BOOK REVIEW: Amber Road (Boyd Anderson, Bantam)

amber roadIn Europe World War II rages, but in Singapore 17-year-old Victoria Khoo is preoccupied with her plans to marry Sebastian Boustead, the son of a great British merchant family, despite the fact that he is engaged to Elizabeth Nightingale. When the Japanese invade, Sebastian and his Australian friend Joe Spencer join the army to defend Singapore, and Victoria, refusing to flee the city with her family, goes to live with her father’s second wife, where she finds herself entertaining the Japanese troops and protecting Elizabeth from the soldiers. When Victoria runs into Joe, who knows where Sebastian is, she is as determined as ever to become Sebastian’s wife, but also finds herself drawn to Joe’s charms. The end of the war brings numerous complications, not the least of which is Victoria’s divided love interests. While Victoria starts off as a naïve and selfish young girl, she soon shows admirable resourcefulness and courage when her world is turned upside down. Her obsession with Sebastian and her lack of concern for her family is harder to understand. This refreshingly not-so-perfect love story, combined with a well-researched depiction of Singapore during World War II, will appeal to fans of historical fiction who don’t mind a love triangle thrown in. Amber Road is Boyd Anderson’s fourth novel and his third historical fiction novel.

Sanna Nyblad is studying editing and publishing at RMIT and is the co-founder of Possibly the best book club you’ll ever join*. This review first appeared in the Summer 2012/13 issue of Books+Publishing magazine. View more pre-publication reviews here.

INTERVIEW: Susan Maushart on ‘The Winter of Our Disconnect’ (Bantam)

In the May/June issue of Bookseller+Publisher magazine, Katie Horner spoke to Susan Maushart about an experiment that involved disconnecting her family (including three teenagers) from the electronic world for six months, and about the book that came out of it.

The Winter of our Disconnect explores what happened when you ‘switched off’ (literally) from the world of electronic media—how have your family’s technologically ensconced habits changed?

In a nutshell, we talked more, read more, listened more and got out more. We caught up on sleep. We played board games and musical instruments. We stared at the fire … a lot. We faced up to our collective fear of boredom. When I started the experiment, I had this crazy hope that disconnecting from our screens would somehow force us to reconnect as a family. The craziest thing of all is, it did. As my eldest daughter said, it was like we suddenly realised, ‘Hey, there are people here. Let’s talk to them!’ Like breaking a benign but still be-numbing spell. My son went from never reading anything more challenging than the back of the Rice Bubbles box to reading fat, complex, postmodern novels. And in place of his beloved gaming, he started fooling around with his old saxophone. And he sold his gaming computer. That still freaks me out. My youngest daughter caught up on probably three years of accumulated sleep debt, and became, in her own words, ‘smarter, sort of.’ She started keeping a journal for the first time since she was in year two, and then started writing a novel … in collaboration with her sister, no less. My eldest lost her fear of the can opener, and learned to cook actual food with real ingredients. A uni student, she grumbled about doing her assignments at the library …  until she discovered it was ridiculously more efficient that way.

It seems your target audience for The Winter of Our Disconnect are mothers of teenagers, however, as someone in their early 30s, I found myself longing for the ‘good old days’ of less technology—did you have a specific audience in mind when writing?

I guess I had the same audience in mind that I usually do: my girlfriends! Not all of them are the mothers of teenagers—not by a long shot. Many are child-free, some have babies or little kids, almost all are pretty heavy tech users for work and/or play but are (like me!) often ambivalent about that. It’s interesting … even my eldest child, who is 19, sees herself as less of a digital native than my youngest, who is 15. And she’s right: she is. She remembers a time before Facebook clearly. Continue reading