Her name is Elizabeth Strout: Anything Is Possible

You know that thing where you go your whole life not hearing a name, and then suddenly, you hear it everywhere. ‘Elizabeth Strout‘ did that to me.  I don’t know where I was in 2009 when she won the Pulitzer Prize for Olive Kitteridge, or a couple of years ago when HBO made it into a miniseries.  I think her name may have seeped into my consciousness with last year’s My Name Is Lucy Barton, but not properly.  Now, she is everywhere for me; being interviewed in the Saturday paper, in bookshop window displays and most recently, on my e-reader with Anything Is Possible.

Anything Is Possible is a remarkable book – it’s collection of nine stories but I wouldn’t say it’s a short story collection.

We’re going on a book hunt: Clunes Book Festival in pictures

One weekend a year, Clunes – a small, old gold mining town in regional Victoria, Australia – is host to a book festival. The main street of this international book town is closed off and there are literally thousands of (mostly) second hand books for sale, spread across makeshift marques, stacked in unused shop fronts, shelved in established book shops and crammed into mobile book vans. Some of the book tents smell like moth balls, some are a bit dank, but all of them have that wonderful smell of pre-loved books.

It’s a lovely event, full of old hippies, middle-aged book worms, twenty-something book nerds and even younger booksters. It’s unpretentious, relaxed, rustic bordering on eccentric, and usually a bit cold.

Can you imagine the delight of being surrounded by books, authors, bookworms and cafes for two whole days? In case you can’t, here are my photos to help.  Enjoy – vicariously!

Choose Your Own Adventure: The Girl With All The Gifts

I have a quandary.  I want to tell everybody about the book I just finished, The Girl With All the Gifts. One of the best things about this book was that I had no idea it was a [insert genre] book.  If I’d known it was a [insert genre] book, I probably wouldn’t have picked it up. I want to review this book, but I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t heard of it.

Girl sitting on box trying to keep it shut
Pandora by Frederick Stuart Church

On the other hand I’m thinking: lots of people must know about this book because it’s also been made into a film, released only last year. Maybe these folk would like to read a more extensive review to decide if it’s worthwhile reading.

So to meet these competing reader requirements, this is a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’, where YOU get to decide which review you read.

If you’ve never heard of this book or the film and you think you might read it, for a no-spoilers review… GO TO OPTION A.

If you’ve heard of The Girl With All the Gifts but haven’t read it yet, and don’t know if you should… GO TO OPTION B.

When the Personal is Political (in Korea): Meeting With My Brother

Interestingly, Australia was threatened by North Korea this week. By toeing the line with US foreign policy, the North Korean foreign ministry is reported to have warned that Australia is ‘coming within the range of the nuclear strike of the strategic force of the DPRK’. In its own right that’s pretty interesting, if not downright alarming, but it’s especially interesting for me as I just finished reading Meeting With My Brother by Yi Mun-yol – a literal and allegorical novella about North and South Korea.

The Vegetarian, which I read last year, was my first Korean novel ever. I don’t know how I made it this far in life with so little exposure to Korean literature, especially since I have a degree in Asian Studies! But after a short period of chastisement I set about changing this, requesting a review copy of Meeting With My Brother. The timing couldn’t have been better.

Meeting With My Brother breathes life into the stories we’ve read and the images we’ve seen of North and South Korean families being reunited after decades of separation, as well as shedding light on the deep ideological rifts still obviously at play in this divided nation.

Six reasons to read Come in Spinner

I feel slightly embarrassed that I’ve only read Come in Spinner now and only because of the virtual bookclub hosted by Simon @ Stuck in a book and Karen @ Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings (where for one wonderful week bookish-types review books printed in 1951). Honestly, I should have read Come in Spinner, by Dymphna Cusack & Florence James, years ago – this is an amazing book for a number of reasons.

The first reason: It’s enormous.  When I went to collect it from the library I wasn’t expecting a tome.  Think Half-Blood Prince and you’re nearly there. I actually didn’t think I’d get past the first couple of hundred pages, but not even one of these pages is superfluous because…