Mini Reviews – Stella Spotlight #2

Mini Reviews – Stella Spotlight #2

The World Without Us – Mireille Juchau
1st August 2015, 320 pages, 4/5 stars

I have been coveting this book since its release, purely for its BEAUTIFUL cover. BEES!!!!!!! I was nervous that the story wouldn’t live up to its cover – the blurb is very wordy, but doesn’t actually say much…. And now I can’t believe I waited so long to pick it up! A family is reeling from the loss of their youngest – a slow demise from illness. Evangeline, the matriarch, is still struggling with her past – born and raised in a hippie commune which was destroyed by fire. Tess, the eldest, is coping by remaining silent, observing the world more closely by not cluttering it with words. I absolutely loved her side of the story – her voice was incredible. All the characters were beautiful and every sentence was completely evocative. There was an underlying mystery throughout the novel, and I was so grateful that it was resolved! I didn’t want to stop reading this marvellous novel.

A Few Days in the Country and Other Stories – Elizabeth Harrower
21st October 2015, 224 pages, 2/5

I have never been the biggest fan of short stories. But I really really enjoyed When There’s Nowhere Else to Run, and was looking forward to trying another Australian short story collection. I liked that most of the stories were based in Sydney, and that the central characters were generally women. However, I just didn’t connect very well to any story in particular. They each made me feel a bit stupid, because I felt that there was something missing and then doubted my ability to find it for myself. My favourite of the twelve stories was The Cornucopia – Julia, its central figure is a wealthy socialite who manipulates everyone around her; she even grades her friends according to their usefulness! Overall, it was still a lovely collection, but for me there was something lacking….

Hope Farm – Peggy Frew
23rd September 2015, 352 pages, 4/5 stars

This was another book about hippies! This is a book I would never have picked up by myself, but I loved it so much. The story is told through the eyes of Silver, whose life is often uprooted according to the whims of her mother, Ishtar. At Hope Farm, Silver meets Ian, her first friend. The story is told many years later, and provides an incredibly interesting insight into unconventional living and the effect it has on children. The story is interspersed with diary entries – we aren’t sure whose until close to the end, but the grammar and spelling is poor – this is a girl who hasn’t had the privilege of education, and her voice is so raw. I loved all the characters, and the book’s pacing was fantastic.

The Natural Way of Things – Charlotte Wood
1st October 2015, 320 pages, 5/5 stars

WOW! I am totally reeling from this absolutely amazing story. Ten girls are imprisoned in a broken-down property in the middle of the Australian desert. Their heads are shaved, and they are forced to wear old-fashioned uniforms. The girls soon discover what it is that links them: in each girl’s past is a sex scandal with a powerful man. The girls’ memories of the outside world prove that they live in a society like our own, making their imprisonment all the more terrifying. It is a fascinating exploration of misogyny and corporate control. The book has garnered comparisons to Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, but this book blew it out of the water. Compulsively readable, and absolutely terrifying. This is my favourite of the eight longlisted books I have read.

NOTE: The shortlist is announced tomorrow – whittling it down to six! Now, I am still three behind, but I am fairly confident with my predictions (all ones I have already read). Alice Robinson’s Anchor Point might beat Hope Farm.

  1. The Natural Way of Things – Charlotte Wood
  2. Small Acts of Disappearance – Fiona Wright
  3. The Other Side of the World – Stephanie Bishop
  4. Hope Farm – Peggy Frew
  5. The World Without Us – Mireille Juchau
  6. A Guide to Berlin – Gail Jones



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