Rod Laver is widely regarded as one of the greatest tennis players of all time; he is the only player to win the Grand Slam twice and holds the record for most singles titles in the history of tennis. Laver was born in Rockhampton in Queensland, and from an early age showed a natural talent for tennis. He left school at 14 to pursue a career in amateur tennis and by the age of 22 had won all four major titles. His prize for Wimbledon? A handshake and a £15 voucher for approved products. Laver writes well about his amateur years but it’s after he breaks into the professional sphere that the colour, the personalities and the circus-like stories, from towing a tennis court across America to playing on ice-skating rinks, start to emerge. In the beginning, the professional tennis circuit was disdained by the establishment, but as the sport started attracting sponsors and money, it wasn’t long before the Open era began and modern tennis was born. Laver’s memoir is a nostalgic journey. The highlights are his titanic battles and rivalries, his love of family and the massive changes to the game over the years.
Sarina Gale is a freelance writers and bookseller at the Sun Bookshop in Yarraville. This review first appeared on the Books+Publishing website in August 2013. View more pre-publication reviews here.
When it comes to memoir in Australian publishing, it seems that 30 is the new 40, with many writers mining their rollercoaster 20s for outrageously funny and poignant stories and converting them into book deals. Michele Lee, an experienced playwright but debut author, is not as well known in writing circles as other successful young memoirists such as Marieke Hardy and Benjamin Law, but she ably matches their no-holds-barred approach to narrating the self, most notably their wicked sense of humour. In between the politics of sharehousing and casual hook-ups, Lee considers wider issues, namely her identity, and what it means to belong to a small but tight-knit migrant Hmong community. Melbourne readers will also strongly relate to Banana Girl as Lee spends a lot of the book name-dropping bars and referencing many of the city’s in-jokes. In comparison, we only get a glimpse of Lee’s visits to Laos, which seems a missed opportunity. Regarding her ethnicity, Lee likens herself to a banana, ‘modern and golden, slipped loose from the rest of the bunch’. Throughout the book, Lee walks a slippery line between intimacy and indulgence; luckily, she doesn’t fall.
Emily Laidlaw is online editor at Kill Your Darlings. This review first appeared on the Books+Publishing website in September 2013. View more pre-publication reviews here.
The world has been revolutionised by ‘d-mat’—fabrication technology that can build any object instantly, atom by atom. Clothes, food and even human beings can be faithfully created, replicated and teleported down to their tiniest imperfections and most personal memories. Climate change, famine and pollution are merely history lessons for teens such as Claire and her best friend Libby, who are free to go anywhere and create anything at the press of a button. But when Libby tries to use d-mat to ‘improve’ her own appearance, Claire begins to realise that the system may not be as safe or as secure as everyone believes. Bringing attention to d-mat’s failures is a dangerous game, however, especially when the molecular pattern that makes you ‘you’ can be manipulated by those with power and secrets to protect. Sean Williams is one of Australia’s most accomplished speculative fiction authors, deftly using high-concept sci-fi to ask young-adult readers difficult questions about identity, self-image and popularity in the age of social networking. It’s all expertly weaved into a fast-paced, white-knuckle chase, making it an easy book to recommend to fans of dystopian YA, such as Scott Westerfeld’s ‘Uglies’, Patrick Ness’ ‘Chaos Walking’ and Suzanne Collins’ ‘The Hunger Games’.
Richard Bilkey is the ereading content manager for Samsung Australia. This review first appeared on the Books+Publishing website in July 2013. View more pre-publication reviews here.
Once again, the indomitable Roland Harvey manages to capture chaos and bring it in an orderly way into the pages of a picture book. In this book he takes his readers along on a school camp, with all the hectic fun and activity that goes with that time-honoured tradition. The story starts in the endpapers, where we meet each of the wombats before they go on their first school camp. The actual narrative is told from a number of different characters’ perspectives. Not everyone loves being on camp—Alecia, for example, doesn’t like water—but the majority of the wombats make the most of it: they cook, put on a show, go on a night-time bush walk and play ‘guess the body part’ at midnight. Because of its rich comic detail, and the extreme liveliness of its pictures and text, this is a book to read and reread many times. The Wombats Go on Camp would appeal to a wide range of ages—the inherent humour can be quite sophisticated, as well as slapstick, and there are visual gags and running jokes on every page. This would be a great class book and a fun book to read at home.
Louise Pfanner is an author, illustrator and bookseller. This review first appeared in the Junior Term 3 2013 supplement of Books+Publishing magazine. View more pre-publication reviews here.
This wide-ranging book is Germaine Greer’s account of her search for a home in which to lodge her archive, taking over two frustrating years but ending serendipitously in the Numinbah Valley in South-east Queensland. Here she found an abandoned dairy farm, quite unsuitable for her primary purpose, but clad in degraded subtropical rainforest that cried out for rehabilitation. When a bower bird performed a mating dance in front of her entranced eyes she accepted the ritual as a sign that the property was her destiny. In telling this story, the author takes us on an exploration of the myriad indignities inflicted on Australia by white settlers, from indiscriminate land-clearing to the introduction of lantana and other unsuitable plant varieties, from the over-development of Twofold Bay in southern NSW to the banana glut in Queensland, from the poisoning of Indigenous tribes to the burning of native bush—the list of follies is endless and daunting. Towards the end of the book Greer devotes two charming chapters to the creatures of the rainforest, from microbes to animals, birds and reptiles, and tells us a little about her charity, Friends of Gondwana Rainforest, that will hopefully continue the work once she has, as she puts it, been ‘recycled’. This is an important, challenging book.
Max Oliver is a veteran Australian bookseller. This review first appeared on the Books+Publishing website in August 2013. View more pre-publication reviews here.