This month, I have been completely absorbed in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander. After a semester of reading 18th-19th century literature for uni, it has been a breath of fresh air to indulge in something a little lighter – in content rather than physical weight, as my shoulders are aching from slugging this hefty, 864 page tome around! A glorious romp through the Scottish Highlands, with time travel, a feisty female lead, a self-sacrificing hero, a nefarious villain and plenty of sex, all set against the historical back-drop of the Jacobite uprising. How could I go wrong? I’ve been a captivated fan of the TV series for the past two seasons, but I’ve been reluctant to commit to the books for fear of becoming completely overtaken by the eight door-stops of novels that make up the series so far. And lo and behold, as soon as I finished it, I wanted to dive straight into the next one. But, I have been a horrendous book-buyer this month despite my slow progress with Outlander, and I thought it would be best to make some progress on my newest acquisitions before they gather too much dust.
Shelter, by Jung Yun, has been one of my most anticipated new releases of 2016. Following in the vein of my love for dark Asian literature, Shelter is a melancholy and thrilling suburban family drama exploring the changing dynamics between generations forced to live together after an act of violence. I have kept myself blissfully ignorant about it, avoiding reviews and synopses, and I’m looking forward to diving in.
In a moment of weakness, I succumbed to a book-buying binge and ordered the first six books in the Edge Chronicles, by Paul Stewart and illustrated by Chris Riddell. Oops. These were some of my favourite books in primary school, and inspired so many of my early short stories and novel attempts. Such a wonderfully fleshed-out and imaginative young adult fantasy world, and it will be interesting to revisit it with adult eyes.
I picked up Consider Phlebas and The Left Hand of Darkness to sate my craving for classic science fiction. Two very different books – the first, an intergalactic space opera, the second, a staple of sci-fi canon exploring humanity, society and gender on an alien planet. I read and loved Ian Banks’ The Wasp Factory and never realised that he wrote science fiction as well, so I’ll be interested to see how his bleak voice translates to the genre.
The Natural Way of Things, by Charlotte Wood, winner of the 2016 Stella Prize and nominated for the Miles Franklin Award. A dystopian allegory in which two women awake, drugged, to find themselves imprisoned in an isolated property with no idea of how they came to be there. It criticises a culture of misogyny, echoing Margaret Atwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale.
Another new release, Mark Z. Danielewski’s The Familiar Vol. 3: Honeysuckle and Pain. I’ve not yet read volumes one and two, which I ran out and bought post-House of Leaves hangover, but I’m starting the first now. So many different story-lines, and I can’t wait to see where and how they converge. The first three books are just the beginning of an ambitious, planned 27 books in the Familiar series.
And finally, one last, monstrous, doorstop of a book – Annie Proulx’s latest release, Barkskins. It follows the descendants of two families over the course of three hundred years, from New France, to China, to New Zealand, raising the question of the finiteness of Earth’s natural resources and the possibility of ecological collapse.
In happy, happy, news, I recently turned on ABC iView to discover that The Book Club has now become a weekly show! It is such a wonderful programme, showcasing a mix of new releases and classics, and more often than not, the debate becomes very heated! It is joined by a new sister show, Bookish, which provides bite-sized snippets about the latest bookish trends, bookish culture, and bookish people. So many books! So many authors! So much discussion! I fear that my teetering TBR pile will not be able to handle the extra influx of recommendations.