Drawing on Maggie O’Farrell’s long-term fascination with the little-known story behind Shakespeare’s most enigmatic play, Hamnet is a luminous portrait of a marriage, at its heart the loss of a beloved child.
Warwickshire in the 1580s. Agnes is a woman as feared as she is sought after for her unusual gifts. She settles with her husband in Henley street, Stratford, and has three children: a daughter, Susanna, and then twins, Hamnet and Judith. The boy, Hamnet, dies in 1596, aged eleven. Four years or so later, the husband writes a play called Hamlet.
Award-winning author Maggie O’Farrell’s new novel breathes full-blooded life into the story of a loss usually consigned to literary footnotes, and provides an unforgettable vindication of Agnes, a woman intriguingly absent from history.
A New York Times Notable Book (2020), Best Book of 2020: Guardian, Financial Times, Literary Hub, and NPR.
Hamnet is a fascinating story about William Shakespeare, his wife, and the tragic death of their 11 year old son. Based upon the few historical facts known about Shakespeare and his family, O’Farrell has weaved a beautifully written dreamy story about how he met his wife Agnes and what happened when their much loved son Hamnet died of the plague. Shakespeare went on to name one of his most famous tragedies after his son, although the reasoning behind it isn’t revealed until the very end in an epic final scene.
I loved the dream-like quality of this story, especially about Agnes’s history. It’s a beautifully written story and I highly recommend it to all historical fictions readers.
A powerful, poetic and moving memoir of family, violence and estrangement, from a stunning new literary voice.
After Michelle Tom’s house was damaged by a deadly magnitude 6.3 earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand in 2011, she and her young family suffered through another 10,000 aftershocks before finally relocating to the stability of Melbourne, Australia. But soon after arriving, Michelle received the news that her estranged sister was dying. Determined to reconnect before her sister died, Michelle flew home to visit, and memories of childhood flooded back.
Through remembered fragments, and told through the five stages of an earthquake, Michelle Tom explores the similarities between seismic upheaval and her own family’s tragedies: her sister’s terminal illness, her brother’s struggle with schizophrenia and ultimate suicide, the sudden death of her father, her own panic disorder and through it all, one overarching battle – her lifelong struggle to form a healthy connection with her mother.
A powerful, poetic and moving memoir of family, violence and estrangement, Ten Thousand Aftershocks weaves together seismic upheaval and one family’s trauma and tragedies in a series of ever-widening and far-reaching emotional aftershocks, in a beautifully written and compelling account of a dark family drama. For readers of The Erratics and One Hundred Years of Dirt.
In 2011, Michelle Tom lived through the Christchurch Earthquake and then ten thousand aftershocks before they pack up their lives and escaped to Melbourne. Soon afterwards, she is brought back to New Zealand to deal with an emergency in her dysfunctional family and the memories that are so often associated with that.
Ten Thousand Aftershocks is told in fragments through the five stages of an earthquake. I really enjoyed this aspect of the story as bits and pieces of the earthquake are interspersed with childhood memories and what was happening in the present. Not unlike how we trauma is experienced.
The prose is hauntingly poetic and the fragmented nature worked incredibly well for this shocking true story about trauma, tragedies, and dysfunctional family drama. I’ll be thinking about this book for a long time.
“1930s Melbourne. In sunny suburban streets, a serial killer lies in wait…”
November, 1930. One sunny Saturday afternoon, 12-year-old Mena Griffiths was playing in the park when she was lured away by an unknown man. Hours later, her strangled body was found, mouth gagged and hands crossed over her chest, in an abandoned house. Only months later, another girl was murdered; the similarities between the cases undeniable. Crime in Melbourne had taken a shocking new turn: this was the work of a serial killer, a homicidal maniac.
The Schoolgirl Strangler is a fascinating true crime account of Melbourne’s earliest recorded serial killer. In the 1930s, a sick and twisted killer terrorised the suburbs of Melbourne and country Victoria, luring young girls to their deaths and strangling them with their own underwear. The police were under pressure for years to solve this chilling murder spree, interviewing thousands of people. Even prosecuting the wrong man at one point.
Katherine Kovacic has methodically researched the hunt for the Schoolgirl Strangler, often under difficult circumstances during Covid restrictions, and she has done a brilliant job of weaving the facts into a story that had me turning the page like a thriller. I found it interesting that she uncovered The Schoolgirl Strangler while she was researching her novel The Portrait of Molly Dean. It seems likely that Molly’s killer was a copycat of the Strangler.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and Katherine Kovacic’s in-person talks that I’ve been lucky enough to attend to listen to her speak about her research and writing processes.
Brendan James Murray has been a high school teacher for more than ten years. In that time he has seen hundreds of kids move through the same hallways and classrooms – boisterous, angry, shy, big-hearted, awkward – all of them on the journey to adulthood.
In The School, he paints an astonishingly vivid portrait of a single school year, perfectly capturing the highs and lows of being a teenager, as well as the fire, passion and occasional heartbreak of being their teacher. Hilarious, heartfelt and true, it is a timeless story of a teacher and his classes, a must-read for any parent, and a tribute to the art of teaching.
The School is such a powerful read about the ups and downs of a year in a high school classroom told through the eyes of an English and Literature teacher. The names and events have been fictionalised and span many years and schools, but the school of this story is set in a public school on the Victorian coastline.
Over the course of the story, we progress through the school year with Mr Murray and his students, learning more about them and their lives as the school year progresses. The warmth, love, and care between Mr Murray and his students is evident throughout the book and I grew to care about all of the students almost as much as their teacher so thoughtfully does.
I also appreciated the way that the author highlighted the issues and the injustices that public school students so often face. It’s an important issue that needs to be addressed and Murray goes into great detail on this with his characteristic grace and humour. It must be so difficult and heartbreaking from a teacher’s perspective, but he remains focused on his students and their needs.
This is a wonderful story and a tribute to all teachers and the students that they care for. It’s beautifully and sensitively written and I think Mr Murray’s students are very lucky to have landed in his classroom. Just as I was lucky to attend high school with him in our own small coastal school. Highly recommended reading!
The Nancys are back again to solve another cosy mystery that has rocked the small town of Riverstone, New Zealand. It’s been four months since eleven year old Tippy and her wonderfully camp and risqué Uncle Pike and his partner Devon teamed up to solve a murder mystery and a lot has changed. Tippy is growing up and processing the events that occurred over Christmas, as well as her father’s death a year earlier. Uncle Pike and Devon have purchased the murder house near Tippy but can’t seem to agree on anything. In fact, it looks like they might even break up.
When an explosion kills three people and destroys the Riverstone town hall, the Nancys decide to go against the police who have already fingered a suspect who Tippy believes may have been framed — and Tippy’s mother — to get to the bottom of who was really responsible. Despite Uncle Pike’s and Devon’s rocky relationship and shocking revelations about the past that has Tippy wondering if she can ever trust anybody again, the Nancys stick together to solve the mystery and save Riverstone.
I loved hanging out with the Nancys again and really enjoy this contemporary adult’s version of the Nancy Drew mysteries. Despite their relationship troubles, Uncle Pike and Devon’s camp humour that mostly goes over Tippy’s head had me in stitches. I also really enjoyed the ways that Tippy is growing older and wiser as the series progresses. The ending and the resolution of the mystery were excellent, and I was pleased to see that the seeds have been sown for another instalment of this quirky cosy mystery series. I don’t think that it’s necessary to read The Nancys first, but you should anyway since it is brilliant and you will get to know the characters and their history before diving in.
About the Author
R.W.R. McDonald (Rob) is an award-winning author, a kiwi living in Melbourne with his two daughters and one HarryCat. His debut novel, The Nancys, won Best First Novel in the 2020 Ngaio Marsh Awards, as well as being a finalist in the Best Novel category. It was shortlisted for Best First Novel in the 2020 Ned Kelly Awards, and Highly Commended for an Unpublished Manuscript in the 2017 Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards.
Nancy Business, his second novel was published 1st June 21.
Set in a dystopian Australia in the not too distant future, THE MOTHER FAULT is a cleverly crafted eco-thriller that had me on the edge of my seat all the way through.
Mim is a geologist turned stay at home mum with two children Essie (11) and Sammy (6) in a Victoria that is ruled by ‘The Department’. Her husband Ben is an environmental engineer at an Australian/Chinese mine in Indonesia. Climate change has begun to cause catastrophic damage, all citizens are microchipped ‘for their safety, and anybody who doesn’t comply with ‘The Department’ are shipped off to a place called ‘Best Life’.
When Mim receives a phone call to let her know that Ben has gone missing from the mine she packs up Essie and Sammy and sets of across the country, and then across the ocean, to find a way to get to Indonesia and find her husband. Even though she must put her family and her friends in serious danger, Mim is determined to get to Ben.
I thoroughly enjoyed THE MOTHER FAULT and found the dystopian Australia that had been ravaged by climate change to be frighteningly plausible. The vivid characters and fast-paced action make it a compelling reading experience.
I’ve been obsessed with books set in the 1930s lately, so I was instantly intrigued by The Portrait of Molly Dean when I discovered that it’s a true murder mystery set against the background of Melbourne’s bustling art scene in 1930.
An unsolved murder comes to light after almost seventy years…
In 1999, art dealer Alex Clayton stumbles across a lost portrait of Molly Dean, an artist’s muse brutally slain in Melbourne in 1930. Alex buys the painting and sets out to uncover more details, but finds there are strange inconsistencies: Molly’s mother seemed unconcerned by her daughter’s violent death, the main suspect was never brought to trial despite compelling evidence, and vital records are missing. Alex enlists the help of her close friend, art conservator John Porter, and together they sift through the clues and deceptions that swirl around the last days of Molly Dean.
The Portrait of Molly Dean is based on a real unsolved murder. Molly Dean was brutally murdered in Melbourne in 1930. She was a beautiful and popular artist’s muse who was determined to break out of her complicated home life and make a name for herself as a writer but her murder was never solved and she was almost forgotten.
This novel imagines what might have happened in Molly’s last days via the fictional investigations of an astute Melbourne art dealer who snaps up Molly’s portrait in 1999 for a bargain. As Alex and her art conservator friend investigate the painting and the mystery surrounding the death of Molly Dean, they discover that there were many inconsistencies surrounding the investigation and that there are still people out there who will do whatever it takes to make sure that the truth remained hidden.
There really isn’t anything that I didn’t love about this book! Both the 1930 and 1999 timelines were full of distinctly timely and Melbourne features and I also found the art history fascinating. Molly was such an interesting character that I found myself invested in finding out what happened to her. I feel like I could have been great friends with her. And I loved Alex Clayton the sassy art dealer and will be adding the rest of the Alex Clayton art mystery series to my TBR list!
Published: March 1st 2018 by Bonnier Publishing Australia/Echo
Katherine Kovacicwas a veterinarian but preferred training and having fun with dogs to taking their temperatures. She seized the chance to return to study and earned an MA, followed by a PhD in Art History. Katherine spends her spare time writing, dancing and teaching other people’s dogs to ride skateboards.
A research geek, Katherine is currently fired up by the history of human relationships with animals, particularly as they appear in art. Her first book, The Portrait of Molly Dean, was shortlisted for a Ned Kelly Award for best first fiction.
Katherine lives in suburban Melbourne with a Borzoi, a Scottish Deerhound and a legion of dog-fur dust bunnies.
January 2021. True Crime.
Available in all good bookshops and online (paperback, ebook, audio) including:
The Nancys is adult crime fiction in the tradition of a whodunit murder mystery, except all the characters are completely out of control and pay no attention to any rules.
TIPPY CHAN is eleven and lives in Riverstone, a two pub town in South Otago, New Zealand. The same town her UNCLE PIKE escaped from when he was a teenager. Tippy loves her uncle’s old Nancy Drew books, especially the early versions where Nancy was sixteen and did whatever she wanted. She wants to be Nancy and is desperate to solve a real mystery.
Tippy’s chance comes when her mum goes on holiday, leaving Uncle Pike and his new boyfriend, DEVON, in charge. When her teacher turns up dead beside the small town’s only traffic light Tippy teams up with her babysitters to form The Nancys, a secret amateur detective club.
But what starts as a bonding and sightseeing adventure quickly morphs in to a risky investigation. A wrongful arrest, a close call with the killer, and an intervention from Tippy’s Mum all conspire against The Nancys. While the town grieves everyone believes the police have caught the killer, including Tippy’s mum. It is up to The Nancys to go against the flow, as well as questionable interior design and fashion choices, to solve the mystery before anyone else dies.
The Nancys is a book for anyone who’s ever felt outside looking in. At its heart it is about the family we make and the courage required to tell the truth, no matter what the cost.
The Nancys is an adult murder mystery inspired by the classic Nancy Drew books, but it’s so much more than that. It also explores complex themes about outsiders, the family we choose, courage and the importance of telling the truth.
Eleven-year-old Tippy Chan is still grieving for her father when her Uncle Pike and his fashion designer boyfriend Devon arrive from Sydney to care for her while she goes on a cruise. Tippy and her mother still live in the same house in the small two pub town of Riverstone New Zealand that Pike escaped from as a teenager, so his return inevitably brings up ghosts from his past. I grew up in small-town myself, so I could definitely relate to Pike’s uncomfortable experiences bumping into ex-boyfriends and old nemeses and all of the weird feelings that can bring up!
When Tippy’s friend falls off a bridge in mysterious circumstances and then her teacher is gruesomely murdered Pike, Devon and Tippy form a club inspired by Nancy Drew to investigate. Using Pike’s network of old contacts, Tippy’s keen sense of observation, and Devon’s fashion sense, The Nancys seem to be getting close to cracking the case. The only problem is making sure they discover who did it before anybody else gets hurt … or Tippy’s mum puts a stop to their investigation.
I loved this book! It’s in a similar format to a classic Nancy Drew mystery, but it also has so much warmth and heart. I was a huge fan of the Nancy Drew books too when I was around Tippy’s age, and I think The Nancys absolutely did them justice. Nancy Drew really is a bit of style icon and I agree that the older books are the best.
I loved the close relationship between Pike and Tippy and the way he helped her and her mother deal with the death of Tippy’s father. Pike and Devon’s relationship was full of crude humour and in-jokes but I have a good feeling that their relationship will last longer than Pike’s previous relationship record of three months … I will hopefully find out the answer to that in the sequel coming out soon!
About the Author
Rob McDonald is a Kiwi living in Melbourne with his two daughters and an extended rainbow family including HarryCat and Stevie Nicks the chicken. Rob realised while studying journalism that writing fiction, rather than reporting facts, was his true bent.
The Nancys is being published by Allen and Unwin with a release date June 2019. This is his first novel.
Rob is a 2016 alumnus of Faber Academy’s Writing a Novel Stage 1 and 2 where he worked on his manuscript The Nancys. In 2017 The Nancys was Highly Commended in the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards for an Unpublished Manuscript.
Outside of writing Rob works in international education.
A novel about a young woman determined to make her way in the wilds of North Carolina, and the two men that will break her isolation open.
For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. She’s barefoot and wild; unfit for polite society. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark.
But Kya is not what they say. Abandoned at age ten, she has survived on her own in the marsh that she calls home. A born naturalist with just one day of school, she takes life lessons from the land, learning from the false signals of fireflies the real way of this world. But while she could have lived in solitude forever, the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. Drawn to two young men from town, who are each intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new and startling world–until the unthinkable happens.
Where the Crawdads Sing is one of those rare books that I would recommend to almost anybody. Beautifully written and evocative, it is an incredibly unique coming of age story wrapped up inside a compelling murder mystery.
The book is set in North Carolina in the 1950s-1970s. By he age of seven, Kya is abandoned by her entire family and left to live alone in a broken down shack on an isolated marsh. She manages to survive and to evade the school truancy officers by imitating the animals around her and with a little bit of help from the kind-hearted owner of a local gas dock and bait shop.
Kya opens up when two young men take an interest in her as she develops into a beautiful teenager, until, something unthinkable happens. This is where the murder mystery comes into play, so I don’t want to spoil that part for anybody.
Even though the townspeople view Kya as a wild “Marsh Girl” we learn that she is actually sensitive and intelligent young woman. Learning how to read and write as a teenager seems to be very easy for her (perhaps a little bit too easy?) and she spends her entire life observing and collecting incredibly detailed information about the marsh.
The accurate and beautifully written descriptions of the marsh and the animals that lived in it were the strongest and most evocative part of the novel. Delia Owens has spent years writing non-fiction about nature and that is evident throughout. The author has also done a brilliant job of weaving in the Southern feeling and accents. “Magnolia mouth” as one of the characters aptly describes it.
The ending of the book left me feeling so very sad for Kya and angry about all the people in her life who let her down. It’s heartbreaking to imagine such a young and vulnerable child/young woman being abandoned and let down by almost every single person in her life. I was furious when her mother’s story was revealed and I found many of the actions of many of the townspeople to be unforgivable.
Where the Crawdads Sing is one of those stories that I know will stick with me for a long time. The wild and ferocious beauty of the North Carolina marsh where Kya spent her time, the almost unbearable loneliness she experienced, and the questions it raises about the way our society treats our most vulnerable people are all rolled up inside a mystery that will keep you turning the pages way past your bedtime.
About the Author
Delia Owens is the co-author of three internationally bestselling nonfiction books about her life as a wildlife scientist in Africa including Cry of the Kalahari.
She has won the John Burroughs Award for Nature Writing and has been published in Nature, The African Journal of Ecology, and many others.
She currently lives in Idaho. Where the Crawdads Sing is her first novel
No matter how far you run, the past will always find you. A gripping, page-turning mystery for all fans of Kate Furnivall and Sara Foster.
A brutal murder. A wartime promise. A woman on the run.
Juliet’s elderly grandparents are killed in their Adelaide home. Who would commit such a heinous crime – and why? The only clue is her grandfather Karl’s missing signet ring.
When Juliet’s estranged sister, Lily, returns in fear for her life, Juliet suspects something far more sinister than a simple break-in gone wrong. Before Juliet can get any answers, Lily vanishes once more.
What secrets did Karl Weiss have that could have led to his murder? A German soldier who migrated to Adelaide, Juliet knew Karl as a loving grandfather. Is it possible he was a war criminal? While attempting to find out, Juliet uncovers some disturbing secrets from WWII Germany that will put both her and her sister’s lives in danger …
Gripping. Tense. Mysterious. Inheritance of Secrets links the crimes of the present to the secrets of the past and asks how far would you go to keep a promise?
“A brutal murder. A wartime promise. A quest for the truth.”
Inspired by Sonya Bates’ own family history, Inheritance of Secrets is a tense dual timeline thriller that travels from WW2 Germany to contemporary Australia. A story about family, secrets and how the past can catch up with you when you least expect it, Inheritance of Secrets intrigued me from the very beginning and kept me guessing the entire way through.
The historical sections of the novel are set just after World War 2. German soldier Karl Weiss decides to leave his devastated homeland after the war is over to build a new future in Australia, even though that means leaving behind his girlfriend who remains to care for her sick mother. Onboard the ship, he is grateful for the financial support and company of his hometown friend, but Hans is having a difficult time accepting that the Nazis were as evil as everyone says they were.
In contemporary Adelaide, Karl’s granddaughter Juliet is devastated when her warm and loving grandparents are murdered in their home. At first, she thinks it must have been a random break-in gone wrong, but she quickly realises that somebody from Karl’s past in Germany is responsible and his missing signet ring is the only clue. As it becomes obvious that whoever murdered her grandparents is still around, and searching for something, Juliet needs to figure out who exactly she can trust, and whether her estranged sister can be trusted.
There are so many things that I love about Inheritance of Secrets. I’m a sucker for dual timeline novels, and I’ve been drawn to a lot of novels set during WW2 lately. There’s something deeply satisfying about being taken away to such a tumultuous time in history, especially with all the terrible stuff going on at the moment.
I don’t often read war novels told from the perspective of a German soldier, and I really appreciated reading this point of view. It was interesting to read about the average German people who were unwillingly caught up in the Nazi party’s insanity and did what they needed to do to survive during and after the war. It must have been difficult for those people to accept that they had been on the ‘wrong’ side and move on to another country alongside people who had been the Nazi’s victims. I think Sonya Bates described this scenario with a great deal of sensitivity, most likely because the Karl character is inspired by her own father.
The mystery surrounding the murders and how they related to Karl’s past and the missing signet ring was equally satisfying. I usually find myself drawn more to the historical sections when I read a book with a dual timeline, but I found Juliet’s contemporary section just as thrilling as Karl’s story. I had no idea what was really going on, or if they were going to make it out alive, until the very end.
Inheritance of Secrets has a lot going on, but Sonya Bates has expertly woven all the threads together to provide a seamless reading experience between the present and the past. An engaging and tense historical thriller which I thoroughly enjoyed.
Many thanks to Harper Collins Books Australia for providing me with a free copy of this book to review.
About the Author
Sonya Spreen Batesis a writer of adult and children’s fiction living in Adelaide, South Australia. She was shortlisted for the inaugural Banjo Prize in 2018 for the unpublished manuscript for Inheritance of Secrets, and several of her children’s books have been commended by CCBC Best Books, Resource Links, or the Junior Library Guild in the USA.
Born in Iowa City, USA, Sonya grew up in Victoria, Canada. She studied Linguistics at the University of Victoria before moving to Halifax, Nova Scotia to study Speech-Language Pathology at Dalhousie University. She worked in paediatric Speech Pathology for 25 years, first in rural British Columbia, and then in Adelaide, South Australia when she moved there in 1997, and currently works as a casual academic in clinical education.
Sonya’s first children’s book was published in 2003. Her short stories and novels have been published in Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and foreign rights to her chapter book, Wildcat Run, were sold to a Chinese publisher. She started writing for adults in 2015 and her debut adult novel Inheritance of Secrets will be published by HarperCollins Australia in April 2020.
Published: April 20th 2020 by HarperCollins Australia
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