‘The Great Gatsby’ book covers

A new film adaptation of The Great Gatsby is due to hit Australian cinemas next week, but book lovers have more than one option when looking to purchase a copy of F Scott Fitzgerald’s iconic book about life in the jazz age.

Official tie-in Random House Vintage Classics (Random House)

Random House has the official film tie-in edition of the book, featuring Leonardo DiCaprio and other actors from the film, and incorporating graphical elements from the film’s poster. Random House also offers an edition in its Vintage Classics range, featuring a

simple illustrated cover.


Popular Penguin Pink Popular Penguin

Penguin has one edition of Gatsby with the classic orange branding of its online casino Popular Penguins, and another version from its recent range of Pink Popular Penguins, which raises funds for the McGrath Foundation. Both books are in the top ten bestselling Popular Penguins in Australia. Continue reading

BOOK REVIEW: Sea Hearts (Margo Lanagan, A&U)

The people of Rollrock Island live a hard life. Eking out a living as fishermen, their home is a bleak, foggy, oppressive place, battered by stormy seas on all sides. There are those who say that witches have the power to bring a woman from a seal. These seal-women are part of Rollrock’s past—a past never spoken of but destined to be repeated when the downtrodden Misskaella discovers she is one of those blessed (or cursed?) with this power. A seal-woman will instantly enchant the first to look upon her, and she will be equally enchanted. How could the ordinary, hard-working women of Rollrock possibly compete? Misskaella watches with glee as the men of Rollrock are tempted, one by one, by the promise of a seal-woman, while the women of Rollrock leave, one by one, for the mainland. The men are completely incapable of resisting the call of their sea-brides, leading them to carry out acts of incredible cruelty. Margo Lanagan’s writing is hauntingly beautiful, darkly atmospheric and as enchanting as a seal-woman fresh from her skin. Sea Hearts is divided into several sections, each one told by a different resident of Rollrock, and spans the entire life of Misskaella, letting readers see the effect of her enchantments on multiple generations of Rollrock men. This book would be appropriate for sophisticated teen readers, as well as adults in search of beautiful prose.

Amelia Vahtrick is the children’s book buyer at Better Read Than Dead in Newtown. This review first appeared in the Summer issue of Bookseller+Publisher magazine.

BOOK REVIEW: Currawalli Street (Christopher Morgan, A&U)

Currawalli Street is initially set in Melbourne in the year 1914, just before the outbreak of World War I. The residents of the street are a varied bunch and there’s a strong sense of being neighbourly and community-minded. There’s no central character as such, but the reader gets a glimpse into the various characters’ daily (quite secret) lives and grasps an idea of what it could have been like in a burgeoning Melbourne at that time. The author has a job on his hands introducing a street of characters but it is done quite well and only in the second half of the book (set in 1972) does it become a little confusing. However, Jim Oatley, a recently returned soldier from the Vietnam War and grandson of one of the earlier characters, helps piece it together. Currawalli Street (a currawalli is a tree) may appeal to people who remember stories told to them about a time before the Great War, or those who enjoy a sneak peek into a neighbour’s house when the curtains aren’t drawn or a casual eavesdrop now and then. This is a notable effort from Christopher Morgan whose first novel was The Island of Four Rivers.

Katie Horner is the former assistant editor of Bookseller+Publisher. This review first appeared in the Summer issue of Bookseller+Publisher magazine.

BOOK REVIEW: The Grimstones: Hatched (Asphyxia, A&U)

Based on a successful puppet stage show, The Grimstones: Hatched is a charming gothic fairytale, and the first book in a new fantasy series for readers aged eight to 12. Hatched is the secret diary of Martha Grimstone, a girl determined to discover her special talent and to find a spell that will cure her mother’s sadness. But sneaking into her grandfather’s apothecary to experiment with his healing herbs proves tricky, especially when Martha has to spend three hours a day being tutored by her tedious Aunt Gertrude. In this book adaptation, author and performer Asphyxia takes a suitably creative approach to transplanting her handcrafted puppet characters from stage to page. Hatched sets itself apart from numerous other children’s fantasy novels with its quirky visuals—a beguiling combination of words, drawings, and photos that give it a scrapbook feel. Martha is an engaging and lively narrator, and the images that fill her diary give a wonderful sense of the unique world she inhabits. Despite its gothic leanings, Hatched is light-hearted and sweet, and full of imaginative touches: Martha fashions fantastic household inventions from found objects, and her seamstress mother lines her garments with love. This is an original title that promises—and delivers—something a little different.

Carody Culver is a freelance reviewer, PhD student and bookseller at Black Cat Books in Brisbane. This review first appeared in the Summer issue of Bookseller+Publisher magazine.

INTERVIEW: Gillian Mears on ‘Foal’s Bread’ (A&U)

Gillian Mears (credit Shannon Hemmings)

Gillian Mears grew up horse mad and horse-book mad. She spoke to Heather Dyer about her latest novel, Foal’s Bread (A&U). (See the review here.)

You obviously have a great love of horses. How important have they been in your life? Have you got any favourite horse books’?
In the company of a charitable horse there is nothing that you can’t learn deeply and intricately about yourself. Horses have been the greatest teachers of my life. From the age of 9 to 16 nothing was more important to me and some of my sisters than time spent with our horses. The seasons would pretty much determine what we’d be doing, and my favourite season of all was summer, when you’d ride bareback down for a swim at the Spit on the Clarence River. The horses were indolent, with grass bellies and sun-faded coats. Swimming your horse lent a magical quality of power to any afternoon. So too the stop that always followed a swim, at the long-gone Villiers St corner shop for a little whitepaper bag of mixed lollies that certain horses also loved to eat. The first horse book I can remember reading was Right Royal by John Masefield. It had been one of my English grandmother’s books. It held many line drawings as well as beautiful tissue-guarded colour plates. Next probably would’ve been Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty followed by Mary O’Hara’s ‘Wyoming’ trilogy and some of Elyne Mitchell’s ‘Silver Brumby’ and Mary Grant Bruce’s ‘Billabong’ books. If a book had a horse on the cover it was greeted with potential reverence, confirmed once you verified that it wasn’t a ridiculous horse-girl book. When I first read John Steinbeck’s classic The Red Pony I was deeply affected because my best friend’s pony had just had strangles and not long after that died a terrible death from tetanus. I loved the horses that appeared as a matter of course in many of Nan Chauncy’s novels. There was also the mare Bless in a Herman Hesse, and Bree and Hwin, the Narnian horses from C S Lewis’s The Horse and His Boy, and most recently of all, Nino from The Crossing, stabbed in the breast by a Mexican bandit. Henry Wynmalen’s Equitation was borrowed almost constantly from Grafton High School library by one Mears girl or another. I also often took out anthologies of horse stories that yielded gems such as D H Lawrence’s ‘Rocking Horse Winner’, a favourite to this day. After leaving home, my dream of becoming a better rider never abated. I was learning many marvellous things with Bellini, the last horse in my life, an ex-racehorse from Queensland, when the onset of MS when I was 31 stopped the lessons dead in their tracks.

Jealousy between Minna and her daughter-in- law Noah, and then between Noah and her daughter Lainey, threaten to destroy their relationships. Do you find jealousy an interesting emotion to write about?
The very word jealousy seems alive. Like a snake gliding into a house there is a feeling of danger, danger! I once saw a king brown snake that had found its way into the vacuum cleaner bag under a child’s bed. The mother threw snake and bag into a cauldron of water coming to the boil on the stove. I feel that in Foal’s Bread, no jealousy shines with such reptilian glossiness as that that breaks out in Noah for her beloved daughter. I found that those chapters unpeeled from my pen with little need of rewriting. Older writings of mine have also investigated the sly and malignant force that is jealousy.

Some of the characters, in particular Minna, could have been deeply unsympathetic, but you manage to keep her just this side of that. Was this difficult to achieve?
I found Minna’s humanity shone out in one startling similarity to Noah—both women in different parts of the book feel ashamed to cry. This poignant recognition made it possible to maintain the relentless portrayal of the flinty, mean old Minna.

Your previous novels and short stories have won many awards, including the Vogel Award and several Commonwealth Writers’ Prizes. Did these awards offer you more freedom, or did they put pressure on you as a writer?
It’s hard to answer this question with unequivocal certainty. Although at one level the prizes came always as a genuine surprise, somewhere deeper in I would accept that they were emphasising that writing was my rightful destiny. The most stress I’ve ever felt in my writing life happened when completing The Grass Sister. This was due to a basic mistrust in my material. I was struggling to find the story I really needed to tell. This rather than any pressure from any prize is what delayed The Grass Sister’s completion by many months.

There appears to be a trend in Australian literary fiction for historical novels with a rural setting. What was it about this time and place that appealed to you?
In many ways writing reminds me of riding an old familiar horse. One wisdom text that always faces out on my bookshelf is equestrian Paul Belasik’s Riding towards the Light (Robert Hale). I’ve always thought that it could just as easily be called Writing towards the Light. Or I’ve thought that writing fiction is like whip-cracking, letting the plaited leather float out in front of you before bringing it back with an almighty crack. I let the whip of Foal’s Bread float out for so many years that I nearly never brought it back. Finally though, my lifelong love and unerring affection for men and women born between the wars demanded that I narrate my novel using their vocabulary. I’ve always loved the great storytelling abilities of that generation. I think of the loneliness and hominess of their old huts. I hear their slow, heart-broken voices, even as they’re telling some incredible story (their voice like a race being called, up and down, up and down) that will practically split you in two with laughter. I wanted to catch the kindness and never-ending generosity of that generation. Certain old horsemen would never charge money to hog your horse’s mane before disappearing for a while on a spree that would leave them high and dry and nearly dead on the bed for days. In conclusion, although I grew up in the 60s and 70s, it’s as if the sound of an earlier era runs in my blood like an old kero pump choot-choot-choot.

What the last book you read and loved?
The Crossing, which is the second volume in Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Border Trilogy’.

BOOK REVIEW: Everyday Kindness: Shortcuts to a Happier and More Confident Life (Stephanie Dowrick, A&U)

Once again, Stephanie Dowrick has drawn on her extensive experience as a psychotherapist, interfaith minister and writer to deliver a book that will appeal to anyone looking to improve the quality of their life. The premise of Everyday Kindness is that everyone has the power to bring joy or healing to another person’s life, as well as their own, through a simple act of kindness. Whether you’re a longtime spiritual devotee or more of a novice, looking for direction on how to live a life less preoccupied by individual need, this book will be of value to all. Each chapter deals with a different aspect of everyday life, including self-confidence, personal power, moods and relationships, which Dowrick explores through facts and personal stories from the her own experiences. The chapters are short, designed to be read in a single sitting, encouraging reflection before moving onto the next. The book also works as a reference book that can be revisited often. Each new chapter reinforces the overriding theme that kindness should be practiced every day, in all aspects of life. This is insightful, stimulating reading, which will leave readers feeling positive about themselves, and what can be achieved with like-minded people.

Sherri Kalow is manager of Watermark Books at Melbourne Airport. This review first appeared in the November issue of  Bookseller+Publisher magazine.

BOOK REVIEW: Darius Bell and the Crystal Bees (Odo Hirsch, A&U)

Due to a mysterious illness, every bee on the Bell estate has perished. Not only does this mean that no honey will be produced this year but the fruits and vegetables in the Bell orchard will not be pollinated. Those who read Darius Bell’s previous adventure will know that the Bell family has a large house with huge grounds, but very little money. They depend on the bounty from their garden for food and trade. Darius’ father doesn’t grasp how serious the situation is, while the mayor hates the Bell family and is actively working against them. Once again it is up to Darius to find a solution to the problem. Odo Hirsh writes great problem-stories where the kids are resourceful and the grown-ups are mostly incompetent and easily outwitted by Darius. Woven through the story is the science behind pollination, but it fits in well with the narrative and doesn’t seem like a science lesson has been dropped in the middle of a story. This book references Darius Bell and the Glitter Pool, but it is not essential to have read book one to understand this story. This is a very enjoyable read for a thoughtful upper-primary reader.

Amelia Vahtrick is the children’s book buyer at Better Read Than Dead and was awarded the Australian Booksellers Association’s Young Bookseller of the Year in 2011. This review first appeared in the October issue of  Bookseller+Publisher magazine.

BOOK REVIEW: The Coming of the Whirlpool: Ship Kings Book 1 (Andrew McGahan, A&U)

Dow Amber doesn’t fit in in his quiet mountain village. Ever since his first distant glimpse of the sea he has felt strangely drawn by a longing to sail. But travelling the ocean is forbidden to the people of New Island ever since they were conquered by the Ship Kings 80 years ago. Dow’s secret connection to his island’s seafaring past leads to his apprenticeship to a bitter old fisherman, his family killed by the great Maelstrom, and eventually to a meeting with the fabled Ship Kings themselves. This book shows the beginnings of the man destined to become the greatest mariner of his age. The Coming of the Whirlpool is acclaimed novelist Andrew McGahan’s first YA novel, and begins a new series chronicling the life of Dow Amber among the Ship Kings. McGahan has crafted a classic adventure tale with the potential to grow to a true epic over subsequent volumes that promise to continue Dow’s life story. McGahan captures the mystery and romance of the sea, and draws us in with his fine portrayal of his restless lead. This is a recommended read for fans of epic oceanic adventures.

Heath Graham is an educator currently working at the State Library of Victoria. This review first appeared in the October issue of  Bookseller+Publisher magazine. (See Heath Graham’s interview with Andrew McGahan here.)

BOOK REVIEW: Double Entry (Jane Gleeson-White, A&U)

A history of double-entry bookkeeping is not, at first thought, a likely subject for a riveting book. Yet that is what wordsmith Jane Gleeson-White gives us, by crafting a book that may be read two ways. For readers interested in modern accountancy she describes the ancient origins of the profession, its rapid ascendency during the Italian Renaissance and its transformation into the powerful financial management tool we know today. Her view of its future importance is startling and sobering. The more general reader should enjoy her detailed exploration of the life of the ‘father’ of bookkeeping, Renaissance man Luca Pacioli. A multi-talented man, friend and collaborator of Leonardo da Vinci and other luminaries, Pacioli’s crowning achievement was the writing of a 27-page treatise explaining, for the first time, the theory and application of what has become known as double-entry bookkeeping. The merchants of Venice were quick to understand and adopt the method: other mercantile economies began to use it soon after (though some resisted). Gleeson-White gives us a lively account of Pacioli’s eventful life and times, which leavens the more formal aspects of her text. Like Mark Kurlansky’s Cod and Salt, this one should appeal to most readers of single-subject narrative history.

Max Oliver is long-serving, Sydney-based bookseller. This review first appeared in the October issue of  Bookseller+Publisher magazine.

BOOK REVIEW: Foal’s Bread (Gillian Mears, A&U)

It’s been 16 years since Gillian Mears published her last novel, The Grass Sister, which won the regional Commonwealth Prize for best book in 1996. The Mint Lawn won the 1991 Vogel Award and she has also written a number of award-winning short-story collections. Foal’s Bread takes its title from a small object that, on rare occasions, is found in a new foal’s mouth at birth. It looks like bread, hence the name, but nobody really knows what it is. It is thought to be lucky, however. If the horse is a jumper, it will jump high; if it’s a sprinter, it will run fast.

Set in rural NSW prior to WWII, the book opens with 14-year-old Noah and her father droving pigs to a farm. That evening while the men are off drinking, Noah deliverers the baby she barely knew she was carrying, fathered by her now dead uncle. When the infant cries she wishes it had been born dead, saving her the trouble of killing it. But she finds she cannot kill it, and instead sends her baby floating down the river in a box. That image will haunt her.

When Noah meets champion horse-jumper Roley at a country show he is impressed by her riding and jumping skills. He lends her the foal’s bread he carries with him and she jumps even higher. Over several years their relationship develops, until Roley marries Noah and brings her back to the family farm. Her skills at the farm are useful, but not enough to overcome the jealousy that Roley’s mother Minna feels at being displaced in her son’s affections. Two children are born, but after a time Roley’s physical condition begins to decline. As his body deteriorates, so does his relationship with Noah. And when Noah’s daughter Lainey starts jumping higher than she ever did, Noah is jealous—hating herself for it, but unable to help it. Her own life, so ordinary, is a disappointment.

The relationships between the characters in Foal’s Bread are rich and varied, and Mears rarely takes the obvious route as she explores emotions of love, jealousy, frustration and disappointment. Despite their many flaws and foibles, I found it impossible not to feel for each of the characters as they grappled with their problems; even mother-in-law Minna, with her constant sniping and jealousy, remained sympathetic, and this is a testament to Mears’ skill.

Foal’s Bread is a book to be read slowly and savoured. The country setting and language of the time are beautifully captured and the characters are intricately observed. Mears obviously loves horses, and the horsejumping shows, with their smells and sounds, come alive on the page. Mears is up there with Tim Winton and Kate Grenville. Let’s hope her next book isn’t as far off.

Heather Dyer is the owner of Fairfield Books in Melbourne. This review first appeared in the October issue of  Bookseller+Publisher magazine.