Peter Carey’s latest novel The Chemistry of Tears (Hamish Hamilton) received the most mentions in Media Extra this week. In the story, Catherine is the leading lady. When her lover dies suddenly, all Catherine has left is her work at London’s Swinburne Museum. When she finds the diary of a mysterious clockmaker, she becomes obsessed with uncovering the truth about his life. Also listed on the most mentioned chart this week were Breakdown by Sara Paretsky (Hodder & Stoughton), A Common Loss by Kirsten Tranter (HarperCollins), The Fortunes of Richard Mahony (Henry Handel Richardson, various imprints) and The Glass Canoe (David Ireland, various imprints)–Media Extra.
Jane Sullivan spoke about literary sexism in several forums during the week and her book Little People (Scribe) has consequently made it to the top of the most mentioned chart. Little People is about an impoverished governess, who rescues what appears to be a child from the Yarra River, but turns out to be General Tom Thumb, star of a celebrated troupe of midgets on their 1870 tour of Australia. Other books on the most mentioned chart, all receiving a couple of mentions this week, include Colin Cotterill’s Slash and Burn (Quercus), Kirsten Tranter’s A Common Loss (HarperCollins), Robert Harris’ The Fear Index (Hutchinson) and Christopher Simon Sykes’ Hockney: A Rake’s Progress (Century)–Media Extra.
Kirsten Tranter’s second novel—following The Legacy—is the story of a group of college friends who travel together each year to Las Vegas. Dylan, the charismatic confidante of the group, the keeper of secrets and solver of problems, has died in an accident, so the remaining four friends plan the annual trip. Elliot, an erudite yet awkward English lecturer, narrates the novel. He is the most naïve of the group, so his perspective makes it easy for the reader to slip into the group and share disgust at Cameron and Brian’s hypocrisy, concern over Tallis’ drinking, and to wonder: what holds these friendships together? There are similarities in this story to The Legacy: both share a naïve, lovelorn and lost character driven by the absence of a friend who still seems all too present. A Common Loss is a potent story of secrets, love, friendship and the bonds that keep people close; in the case of these friends it is a shared history that also threatens to destroy them. Brimming with blackmail and deception and laced with grief, poetry, simmering emotional tension and relationships both budding and exhausted, Tranter’s second novel does not disappoint.
Portia Lindsay works at UNSW Bookshop. This review first appeared in the Summer issue of Bookseller+Publisher magazine.