The Australian summer is about to hit us. We’ve had a few days of pretty bad heat which always makes it difficult to concentrate on reading and writing. I finished Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s Fleishman is in Trouble last Thursday, and it is only this afternoon (now Sunday our time) that I am finally getting the review finished. I usually take two or three hours to get a review done, but on Friday I couldn’t concentrate and I just gave up. What’s more, I don’t like to start another book until I have a review completed. So I’ve had a few days without reading. Fleishman is in Trouble is an excellent first novel. You can read the review I managed to put together for it in this heat by clicking here.
I went to Penrith last night hoping to pick up this year’s Booker winner, Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart. Last week the bookseller said they had a bunch on order. Unfortunately, copies were not to be had and may be delayed as publishers rush to print a new batch that announce the novel’s win on the cover. I managed to pick up a copy of Barack Obama’s A Promised Land, however, for the bargain-basement price of $34 (the recommended retail is $65 in Australia. We pay a lot for books). I have so much to read and such a host of home projects at the moment, that it may be some time before I get to that book, along with many I have marching towards me like the bucket and mops of the sorcerer’s apprentice.
This year is the first year I haven’t predicted the Booker winner since we started this website. I called the Booker early this year after reading Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror and the Light, but Mantel’s third Cromwell novel didn’t make the shortlist.
I took a further punt and bought Avni Doshni’s Burnt Sugar and Maaza Mengiste’s The Shadow King after the shortlist was announced, giving me a one in three chance of having already bought the winner. Unfortunately, they have joined the mountain of yet to be read books I have (the same mountain that Leonard dies under in Howard’s End). So last night, as I considered for the last time the soon to be announced winner this morning, I suddenly thought Shuggie Bain was going to be the winner, for no other reason other than I had heard good things about it and I hadn’t bought it. To be clear, I’m not claiming to have predicted the winner here. That horse bolted.
Fast forward to this morning. Shuggie Bain is the Booker Prize winner for 2020. Congratulations to Douglas Stuart. I now have another book purchase to make.
And my mountain grows ever more precarious!
We drove south from Sydney over the weekend to look at two street libraries we discovered online. The first is called Mr Gilbert, named after the designer of the English telephone booth from which this street library is modelled. The region where this library is located is still faily rural, making it easy for the owners to site their rather large library. The whole presentation is rather impressive. The library is well made. Hand sanitiser is provided and a security camera has been installed above the library, which appears to actually work. The trench that was dug for the conduit for the camera is still evident. This is me at the library with a book I swapped for, Tim Winton’s Land’s Edge:
Winton is an Australian author living in Broome, Western Australia. He’s won the Miles Franklin Award and has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize. I’ve read several of his books but I’ve never spotted a copy of this memoir before.
I thought I’d also put up a shot of the inside of the library, which is generously stocked:
The library owners had even had cards for visitors professionally printed. I took one to use as a book mark.
The second library was interesting for its decoration: a Harry Potter theme, with images of native birds on its sides. Here it is, showing Hedwig from Harry Potter and the artwork on each of its sides as well:
We met the husband of the library’s owner outside their house. He told us that the library had been a present for his wife upon her retirement from work. She is a former librarian. She hand painted the library herself. I didn’t swap anything here, but did I promise I would put the above pictures of the library in this blog post.
Apart from the normal annual award, this year the Women's Prize in Fiction celebrated its 25th year with a one-off award to mark the anniversary. The winner was selected by public vote from the list of the past 25 winners. The Winner of Winners award has been given to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie for her 2006 book Half a Yellow Sun. The novel is set in Nigeria during the Biafran War, and is about the end of colonialism, ethnic allegiances, class, race and female empowerment – and how love can complicate all of these things.
You can find a full list of the 25 books which have won the Women’s Prize, or the Orange Prize as it was previously known, at: https://www.womensprizeforfiction.co.uk/about/previous-winners"
Back in August I wrote a blog post announcing that we had started a page on Facebook for the Reading Project, despite my misgivings about social media. “At the moment,” I wrote, “it is something of an experiment which I may or may not continue.” Well, I didn’t continue it. It’s not a natural medium for me, I had enough to do already and I just don’t like Facebook. However, late last month Toriaz suggested she might start an Instagram account for this website. I said I was happy for her to manage it, so long as I didn’t have to do anything. So, she’s given it a go and she seems to be enjoying it. She’s putting up posts related to our reading, as well as a post for each book we review. There was only one catch. I’m supposed to provide ‘artful’ picture of my books for her posts after I review them. If you want to check Toriaz’s efforts or even follow her posts, you can get started by clicking here, or scan the image below with your phone: