Free shipping on all book subscriptions Free shipping on all book subscriptions


Three books we’ve read recently and what we thought about them

Three books we’ve read recently and what we thought about them

Others Were Emeralds by Lang Leav
If you were a fan of our April 2020 pick The Coconut Children by Vivian Pham, we’d love to recommend another moving coming-of-age story in this novel by poet Lang Leav.

Ai and her friends, Brigitte, Bowie and Tin live in Whitlam, a fictional town with a largely migrant population that bears more than a passing resemblance to Sydney’s Cabramatta.  The novel is set in the late 90s, a time of rising anti-Asian sentiment in Australia. The teenagers all struggle, some with inherited trauma from refugee backgrounds, some with a sense of identity in a hostile country.

Because they are teenagers, but also because of their different experiences of race and belonging, there are misunderstandings, jealousies and friendship rifts. The stakes start in a very teen place—HSC finals, crushes and first love—but soon the novel and (and Ai herself) change drastically after a serious accident involving two of her closest friends.

We are invited to work alongside a newly introspective Ai as she rebuilds herself through her art, dressmaking, and creativity. Her success (and potential romance) will leave you on a high, filled with that elusive quality: hope. — Cassie Stroud

The Fraud by Zadie Smith
A new Zadie Smith! And her first historical fiction that she says she did everything she could to avoid writing. But, as she pointed out in an article in The New Yorker, "any writer who lives in England for any length of time will sooner or later find herself writing a historical novel, whether she wants to or not". And we're very glad she did, because The Fraud—a kaleidoscopic work of fiction set against the legal trial that divided Victorian England, about who gets to tell their story, and who gets to be believed—is excellent. 

Told in short, snappy chapters, it's about so many things: the novel's capacity for truth-telling; Britain and Jamaica; authenticity; morality; justice; abolitionism; class. You will want to whiz through the novel on account of its humour and intrigue and plotting, but, should you go slowly and pause every so often to stare at a wall, you will appreciate just how rich and capacious and, frankly, meta this Victorian tapestry of a novel is.  — Laura Brading

Everyone and Everything by Nadine Cohen
The debut novel by writer and refugee advocate Nadine J. Cohen tells the story of a young woman's mental health struggle. Which doesn't sound like very much fun at all, but somehow, surprisingly, this book is. About grief and the things that offer solace when we're in the depths of it (friendship, ocean pools, an unsettling amount of dairy, truly terrible erotic literature), it's as funny as it is poignant, as witty as it is wise. Everyone and Everything will appeal to fans of Sorrow and Bliss and any reader generally who knows that comedy and tragedy are always in closer proximity than we imagine. — Laura Brading

Leave a comment