‘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: Cuckoo! (Fiona Roberton, Viking)

Cuckoo is a little bird who doesn’t quite fit in or, more particularly, no matter how many ways he tries saying ‘cuckoo’, he cannot find anyone to understand him. So he sets out to look for someone who does. After several brave attempts at conversing with an array of animals (and you will find these in the brilliant endpapers), Cuckoo is no closer to finding someone to talk to, so he decides to enroll in Madame Sheep’s School of Excellence and learn the language of sheep instead. Despite his very best efforts, however, Cuckoo cannot make himself understood, nor has he heard anyone who sounds remotely like him. Exhausted, he flies up to the rooftops to find a quiet spot to sleep when, through the darkness, he hears a faint yet familiar sound. For all those readers who loved Wanted: The Perfect Pet and The Perfect Present, Fiona Roberton has triumphed again in writing a story about finding that special someone who understands us perfectly (although the ending may not be quite what you were expecting!). A joy to read for pre-school to early primary-age children who will also love the simple, cartoon-style illustrations and may even spot someone they recognise!

Hilary Adams works in an independent bookshop in Sydney and has studied the art of picture books. This review first appeared in the Junior Issue 3 edition of Bookseller+Publisher Magazine.View more pre-publication reviews here

BOOK REVIEW: Things a Map Won’t Show You (ed by Susan La Marca & Pam Macintyre, Penguin)

This collection of short stories, poetry, images and nonfiction, aimed at children aged 12 and up, comprises new and established authors from the Asia-Pacific region. The styles vary, but most contributions evoke an enchanting sense of place or interactions between cultures—for example, stories about refugees and migrants—which gives the collection an overall focus. Some inclusions are weaker, especially some of the poetry, although Doug MacLeod’s humorous verses are a highlight. Some contributions are suitable for younger readers, while others track first forays into love or are quite violent and even morbid, such as Peta Freestone’s ‘Milford Sound’, which deals with abuse, sorrow and death (it is wonderfully wrought and one of the standouts); Sofie Laguna’s ‘Learning to Fly’, in which the protagonist jumps from a roof; and Pat Lowe’s ‘Yinti’s Kitten’, in which the narrator feeds the brains of a cat to its own kitten, then abuses the kitten in a fit of frustration (this sounds horrific, but is actually a powerful fable). Chris Wheat’s hilarious ‘Guide to Better Kissing for Australian Teens’ is another highlight. In all, the collection feels imperfect, but there are some gems, and the idea behind it is fantastic. It would make a great series.

Hannah Francis is a bookseller at the Sun Bookshop in Yarraville. This review first appeared in the Summer issue of Bookseller+Publisher magazine.

BOOK REVIEW: The Reluctant Hallelujah (Gabrielle Williams, Penguin)

Seventeen-year-old Dodie Farnshaw just wanted to finish high school, sit her Year 12 exams and get on with the rest of her life. Delivering a very important dead guy to Sydney just two weeks before her final exams was not in the plan. Neither was her parents going missing, becoming a fugitive and falling in love. And she certainly wasn’t anticipating a road trip that would change her life. Funny, vibrant and at times incredibly moving, The Reluctant Hallelujah is a beautiful novel about finding faith in the strangest of places. With a quirky cast of characters, this novel captures a wide range of relationships and skilfully explores that time in a teenager’s life when everything is changing. Sharp, clever and surprisingly amusing for a book about a dead man, Gabrielle William’s latest YA adventure is a bittersweet story filled with characters you’ll never want to leave behind, and a road trip you’ll wish was your own. This book will appeal to a 15-plus age group, and is a must-read for fans of William’s widely acclaimed first YA novel, Beatle Meets Destiny.

Meg Whelan works at the Hill of Content bookshop in Melbourne. This review first appeared in the Summer issue of Bookseller+Publisher magazine.

BOOK REVIEW: The Reluctant Hallelujah (Gabrielle Williams, Penguin)

Seventeen-year-old Dodie Farnshaw just wanted to finish high school, sit her Year 12 exams and get on with the rest of her life. Delivering a very important dead guy to Sydney just two weeks before her final exams was not in the plan. Neither was her parents going missing, becoming a fugitive and falling in love. And she certainly wasn’t anticipating a road trip that would change her life. Funny, vibrant and at times incredibly moving, The Reluctant Hallelujah is a beautiful novel about finding faith in the strangest of places. With a quirky cast of characters, this novel captures a wide range of relationships and skilfully explores that time in a teenager’s life when everything is changing. Sharp, clever and surprisingly amusing for a book about a dead man, Gabrielle William’s latest YA adventure is a bittersweet story filled with characters you’ll never want to leave behind, and a road trip you’ll wish was your own. This book will appeal to a 15-plus age group, and is a must-read for fans of William’s widely acclaimed first YA novel, Beatle Meets Destiny.

Meg Whelan works at the Hill of Content bookshop in Melbourne. This review first appeared in the Summer issue of Bookseller+Publisher magazine.

BOOK REVIEW: When We Were Two (Robert Newton, Penguin)

Reading Robert Newton’s latest historical novel for teens, I was often reminded of the popular Rolf Harris song, ‘Two Little Boys’. Here, in the context of World War I, Newton evokes similar sentiments surrounding mateship and protectiveness with his tale of two young, vulnerable brothers journeying across the dusty Australian landscape. Sick of his father’s abuse, 16-year-old Dan runs away in search of his mum, who abandoned him and his younger brother Eddie years earlier. Trudging through the bush, however, Dan realises he’s not alone—Eddie is following him—and he is left with little choice but to take him along. After much hardship on the road, the two fall in with a group of would-be soldiers, discovering a sense of direction and belonging they’d never experienced before—until tragedy forces Dan to stand on his own two feet. With an underlying message about how running away isn’t enough, you need to know where you’re going, this richly crafted character piece has all the hallmarks of classic Australian literature. Blending fact with fiction, Newton explores issues around heroism, masculinity and national identity with tenderness and intelligence, making this an excellent resource for sparking an interest in local history among readers aged 12 and up.

Meredith Tate is a freelance proofreader, editor and reviewer who has worked for a children’s publisher. This review first appeared in the September issue of Junior Bookseller+Publisher magazine.

INTERVIEW: Isobelle Carmody on ‘The Sending’ (Penguin)

Isobelle Carmody is back with book six in the ‘Obernewtyn Chronicles’. Reviewer Stefen Brazulaitis writes, ‘The good news for fans is that it is not the last [Obernewtyn book], although it does manoeuvre the characters into position for what looks to be a fairly dramatic conclusion.’ He spoke to Carmody.

The animal characters in the ‘Obernewtyn Chronicles’ are as fleshed out and integral to the story as any of the humans. Was this always the intent, or did they grow in the telling?
I have felt humans as a race have this weird paradoxical relationship to animals. We revere them when we are not eating them. Put a dog in the worst movie, and it suddenly gains a heart. Many people are nicer to their animals than to other humans. I have trouble with the fact that we use them as commodities. The whole factory farming thing is an abomination. The book I had the most fun in my life writing was Billy Thunder and the Nightgate. I turned all of my dogs and the goat I saved from slaughter (by handing over $20 and driving off with it in my beat-up old sportscar, hanging onto it by one horn so it couldn’t leap out of the car or stab me in the head while I drove it down the Great Ocean Road!) into speaking characters, but animals permeate my books as important thinking feeling characters. When we care for an animal that is when our higher self is activated.

Magic in the ‘Obernewtyn Chronicles’ is firmly grounded in real-world mysticism. What do you think of the ways magic is being used in modern fantasy?
I find magic harder to take now than when I was a child. I loved the Magic Faraway Tree as a little kid, but when I tried to read it to my daughter as an adult, I really could not bear it. That said, I really enjoyed the Harry Potter books and the magic in them was interesting and diverse and wholly enjoyable—maybe it was the darkness in those books that made me like them so much.

How did you conceive the structure of the series?
I always knew I was writing a series. At 14 I had read the Narnia books and other series, and I took in that one wrote more books if there was a larger story to tell than would fit in one book—by that I mean, a story which was not episodic but a number of discrete steps in an overarching story. It is really important to me that each book works in its own right, hence the gaps of time between them. And when the series grew, from The Stone Key onward, I was very careful where the books would end. I could not let one book turn into more until I found the right spot to stop. The structure in the next book is pretty much the same as in the others, despite the size, except that it is the first one where we do not end with Elspeth at Obernewtyn, and the last one, The Red Queen, will be the first that does not begin at Obernewtyn. That is the only change.

BOOK REVIEW: Midnight in Peking (Paul French, Viking)

Peking was the name of the city of Beijing, before Mao Zedong and the Communist Party introduced the modern standard of writing to China. The name conjures up the nostalgia of old China prior to the Cultural Revolution, a puzzle of controlled chaos and a place of superstition, fraught with danger, where Westerners could seek out adventure and gain riches from spice trade. In 1937, this was a city abandoned by Chiang Kai-shek, controlled by warlords, and on the brink of invasion by Japan.

Midnight in Peking is a nonfiction mystery on the brutal death of Pamela Werner, an English girl in Peking, which shocked the city as well as the world. She was the daughter of the eccentric Edward Werner, a former British consul to China and respected academic. The story follows the investigation into her death, following Detective Chief Inspector Richard Dennis as he unravelled the truth and was stopped on each new path by troubling dead ends. Edward Werner later made it his personal mission to find the killer after Dennis was taken off the case. The media interest in the death fuelled the rumour mill, thwarting the investigation. The gossip and fears of the people combined with anxieties about the impending war.

International diplomats and businessmen lived in the Legation Quarter, a section of the city carved out by the colonialists. Alongside the quarter in the Badlands lived prostitutes, drug addicts and gamblers. In French’s account, everyone here had something to hide and corruption lurked below the surface.

Pamela Werner’s body was found dumped below the Fox Tower, part of the city wall. At night the tower was filled with bats, visited by nasty dogs and according to the Chinese was inhabited by mischievous and deadly fox spirits. The superstition further fuelled anxieties.

Paul French has masterfully recreated the murder investigation from mountains of research of a 74-year-old crime, taking it on as a ‘cold case’ to be solved. French has also painted a beautifully intriguing picture of the city. The story lacks dialogue because of its nonfiction style, but this doesn’t detract from the narrative, as the reader is kept absorbed by the curious tale. Against the backdrop of the Japanese invasion of China, the story shares the same historical period as Empire of the Sun by J G Ballard (HarperPerennial) and both tell the story of the Westerner in China. I recommend this book to anyone who would like to glimpse old Peking and particularly those who enjoy a good murder-mystery.

Ben Ball presented the book at the Book Buzz session at the Australian Booksellers Association conference in July as one of the top three Penguin books to be released this year. The book was also presented at Books at MIFF as a novel that has potential for screen adaptation and pitched as, ‘An opportunity to make a Chinese-Australian coproduction with real international appeal.’

Paul French is touring Australia in September and appearing at the Melbourne Writers Festival and Brisbane Writers Festival. The book has its own website here.

The August issue is here!

Did we forget to mention that the August issue of Bookseller+Publisher is in our hot little hands?

Much goodness in this issue (starting with the macaron delights on the cover, courtesy of Adriano Zumbo’s forthcoming cookbook, which is due from Murdoch Books in October). We’ve got: 25 reviews, including Gleebooks co-owner David Gaunt on Anna Funder’s debut novel All That I Am (Hamish Hamilton, September), Readings Books owner Mark Rubbo reporting from Book Expo America, Pip Newling taking a look at how local booksellers are selling online, Andrew Wrathall rounding up this year’s Father’s Day titles, Max Barry in praise of ebooks, plus we celebrate 90 years of Bookseller+Publisher.

That’s not to mention the usual news, profiles and author interviews with Funder, Diane Armstrong and Margaret Wild.

You can also check out the July issue of the magazine online here.

RiP Ruth Park

Penguin publishing director Bob Sessions recalls the publishing life of his friend and mentor Ruth Park: 

I was very saddened to hear that my dear friend Ruth Park has passed on. She held a very special place in my life, both as someone I held in immense respect, and also as a remarkable author and lovely human being. Ruth’s manners and thoughtfulness took these attributes to new heights. Ruth was a beautiful woman for all of her long life.

I am writing this in Vietnam, without being able to check dates and details. But I think my close relationship with Ruth Park goes back to her Miles Franklin Award-winning novel, Swords, and Crowns and Rings, which I published in 1977 when I was at Nelson. My colleague (she was actually my mentor although she ostensibly worked for me) was the great editor Beatrice Davis. They were two of the best mannered people I have ever known, but both with wills of steel. ‘My Dear Beatrice … editing is one thing, but wholesale cuts is something else entirely…’ and so on. I watched with awe.

I like to think I persuaded Ruth to write her autobiography–although of course no one persuaded Ruth to do anything. When she finally did, I will never forget reading the first few pages of the first volume, A Fence Around the Cuckoo, which, with a nod to the novelist she was, she started in the third person, as reader watched (with her) a young girl moving down the upstairs corridor of her house in New Zealand, and of course the young girl was Ruth. What a wonderful way of introducing the subject of an autobiography!

The hugely successful Playing Beattie Bow I published when at Nelson and then the paperback came out when I moved back to Penguin. The book was never off the reprint list, as child after child devoured the magical tale of those children in early Sydney.

Most of Ruth’s books are in print in Penguin, and as we all know, generations of Australians will remember her for her marvelous Muddle Headed Wombat series.

I never met her writer husband, Darcy Niland, but Ruth often spoke of him and it was quite obvious that theirs was a love that endured. I had the pleasure of being involved in the publication of books featuring the work of her daughters, Kilmeny and Deborah. During my many years at Penguin I have been responsible for reprinting The Harp in the South and Poor Man’s Orange at least annually.

She was included in The Bulletin’s list of ‘The 100 Most Influential Australians in 2006, and was made a member of the Order of Australia in 1987. She was extremely modest and often chose not to attend awards ceremonies and official events.

There have been three hugely influential Australian women of a certain age in my literary life: Beatrice Davis; Thea Astley–and Ruth Park. I miss them all very much.

RS, 17 December 2010.