Posted on April 16, 2010
And another eight days have flown by without a post on my beloved blog. Luckily for you (readers and marvellous subscribers) you’re about to get hit with a barrage of posts, and when I say barrage I mean about two. But two is better than none, and a lot better than my recent absence.
I wanted to share a couple of books I’ve read recently. I finally got around to cracking the spine of Tim Winton’s Breath and, despite not having finished her most famous novel (Women in Black) whipped through Madeleine St John’s The Essence of the Thing.
Breath, like so many good Australia books, is unsettling. It tells the story of Bruce Pike’s coming of age in an ocean town and the unusual friendships – with a wild local boy and an enigmatic former surfing pro – that shaped it. There is something about this novel that made me feel uncomfortable, but at the same time, safe. Safe because I recognised the landscape and the connection with the ocean and the hallmarks of a country I call home, and uncomfortable because Winton gets so far under the skin of familiarity, the honesty makes you want to avert your gaze. A terrific read.
From one Aussie author to another, Madeleine St John gives us a sparse, taut, snow-covered-volcano novel in The Essence of the Thing. Set in London, the novel follows Nicola as she gets sent to emotional hell (and returns, in one piece) following the sudden and unexpected break-up of her relationship. St John has a very deft, crisp way with words – there is no risk of the novel, despite its themes, descending into pity or melodrama territory. Instead the reader is left to take what they will from the pearls of wisdom hidden within the bracing narrative. If you miss them, well that’s not St John’s problem, is it?
And finally, I’m all giddy over Perfumes; the A-Z Guide, brought to us by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez. Turin is a luminary in the field with The Secret of Scent and The Emperor of Scent already under his belt. Sanchez is a perfume collector and journalist and between them they have produced a beautifully written guide to a huge number of fragrances. Turin is a stunning writer when it comes to perfume and Sanchez holds her own (although perhaps she doesn’t benefit from such a flowery grasp on language). If you love perfume, you need this book. Even if you don’t love perfume, you’ll benefit from the quality of writing and the introduction to the world of fragrance.