Books We Enjoyed in August

Leila, a fortysomething sex worker in Istanbul, has been murdered and dumped in a wheelie bin. Her heart has stopped but for 10 Minutes and 38 seconds her mind continues to whirr as she recalls memories of her life. Are you intrigued yet? It's a riveting premise that hooks you quickly. Each minute after her death brings a sensuous memory: the taste of spiced goat stew, sacrificed by her father to celebrate the long-awaited birth of a son; the sight of bubbling vats of lemon and sugar which the women use to wax their legs while the men attend mosque; the scent of cardamom coffee that Leila shares with a handsome student in the brothel where she works. Each memory also introduces a new friend until a cast of five social outcasts is drawn. Through Leila and her friends, Shafak gives voice to the those living on the fringes of Turkish society: immigrants, underdogs and those considered freaks by their own families. Told with compassion and tenderness and steeped in atmosphere and detail, this is a novel about family, friendship, violence and Istanbul, and it's exceptional!  

 
If you're new to Deborah Levy you need to know that her writing is not firm ground; things are enigmatic, slightly off-kilter, the story slides in and out of focus, often you wonder if you're reading a dream, motifs abound. The Man Who Saw Everything remains faithful to this style. A surreal, elegiac story about Saul Adler, an unreliable narrator if ever we've met one, who gets hit by a car on the famous Abbey Road crossing which changes the trajectory of his life. He is fine, he walks away. His is badly injured, possibly dying. Both times, the driver queries his age. Is Saul dying? What is real, imagined, dreamed? Was the accident in 1989 - the year the Berlin Wall came down, or 2016 - the year of Brexit? Is it both? Told in beautiful, poetic prose this is a novel about the difficulty of seeing ourselves and others clearly, conflicting realities, a truth that remains elusive and the cyclic nature of history.
 
From the author of the groundbreaking Dark Emu comes a volume of essays and short stories that confirm Bruce Pascoe as one of Australia's best writers and thinkers. Salt explores the author's enduring fascination with Australia's landscape, culture and history. The volume features new fiction alongside Pascoe's most revered and thought-provoking non-fiction all of which distils the intellect, passion and virtuosity of his work. 

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