This book is absolutely spell-binding, in so many ways!
It follows the story of Emmett, a farmer’s son who is summoned to be an apprentice for a binder – a woman who removes people’s most terrible memories and binds those memories into a book, which she then locks away in a vault to protect them forever.
Emmett isn’t entirely certain why he’s been called to do such a task, and finds that people view the ‘job’ of binding as either helpful, or terrible. Books themselves are seen as terrible things, because each one is the genuine memories of a person, who can no longer access those memories themselves, and generally people only go to a Binder because their memories are so terrible they can barely live under the weight of them.
But then the binder dies, and Emmett discovers one of the books in her vault has his name on it.
What was so awful he chose to have it’s memory wiped from his mind forever?
There is so much to love about this story, but I feel that to share those snippets might give away some of the storyline, and one of the things I loved was how the story took a turn I wasn’t really expecting beforehand, and how beautiful that storyline turned out to be.
I’m reviewing something a little bit different this time.
The Balfour Correspondent is not a novel. It’s a collection of letters sent by 14 year old Sylvia M’Arthur from Balfour, on Tasmania’s West Coast, to the ‘Young Folks’ page of Launceston’s ‘Weekly Courier’ in 1912, and interspersed with replies from James Dryburgh, writing from Hobart one hundred years later.
Through Syvlia’s letters there is a glimpse of a world and time completely different from our own. At the time of writing, Syliva and her family had just moved to Balfour, a small town consisting of a handful of shops and a small school. They’d moved there because of the mine, where her father had work.
Now, there is almost nothing left of Balfour. It’s been reclaimed by the forests that surround it, and James Balfour’s response to Sylvia’s letters speaks of this, and of what has changed in our world in general in the hundred years or so since Sylvia lived, and what has stayed the same.
It’s a fascinating, and in some places, terribly sad read. And it makes me wonder what other gems are lurking in our newspapers, waiting to be found.
I really enjoyed this story.
‘Beneath the Mother Tree’ is the story of Ayla, returned back to her island home after a year on the Australian mainland at University. Summer has been it’s usual, but now two newcomers have moved onto the island, Riley and his mother Marlise, a strange woman who prefers to keep to herself, and is struggling with giving her now adult son his independence.
Ayla and Riley are attracted to each other, but Ayla’s Grandfather, known as ‘Grappa’ is convinced that Riley is Far Dorocha, a dark servant of the Queen of Faery, and his mother might be the Queen herself. Raised on his grandmother’s tales from her homeland of Ireland, Grappa has no doubt that these beings exist, and does everything in his power to keep Ayla seperate and safe from these dark beings.
This is such a fascinating and unique Australian story.
Maud has dementia. She’s forgetful and confused, her thoughts slipping between the present and the past, and sometimes – often – mixing up the two.
In order to remember, Maud writes herself notes, and her notes tell her that Elizabeth is not answering her phone, and is never home when Maud visits, and through the story we get the exasperated conversations with Elizabeth’s son, who refuses to tell Maud anything. She’s convinced he is involved, desperate to get his hands on his inheritance.
This disappearance triggers memories of Sukey, Maud’s sister, who disappeared without a trace 70 years earlier.
I loved this story! ‘Elizabeth is Missing’ is Emma Healey’s first novel, and is so skillfully done – Maud is the protagonist, and the story is told in first person, so her life and experience of the world unfolds before us in all it’s confusion, and yet the story is so well written that the reader is never (or rarely) confused, and the synchronicity of events that leads to both mysterious disappearances being solved doesn’t feel contrived. Highly recommended!
I have to thank one of the wonderful women in my local writers group for recommending this brilliant story!
Rivers of London follows probationary constable Peter Grant, who learns one night that he can see ghosts, when he tries to take a witness statement from one…
What follows is a brilliant story of the supernatural side of London.
There is a murderer on the loose, a spirit, able to infect people and set off a train of events that results in someone being violently murdered, while the person who carried out the murder completely unaware of exactly why they snapped and killed someone.
Meanwhile, Father Thames, and Mother Thames, both personifications of the great river that runs through the city, are having a disagreement, and their many children – all the smaller rivers and brooks and streams that run into the Thames, are involved.
Peter not only learns that magic is real, he learns how to wield it, his experiments (when he uses magic, his phone is destroyed, and he’s curious enough to try and figure out why) leading him to successfully summon a spirit with five calculators at the points of a pentagram, and a glow-stick instead of a candle.
Rivers of London is witty, and well written, a brilliant story line.
Set in the 1300’s in England, this is a story of witchcraft.
It’s filled with a cast of characters: there’s a wool merchant, his wife, two sons, and their two servants. There’s a wealthy widow and her adult son and young daughter, and their servant. There’s a boatman and his wife and children. And there’s a ghost, and his pet ferret, popping in to the story here and there to give his opinion of events.
When the wool merchant’s wife falls sick, it’s the widow who steps in to nurse her. Though the servant suspects foul play, everyone else has only praise for the selflessness of the widow. No one bats an eyelid when, only a few short weeks later, the wool merchant announces he is to marry the widow. Only the merchant’s sons speak up about it, and when the oldest one turns up dead shortly thereafter it’s believed he’s been murdered by theives who’ve been stealing from the family business.
But the household’s ill luck doesn’t stop there. When the servant declares her suspicions of the new mistress of the house, she’s declared and mad and sent to live with the nuns who torture her with terrible ‘remedies’ supposed to cure madness – like a bath of ice, for example.
One thing after another goes wrong, and all the while it’s a mystery as to who is actually at fault – is it the widow, what about her daughter, who seems to know a little too well how to curse those who irritate her? And when it comes out that the widow’s servant is actually her mother… well, what was the purpose of that deception?
This is a bit different to my usual read. I don’t usually read memoir, but I’ve heard Tony talk about his book a couple of times now, and he read a section of his book out at the Little Laneway Festival, in November last year, and I had to read more.
The story is heartbreaking. Tony and his wife Sue are travelling through South America when Sue suffers from a brain aneurysm while they’re in Bolivia. Bolivia is a poor country, and so of course it’s hospitals are not equipped as well as the hospitals Tony is used to, here in Australia.
Even when Tony manages to break through the language barriers and make it understood that his wife needs a hospital, it takes time to get her there, and as the weeks drag on it’s uncertain whether she will ever leave.
From the start, Tony’s writing propels the reader back to that terrifying moment when his wife has a seizure in the bed beside him, and carries the reader back and forward through his and Sue’s history, and the painfully long 14 weeks before Sue can finally come home, now suffering from a condition very much like dementia, putting Tony in a new role of carer.
Extremely well written, I highly recommend this story.