Book Reviews for Booklovers from The Booklover • July

This month's must read:

The Secrets Between Us
Thrity Umrigar  $35

Bhima, the unforgettable main character of Thrity Umrigar’s beloved international bestseller The Space Between Us (2006), returns in this poignant and compelling novel, in which the former servant struggles against the circumstances of class and misfortune to forge a new path for herself and her granddaughter in modern India. Poor and illiterate, Bhima had faithfully worked for the Dubash family, an upper-middle-class Parsi household, for more than 20 years. Yet after courageously speaking the truth about a heinous crime perpetrated against her own family, the devoted servant was cruelly fired. A woman who has endured despair and loss with stoicism, Bhima must now find some other way to support herself and her granddaughter Maya. Bhima’s fortunes take an unexpected turn when her path intersects with Parvati, a bitter, taciturn older woman. The two acquaintances soon form a tentative business partnership, selling fruit and vegetables at the local market. As they work together, these two women seemingly bound by fate grow closer, each confessing the truth about their lives and the wounds that haunt them. Discovering her first true friend, Bhima pieces together a new life, and the two women learn to stand on their own. A dazzling story of gender, strength, friendship and second chances, The Secrets Between Us is a powerful and perceptive novel that brilliantly evokes the complexities of life in modern India and the harsh realities faced by women born without privilege as they struggle to survive.

This Mortal Boy
Fiona Kidman  $38

From one of New Zealand’s most popular and acclaimed modern writers, an utterly captivating re-creation of the events that led to one of the last executions in New Zealand. Irishman Albert Black, known as the ‘jukebox killer’, was only twenty when he was convicted of murdering another young man in an Auckland milk bar fight on 26 July 1955. His crime fuelled growing moral panic about teenagers, and he was to hang less than five months later. But what really happened? Was this a love crime, was it a sign of juvenile delinquency? Or was this dark episode in our recent history more about our society’s reaction to outsiders? Fiona Kidman has written a novel that is believable, revealing and insightful with lots of fascinating elements: teenage love, bodgies and teddy boys, child immigrants, and a shocking trial full of nonsensical evidence. Albert Black’s final words, as the hangman covered his head, were, ‘I wish you all a merry Christmas, gentlemen, and a prosperous New Year.’ This is his story.

So Much Life Left Over
Louis de Bernieres  $37

From the bestselling author of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Birds Without Wings and The Dust That Falls From Dreams. Rosie and Daniel have moved to Ceylon with their little daughter to start a new life at the dawn of the 1920s, attempting to put the trauma of the First World War behind them, and to rekindle a marriage that gets colder every day. However, even in the lush plantation hills it is hard for them to escape the ties of home and the yearning for fulfilment that threatens their marriage. Back in England, Rosie’s three sisters are dealing with different challenges in their searches for family, purpose and happiness. These are precarious times, and they find themselves using unconventional means to achieve their desires. Around them the world is changing, and when Daniel finds himself in Germany he witnesses events taking a dark and forbidding direction. By turns humorous and tragic, gripping and touching, So Much Life Left Over follows a cast of unique and captivating characters as they navigate the extraordinary interwar years both in England and abroad.

Energy: A Human History
Richard Rhodes  $35

Human beings have confronted the problem of how to draw life from raw material since the beginning of time. Each invention, each discovery, each adaptation has brought further challenges in its wake, and through such continuing transformations, we have arrived at where we are today. Pultizer Prize winner Richard Rhodes highlights the successes and failures that led to each breakthrough in energy production: from animal and waterpower to the steam engine, from internal-combustion to the electric motor. He addresses how we learned from such challenges, mastered their transitions, and capitalised on their opportunities. Rhodes also looks at the current energy landscape, especially how wind energy is competing for dominance with cast supplies of coal and natural gas. He also addresses the spectre of global warming, and a human population hurtling towards 10 billion by 2100.

The Man Between
Charles Cumming  $35

From the author of several bestselling thrillers, including the multi-award winner A Foreign Country. Successful novelist Kit Carradine has grown restless, so when British Intelligence invites him to enter the secret world of espionage, he willingly takes a leap into the unknown. But the glamour of being a spy is soon tainted by fear and betrayal, as Carradine finds himself in Morocco on the trail of Lara Bartok – a mysterious fugitive with links to international terrorism. Bartok is a leading figure in Resurrection, a violent revolutionary movement whose brutal attacks on prominent right-wing politicians have spread hatred and violence throughout the West. As the coils of a ruthless plot tighten around him, Carradine finds himself drawn to Lara. Caught between competing intelligence services who want her dead, he soon faces an awful choice: to abandon Lara to her fate or to risk everything trying to save her.  An enthralling read for fans of John le Carre’s spy missions and of Ian Fleming’s James Bond escapades.

Issue 89 July 2018