Book Reviews for Booklovers from The Booklover • May

This Month's Must Read:

The Jade Lily
Kirsty Manning  $33

From the author of the acclaimed The Midsummer Garden. In 2016, fleeing London with a broken heart, Alexandra returns to Australia to be with her grandparents, Romy and Wilhelm, when her grandfather is dying. With only weeks left together, her grandparents begin to reveal the family mysteries they have kept secret for more than half a century. In 1939, two young girls meet in Shanghai, the ‘Paris of the East’: beautiful local Li and Viennese refugee Romy form a fierce friendship. But the deepening shadows of Japanese aggression in World War Two’s Asia-Pacific theatre fall over the women as Li and Romy slip between the city’s glamorous French Concession and the desperate Shanghai Ghetto. Eventually, they are forced separate ways as Romy doubts Li’s loyalties. After Wilhelm dies, Alexandra flies to Shanghai, determined to trace her grandparents’ past. As she peels back the layers of their hidden lives, she begins to question everything she knows about her family – and herself. A gorgeously told, compelling tale of female friendship, the price of love, and the power of hardship and courage to shape us all.

Love and Ruin
Paula McLain  $35

From the acclaimed author of The Paris Wife and Circling the Sun. In 1937, courageous and independent Martha Gellhorn travels to Madrid to report on the atrocities of the Spanish Civil War, and finds herself drawn to the stories of ordinary people caught in devastating conflict. She also finds herself unexpectedly – and uncontrollably – falling in love with Ernest Hemingway, a man already on his way to being a legend. In the shadow of the impending Second World War, and set against the tumultuous backdrops of Madrid, Finland, China, and especially Cuba, where Martha and Hemingway made their home, their relationship and professional careers ignite. But when Hemingway publishes the biggest literary success – For Whom the Bell Tolls – of his career, they are no longer equals, and Martha must make a choice: surrender to the suffocating demands of a domestic lifestyle, or risk losing her husband by forging her way as her own woman and writer. It is a dilemma that will force her to break his heart, and her own. Based on a true story, Martha Gellhorn was recognised as one of the greatest war correspondents of the 20th century.

A Sister In My House
Linda Olsson  $35

From the popular New Zealand author of Let Me Sing You Gentle Songs and Sonata for Miriam, this intense story carefully tracks a relationship stunted in childhood but given a second chance. Maria has found a sanctuary in a rented house, overlooking a small Spanish village by the sea. She is coming to terms with losing the love of her life. But her solitude and the places that have become special to her are about to be encroached upon by the arrival of her younger sister, Emma. Will the intrusion only serve to evoke the bad memories of childhood or will the impending visit help them restart their lives? This is an honest, moving and heart-warming story of two sisters negotiating personal tragedies, past alienation and their own failings to try to come together in understanding and love. 

Michael Ondaatje  $35

In a narrative as mysterious as memory itself – at once both shadowed and luminous – this is a vivid, thrilling novel of violence and love, intrigue and desire. It is 1945, and London is still reeling from the Blitz and years of war. Fourteen-year-old Nathaniel and his sister Rachel are apparently abandoned by their parents, left in the care of an enigmatic figure named ‘The Moth’. They suspect he might be a criminal, and grow both more convinced and less concerned as they get to know his eccentric crew of friends – men and women with a shared history, all of whom seem determined now to protect, and educate (in rather unusual ways), Rachel and Nathaniel. But are they really what and who they claim to be? A dozen years later, Nathaniel begins to uncover all he didn’t know or understand in that time, and it is this journey – through reality, recollection and imagination – that is told in this magnificent novel from the Booker Prize-winning author of The English Patient. 

House of Gold
Natasha Solomons  $37

From the bestselling author of Mr Rosenblum’s List and The Gallery of Vanished Husbands. The Goldbaums’ influence reaches across Europe. They are the confidants and bankers of several governments and emperors. Little happens without their say-so and even less without their knowledge. But Greta Goldbaum has no say at all in whom she’ll marry. While power lies in wealth, strength lies in family. Greta’s union with cousin Albert will strengthen the bond between the Austrian and the English branches of the dynasty. It is sensible and strategic. Greta is neither. Defiant and unhappy, she is desperate to find a place that belongs to her, free from duty and responsibility. But just as she begins to taste an unexpected happiness, the Great War is looming and even the Goldbaums can’t alter its course. For the first time in 200 years, the family will find themselves on opposing sides. The House of Goldbaum, along with Europe herself, is about to break apart.

Issue 87 May 2018