never written reviews before Saturday before. I like the cover.
It’s by Fiona Pardington. The photograph.
What is it?
A moth’s wing, or a butterfly’s. It’s probably some reference to Nabokov. He was a lepidopterist. I don’t know what, though. Nabokov not being a writer I particularly appreciate.
Why is it called The Beat of the Pendulum?
That’s a reference to Proust. Something he wrote about writing novels. It’s in the epigraph. The writer as the manipulator of the reader’s experience of time. The writer as able to make the reader experience time as such, by speeding it up. Or by slowing it down, I suppose. Proust might be mistaken on this, though.
I am interested in the differential of the reader’s and the characters’ experience of time. The writer’s inclusion or exclusion of detail controls the reader’s awareness and makes the book move at a varying pace, that’s what detail is for, slowing down, speeding up, leaping over swathes of time that would have been experienced by the characters, if they weren’t fictional, a kind of hypothetical time, so to call it, but inaccessible to the reader because those moments are one step deeper into fiction than the text reaches.
Sounds more like a concertina than a pendulum.
Yes. The book should be called The Squeeze of the Concertina. I’m not sure readers are necessarily aware, consciously, of the difference between text time and narrative time, notwithstanding Proust, though they might well be.
What has this got to do with the book? It’s just a transcript of all the conversations the author overheard or that she was involved in. Is it even a novel?
Just? Have you read this book?
No. But [N.] read it. Or read some of it. Or a review. Or talked to someone who had read it.
Or some of it. Or a review.
And said?
That it was self-indulgent.
I don’t agree with that. At least, it is less self-indulgent than most novels. I mean, what kind of person, other than a novelist, would be so presumptuous as to expect others to spend hours of their time witnessing their make-believe?
But people like doing that.
That’s beside the point.
And the point is?
The point is that this book turns the tables on the author, subjects her to the very kinds of scrutiny that most novels are constructed to deflect, if I can damn all writers with one blow, or at least the kinds of writers that write the kind of make-believe that the ‘people’ you referred to earlier like to indulge in.
There are other kinds?
So in a way this novel is a kind of literary gutting inflicted upon the author by the rigours of the constraint she has chosen, Knausgaard without the interiority.
It’s like Knausgaard?
No. It’s more a kind of extension of the Nouveau roman project outlined by Robbe-Grillet: a turning-away from the tired novelistic props of plot, character, meaning, a verbal ‘inner life’, inside-out, and all that.
Robbe-Grillet wanted a novel made only of objects, surfaces, objective description. This book doesn’t have any of those.
Hmm. Yes. This book has cast off all those. It’s even more rigorous. There are only words, spoken by people about whom we know nothing but what the words tell us, or imply. We are immersed in language, it is our medium, or the medium of one strand of our consciousness. Our sensory awareness and our verbal awareness are very different things.
Are you giving a lecture here?
I suppose this book, by removing both the referents for language and the matrix of interpretation, or context, the conceptual plinths that weigh down novels, is testing to what extent speech is any good at conveying anything by itself.
Conceptual plinths?
There aren’t any. The book reminds me, a little, of Nathalie Sarraute, The Planetarium perhaps, where the novel is comprised only of voices. In this book the reader does the same sort of work to ‘build’ the novel around the words.
Is that fun?
Fun? Well, actually, yes, this book is very enjoyable to read. I thought I would read a bit, get the idea, and then take some pretty large running stitches through it, so to speak, but, even though nothing much happens in the way of plot, it is just an ordinary life, after all, the book is hugely enjoyable, and frequently very funny, you want to read every bit, because it so perfectly captures the way people say things, the way thought and language stutter on through time. The book is takes place entirely in the present moment, a present moment regulated by language. By the beat of the sentence. What is said is unimportant. Relatively unimportant.
It doesn’t matter what happens?
Why should anyone care about that? Apart from the characters, so to call them.
She spent a year spying on people and writing down whatever they said, whether she was in the conversation, probably quite private conversations, or things she overheard people saying? How could she do that?
How could she not do that? A novelist is always spying on other people, not to overhear what people say but how they say it, not to find out information but to find out how people approach or are affected by or transfer information.
You don’t think a novelist is predatory of plot, then? Or scavenging for plot?
You can’t hear or see plot. There’s no such thing, objectively. So I suppose you can’t steal one, only impose one. The realist novel, or the so-called realist novel, as a form, makes the most outrageous of its fantasies, its fallacies, in the area of plot. I think that’s unjustified.
But people like plot.
Yes, I suppose plot has little to do with objective reality.
So to call it. Yes. In fact, coming back to what you said before about objectivity. Dialogue is the only objective form of writing. Description is prone to error, to the interposition of the viewer to the viewed, and no-one would pretend that interiority was anything but an unreliable guide to the actual…
No-one as in not even you?
…which is its richness, I suppose. But no-one would dispute the saying of what is said.
No-one as in not even you?
Verbatim is actuality, or, I mean, resembles actuality, at least structurally. Verbatim creates an indubitable immediacy for the reader, which is very seductive, and clocks time against speech.
Why write conversation?
Conversation is propulsion. It is rocket fuel for a stuck writer, for any writer. It gets the writer out of the way of the text and lets the characters take responsibility for its progression. Conversation gives at least the illusion of objectivity. Conversation draws the reader into the illusion of ‘real time’.
Even if it’s not.
No. Irrelevant, though.
But this novel, The Beat of the Pendulum, purports to be a record of things actually said, in the real world.
Yes, I believe it.
How is that a novel?
All novels are a kind of edited actuality, some more swingeingly edited than others. Otherwise they wouldn’t be believable.
She’s edited this?
Well, obviously there’s been some sort of selecting process going on, some choosing. A year’s worth of “I’m putting on some washing. Is there anything you want to add to the load”/”There are some socks on the floor in the bedroom, if you wouldn’t mind.” might get a bit tedious.
But is not out of keeping with the project.
Well, no. I suppose not. But then it wouldn’t be a novel. Literature is potentised by exclusion rather than by inclusion. What makes this book a novel is the rigour of its form. It is an experiment in form. A laboratory experiment, if you like.
Is Chidgey a literary pioneer?
I can see The Beat of the Pendulum shortlisted for the Goldsmiths Prize.
You said this book is funny. I don’t remember The Wish Child being funny. Where does the humour come from?
Scientific rigour is indistinguishable from humour.
The world is a relentless funfair?
If you look at it dispassionately. And a relentless tragedy. There are some very memorable and enjoyable passages, revelatory I would call some of them.
Such as?
There is a long passage, maybe a dozen pages, which just records the sales pitch of a sales assistant showing Catherine and her husband a carpet shampooing machine. The use, or misuse, of language is just so well observed, it’s hilarious and tragic. Likewise the patter used by Fiona Pardington when taking Chidgey’s portrait, or there’s the compound pretension and insecurity of the conversations in the creative writing classes Chidgey tutors, or the attempt to read The Very Hungry Caterpillar to an inattentive child. Humour often comes from the simultaneous impact of multiple contexts upon language.
I thought humour comes from noticing the world as it actually is. That’s why humour is often cruel.
Or all the medical appointments, or the woman overheard in a waiting room talking about her jewellery. “I’m a silver person but my three daughters are gold people,” or something like that. Chidgey reveals the distortions, the structural flaws and inconsistent texture of the verbal topographies we wander through.
Hark at him.
And the way words act as hooks or burrs that accrete details to entities in ways sufficiently idiosyncratic to make them specific.
So you get to know the characters in this book? Even though nobody’s named.
No, not really. At least, not closely. Surprisingly, perhaps. But then an overdefined personality, or ‘character’ is a definite flaw that fiction, even - sometimes - good fiction, but certainly - always - bad fiction, is prone to fall into. What we call identity is really just a grab-bag or accretion of impressions and tendencies, and multiple voices, including incompatible impressions and contradictory tendencies and conflicting voices. We are much less ourselves than we pretend we are.
Speak for yourself.
Attachment to what we, for convenience, call persons, is something imposed upon actuality and is not something inherent in it. Chidgey’s book is not involving in the way we sometimes expect novels to be involving, there’s no story, or any of those other appurtenances, but there is both a fascination and a shared poignancy that comes with this cumulative evidence of the feeling that actual life is slipping away, with each beat of the pendulum, its loss measured out in words.
Each squeeze of the concertina.
The moments whose residue is on these pages will never return. The words both immortalise them and mark their evanescence. It’s both an anxiety and a release from anxiety.
So our anxiety about our vulnerability magnifies our vulnerability?
That’s a fairly accurate observation. That’s what we use words for.
Ha. The book is arranged on a day-by-day basis through the year.
You’re supposed to read only what’s on today’s date, then, for a year.
Haha. That would be a bit religious. Yes, you could.
That would be an experiment in reading.
It’s been done.
But not in a novel.
I don’t know.
What are you doing?
I’m putting my computer away.
You’re not going to write the review?
All this talking has used up the time I was going to write it in.
You can always write it on Saturday. Deadline day.
I suppose. I was hoping to at least make a start.
Don’t say that.
It’s ironic, isn’t it, our situation, two fictional characters engaged in a fictional conversation about an objective novel comprising only actual, ‘real-life’, material.
What are you saying?
We’re both fictional, authorial conceits if you like. Mind you, you are rather more fictional than I am. Someone might mistake me for an actual person.
But you’re not?
Not on the evidence of our conversation.


>> Discussing the "found novel" on Radio NZ National

>> Cervical smears, surrogacy and dementia

>> A year found.

>> Chidgey and the passing of time

>> The cover of the book features a photograph by Fiona Pardington from her series 'Nabokov's Blues: The Charmed Circle'

>> Chidgey's five odd-eyed (heterochromic) white cats have their own FaceBook page (and they feature in the book (explaining our cat Lucy's presence in the picture above)).

18/11/2017 06:45 PM

A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge    {Reviewed by STELLA}
A Skinful of Shadows is an immensely compelling novel for children and adults alike. Like Philip PullmanFrances Hardinge creates wonderful characters, intriguing plots, and ideas that will stay with you long after you shut the covers. In 2015, she won Costa Book of Year in 2015 with The Lie Tree, an intriguing tale of truth, science and faith set in the Victorian era on a remote island (his is now available in a deluxe edition with illustrations by Chris Riddell). A Skinful of Shadows is set in England in the 1640s, the Civil War is brewing, Puritans and Catholics are at loggerheads, and so is the King and parliament. In a small village called Popular, Makepeace lives with her mother. Making a piecemeal living from lace-making and odd jobs, they live in a small barren room in the home of her aunt and uncle, barely accepted by them or the village. When her mother dies, Makepeace is sent to the home of the aristocratic Fellmotte family, where she becomes a kitchen skivvy. Makepeace, an illegitimate child, has the Fellmotte gene, one that enables them to possess ghosts. The Fellmottes have dangerous and dark plans for her - ones that will consume her in their obsession to preserve the family line, the Fellmotte power and property. Not everyone is an enemy, though, and she makes plans with her half-brother James to escape Grizehayes. After many failed attempts, the chaos of the Civil War gives them the perfect opportunity to escape. When James lets her down, Makepeace finds herself in an even more precarious situation, but with the help of a bear and her overwhelming desire to survive she begins a journey across England to find a document worth more than gold, a document that will grant her freedom from the Fellmotte family and ensure their fall from grace. Like all good mysteries, there are plenty of turns and forks on the road, and those that help and those that hinder. Yet the more intriguing elements are those that involve the ghosts or the souls that are possess, some of which are malevolent, others helpful. Makepeace is an excellent heroine and her relationship with Bear is endearing. A story about power, possession and purpose, it’s on my list of excellent children’s books of 2017.

18/11/2017 04:49 PM


Just a few of the delectable cookbooks at VOLUME.
Come and browse our full selection

Ostro by Julia Busuttil Nishimura         $50
"My approach to food favours intuition over strict rules and is about using your hands, rushing a little less and savouring the details. It's not food that needs to be placed on a pedestal or admired from afar; it is food that slowly weaves its way into the fabric of your daily life - food for living and sharing."
The online slow food phenomenon has now produced this very beautiful cookbook. Very satisfying - even just to look through. 
The Vegetable by Caroline Griffith and Vicki Valsamis               $60
A beautifully presented and wonderfully quiet cookbook, with 130 plant-based recipes for all occasions. 

Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the elements of good cooking by Samin Nosrat          $55
Learn to cook instinctively by increasing your awareness of four variables and learning how their interaction can achieve delicious results whatever the ingredients. 
"Samin Nosrat has managed to summarize the huge and complex subject of how we should be cooking in just four words. Everyone will be hugely impressed." - Yotam Ottolenghi
>> In her own words

The Grammar of Spice by Caz Hildebrand         $45
Explains not only the history of every imaginable sort of spice, but imparts an understanding that enables the reader to use and combine them effectively when cooking. Wonderful illuminated illustrations throughout. 

French Pâtisserie: Master recipes and techniques from the Ferrandi School of Culinary Arts, Paris        $100
A very clear guide to the production of perfect patisserie, up to Michelin level (absolutely breathtaking). 

Lisboeta: Recipes from Portugal's City of Light by Nuno Mendes      $53
An interesting and attractive guide to the food of Lisbon replete with recipes for every meals of the day and with evocative photographs. 
>> Mendes tells a little about himself

The Great Dixter Cookbook by Aaron Bertelsen          $60
New Zealander Bertelsen is gardener and cook at Great Dixter, the house designed by Edwin Lutyens (upon a 15th century remnant) with gardens in the Arts and Crafts style by Christopher LLoyd. This book is a delight both to gardeners, with hands-on seasonal tips, and to cooks, with very appetising versions of classic dishes, many with a distinctly New Zealand flavour, using many of the ingredients you may have just harvested from the garden. The book is very attractively presented, with quietly beautiful photographs. One of the nicest cookbooks of the year.
Sweet by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh          $65
What could be better than a new cookbook entirely devoted to baking and desserts from the author of several of the best cookbooks on your shelves? Ottolenghi and his long-time collaborator Goh present recipes that combine flavours and ingredients in interesting ways and yet are achievable, either easily or with a small amount of pleasurable effort. Delicious, beautifully presented and absolutely recommended for everyone from children to accomplished bakers. 
>> Would you eat this? 

Nikau Cafe Cookbook by Kelda Hains and Paul Schrader      $60
Recipes for many of the memorable dishes at the iconic Wellington cafe,a long with thoughtful writing, and photography by Douglas Johns. 
The Aleppo Cookbook: Celebrating the legendary cuisine of Syria by Marlene Matar        $55
It is hardly surprising that Aleppo, one of the world's oldest inhabited cities, is also home to one of the world's most distinguished and vibrant cuisines.

Igni by Aaron Turner       $65
After working in some of the world's outstanding restaurants, including Noma in Copenhagen and El cellar de can Roca in Girona, Turner opened his own restaurant in Australia. This book documents the tribulations and excitements of its first year, and is full of distinctive recipes and atmospheric photographs. 
>> A high-end degustation restaurant in a Geelong backstreet.

Japan Easy: Classic and easy Japanese recipes to cook at home by Tim Anderson       $37
Appealingly presented, fun to use, full of authentically easy and manifestly delicious dishes, each with an easiness rating (ranging from "not so difficult" to "so not difficult").
>> You can make this

The Little Library Cookbook by Kate Young        $45
100 recipes for dishes mentioned in favourite books. Includes Marmalade (A Bear Called Paddington), Tunna Pannkakor (Pippi Longstocking), Crab & Avocado Salad (The Bell Jar), Stuffed Eggplant (Love in the Time of Cholera), Coconut Shortbread (The Essex Serpent), Madeleines (In Search of Lost Time), Figs & Custard (Dubliners), Chocolatl (Northern Lights) and Smoking Bishop (A Christmas Carol). 
"A work of rare joy, and one as wholly irresistible as the food it so delightfully describes. It is a glorious work that nourishes the mind and spirit as much as the body, and I could not love it more." - Sarah Perry (author of The Essex Serpent)
>> Crytallised ginger to please Agatha Christie
CCCP Cook Book: True stories of Soviet cuisine by Olga and Pavel Syutkin         $45
Features 60 recipes, each with fascinating background text explaining the relationship between edible culture and its political, social economic and ethnic corollaries. The illustrations and the food are at once ugly and beautiful, attractive and repellent. A beautifully produced book that will possibly give you deeper insight into Soviet life than most histories. 

The Complete Guide to Baking: Bread, brioche and other gourmet treats by Rodolphe Landemaine        $65 
Everything from the fundamentals (types of flours and starters; stages of fermentation; basic doughs and fillings) through to recipes for breads (baguettes, sourdoughs, speciality breads, flavoured breads, oil breads and milk breads), Viennese pastries (croissants, pains au chocolat, apple tarts) gateaux (flan patissier, pistachio and apricot tart, spice bread), brioches (Parisian, praline, plaited, layered and cakes) and biscuits (sables, madeleines, almond tuiles).  

America: The cookbook by Gabrielle Langholtz     $70
An encyclopedic survey of 50 states with contributions from over 100 chefs and food writers, absorbing and recombining countless ethnic cuisines into the vast panoply (and is there any panoply that is not vast?) of over 800 dishes of all sorts.
>> Have a look inside

17/11/2017 03:23 PM

Out of the carton and onto the shelf.
Beneath Pale Water by Thalia Henry       $30
Set amidst the physical and psychological landscapes of New Zealand's southern hills and grasslands, Beneath Pale Water is a social realist and expressionistic novel that follows a triangle of three damaged individuals - a sculptor, a vagrant and a model - who have grown calcified shells against the world. Their search for identity and belonging leads them into dangerous territory that threatens both their sanity and lives. As their protective shells crack they are left vulnerable-both physically and emotionally-to the high country winds and their own conflicts that, ultimately, might free - or destroy them.
>> Review on Radio NZ National.
Old Nelson: A history in postcards, 1900-1940, Selected from the Rob Packer collection by Barney Brewster     $50
A huge amount of documentary detail, arranged by location and by theme.
Vanishing Points by Michele Leggott        $28
"Vanishing Points concerns itself with appearance and disappearance as modes of memory, familial until we lose sight of that horizon line and must settle instead for a series of intersecting arcs. It is full of stories caught from the air and pictures made of words. It stands here and goes there, a real or an imagined place. If we can work out the navigation the rest will follow."
Poetry and prose poems from an outstanding poet. 
Landfall 234     $30
Includes the winners of the 2017 Landfall Essay Competition, the 2017 Kathleen Grattan Award for Poetry and the 2017 Caselberg Trust International Poetry Prize. No-Fiction and poetry from the usual literary suspects (and some less usual ones), art (Jenna Packer, James Robinson, Andrew McLeod) and reviews. 
Science and the City: The mechanics behind the metropolis by Laurie Winkless       $23
We take much of city life for granted, but almost every way we interact with a city embeds us in a web of technology designed to make living in proximity to many other humans both possible and pleasurable. Winkless helps us to see what is all around us. 
"Offers a unique insight into the revolutionary thinking that is shaping big cities around the world." - Sunday Times
>> Did you hear Winkless (now a Wellington resident) on Radio New Zealand National? 

Selected Stories by Éilís Ní Dhuibhne      $35

Eilis Ni Dhuibhne's stories are widely acclaimed for their acute perception of Irish women's lives, the power of her verbal economy, and her skillful and unique use of both humour and the fantastic.

The Great Derangement: Climate change and the unthinkable by Amitav Ghosh       $36
"The climate crisis is also a crisis of culture, and thus of the imagination." Is our resistance to addressing climate change embedded in literature, as well as in history and politics?  How can writers and artists clear the intellectual dead wood that blocks the path to effective change? 
Sun, Sea and Sustenance: The story of the Otaki Children's Health Camp by Di Buchan          $40
An excellent collection of oral history and context giving insight into the experience of children in one of New Zealand's health camps (to which children from the Nelson area were referred). From the late 1940s, health camps were established to provide health care and education for sickly, disadvantaged and 'at risk' children. 
Vietnamese Cuisine by Tom Moorman, Larry McGuire, Julia Turshen and Evan Sung          $70
A beautifully presented cookbook, showcasing the French-nuanced Vietnamese food and Vietnamese-nuanced French baking as produced in the Elizabeth Street Cafe. 
>> Some sample pages
Great Books of China by Frances Wood      $45
An excellent introduction to 66 works of Chinese literature. Much needed. 
Devotion by Patti Smith        $34
Why is one compelled to write, to cocoon oneself from others and fill empty space with words? Patti Smith takes us across the invisible line between devotion and obsession to show us the workings of her creativity. 
>> Smith channels a literary laureate.
Labyrinths: Emma Jung, her marriage to Carl, and the early years of psychoanalysis by Catrine Clay       $28
"Too long overlooked, Emma’s legacy mimicked her life – Labyrinths is the first mainstream publication to recognise both the value of her contributions as a practitioner of analytical psychology, but more importantly to acknowledge the integral role she played in the discipline’s development. As Clay astutely demonstrates, Jungian theory was a direct product of the specifics of this marriage." - Guardian
We See Everything by William Sutcliffe          $19
In a near-future, war-ravaged London, impoverished inhabitants are herded into “the Strip”, surveilled constantly by drones and periodically bombed into further submission. Gripping YA dystopia. 
Game of Queens: The women who made sixteen-century Europe by Sarah Gristwood      $22
Isabella of Castile, Anne de Beaujeu, Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth I, Jeanne d'Albret &c. 
"Gristwood handles multiple narrative strands with tremendous finesse. Densely packed with fascinating material, this immensely ambitious undertaking succeeds triumphantly.' - Literary Review
Granta 141: Canada edited by Madeleine Thien and Catherine Leroux          $28
From Canada's global cities to its Arctic Circle - from the country's ongoing story of civil rights movements to languages under pressure - the writers in this issue upend the ways we imagine land, reconciliation, truth and belonging, revealing the histories of a nation's future. 
The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night by Jen Campbell       $35
Spirits in jam jars, mini-apocalypses, animal hearts and side shows. A girl runs a coffin hotel on a remote island. A boy is worried his sister has two souls. A couple are rewriting the history of the world. Mermaids are on display at the local aquarium. Twelve haunting stories from this bookshop-positive author (and bookseller). 
The Museum of Broken Relationships: Modern love in 203 objects by Olinka Vistica and Drazen Grubisic     $45
When Olinka Vistica and Drazen Grubisic ended their relationship they founded a museum for objects that embody the arc of human relationships, from their ignition through their development to their demise. They have curated a selection from the collection. 
>> Visit the website
From the Heart by Susan Hill        $37
"A quietly shattering coming-of-age story set in the late 'fifties and early 'sixties. Hill's storytelling is vivid, yet spare. From the Heart is a captivating portrait of a woman caught in the wrong era. This slender novel could be devoured in an afternoon, but it has an unsettling quality that will stay with the reader long after it is finished." - Daily Telegraph
The Art of Natural Cheesemaking: Using traditional non-industrial methods and raw ingredients to make the world's best cheeses by David Asher          $75
Possibly the best book on the subject. 
In Progress: See inside a lettering artist's sketchbook and process from pencil to vector by Jessica Hische         $60
An inspiring record of the working processes (and the end results) of the celebrated letting artist.
>> What is the difference between a calligrapher, a lettering artist and a type designer? 
Icebreaker: A voyage far north by Horatio Clare      $45
An account of a journey up the Finnish coast of the Gulf of Bothnia on board a government icebreaker. 
"Travel writing at its very best." - Daily Mail
This is an Uprising: How nonviolent revolt is shaping the twenty-first century by Mark Engler and Paul Engler         $35
From protests around climate change and immigrant rights, to Occupy, the Arab Spring, and #BlackLivesMatter, a new generation is unleashing strategic nonviolent action to shape public debate and force political change. When mass movements erupt onto our television screens, the media consistently portrays them as being spontaneous and unpredictable. Yet, in this book, Mark and Paul Engler look at the hidden art behind such outbursts of protest, examining core principles that have been used to spark and guide moments of transformative unrest. 
"Absorbing...Ambitious...Indispensable. A genuine gift to social movements everywhere." - Naomi Klein
How Evolution Explains Everything About Life by New Scientist      $35
How does evolution actually work? Is life inevitable or a one-off fluke? Could life have taken an entirely different course? What are selfish genes and are they really the driving force in evolution? How has our understanding of evolution changed? 
Bright Ideas for Young Minds: 70 step-by-step activities to do at home with your child         $40
An excellent resource for everyone from young parents to grandparents, showing how to provide developmentally rich experiences without specialist equipment. 
Where the Past Begins: A writer's memoir by Amy Tan         $37
By delving into vivid memories of her traumatic childhood, confessions of self-doubt in her journals, and heartbreaking letters to and from her mother, Tan gives evidence to all that made it both unlikely and inevitable that she would become a writer.
Love for Sale: Pop music in America by David Hajdu       $28
From the sheet music of the nineteenth century through Tin Pan Alley to the rise of radio to the label wars and the atomisation of the music industry. 
>> 'Love For Sale'.
>> 'Love For Sale'
>> 'Love For Sale'.
>> 'Love For Sale'
>> 'Love For Sale'.
>> 'Love For Sale'. 
>> 'Love For Sale'.
>> 'Love For Sale'.
>> 'Love For Sale'.
Making Things Right: A master carpenter at work by Ole Thorstensen       $40
On one level, this is an account of the renovation of a loft; on another it is an insight into the mindset of a craftsperson and the humanising benefits to be had from doing things well. 
Magnificent Birds by Narisa Togo       $28
The Earth Gazers by Christopher Potter      $45
When the Apollo mission sent back the first views of Planet Earth from space, how did this change the way we thought about ourselves, our place in the universe and our responsibility towards our planet? What 
The Furthest Station by Ben Aaronovitch         $30
There's something strange on the Metropolitan Line. Why do commuters keep forgetting their encounters with ghosts on the rails? PC Peter Grant investigates in this, the first novella to accompany the 'PC Grant' ('a.k.a. 'Rivers of London') series. OTT. 
The Smell of Fresh Rain: The unexpected pleasures of our most elusive sense by Barney Shaw          $33
Our noses are wired straight into our brains. What are the neurological, psychological and cultural dimesions of our sense of smell? 
Flora: The graphic book of the garden by Guy Barter       $55
And attractive and clear introduction to gardening. 
Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson        $60
A magisterial biography from the author of Steve Jobs and Einstein

The Trials of the King of Hampshire: Madness, secrecy and betrayal in Georgian England by Elizabeth Foyster       $22
Considered by Byron a fool but not a madman, the 3rd Earl of Portsmouth enjoyed funerals, pinching his servants and being bled (none of which exactly made him an exception to his time and station). In 1823 his family petitioned the court to have him declared insane. This is a fascinating piece of history.
The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 29 psychiatrists and mental health experts assess a President edited by Bandy Lee      $45
Everything you've ever suspected is backed up by an expert, but what is the mental health status of the nation that elected him? 
Nasty Women: Feminism, resistance and revolution in Trump's America edited by Samhita Mukhopadhyay and Kate Harding       $28
Esssays from Rebecca Solnit, Cheryl Strayed, Jessica Valenti, Nicole Chung and others. 
Censored 2018: Press Freedoms in a Post-Truth Society, The top censored stories and media analysis of 2016-2017 edited by Micky Huff        $40
The annual yearbook from Project Censored features the year's most underreported news stories, striving to unmask censorship, self-censorship, and propaganda in corporate-controlled media outlets. 
Larousse Wine: How to understand the world's best wines edited by          $100          
New edition. Definitive. 
The Art of Fire: The joy of tinder, spark and ember by Daniel Hume        $50
A history of, a rumination on, and instructions for fire-making. 
>> An incendiary art or a smouldering craft? 

11/11/2017 07:15 PM

BOOKS @ VOLUME #49 (11.11.17)

Our latest NEWSLETTER of our reviews and recommendations, events and new releases. 

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11/11/2017 06:56 PM

This week's Book of the Week is Driving to Treblinka (published by Awa Press), Diana Wichtel's remarkable account of her search for her father, both within her own memories and in the parts of the world that made her father (and by extension herself) who he was (and by extension who she is). Wichtel's father survived the Warsaw ghetto, escaped from a train bound to the extermination camp at Treblinka, and survived the rest of World War 2 with a Jewish resistance group hiding in the Polish forest. He died in a Canadian psychiatric institution. 

>> Read Thomas's review below.

>> Read an extract

>> Another extract (and a cheesecake recipe)

>> Hear Wichtel talk with Kim Hill.

>> Wichtel writes about her Jewishness

>> "A book should be an axe for the frozen sea within us." (Franz Kafka)

>> An interview with Wichtel

>> Our stock selection of books on Jewishness includes many on the history imposed upon Jews (and others) by the Nazis in the form of the Holocaust. 

>> A brief history of the Warsaw ghetto

>> More detail

>> Treblinka

>> A little about Jewish partisans in Nazi-occupied Poland.

>> Thomas's review: 
Driving to Treblinka: A long search for a lost father by Diana Wichtel
“It is not you who will speak; let the disaster speak in you, even if it be by your forgetfulness or silence,” wrote Maurice Blanchot in The Writing of the Disaster. When Diana Wichtel was twelve she moved from Canada to New Zealand with her mother and sister and brother, leaving her increasingly erratic and temperamental father behind. He never followed them and they lost contact. Many years later, Wichtel learned that her father had died in a Canadian psychiatric institution. Trauma expresses itself most eloquently through trauma. Ben Wichtel had survived confinement in the Warsaw ghetto, where he several times woke up next to someone who had died in the night. He jumped from a tiny window in the railway carriage that was transporting him to the Treblinka extermination camp and survived the rest of the war hiding in the forests of Poland with a Jewish resistance group. Almost everyone in his family was killed at Treblinka. Ben Wichtel could not choose not to be damaged by these experiences, and the harm of the Holocaust continues to be passed down through the generations, both within a family and in wider society. “I was always looking for my father,” writes Diana Wichtel, “even when he was still there,” but “you get so used to nothing making any sense that you stop asking questions.” Upon arrival in New Zealand, Diana’s mother set their lives in a new direction and closed down the part of their lives that contained the children’s father. “When parents run from their history they also obliterate the history of their children," writes Wichtel. My mother didn’t know that the things she needed to leave behind in order to survive were precisely the things I needed to hold on to.” Many years later, unable to silence the clamourings of her memories of her father, Diana set out to find out more about him, travelling both to North America and to Poland, where she met and received information from relatives, visited the site of an underground hideout in a Polish forest that might have been where her father hid, and eventually found her father’s grave (with his name misspelled). Her search for the memory of her father involved both a search within herself and a search in the outer world, for memory is most effectively resolved by place. Wichtel’s writing is for the most part forensic and spare, effectively drawing emotional response from the reader rather than imposing it upon them. Although Wichtel finds probably as much about her father as it is possible to find, there is a sense that he is more absent than ever, if anything her father is almost overwritten by what she learns about him (but maybe that is what memory is for). The family provide a new headstone for his grave, one that acknowledges his story, but what happens to the recipient of a gift when they have died long before the giving of that gift? Memory and story are ways of externalising memory and loosening its unspeakable hold (which makes memory a form of forgetting). But, Wichtel insists, “there is no closure”. The Holocaust cannot make people better people. There is only unhealable trauma. “There is no personal growth to be had in that fathomless void.”

11/11/2017 06:55 PM

Forest Dark by Nicole Krauss  {Reviewed by STELLA}
Forest Dark is wonderfully complex and thought-provoking, and I don’t say this lightly. Like her previous novel, Great House, which I read half of and put aside to come back to at least a year later (and so pleased that I did - it is still memorable several years on), her work rewards the persistent reader. Her writing is as frustrating as it is brilliant and this is what makes it so interesting. In Forest Dark the novel is told in two voices, one in the third person (Epstein) and the other in first person narrative (Nicole). Julian Epstein is a highly successful, ambitious and confident New Yorker who at 68 has what his family, friends and lawyer would call a crisis. He divorces his wife, starts giving away his wealth and his art, and leaves for Tel Aviv with the purpose of finding a fitting cause or project to memorialise his parents. Epstein is questioning his life, his motivations and is, for the first time in his life, uncertain. Interspersed with his chapters is the voice of Nicole, a 39-year-old writer who is struggling with her next novel. One night, suffering from insomnia, she packs a suitcase and in the morning, almost surprised to see her packed bag, she announces she is off to Israel to research her book. Feeling suffocated by her failing marriage, her adorable but increasingly independent children and her fame, she is running away, looking for answers but ultimately finding only questions. As the novel progresses I expected the lives of these two narrators to intertwine, but Krauss gives us nothing so obvious. There are links between the two, they are both American Jews, they both have a connection to the Hilton in Tel Aviv, and they are both on a quest to understand themselves and their place, or perhaps lack of importance, in the worlds they are familiar with. Set in Israel, a place that both have links to, as does the author herself, Epstein and Nicole are both at home, yet dislocated - their experience is one of history and family - a tenuous and sometimes fraught relationship. Both are free to wander, to be unburdened of their responsibilities, whether they are in the chaos of the city or the barrenness of the desert. Whether they achieve a sense of freedom is debatable, with both finding themselves drawn into schemes which each would, in a different mindset, run a mile from. Nicole’s story is a reflection on the place, and possibly the relevance, of the writer. Krauss is questioning the form and significance of the novel. Krauss is not alone in using the novel form as a vehicle for blending fiction and autobiography. Nicole is not Krauss, but they are closely related. Forest Dark is both serious and wry: Krauss is an intelligent writer who feeds us more questions than answers. Like her previous novels, this will be one to contemplate for a while.


11/11/2017 06:55 PM


Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend   {Reviewed by STELLA}
Nevermoor is the word that’s been on everyone’s lips over the last few months. Australian author Jessica Townsend's children’s book was pitched by her agent at last year’s Frankfurt Book Fair, where it created an eight-publisher bidding frenzy, with Hachette finally winning. The book has been sold into 25 territories and film rights have been sold to 20th Century Fox. So this is a big deal for a debut author. Comparisons, unsurprisingly, have been made with Harry Potter, and the first book in the series was recently released to much fanfare. Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crowintroduces us to our plucky heroine, the cursed child Morrigan Crow, and a new fantastical world of magic, both bright and dark, colourful characters (some untrustworthy), exclusive societies that only the bravest and most talented qualify for, talented children (friends and foes), magical beasts, and much more! With the opening chapter letting you know that the main character is about to die, who could resist reading on? Morrigan Crow is due to die before her eleventh birthday, cursed from the day she was born. She is feared and ostracised - her family can’t wait to be normal - she is the agent of disasters, big and small. When Eventide begins earlier than anticipated, Morrigan knows her days are numbered. On a whim, she attends (much to her Mayoral father’s annoyance) Bid Day, a ceremony where apprentices are chosen for elite schools. When Morrigan’s name is called out for a scholarship, not once but several times (unheard of!), no one is more surprised than her. Uproar ensues. How can this cursed child be chosen? With the countdown on, the coffin ordered, the last meal ready to be eaten, Morrigan will never be an apprentice. As she sits for the last time in her family home, something quite extraordinary happens! Jupiter North of the Wunderous Society has come to collect her. And so the adventures begin. Plenty of tricks, tumbles, twists and trials. Captivating, magical, daring and very good.

11/11/2017 06:54 PM


Extravagant Stranger by Daniel Roy Connelly  {Reviewed by THOMAS}
There must be a moment when the pull of the end of a life becomes stronger than the push of its beginning, but this moment inevitably passes unrecognised, other than that it becomes at this point (and we won’t be looking for this) suddenly less implausible to call writing about your life ‘Memoir’. Daniel Roy Connelly has lived what  some might think of as an interesting life (he has been a diplomat in various countries and a theatre director and scholar) but there is no particular reason for us to be interested in any of that, and every reason to think that Connelly is not particularly interested in any of that either. Instead, Extravagant Strangeris a set of residua, granules of experience that have become grit in his memory, arranged from a sperm’s-eye view of his conception (why he identifies with only half his chromosomal constitution at this point is probably insignificant in light of his overall project of netting the partial and fractured nature of both experience and memory (although we understand the difference between experience and memory we cannot experience this difference)), through childhood and parenthood, until beyond his (projected) death. This is the opposite of a curriculum vitae or Mastermind research; the short impressionistic pieces that comprise the book are refreshingly free from fact, fact forming perhaps a substructure of the memoir upon which the pieces spring forth like small and sudden thorny plants. Each piece is stamped with the voice of its author, entirely personal but entirely outward-looking, full of the kinds of idiosyncratic observation, self-arraignment and wordplay that act as burrs that make moments cling to consciousness and be carried forward, through the evident sadness, joy and irritation that have pulled increasingly strongly at the biographical trajectory of the Connelly’s life (this may be a memoir but it is in no way an autobiography). Does memoir steady us on the corners of the luge, or hold us back a little (or at least give the momentary impression of being held back a little), or does it disemburden us, cast us forward and speed our descent? We are either aware or unaware, and, if the former, all we have is detail, the more particular and the more idiosyncratic the better.

10/11/2017 12:45 PM


The Beat of the Pendulum: A found novel by Catherine Chidgey     $35
This fascinating (and funny) new novel from the author of The Wish Child (winner of the 2017 Acorn Foundation Fiction Prize) is sieved and assembled from the great flood of words that washed over Chidgey in 2016. Both an experiment in form and an exercise in documentary rigour, this novel is revelatory of the actual texture of life and an interrogation of the processes of memory.

Winter by Ali Smith     $34
In the second installment of Smith's seasonal quartet, a modern-day Scrooge reassesses her relationships in the context of Brexit Britain and the deep patterns of history and society. 
"Luminously beautiful. A novel of great ferocity, tenderness, righteous anger and generosity of spirit." - Guardian
Strangers arrive: Émigrés and the arts in New Zealand, 1930-1980 by Leonard Bell          $75
From the 1930s to the 1950s, forced migrants - refugees from Nazism, displaced people after World War II and escapees from Communist countries - arrived in New Zealand from Europe. Among them were extraordinary artists and writers, photographers, designers and architects whose European Modernism radically reshaped the arts in this country. How were migrants received by New Zealanders? How did displacement and settlement in New Zealand transform their work? How did the arrival of European Modernists intersect with the burgeoning nationalist movement in the arts in New Zealand? This book introduces us to a group of `aliens' who were critical catalysts for change in New Zealand culture. An outstanding piece of social and artistic history, beautifully illustrated. 
Insane by Rainald Goetz          $38
Dr Raspe takes up a position at a psychiatric institution determined to implement his ideals, but instead becomes overwhelmed by the reality of life in the hospital and soon passes beyond the edges of what is commonly thought of as sane, disassembling as he does so society's expedient construct of sanity. For him, and for the reader, the idea of madness is overthrown.
"Rainald Goetz is the most important trendsetter in German literature. In many passages, Goetz achieves the same intensity and concentration of experience as in the disturbing early novels of Thomas Bernhard.— Süddeutsche Zeitung
"This book is a hammer. His texts should come with an epilepsy warning." — Die Zeit
"As a hyper-nervous virtuoso of attentiveness, Rainald Goetz works in the field between authenticity and fiction." — Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
"Praise is bad." — Rainald Goetz
>> "He was a doctor. He knew what he was doing." — Marcel Reich-Ranicki, commenting on Goetz slicing open his forehead at the 1983 Ingeborg Bachmann Prize
The Expatriates by Martin Edmond           $50
"The connection between a colony and its founder, centre and margin, is always paradoxical. Where once Britain sent colonists out into the world, now the descendants of those colonists return to interrogate the centre." This book rediscovers four men, born in New Zealand, who achieved fame in Europe as they were forgotten at home: Harold Williams, journalist, linguist, Foreign Editor of The Times; Ronald Syme, spy, libertarian, historian of ancient Rome; John Platt-Mills, radical lawyer and political activist; and Joseph Burney Trapp, librarian, scholar and protector of culture. Edmond, as always, writes thoughtfully and with insight. 
The Journal of Urgent Writing, 2017 edited by Simon Wilson      $40
Essays towards a better national conversation, including: Morgan Godfery on identity • Jess Berentson-Shaw on social investment • Andrew Judd on racism • Carys Goodwin on climate change • Conor Clarke on dirt • David Cohen on Popper, Plato, Hegel and Marx • Emma Espiner on a tikanga Māori world • Gilbert Wong on growing up Chinese • Giselle Byrnes on why universities matter • Jo Randerson on dying • Māmari Stephens on our threatened marae • Victor Rodger on being actually brown • Maria Majsa on Johnny Rotten • Max Harris on dreams • Mike Joy and Kyleisha Foote on dams • Raf Manji on a new progressive agenda • Sarah Laing on menstruation • Sylvia Nissen on youth and politics • Teena Brown Pulu on three Tongan funerals • Tim Watkin on explaining Trump • Simon Wilson on a radical centre.

Old Rendering Plant by Wolfgang Hilbig       $28
One day, a boy follows the odors, oozings, and grime of a polluted creek to the rendering plant that has spewed animal refuse into it for years. He becomes obsessed with the poor creatures that are being made into soap, and in his paranoia he comes to believe that this abattoir is somehow connected to the mysterious disappearances occurring throughout the countryside. Hilbig uses obsessive, hypnotic prose to explore the intersections of identity, consciousness, our frail bodies, and history's darkest chapters.
"An artist of immense stature." - Laszlo Krasznohorkai 
Literary Witches by Taisia Kitaiskaia, illustrated by Katy Horan       $42
A magical survey of 30 writers who are also women, giving insight into their verbal superpowers, biographies and principle works. Powerfully illustrated. Includes Janet Frame, 'Hermit of Hospitals, Belonging and Lost Souls'. 
>> Peek at a few witches here

Make Her Praises Heard Afar: The untold history of New Zealand women in World War One by Jane Tolerton        $60

Many New Zealand women have been left out of the histories of the First World War. As well as the 550 nurses who followed the troops and the women who 'kept the home fires burning', many other New Zealand women were involved in the war, as doctors and ambulance drivers, munitions workers and mathematicians, civil servants and servicewomen in British units, and in many other roles. Tolerton tells these stories for the first time. 
Nikau Cafe Cookbook by Kelda Hains and Paul Schrader      $60
Recipes for many of the memorable dishes at the iconic Wellington cafe,a long with thoughtful writing, and photography by Douglas Johns. 

Hortense and the Shadow by Natalia O'Hara and Lauren O'Hara      $30
Hortense is irritated by the antics of her shadow, but its ability to take on new forms can be useful when you are threatened by bandits.
Downtime: Deliciousness at home by Nadine Levy Redzepi        $60
Quietly thoughtful and nicely presented.
"This is great family cooking: inviting, achievable and simply delicious." - Nigel Slater

Coming Unstuck: Recipes to get you back on track by Sarah Tuck      $60
When not everything is going your way (or even when nothing seems to be going your way), the preparing and eating of good food can help to get your life back on the rails. S. Tuck shares 100 of her most effective recipes in this attractively presented cook book. This food will help pick you up off the floor. 
>> STuck in the kitchen
Heather, the Totality by Matthew Weiner    $28
The Breakstone family arrange themselves around their perfect daughter Heather, but as Heather grows she becomes the centre of other, darker orbits. 
"Heather, the Totality is superb. Weiner conveys the sense that beyond the brilliantly chosen details there was a wealth of similarly truthful social and psychological perception unstated. Then there was the ice-cold mercilessness, of a kind that reminded me (oddly, I suppose, but there it was) of Evelyn Waugh. This novel is something special." - Philip Pullman
"I cringed and shuddered my way through this short, daring novel to its terrible inevitable end. Each neat, measured paragraph carpaccios its characters to get to the book's heart - one of Boschian self-cannibalising isolation. A stunning novel. Heather, the Totality blew me away." - Nick Cave
>> Matthew Weiner, the man who made Mad Men
Last Inhabitant of Shackleton's Hut by Oliver Sutherland       $25
In 1962, as a young zoologist, Sutherland lived for 3 months alone in Shackleton's hut in Antarctica's McMurdo Sound, alone, that is, apart from visitors (up to 40 a day) who came to see him living alone in the famous explorer's hut. One of the visitors, Graham Billing, wrote a novel, Foxbrush and the Penguins, based on Sutherland, and this was subsequently made into a film starring John Hurt as Sutherland. Sutherland's own account of his stay is now available for the first time.
Type: A visual history of typefaces and graphic styles, 1628-1938 by Cees de Jong et al       $125
A stupendous encyclopedia of typographical evolution and innovation, including not only typefaces but also layout, ornament and aesthetic. Full of information and inspiration. 

Life in the Garden by Penelope Lively        $40
A memoir of the writer's life in gardens and a consideration of gardens in her reading. 
The Invented Part by Rodrigo Fresan      $40
What happens if you throw literature into the Large Hadron Collider? This book is a fictional life told in fragments, each fragment constantly permuting and breaking into further fragments. An adventure in fractalising narrative. 
"It’s a strange and rewarding book, and one which channels a stylized, almost hermetic environment—which seems to fit the themes of both supercolliders and the inner workings of the human psyche." - Electric Literature
>> Is this a "total novel"?

Ungrateful Animals by Dave Eggars     $50

Before Eggars was a writer he was an illustrator. In this book he presents a series of animals, both wild and domestic, with plaintive or pseudo-Biblical texts. Odd and rather touching. 
Thirty-Four Illustrations for Dante's Inferno by Robert Rauschenberg       $45
"I think a picture is more like the real world when it's made out of the real world."  Produced between 1958 and 1960, Rauschenberg's illustrations transpose photographic and found imagery to the canvas and overwork it with other media. 
>> Read the book and look at the pictures. 
>> Rauschenberg is not the first artist to tackle the subject
The Runaway Species: How human creativity remakes the world by Anthony Brandt and David Eagleman         $37
The latest neurological research shows how our brains are softwired (or live-wired!) rather than hardwired. This endless malleability enables us to reconceptualise our world and to construct experience. Where do new ideas come from? Eagleman, whose book The Brain is the best introduction to the philosophical and psychological implications of neurological research, teams up with composer Anthony Brandt to explore our need for novelty and our capacities to produce it like no other animal. 

The Art of Cartographics by Jasmine Desclaux-Salachas   $60
A curated selection of maps that take cartography in new directions. Interesting. 

Moral Fables by Giacomo Leopardi          $22
Between 1823 and 1828 Leopardi set aside the lyric poetry he has become most famous for to concentrate on this set of 24 stories, mostly dialogues, which address the range of philosophical themes that underlie both his academic and poetic writings. 
Fanaticism: On the uses of an idea by Alberto Toscano        $29
Tracing its development from the traumatic Peasants' War of early sixteenth-century Germany to contemporary Islamism, Toscano tears apart the sterile opposition of 'reasonableness' and fanaticism.  Toscano suggests that fanaticism results from the failure to formulate an adequate emancipatory politics.

Tū Arohae: Interdisciplinary critical thinking by William Fish and Stephen Duffin       $45

Being able to describe, evaluate and generate reasoning and arguments effectively, appropriately and sympathetically is a key life, professional and academic skill. But there are hidden complexities inherent in this approach, and it has limits when employed as a form of persuasion
Dinosaurium by Lily Murray and Chris Wormell       $42
A beautifully illustrated large-format book from the wonderful 'Welcome to the Museum' series. The latest facts with a retro feel. 
Portraits, 2005-2016 by Annie Leibovitz       $140
Stunning, as you would expect. Leibovitz's sure and incisive eye captures layers of subtlety beneath each exquisite surface. Sumptuous, large-format production.
Race to the Bottom of the Sea by Lindsay Eager       $19
Can a clever young inventor uncover a ruthless pirate's heart of gold? 

Cinemaps: An atlas of great movies bAndrew DeGraff & A. D. Jameson     $55
Detailed hand-painted maps that provide a cartographic representation of 35 major films. Plus essays (also fun). 
>> DeGraff is also responsible for Plotted: A literary atlas
Storied Lives (The Novella Project V), Griffith Review 58 edited by Julianne Schulz       $35
How do people make an impact on the world? Fiction and nonfiction. 
This Long Pursuit: Reflections of a Romantic biographer by Richard Holmes      $30
What are the challenges, rewards and pitfalls of biographical research and writing? 
"Holmes writes beautifully. A masterly performance by the greatest literary biographer of his generation." - The Oldie
The World Broke in Two: Virginia Woolf, T. S. Eliot, D. H. Lawrence, E. M. Forster and the Year that Changed Literature by Bill Goldstein      $43
1922, the year that Modernism was born. 
Gnomon by Nick Harkaway         $37
An investigator studying the recordings of a machine that can read memories finds evidence of more persons than she ought to in the mind of a reclusive novelist who has died in police custody. Inventive (bonkers). 
"Gnomon is an extraordinary novel, and one I can't stop thinking about some weeks after I read it. It is deeply troubling, magnificently strange, and an exhilarating read." - Emily St. John Mandel, author of Station Eleven
"Harkaway is J.G. Ballard's geeky younger brother." - Times Literary Supplement
First Time Ever by Peggy Seeger         $45
An interesting memoir from the folk music revival catalyst, left-leaning political activist and feminist. 
>> 'The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face'.
Textiles of the Middle East and Central Asia by Fahmida Suleman      $65
The textiles featured include male and female garments, hats and headdresses, rugs and felts, children's clothing, dolls, tent hangings, amulets and animal harnesses.
I Can't Breathe: The killing that started a movement by Matt Taibbi        $38
On July 17, 2014, Eric Garner died in New York City after a police officer put him in what has been described as a "chokehold" during an arrest for selling "loosies," or single cigarettes. The final moments of his life were captured on video and seen by millions, sparking an international series of protests that built into the transformative "Black Lives Matter" movement. Weeks after Garner's death, two New York City police officers were killed by a young black man from Maryland, in what he claimed was revenge for Garner's death. Those killings in turn led to police protests, clashes with New York's new liberal mayor, and an eventual work slow-down.
Phantom Architecture: The fantastical structures that the world's greatest architects really wanted to build by Philip Wilkinson       $60
If only.
Katherine Mansfield tote bag      $20
Holly Dunn design. 

06/11/2017 03:21 PM

A few books from our shelves on Jewishness, Jewish issues and history for Jews, the Jew-curious and people who like interesting books.
The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt         $30
Arendt's analysis of the conditions that led to the Nazi and Soviet totalitarian regimes is a warning from history about the fragility of freedom, exploring how propaganda, scapegoats, terror and political isolation all aided the slide towards absolutist domination. A warning for our times (even though first published in 1951). 
A Land Without Borders: My journey around East Jerusalem and the West Bank by Nir Baram        $40
Baram navigates the conflict-ridden regions and hostile terrain to speak with a wide range of people, among them Palestinian-Israeli citizens trapped behind the separation wall in Jerusalem, Jewish settlers determined to forge new lives on the West Bank, children on Kibbutz Nirim who lived through the war in Gaza, and ex-prisoners from Fatah who, after spending years detained in Israeli jails, are now promoting a peace initiative. 
"Written with great talent, momentum and ingenuity. It expands the borders of literature to reveal new landscapes." - Amos Oz
"A book that is a fascinating and charged document about the meaning of home, security and freedom, on both sides of the divide." - NRG
Revolutionary Yiddishland: A history of Jewish radicalism by Alain Brossat and Sylvie Klingberg        $37
Socialists, Communists, Bundists, Zionists, Trotskyists, manual workers and intellectuals: before the Holocaust decimated their numbers and laid waste to the land their radicalism addressed, the Jewish communities between Russia and the Baltic brought forth a swathe of new ideas compounded of idealism and doubt. The book examines what was lost, and what might have been. 
The Yiddish Policeman's Union by Michael Chabon          $23
If Alaska rather than Israel had become a Jewish homeland after World War 2, and if the streets of its capital Sitka then quaked in fear of Ultraorthodox gangsters with sidelocks, how will Detective Landsman and his half-Jewish, half-Tlingit sidekick Berko solve a murder case that stretches back to the elusive Rebbe Gold and beyond? A hilarious novel, with lashings of noir tropes. 

The Kingdom of Olives and Ash: Writers confront the occupation edited by Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman      $33
26 writers (including Colum McCann, Rachel Kushner, Colm Toibin, Dave Eggers, Madeleine Thien and Eimear McBride) from 14 countries bear witness to the human cost of the 50-year Israeli occupation of the West Bank. 
"Moving, heartbreaking, and infuriating, testifying to the chilling cruelty of Israel's policy toward Palestinians. Deeply unsettling and important." - Kirkus 
>> Trailer
The Non-Jewish Jew, And other essays by Isaac Deutscher         $22
Essays on Spinoza, Heine, Marx, Trotsky, Rosa Luxemburg and Chagall, and on the Jews under Stalin and of the 'remnants of a race' after Hitler, as well as on the causes and results of Zionism.
"Exceedingly vivid." - TLS

The Choice by Edith Eger         $35
The psychologist specialising in PTSD recounts her own experiences surviving Auschwitz (where she was forced to dance for Josef Mengele) and those of the people she has helped. 
"The Choice is a gift to humanity. Dr. Eger's life reveals our capacity to transcend even the greatest of horrors and to use that suffering for the benefit of others." - Desmond Tutu

Charlotte by David Foenkinos         $28
Charlotte Salomon (1917–1943) was a German-Jewish artist primarily remembered as the creator of an autobiographical series of paintings 'Life? or Theater?', consisting of 769 individual works painted between 1941 and 1943 in the south of France, while Salomon was in hiding from the Nazis. In October 1943 she was captured and deported to Auschwitz, where she and her unborn child were gassed to death by the Nazis soon after her arrival. Her life forms the basis of Foenkinos's beautiful, indignant book. 
>>Some of her work can be seen here
Man's Search for Meaning by Victoe E. Frankl     $33
A prominent Viennese psychiatrist before the war, Frankl observed the way that both he and others in Auschwitz coped (or didn't) with the experience. He noticed that it was the ones who comforted others and who gave away their last piece of bread who survived the longest, and he asserts that everything can be taken away from us except the ability to choose our attitude in any given set of circumstances. 
Where the Jews Aren't: The sad and absurd story of Birobidzhan, Russia's Jewish autonomous region by Masha Gessen        $40
In 1929, the Soviet government set aside a sparsely populated area in the Soviet Far East for settlement by Jews. The place was called Birobidzhan. The idea of an autonomous Jewish region was championed by Jewish Communists, Yiddishists, and intellectuals, who envisioned a haven of post-oppression Jewish culture. By the mid-1930s tens of thousands of Soviet Jews, as well as about a thousand Jews from abroad, had moved there. The state-building ended quickly, in the late 1930s, with arrests and purges instigated by Stalin. But after the Second World War, Birobidzhan received another influx of Jews those who had been dispossessed by the war. In the late 1940s a second wave of arrests and imprisonments swept through the area, traumatizing Birobidzhan's Jews into silence and effectively shutting down most of the Jewish cultural enterprises that had been created. 
The Children of Willesden Lane: A true story of hope and survival during World War II by Mona Gobalek and Lee Cohen        $19
Jewish musical prodigy Lisa Jura Gobalek escaped Vienna to London on the Kindertransport, where she eventually studies at the Royal Academy. How can she learn the fates of her sisters and the rest of her family she left behind?

The Yid by Paul Goldberg       $25
Moscow, 1953. Three secret policemen arrive in the middle of the night to arrest Solomon Shimonovich Levinson, an actor from the defunct State Jewish Theater. But Levinson, though an old man, is a veteran of past wars, and he proceeds to assemble a ragtag group to help him enact a mad-brilliant plot: the assassination of Stalin (no less). While the setting is Soviet Russia, the backdrop is Shakespeare: A mad king has a diabolical plan to exterminate and deport his country's remaining Jews. 
"Darkly playful and generous with quick insights into the vast weirdness of its landscape." - The Washington Post
"A brilliant novel that is at once surreally comic, suspenseful if slightly cracked and punctuated with eruptions of violence, but with a poignant ending . An extraordinary, rich and surprising tale of intrigue Paul Goldberg has been aptly compared to a whole constellation of Jewish literary geniuses Sholem Aleichem, Philip Roth, Cynthia Ozick, E.L. Doctorow, Michael Chabon and even the Coen brothers. Goldberg possesses a voice and vision that are entirely and uniquely his own." - The Jewish Journal
A Horse Walks into a Bar by David Grossman         $28
This taut depiction of a stand-up comedian falling apart on stage in front of an audience wanting entertainment won Grossman the 2017 Man Booker International Prize. Why are we so transfixed by tragedy, our own and others'? In reading literature, are we like Dovaleh's audience, seeking entertainment from the miseries of others? 
"Unrelentingly claustrophobic. The violence that A Horse Walks into a Barexplores is private and intimate. Its central interest is not the vicious treatment of vulnerable others but the cruelty that wells up within families, circulates like a poison in tight-knit groups, and finally turns inward against the self. Searing and poignant." - New York Review of Books 
>> Some things wrong in Israel
The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe       $30
14-year-old Dita is confined in the extermination camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau. The several thousand residents of camp BIIb are inexplicably allowed to keep their own clothing, their hair, and, most importantly, their children. Fredy Hirsch maintains a school in BIIb. In the classroom, Dita discovers something wonderful: a dangerous collection of eight smuggled books. She becomes the books' librarian. Based on a true story.  
Conversations with Kafka by Gustav Janouch          $32
Janouch met Kafka as a seventeen-year-old, and they took to taking long walks together, with Janouch recording everything afterwards, as id he were Kafka's Boswell. "Life is infinitely great and profound as the immensity of the stars above us. One can only look at it through the narrow keyhole of one's personal experience. But through it one perceives more than one can see. So above all one must keep the keyhole clean." Includes record of Kafka's opinions on Jewish concerns. Introduction by Francine Prose. 
Lost and Gone Away by Lynn Jenner        $35
With the digressive range and vigour of Sebald but without his crucial narratorial slipperiness, Jenner wrings meaning out of minute detail and subtly interrogates both memory and the clichés that so easily take its place. In the last part of the book she makes one of the most difficult of literary approaches: the Holocaust and the tendrils of antisemitism that appear in unexpected places. Where Sebald succeeds in addressing the trauma of the Holocaust by writing around its edge, pointing to it with all the details that appear to be about something else, Jenner succeeds by approaching it directly but by writing always about her approach, about herself and about asking how it could be possible to think about the Holocaust from her situation in present-day New Zealand, if it is possible to think about the Holocaust at all.
Forest Dark by Nicole Krauss           $30
A dazzlingly intelligent dual-narrative novel concerning, on the one hand, a retired New York lawyer who 'disappears' to Tel Aviv, and, on the other, a novelist named Nicole Krauss who comes home to find herself already there, and so sets off towards the point the narratives meet. Elegant and replete with Kraussian themes of memory, solitude and Jewishness.
"Restores your faith in fiction." - Ali Smith
"Charming, tender, and wholly original." - J. M. Coetzee
Landscapes of the Metropolis of Death: Reflections on memory and imagination by Otto Dov Kulka         $26
A child exposed to experiences of a kind and scale that cannot be assimilated will create their own mythology to make life liveable. Otto Dov Kulka was a child in Auschwitz, and went on to become a prominent historian of the Holocaust. This book is remarkable as it deals specifically with the internal aspects of surviving in an intolerable situation, young Otto’s ‘Metropolis of Death’. Millions of people, each with their own personal narrative, were subsumed by a single narrative (one which led to the gas chambers and crematoria). It is unfortunate that even many of the most sympathetic portrayals and histories tend to reinforce the single narrative, the erasure, and it is interesting to read Kulka express his feelings of alienation when reading or watching accounts of concentration camp experiences. One of Kulka’s achievements in this deeply thoughtful book is to show how an individual can retain that individuality, and even find a sort of beauty and meaning, even under the irresistible weight of a subsuming narrative such as the ‘immutable law of the Great Death’.

If All the Seas Were Ink by Ilna Kurshan        $45
A personal account of daily study of the Talmud, which contains the teachings and opinions of thousands of rabbis (dating from before the Common Era through the fifth century CE) on a variety of subjects, including Halakha (law), Jewish ethics, philosophy, customs, history, lore and many other topics. Can a life be entirely governed by texts?
The Periodic Table by Primo Levi        $26
Primo Levi assesses his life in terms of the chemical elements he associates with his past, from his birth into an Italian Jewish family through his training as a chemist, to the pain and darkness of the Holocaust and its aftermath. 
Einstein and the Rabbi by Naomi Levy        $45
"A human being is a part of the whole, called by us the Universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest - a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. The striving to free oneself from this delusion is the one issue of true religion." What did Albert Einstein mean by this? 

The Genius of Judaism by Bernard-Henri Lévy        $38
Lévy, reasonably, locates the wellspring of Jewish identity in traditions of discourse and argument embodied in the Talmud. His positions on Israel, Islam and politics, however, have been met with considerable argument both from within Jewish discourse and from without.  
>> He has clashed several times with Michel Houellebecq
>> BHL (embarrassingly) thought 'Jean-Baptiste Botul' was a real philosopher (rather than a spoof).     
Small Pieces: A book of lamentations by Joanne Limburg        $33
"My mother, my family and Judaism are nested inside each other. I am Jewish and always Jewish; it's analogous with family, however hard it is, and however strained, it can never be disavowed. I remain, as my therapist put it, 'enmeshed', all tangled up in the family hoard. This book has been both a continuation of my conversations with them, and an attempt to untangle myself." Limburg's brother's suicide triggered for her a re-examination of her genetic and cultural heritage, as she attempted to hold onto her individual identity. 
Denying the Holocaust: The growing assault on truth and memory by Deborah Lipstadt          $30
"Important and impassioned. This book illuminates with skill and clarity, not only the peculiarly disturbing world of the Holocaust deniers, but also the methods they have used to distort history, the motives that have driven them to do so, and the vulnerabilities of our educational systems, our culture, and ourselves that have made so many in our society ready to listen to them." - New York Times 
>> This book was the focus of a libel suit by Holocaust denier David Irving, which failed notably and decisively. This was made into the film Denial
Fire Alarm: Reading Walter Benjamin's On the Concept of History by Michael Löwy        $28
Looking in detail at Benjamin's celebrated but often mysterious text, and restoring the philosophical, theological and political context, Löwy seeks to highlight a complex relationship between redemption and revolution in Benjamin's philosophy of history.

Redemption and Utopia: Jewish libertarian thought in Central Europe by Michael Lowy        $22
Examines the confluence of religious and secular antiauthoritarian thought that did much to set the groundwork such remarkable twentieth century thinkers as Martin Buber, Franz Kafka, Walter Benjamin and Georg Lukacs.

The Book of Dirt by Bram Presser        $37
"Meet Bram Presser, aged five, smoking a cigarette with his grandmother in Prague. Meet Jakub Rand, one of the Jews chosen to assemble the Nazi’s Museum of the Extinct Race. Such details, like lightning flashes, illuminate this audacious work about the author’s search for the grandfather he loved but hardly knew. Working in the wake of writers like Modiano and Safran Foer, Presser brilliantly shows how fresh facts can derail old truths, how fiction can amplify memory. A smart and tender meditation on who we become when we attempt to survive survival." - Mireille Juchau
Marx, Freud, Einstein: Heroes of the mind by Corinne Maier and Ann Simon       $33
Excellent and amusing graphic biographies.

We Were the Future: A memoir of the kibbutz by Yael Neeman       $35
Were Israel's kibbutzim a practical expression of the socialist ideal of absolute equality, or were they an assault on those aspects of culture, such as the individual and the family, that could resist indoctrination?

Judas by Amos Oz         $26
A young man's erotic and intellectual obsessions open the way for him to re-examine the history in the consequences of which he is immersed.
"This book is compassionate as well as painfully provocative, a contribution to some sort of deeper listening to the dissonances emerging from deep within the politics and theology of Israel and Palestine." - Rowan Williams, New Statesman
"Oz engages with urgent questions while retaining his right as a novelist to fight shy of answers: it's a mark of his achievement that the result isn't frustrating but tantalising." - Daily Telegraph

The Biggest Prison on Earth: A history of the Occupied Territories by Ilan Pappe        $33
The war of 1967 dramatically redrew the map of Israel and Palestine, and changed the lives of millions of people both in the Middle East and across the world. Analysing the historical origins of the annexation of the West Bank and Gaza in the 1920s and 30s, Pappe goes on to examine the bureaucratic apparatus that has been developed to manage this occupation, from the political, legal, financial and even dietary measures to the military and security plans put in place over almost half a century.
The Joys of Jewish Preserving by Emily Paster       $33
Without refrigerators, whether in a European ghetto last century or wandering in a desert millennia ago, Jewish culture has developed a wide array of different methods to preserve food. This book is the ultimate guide to fruit jams and preserves (such as Queen Esther's Apricot-Poppyseed Jam or Slow Cooker Peach Levkar to Quince Paste, Pear Butter, and Dried Fig, Apple, and Raisin Jam), pickles and other savory preserves (including Shakshuka, Pickled Carrots Two Ways, and Lacto-Fermented Kosher Dills), and recipes for the use of preserves in holiday preparations, such as Sephardic Date Charoset, Rugelach, and Hamantaschen.
Two Visits to Auschwitz (1991/2017) by Bernard Redshaw and Michelanne Forster      $5
Two visits to the Auschwitz concentration camp end in silence. 
The Holocaust: A new history by Laurence Rees       $40
Rees' book is remarkable for the amount of new information gathered from 25 years worth of interviews with Holocaust survivors and perpetrators. This research enables not only a reassessment of the social mechanisms that induced and permitted genocide but also of the range of the victims' responses. Also recorded here is the resistance, albeit ultimately futile, of individual stories to the overwhelming story that subsumed them.
>>> Also arrived this week: Denying the Holocaust: The growing assault on truth and memory by Deborah Lipstadt ($30), which asks why Holocaust deniers like David Irwin are on the rise in a post-factual world. 
Hell's Traces: One murder, two families, thirty-five Holocaust memorials by Victor Ripp        $40
Two axes define the space of the Jewish Museum in Berlin: the 'axis of exile' and the 'axis of the Holocaust'. Ripp's mother's family chose the axis of exile, whereas his father's was consumed by the axis of the Holocaust. Ripp uses the stories of both sides of his family, and a journey he made to visit memorials through Europe, to give deft and subtle insight into the fatal spasm of anti-Semitism that emerged in the middle of the twentieth century. 
100 Best Jewish Recipes by Evelyn Rose       $40
A diverse selection of everyday and festival dishes , from the authority on Jewish cooking.
The Last Resistance by Jacqueline Rose        $22
What place is there for literature in the political dimension of our lives? Rose considers Zionism, Israel-Palestine, post-Apartheid South Africa and the American national fantasy post-9/11, and the works of Freud, Grossman, Sebald and Gordimer.

So They Call You Pisher, A memoir by Michael Rosen        $37
"A mishmash, at once merry and pensive, of personal memoir, a history of left politics in postwar England, a portal into a lost Jewish London and a portrait of the artist as a nervy young man." - Guardian
The Disappearance of Emile Zola: Love, literature and the Dreyfus caseby Michael Rosen       $37
In January 1898 the newspaper l'Aurore published 'J'accuse', an open letter from Zola accusing the French government of anti-Semitism in the treatment and unlawful jailing of Alfred Dreyfus. The letter was successful in provoking the government to sue Zola for libel, thus reopening the Dreyfus case, and, following his conviction and to avoid jail, Zola fled to London, where he continued to defend Dreyfus until his death from carbon monoxide poisoning due to a blocked chimney. Rosen fills in all the details and the colour.  

A Brief Stop on the Road from Auschwitz by Goran Rosenberg        $28
On the 2nd of August 1947 a young man gets off a train in a small Swedish town. He has survived the Lodz ghetto, Auschwitz, and the harrowing slave camps and transports during the final months of Nazi Germany. Now he has to learn to live with his memories. In this book, Goran Rosenberg returns to his own childhood in order to tell his father's story. It is also the story of the chasm that soon opens between the world of the child, suffused with the optimism, progress and collective oblivion of post-war Sweden, and the world of the father, haunted by the shadows of the past.
Job by Joseph Roth         $25
"Many years ago there lived in Zuchnow, in Russia, a man named Mendel Singer. He was pious, God-fearing and ordinary, an entirely commonplace Jew." So Roth begins his novel about the loss of faith and the experience of suffering. His modern Job goes through his trials in the ghettos of Tsarist Russia and on the unforgiving streets of New York. 
East West Street by Philippe Sands       $25
When human rights lawyer Philippe Sands received an invitation to deliver a lecture in the Ukrainian city of Lviv, he began to uncover a series of extraordinary historical coincidences. It set him on a quest that would take him halfway around the world in an exploration of the origins of international law and the pursuit of his own secret family history, beginning and ending with the last day of the Nuremberg trial.

Finding the Words: The story of the Jews, 1000 BCE-1492 by Simon Schama     $28
"Unforgettable. A delicious cacophony of conversations and clamorous arguments echoing across history." - Daily Telegraph
Belonging: The story of the Jews, 1492-1900 by Simon Schama        $40
"Simon Schama takes the reader through a grand sweep of Jewish history, but he makes it so personal you begin to feel you know the men and women whose lives shine out from the pages, and their foibles, and you get a sense of the fragility of their lives and their determination to survive. It's a brilliant piece of work" - Rabbi Julia Neuberger
"Profoundly illuminating." - Guardian
Short-listed for the 2017 Baillie-Gifford Prize.
>> An interview with Schama
A Boy in Winter by Rachel Seiffert       $35
A novel correlating Jewish, Ukrainian and German experiences in the days following the Nazi invasion of a small town in the Ukraine in 1941, and seeking comprehension of the guilt burden still passed down through generations. 
>> "My grandparents were Nazis." 
Black Earth: The Holocaust as history and warning by Timothy Snyder         $30
We have come to see the Holocaust as a factory of death, organised by bureaucrats. Yet by the time the gas chambers became operation more than a million European Jews were already dead: shot at close range over pits and ravines. They had been murdered in the lawless killing zones created by the German colonial war in the East, many on the fertile black earth that the Nazis believed would feed the German people. It comforts us to believe that the Holocaust was a unique event. But as Timothy Snyder shows, we have missed basic lessons of the history of the Holocaust, and some of our beliefs are frighteningly close to the ecological panic that Hitler expressed in the 1920s. As ideological and environmental challenges to the world order mount, our societies might be more vulnerable than we would like to think.
Driving to Treblinka: A long search for a lost father by Diana Wichtel       $45
When Diana Wichtel moved to New Zealand as a child with her mother and siblings, her father, a Polish Jew who had jumped off the train to the Treblinka extermination camp in World War II and who had hidden from the Nazi's for the rest of the war, failed to follow them as planned. In adulthood, Wichtel began to wonder what had become of him, both before and after his brief presence in her life. Her search for answers led towards the Warsaw ghetto and to consider the ongoing consequences of trauma. Very well written. 
>> Wichtel talks to Kim Hill
City of Lions by Jozef Wittlin and Philippe Sands       $33
The city known variously in history as Lviv, Lwow, Lemberg and Leopolis in eastern central Europe was once a city where cultures and ethnicities (Jewish, Polish, Ukranian, Austrian) met and enriched each other, but, in the twentieth century, it became a city in which cultures and ethnicities obliterated each other. In the first half of this book, 'My Lwow', Josef Wittlin, looking back from exile in the 1940s, celebrates the rich texture of the city in which he grew up. The second half of the book, 'My Lviv', is written by human rights lawyer Philippe Sands, who travelled to Lviv, now in the Ukraine, in the last several years, partly to learn more about his grandfather, who had lived there in the early twentieth century, but spoke little of that phase of his life, and partly to research his remarkable book, East West Street: On the origins of genocide and crimes against humanity – terms coined by Lvovians Rafael Lemkin and Hersch Lauterpacht  – which won the 2016 Baillie Gifford Prize for Nonfiction.
Cafe Scheherazade by Arnold Zable       $29
Jewish survivors of World War Two converge on a cafe in Melbourne and tell their very various stories. 

04/11/2017 07:52 PM

Find out what we've been reading this week in THIS WEEK'S NEWSLETTER.

BOOKS @ VOLUME #48  (4.11.17)

04/11/2017 07:35 PM

Elmet by Fiona Mozley, a novel at once both subtly beautiful and compellingly brutal, is this week's Book of the Week. 

>> Stella and Thomas have each reviewed this book.

>> On coffee and procrastination

>> Did Mozley really write this novel on her phone? 

>> Elmet was a Brittonic kingdom in sixth-century Yorkshire

>> The writing of Ted Hughes, like that of Mozley, is rich with imagery of their native Yorkshire and its history

>> Catapulted into fame

>> What are Mozley's favourite books?

04/11/2017 07:34 PM

The Wonderling by Mira Bartók  {Reviewed by STELLA}
A woebegone creature without a name, referred to as Puddlehead, Plonker or Groundling but known as Number 13, has grown up in a horrible orphanage run by the bitter and nasty Miss Carbunkle. The Home for Wayward and Misbegotten Creatures is not a place you would want to call home. Groundlings, creatures of all kinds, some part human, part creature, live a miserable existence which consists of school, where they are reminded that their sole purpose is "to toil and suffer in silence", and work in the factory - a factory where Miss Carbunkle is up to some kind of no good. The Wonderling, as he will be known later, is a shy, gentle fellow, part fox, part dog, part human, with one ear, who stutters and tries to remain unnoticed. One day he sees a group of bullies tormenting a small creature and, despite his terror, steps in to rescue the bird-like Trinket. Trinket and the Wonderling become firm friends. Trinket, an enterprising and mechanically minded young bird, gives the foxy groundling his first name, Arthur. She's determined to escape the orphanage - no easy task with its fortifications, boarded-up gates, mastiffs pulling on their chains, and sneaks among the orphans willing to relay information to the nasty Carbunkle or the snivelling Mr Sneezeweed. Escaping the orphanage will be just the first in the adventures for the pair. After a chaotic yet successful escape, Trinket and Arthur find themselves on the road, heading towards the city of Lumentown. Trinket must first go to the sea to track down her Uncle, while Arthur, with an address, a scrap of blue blanket and a gold key, heads towards the town alone. He makes friends and enemies on the way and falls into the path of the charming, not altogether trustworthy Quintus, who helps him to learn a trade. Arthur’s attempts to find his family or find out who he is become more and more distant, and when he's captured and sent under to a filthy and grim world to work in the mine it seems like it's the end of the line. Will he ever find Tintagel Road, see his friend Trinket again or find out who he really is? Running alongside Arthur’s story is the mystery of Miss Carbunkle. Why is she so nasty and what is she up to in her factory? Why does she wear those ridiculous red wigs and who is her twin sister? There is plenty of adventure and magic in this fantastical world, with nods to Dickens and elements of steampunk. Add in a map, adorable illustrations and compelling writing all packaged in a divine hardback, Mira Bartok’s The Wonderling: Songcatcher is a wonder. The next in the series will be called The Singing Tree.

04/11/2017 07:33 PM


The Wolf, the Duck and the Mouse by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen   {Reviewed by STELLA}
The new picture book from the award-winning duo of Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen is a charmer. I was drawn in by the cover, a wolf between the trees, his two eyes naively drawn on one side of his head. Look a bit closer and you spot the duck and the mouse. The colour palette, sombre blacks, greys and ochres with the occasional lively accent, is classic Klassen. The drawings, with their collage-like characteristics, are atmospheric and playful, and Klassen is adept in capturing the protagonists, giving the story those extra layers of quirkiness. And his style is perfect for this story, a fable-like tale, which starts with misadventure yet becomes a delightful reflection on collaboration, complete with humour. A mouse is travelling through the forest when he meets a wolf and, alas, he is eaten. The wolf, fortunately, swallows this small morsel whole, and just when the poor mouse dreads this is the end, he hears a noise coming from within the belly. A duck is happily ensconced in the belly-home of the wolf, enjoying a very safe and civilised life, yet sometimes giving the poor wolf a guts ache. The duck, a clever fellow, helpfully calls up suggestions for a cure and the companions are well catered-for, including celebratory wine on occasion. All goes along well enough until the hunter comes a-calling…. Delightfully told and wonderfully illustrated with just the right balance of wit and tension, this will be a picture book to enjoy multiple times.


04/11/2017 07:33 PM

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders   {Reviewed by THOMAS}
The Bardo Thodol (generally known in the West as The Tibetan Book of the Dead) is a Tibetan text describing the fate of consciousness after death, the torments and wonders experienced by an individual due to patterns of attachment built up while alive and the rigours that must be undertaken in order to erase the impediments that comprise the personality in order to prepare for rebirth. Lincoln in the Bardo is, then, a sort of American Book of the Dead, a sort of ghost story told from the point of view of the ghosts, spirits whose attachment to elements of their pre-death existence prevents their dispersal after death, resulting in them thronging the cemetery in which their bodies have been laid, caricatures or exaggerations of themselves, restlessly, compulsively repeating those circuits of existence and patterns of thought to which they were most attached, for better or for worse, unable to admit or accept or perceive that they are dead. Most ghost stories tell of the intrusion of a spirit of a dead person into the world of the living; Lincoln in the Bardo tells of the intrusion of a living person into postmortem territory of the undeparted dead. Abraham Lincoln, stricken by the death of his young son Willie in 1862, paid visits at night to keep company with the boy’s corpse in the sepulchre. In this book, his presence, and his love for Willie, is immensely attractive to the dead, representing the life they are desperate to rejoin. But there is nothing ghoulish about this book; it is both poignant and comic. The author has clearly had an immense amount of fun writing it, and it is a pleasure to read. Just as historical texts often quote other texts or primary sources, the book begins as an assemblage of presumably authentic quotes regarding the night upon which Willie died, which was also the night of a presidential banquet. This form established, unusually for a novel, the book progresses as a multivocal narrative in the voices mainly of various spirits who have not been able to disperse after death, and who, as they converse (and it is conversation that drives this novel), do so in the reported speech of each other. The primary concern of these spirits is the ordinary content of their lives and their relationships, the very things that are usually overlooked by history, especially history of momentous periods such as the American Civil War, during which this book is set (and which provides some of the dead that appear in it). To the extent that this book shines a light upon history, it is a history not of acts but of motivations. Motivations are always both ordinary and individual, and do not much change through history, enabling a real sympathy between these mostly imagined past people and the reader of the book. The writer, like a ghost himself (like any writer to the world of their book), moves in and out of persons, takes up and abandons the voices of others as if they were clothing. There are some tender moments between Lincoln and his son, which enable the ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’ moment which changes everything for the ghosts but also marks the start of Lincoln’s acceptance of his son’s death and a sense of resolution that will carry him forward into his presidency and through the war. Lincoln in the Bardo has just been awarded the 2017 Man Booker Prize


04/11/2017 07:32 PM


The Missing Pieces by Henri Lefebvre (Reviewed by THOMAS}
This book is comprised of one long list of works of literature and art that do not exist, either because they have been lost or destroyed (either by the writer or artist or by external intention or by misadventure or natural disaster) or because they were never completed, or, in some cases, never started. Lefebvre provides a catalogue of holes (and these are just the identifiable holes – the list of things that do not exist is, I suppose, infinite), an incantation of absence, and we are left wondering, How would the cultural landscape be different if these works existed? What sort of cultural force is exerted by absence? Is disappearance the universal primary force against which we all struggle? Human endeavour, even at its most ‘exalted’, is a ragged, tentative and highly vulnerable thing. This is perhaps where its value lies.

02/11/2017 07:20 PM

November is upon us and so are these New Releases.  
Mr Lear: A life of art and nonsense by Jenny Uglow         $55
A man of deep ambivalences, contradictions and vulnerabilities, Edward Lear was unable to act on his deepest feelings but produced some of the oddest poetry of his time, as well as a body of art both serious and comic. Jenny Uglow, who could almost be said to specialise in biographies of odd characters who both exemplify and stand apart from their times, is Lear's perfect biographer, forensic yet sensitive to the most hidden corners of his psyche, his playfulness and his melancholy. 
"Jenny Uglow has written a great life about an artist with half a life, a biography that might break your heart." - Robert McCrum, Guardian
The Wolf, the Duck and the Mouse by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen        $28
When a mouse is swallowed by a wolf, a duck already resident in the wolf's belly shows it what a good life can be lived there. How can they defend their home against a hunter? 

Sagaland by Richard Fidler and Kari Gislason         $45
Two friends travel to Iceland to experience the settings of (and to retell!) the Icelandic sagas they are both so fond of, and to find Gislason's roots. What is the relationship between land and stories, both ancient and modern, both culture-defining and personal? Where are the Vikings now? 
>> "Tales of blood feuds and dangerous women, fugitives and warrior poets." 
>> How they came to write the book

Lisboeta: Recipes from Portugal's City of Light by Nuno Mendes      $53
An interesting and attractive guide to the food of Lisbon replete with recipes for every meals of the day and with evocative photographs. 
>> Mendes tells a little about himself
The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell      $33
The main difference between The Bookshop in Scotland's Book Town of Wigtown and Black Books is that business at The Bookshop proceeds without a script and the odd customers are all (or mostly) actual members of the public rather than actors. As Bythell shows, running a booklover's paradise may not always feel like you're in paradise yourself, but booksellers wouldn't have it any other way (that is to say, they are of no use for any other occupation). 
>> A shop with books in
>> Shaun shows us how to reconfigure with a broken Kindle
Marco Polo: Dangers and visions by Marco Tabilio       $28
An exquisite graphic novel account of the explorations and inner life of the Venetian merchant who travelled through Asia as far as Chine in the thirteenth century. 
>> Have a look at Tabilio's website

The River of Consciousness by Oliver Sacks        $38
The latest advances in neuroscience have bearing on the dilemmas of both philosophy and psychology. Before he died, Sacks drew together some of his incisive essays on consciousness and on the relationship between the brain and the mind, experience and memory, to be presented as this important addition to his oeuvre. 
The Relive Box, And other stories by T.C. Boyle         $35
"Some of the best, funniest, bleakest, most unsettling short stories I've ever read." - The Times 
"Always enjoyable, virtually incapable of dullness or slack sentences. His stories reveal truths about modern life while still feeling beautifully invented." - New York Times 
"By far and away one of the most inventive, adventurous and accomplished fiction writers in the US today. Most of all, he is a mesmerising storyteller."  Lionel Shriver 

Oak and Ash and Thorn: The ancient woods and new forests of Britain by Peter Fiennes         $37
Fiennes journeys to Croft Castle & Parkland (Herefordshire), Clapham Common, Northfield Wood, The Weald, Knockwood & Secret Wood (Tenterden), Windsor Great Park, Runnymede (Surrey), Sherwood Forest, Cranborne Chase (Dorset), Kingley Vale (W. Sussex), Kipling's house (South Downs), Wistman's Wood (Dartmoor), Wayland Wood (Norfolk), Queen's Wood (Highgate), Hardcastle Crags (W. Yorkshire), Glover's Wood (Sussex), Smithy Wood (Sheffield). So many woods, and so much history, has been lost. 
"Written with a mixture of lyricism and quiet fury,  Fiennes's book winningly combines autobiography, literary history and nature writing. It feels set to become a classic of the genre." - Observer
A Revolution of Feeling: The decade that forged the modern mind by Rachel Hewitt         $55
Led by revolutionary foment in Europe, British intellectual and radicals in the 1790s formulated new ways of thinking, feeling and acting that would have far-reaching consequences through literature, art and social dynamics, what Edmund Burke called "the most important of all revolutions, the revolution of the sentiments." The project involved the complete rethinking of the relationship between the individual and society, between the individual and nature, between an individual's inner and outer lives.  
The Last London by Iain Sinclair         $40
The outstanding psychogeographer strikes out on a series of solitary walks and collaborative expeditions to make a final reckoning with a capital stretched beyond recognition. Here is a mesmerising record of secret scholars and whispering ghosts. Of disturbing encounters. Night hospitals. Pits that become cameras. Mole Man labyrinths. And privileged swimming pools, up in clouds, patrolled by surveillance helicopters. Where now are the myths, the ultimate fictions of a many times revised city?
Phoney Wars: New Zealand society in the Second World War by Stevan Eldred-Grigg and Hugh Eldred-Grigg        $50
What were the concerns of ordinary New Zealanders during war? The war divided New Zealanders and involved many in acts of brutality that affected their families and communities when they returned. What price did New Zealand pay for the outcome of the war? 
"Stevan Eldred-Grigg defies classification. He can swoop from the historical to the contemporary, from lyric to polemic, from fiction to faction. He's unsettling as well as absorbing." - David Hill

The Weight of Things by Marianne Fritz          $22
A Modernist classic only now translated into English, The Weight of Things tells of a traumatised young woman's descent into first domesticity and then suffering. Admired by Jelinek and Sebald, Fritz is a recipient of both the Robert Walser Prize and the Franz Kafka Prize. 

"There is a class of artists whose work is so strange and extraordinary that it eschews all gradations of the good and the mediocre: genius and madness are the only descriptors adequate to its scale. Such is the case of the Austrian novelist Marianne Fritz." - Adrian Nathan West
Improbable Destinies: How predictable is evolution? by Jonathan Losos         $55
The natural world is full of fascinating instances of convergence: phenomena like eyes and wings and tree-climbing lizards that have evolved independently, multiple times. Convergence suggests that evolution is predictable, and if we could replay the tape of life, we would get the same outcome. But there are also many examples of contingency, cases where the tiniest change - a random mutation or an ancient butterfly sneeze - caused evolution to take a completely different course. So are we humans, and all the plants and animals in the world today, inevitabilities or evolutionary freaks? 
The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko by Scott Stambach        $28
Seventeen year old Ivan Isaenko is a life long resident of the Mazyr Hospital for Gravely III Children in Belarus. For the most part, every day is exactly the same for Ivan, which is why he turns everything into a game, manipulating people and events around him for his own amusement. Until Polina arrives. She steals his books. She challenges his routine. The nurses like her. She is exquisite. Soon, he cannot help being drawn to her and the two forge a romance that is tenuous and beautiful and everything they never dared dream of. Before, he survived by being utterly detached from things and people. Now, Ivan wants something more: Ivan wants Polina to live.
Norse Myths: Tales of Odin, Thor and Loki by Kevin Crossley-Holland, illustrated by Jeffrey Alan Love         $37
Excellent retellings, with excellent illustrations. Crossley-Holland's versions are both enjoyable and scrupulous to the sources. 

"Kevin Crossley-Holland is the master." - Neil Gaiman
How Language Began by Daniel Everett        $55
Suggests that the requisites for language, and indeed language itself, were present as early as Homo erectus one-and-a-half million years ago. 
Modern Death: How medicine changed the end of life by Haider Warraich          $43
Advances in medical science has meant not only that we live longer but that we spend more of that time dying. How has this changed our view of the world and our place in it? 
Manderley Forever: The life of Daphne du Maurier by Tatiana de Rosnay          $45
"It's impressive how Tatiana was able to recreate the personality of my mother, including her sense of humour. It is very well written and very moving. I'm sure my mother would have loved this book." - Tessa Montgomery d'Alamein (daughter of Daphne du Maurier)
A History of Britain in 21 Women by Jenni Murray        $22
Twenty-one women, from Boadicea to Nicola Sturgeon, who stood out against their times and provided new ways for history to move forward. 
"If someone in every country were to write a book like this, scholars might finally admit there are two things - history and the past - and they are not the same." - Gloria Steinem
Grace by Paul Lynch      $27
"Lynch's wonderful third novel follows a teenage girl through impoverished Ireland at the height of the Great Famine. Lynch's powerful, inventive language intensifies the poignancy of the woe that characterizes this world of have-nothings struggling to survive." - Publishers Weekly 
The Grip of Film by Richard Ayodade (as Gordy Lasure)       $33
Why are some films good and the rest rather less than good? 'Gordy Lasure' will show you how cinema works.
"A work of shimmering, glimmering genius." – Stephen Fry
>> The 'Alan Patridge of film' reads from his book

The Vegetable by Caroline Griffith and Vicki Valsamis               $60

A beautifully presented and wonderfully quiet cookbook, with 130 plant-based recipes for all occasions. 
Night Wishes, Or, The satanarchaeolidealcohellish notion potion by Michael End       $32
It's 5pm on New Year's Eve in the Villa Nightmare, and as Shadow Sorcery Minister Beelzebub Preposteror's thumb-striking clock counts down each hour with an "Ouch!", Minister Preposteror draws closer to missing his midnight deadline for fulfilling his annual quota of evil deeds and being "foreclosed".
Literature of Revolution: Essays on Marxism by Norman Geras       $33
Pivotal texts from a major thinker of the New Left on Marx and Trotsky, Luxemburg, Lenin and Althusser, fetishism in Capitaljustice, political organisation, revolutionary mass action and party pluralism, and an analysis of the literary power of Trotsky's writing. 

How to Write Like Tolstoy: A journey into the minds of our greatest writers by Richard Cohen        $22

"This book is a wry, critical friend to both writer and reader. It is filled with cogent examples and provoking statements. You will agree or quarrel with each page, and be a sharper writer and reader by the end." - Hilary Mantel
So They Call You Pisher, A memoir by Michael Rosen        $37
"A mishmash, at once merry and pensive, of personal memoir, a history of left politics in postwar England, a portal into a lost Jewish London and a portrait of the artist as a nervy young man." - Guardian

The Barefoot Navigator: Wayfinding with the skills of the ancients by Jack Lagan       $30
At once a history of and guide to navigating without sextant and almanac.  
Animals Strike Curious Poses by Elena Passarello        $35
Essays on sixteen individual animals immortalised by humans.
"I've spent decades reading books on the roles animals play in human cultures, but none have ever made me think, and feel, as much as this one. It's a devastating meditation on our relationship to the natural world. It might be the best book on animals I've ever read. It's also the only one that's made me laugh out loud." - Helen Macdonald, New York Times

The Modern Cook's Year by Anna Jones           $55
Another outstanding and stylish vegetarian cookbook from Anna Jones.  

"Brilliant." - Nigel Slater
Perfect Evenings: The joy of long exposures by Barney Brewster       $50
Very accomplished night and low-light landscape photography from a Nelson-resident photographer and bookseller. 
>> While stock lasts, receive a free copy of Barney's previous book Night Visions.
>> Visit the photographer's website.
Lenin, 2017: Remenbering, repeating, working through by Slavoj Žižek      $29
Lenin's originality and importance as a revolutionary leader is most often associated with the seizure of power in 1917. But, Zizek argues in this new study and collection of original texts, Lenin's true greatness can be better grasped in the very last couple of years of his political life. Russia had survived foreign invasion, embargo and a terrifying civil war, as well as internal revolts such as at Kronstadt in 1921. But the new state was exhausted, isolated and disorientated in the face of the world revolution that seemed to be receding. New paths had to be sought, almost from scratch, for the Soviet state to survive and imagine some alternative route to the future. Zizek suggests that Lenin's courage as a thinker can be found in his willingness to face this reality of retreat lucidly and frontally.
Little Hazelnut by Dominique Ehrhard and Anne-Florence Lemasson      $28
A squirrel drops a nut. After winter a nut tree sprouts. A particularly charming pop-up book. 
>> This is how it works
Hogwarts Textbooks - 25 postcards by Holly Dunn     $12 per set of 5 
Cover designs for 25 textbooks used by Harry Potter and the other students at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
>> Have a look at the designs

28/10/2017 09:22 PM

VOLUME EDITIONS.  The pieces that comprise the first three titles of our new series of short interesting texts came to us unbidden in various ways, but each demonstrates the strong connection between memory, identity and place. We are very pleased to be launching our publishing imprint with such excellent work.

VOL 001: Overcoats by Eddie Saxon     $5
A short autobiography of a long life, told through a succession of overcoats.

VOL 002: Two Visits to Auschwitz by Bernard Redshaw and Michelanne Forster     $5
Two visits to the Auschwitz concentration camp end in silence.

VOL 003: Transit in Marrakech by David Coventry     $5
A travelling writer makes an unexpected connection with a customs official in Marrakech. 

28/10/2017 09:19 PM


Our newsletter (28.10.17)

Issued on NZ Bookshop Day. 

28/10/2017 08:56 PM

Very many thanks to all of you who helped us celebrateNZ Bookshop Day and the importance of your bookshop to your community. We were overwhelmed with the range of book-positive and bookshop-positive activities you thought up and undertook. Thank you for coming in to see us, bringing in your friends, bringing us coffee and cake and flowers, posting about us on social media, photographing yourselves and your family reading, singing us songs, buying books, making us drawings and models, reading to us from your favourite books, participating in our Man Booker discussion, attending the launch of our publications, photoshopping us into the Nelson Masked Parade(!), and telling us some really awful literary jokes. The winner of our Bookshop Bingo draw and recipient of a six-month VOLUME Reading Subscription is Amy Shattock. Many thanks to all entrants!   A bookshop is the expression of the passion of its community. 

28/10/2017 08:52 PM

Our Book of the Week this week is La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman, the first book of 'The Book of Dust', the eagerly awaited new series set in the same universe as 'His Dark Materials'. 

>> Read Stella's review below.

>> Two other books from Lyra's world: Lyra's Oxford and Once Upon a Time in the North

>> Daemon Voices (Pullman on storytelling).

>> La Belle Sauvage is also available in hardback. 

>> "The philosophical underpinning of this book is deeply concerned with how authoritarian regimes take power."

>> Pullman: "'The Book of Dust' is about Dust. ... 'The Book of Dust' is not a sequel or a prequel but an equel."

>> 5 minutes with Philip Pullman

>> The Golden Compass film was based on Northern Lights. 

>> On Dust

>> He's already finished writing the sequel! 

>> Some other books by Pullman

Review by STELLA: 
The first in 'The Book of Dust' trilogy is a triumph. I sat down and read it in one sitting and there was no way anything was going to interrupt me (you have been warned!). It’s been almost 20 years since The Amber Spyglass, the third book in 'His Dark Materials' series, and leaving the world of Lyra was difficult for many. La Belle Sauvage is set 10 years before Northern Lights, Lyra is a baby in the care of the nuns at Godstow near Oxford. We are back in the world of daemons, the struggle between the religious order and scientific learning, and the mysterious questions about Dust. The Magisterium’s power is growing in Brytain and there is an increasing sense of unease in the populace. Here we meet Malcolm, an eleven-year-old boy - curious, inventive and good. He helps out at his parent’s pub, clearing glasses and scrubbing pots, he lends a hand to the nuns across the river and it is here he comes across Lyra and her daemon, Pantalaimon. While 'His Dark Materials' references Milton’s Paradise Lost, this series belongs to Spenser’s Faerie Queen, with touches of the Biblical Great Flood and Gothic storytelling. It feels like all the questions you still had as a reader after completing the previous trilogy are now going to be visited again, amplified - and maybe some answers might be forthcoming. While many of the characters are familiar, we learn more about them and their ambitions. Lyra’s mother, Mrs Coulter, is ever more daunting and compelling and Lord Asriel, her father, maddening and heroic. We are introduced to the fledgling secret organisation formed to resist the fascist and fanatical power-keepers, and the wonderful Hannah Reif, a reader of the wonderful Alethiometer, as well as the strange and dangerously obsessive former scientist who haunts Malcolm. Malcolm is drawn into a world which becomes increasingly dangerous and complex, and his loyalty toward the child is undaunting. As tensions rise, so do the rivers. It rains and rains, and Malcolm, tipped off by a Gyptian, readies his boat, the beautiful canoe, La Belle Sauvage, keeping an eye on the welfare of the child, Lyra. He rescues her as the walls of the nunnery collapse, and, along with the tough and mealy-mouthed Alice, who works at the pub, they start a journey down the Thames, across a flooded Brytain, in swift and dangerous currents. It’s a perilous journey physically, emotionally and mentally, stretching the youths to the edges of their capabilities. Pullman pulls no punches with La Belle Sauvage, with its allegorical layers and deliberations on science, religion and the psyche. It's dark, compelling and incredibly intriguing. Complex, intelligent writing for children, teens and adults alike. 

28/10/2017 08:52 PM


Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman    {Reviewed by STELLA}
With a title so emphatically sure of itself, you know that something is up and you are curious to find out what. Gail Honeyman’s debut novel,Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, draws you in immediately. You meet Eleanor - an unusual woman in her thirties who lives alone works in an office (the same place she’s been since she finished university), and follows her own particular set of rules which result in an austere, simple life devoid of indulgence or frivolities, friends or family. As we travel alongside Eleanor, some peculiarities come to our attention: she drinks cheap vodka from Friday night until work on Monday and has a weekly call from Mummy on a Wednesday - an event that fills her with increasing discomfort. What starts as a quirky, amusing tale about an oddity becomes more endearing as Eleanor Oliphant becomes besotted with a musician, someone the reader sees clearly for what he is, but poor Eleanor is blind to. Yet this obsession is the making of her: as she plans her fantasy relationship she inadvertently becomes connected with the world around her. This is helped by a coincidental incident where she, along with her workmate Raymond, help an elderly man who has collapsed in the street. This incident leads to a budding friendship with Raymond, an unusual situation for Eleanor, who has never had a friend. As the story goes along, we begin to build a clearer picture of our heroine. Her childhood in foster homes, her contact with social workers, and her horrendous mother. The first part of this novel is called Good Days and we sense that Eleanor is running from something, living in a bubble to protect herself from a past that is haunting her. Honeyman keeps the tone light in this part, with gags, most visited upon and by Eleanor with her odd behaviour and often inappropriate remarks. The final third is the Bad Days, where Eleanor’s fantasy world has crumbled and the influence of Mummy looks as if it might destroy her. But Eleanor Oliphant (not her real name) is made of sterner stuff and while the reveal at the end is a shocker, this novel is ultimately a charmer (even when dealing with the damaging consequences of a disturbing childhood) which embraces the life-affirming power of friendship and care.