The Eulogy by Jackie Bailey
Oh, this book! We sobbed just as much as we laughed and we came away from it knowing things about family dynamics and Australian history that we didn't know previously. It's a gem!
Based on Bailey's own family history, the novel is told from the perspective of Kathy who is running from a kidnapping charge, has a Tupperware container of 300 sleeping pills in her glovebox, and her husband on her blocked caller list. Kathy's sister Annie has just died from a bran tumour she was diagnosed twenty-five years ago and Kathy is attempting to write her eulogy. This process, this interrogation of that monstrous question 'what is a life', activates Kathy's memories and, page by page, the reader develops an understanding of this family's history: from their mother’s childhood during the Japanese occupation of Singapore in World War Two and their father’s experiences in the Malayan conflict and the Vietnam War, to Annie’s cancer and disability, and the events that have shaped the person that Kathy is today.
With astute psychological insight, Bailey asks big questions that she answers on an intimate level. The result is exactly what the blurb promises - a literary page-turner. It's only once you've finished that you realise the scope and depth of what Bailey has achieved. The perfect pick for book clubs and an important contribution to underrepresented Australian stories.
Either/Or by Elif Batuman
Those who loved Elif Batuman's The Idiot and all of its cerebral, witty charm, will gobble up its continuation Either/Or. Much like its predecessor, the novel explores the Western literary canon and high-level thinking but in a very cool and casual tone. Our beloved protagonist Selin is guided by her literature syllabus and by her more worldly and confident peers as she reaches certain conclusions about the universal importance of travel, parties, alcohol, and sex, and resolves to execute them in practice—no matter what the cost. Think hot-girl summer but make it academic.
Nightcrawling Leila Mottley
If you've been hearing people talk evangelically about this book, it's for good reason! Nightcrawling is the debut novel from Leila Mottley, the 2018 Youth Poet Laureate from Oakland, California. In 2015, a police officer’s suicide note launched an investigation into the sexual exploitation of a young woman involving several police departments in the Bay Area. Mottley was in high-school at the time and, using the general outlines of the case, began to write a novel that imagined the life of the young woman. The result is a work of social realist fiction centred around 17-year-old Black woman Kiara Johnson - a resilient and unforgettable character. Mottley was 17-years-old herself when she finished writing the novel and the depth with which she has crafted this visceral and entirely immersive story is truly extraordinary.