The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

guernsey.jpgTitle: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society

Author: Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Genre: Literary Fiction/Historical Fiction

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: Movie tie-in published 21st March 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 280

Price: $22.99

Synopsis:A celebration of literature, love, and the power of the human spirit, this warm, funny, tender, and thoroughly entertaining novel is the story of an English author living in the shadow of World War II and the writing project that will dramatically change her life. An international bestseller.

‘I can’t remember the last time I discovered a novel as smart and delightful as this one. Treat yourself to this book, please–I can’t recommend it highly enough.’
Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love

The beloved, life-affirming international bestseller–now a major film coming in April 2018, starring Lily James, Matthew Goode, Jessica Brown Findlay, Tom Courtenay and Penelope Wilton.

It’s 1946. The war is over, and Juliet Ashton has writer’s block. But when she receives a letter from Dawsey Adams of Guernsey–a total stranger living halfway across the Channel, who has come across her name written in a second-hand book–she enters into a correspondence with him, and in time with all the members of the extraordinary Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

Through their letters, the society tell Juliet about life on the island, their love of books–and the long shadow cast by their time living under German occupation. Drawn into their irresistible world, Juliet sets sail for the island, changing her life forever.

Gloriously honest, enchanting and funny, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is sure to win your heart.

~*~

This book came to me as a surprise from Allen and Unwin, and it being the shortest of the ones that arrived the other day, I decided to read it first and work my way through the others over the next week or so. And what a lovely surprise it was! Juliet Ashton is a writer who has writer’s block and is searching for her next story. Whilst searching, she is contacted by Dawsey Adams, a member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society on one of the Channel Islands, who are emerging from years of occupation by German forces during World War Two. Dawsey’s letter begins the months of correspondence between the society and Juliet, and the novel is solely told in letters and telegrams. As Juliet begins to uncover a story in Guernsey and those who live there, she is courted by Markham Reynolds, and goes to the island to do research for her book, leaving Markham behind. As Juliet corresponds with the society members and her publishers, a picture of their life and what they have been through unfolds, with heart-warming results for many of the characters of the book.

The use of letters to tell the story was really quite effective because you got to know the characters and their voices, how they thought and what they enjoyed doing, and even though some questions or letters might not have had direct answers, the questions in them were given in other letters, ensuring that their stories were told. Within these stories was that of Elizabeth and her daughter Kit, and Markham Reynolds, who was keen on Juliet. I enjoyed the way these two plot points were dealt with, and that Juliet was of her own mind, and her own person – she was probably my favourite, next to Dawsey and Kit.

Key to the society is literature, and what it means to them. The literary society they created is what got them through the war, and what they survived on – potato peel pie, and what they did to try and keep the German forces at bay and survive. It is touching and at times sad when you read some of the letters, but it has the impact needed: showing what happened and how people dealt with it. A very touching testament to the power of the human spirit, and what people do in the face of adversity for themselves and each other.

The letters are peppered with literary references, and talk about books – the solace that they give, and what they meant to the society but also the Channel Island of Guernsey as a whole, as they endured things they never thought they would endure. Literature and their society pulled them through, showing the power of literature and how it can help people in hard times.

The novel is both peaceful and heartbreaking – the memories and aftershocks of the years of German occupation are not quickly forgotten, especially as someone who knew Elizabeth and knew of her fate comes into their lives, and the realities of what was happening on the European Continent hit home for the society members. There are hints of romance, but the focus is on Juliet and the society members, and their friendship and the family they have built for themselves and Kit, whose entertaining and intriguing character is revealed through the letters.

I really enjoyed this novel and read it quite quickly. It reflects on how war can affect a small community, and in this instance, bring them closer together as family, and the way they welcomed someone else into their family and society, where they could help each other heal as they emerged from an occupation during wartime and the implications of that, where their love of literature binds them together.

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Little Gods by Jenny Ackland

little gods.jpgTitle: Little Gods

Author: Jenny Ackland

Genre: Literary Fiction

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 28th March 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 346

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: A rare, original and stunning novel about a remarkable girl who learns the hard way that the truth doesn’t always set you free – with echoes of Jasper JonesSeven Little Australians and Cloudstreet.

As a child, trapped in the savage act of growing up, Olive had sensed she was at the middle of something, so close to the nucleus she could almost touch it with her tongue. But like looking at her own nose for too long, everything became blurry and she had to pull away. She’d reached for happiness as a child not yet knowing that the memories she was concocting would become deceptive. That memories get you where they want you not the other way around. 

The setting is the Mallee, wide flat scrubland in north-western Victoria, country where men are bred quiet, women stoic and the gothic is never far away. Olive Lovelock has just turned twelve. She is smart, fanciful and brave and on the cusp of something darker than the small world she has known her entire life.

She knows that adults aren’t very good at keeping secrets and makes it her mission to uncover as many as she can. When she learns that she once had a baby sister who died – a child unacknowledged by her close but challenging family – Olive becomes convinced it was murder. Her obsession with the mystery and relentless quest to find out what happened have seismic repercussions for the rest of her family and their community. As everything starts to change, it is Olive herself who has the most to lose as the secrets she unearths multiply and take on complicated lives of their own.

Little Gods is a novel about the mess of family, about vengeance and innocence lost. It explores resilience and girlhood and questions how families live with all of their complexities and contradictions. Resonating with echoes of great Australian novels like Seven Little AustraliansCloudstreet, and Jasper JonesLittle Gods is told with similar idiosyncrasy, insight and style. Funny and heartbreaking, this is a rare and original novel about a remarkable girl who learns the hard way that the truth doesn’t always set you free.

~*~

Olive Lovelock’s family has been touched by tragedy – tragedies that nobody in the family wants to talk about, to Olive or to each other. They are secrets that are closely guarded by those that hold them, though Olive longs to uncover them, much like the child detectives she reads about. Her mother is the middle of three sisters –  Thistle, Audra and Rue. Audra and Rue married brothers William and Bruce, and the lives of these sisters, brothers and their children weave in and out of Olive’s narrative as she goes through her final year of primary school, and the summer before she becomes a teenager. Closer to her aunts than her mother, as she participates in plays with her cousins that Thistle encourages them to put on, Olive uncovers family secrets about a dead sister, and things that Thistle went through as a young woman by listening, and from a bully at school – one of the Sands brothers, a secret child her family refuses to acknowledge.

AWW-2018-badge-roseUpon hearing about this sister, Aster, Olive becomes obsessed with finding out what happened, and goes to Aunt Thistle, whose openness with Olive is a stark contrast to that of her mother Audra, or other aunt, Rue, and hints at a sadness in Thistle, a secret that she has been dealing with for many years, and something in her past that she has never recovered from. Jenny Ackland deals with the complexities of familial relationships, and mental illness – where the unsaid amongst the many has a more profound affect upon the few who yearn to talk about it.

Olive is on the cusp of childhood and becoming a teenager –  a place where she feels she doesn’t quite fit in with anyone, and where the misery and tragedy her family has experienced seems to permeate everything they do and how they deal with it – and Jenny Ackland has dealt with this in a sensitive manner, and yet, I felt Olive’s frustration at her parents and family members who wouldn’t talk about Aster, who wouldn’t answer questions and acted as though certain things weren’t appropriate to discuss at all, or appropriate for Olive herself to be talking about, such as when Olive was helping her uncle Cleg with records. Yet, it is Olive’s spirit that encourages her to pursue the truth and find answers to the mystery of her sister. She wants to help her family heal and answer the questions that play on her mind all the time.

It is a uniquely Australian story, set in Mallee and Victoria, in the country, and with mentions of Vegemite, and hints at events of the early 1980s that have become embedded in the Australian psyche. It is very character driven, and seeing the world through Olive’s eyes illustrates how different people in the same family can see the world and their lives in vastly different ways.

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Munmun by Jesse Andrews

Munmun.jpgTitle: Munmun

Author: Jesse Andrews

Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian Fiction

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 28th March, 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 416

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: A pointed, amusing and highly-original story set in an alternate reality wherein every person’s physical size is directly proportional to their wealth, by the best-selling author of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.

In an alternate reality a lot like our world, every person’s physical size is directly proportional to their wealth. The poorest of the poor are the size of rats, and billionaires are the size of skyscrapers. Warner and his sister Prayer are destitute – and tiny. Their size is not just demeaning, but dangerous: day and night they face mortal dangers that bigger richer people don’t ever have to think about, from being mauled by cats to their house getting stepped on. There are no cars or phones built small enough for them, or schools or hospitals, for that matter – there’s no point, when no one that little has any purchasing power, and when salaried doctors and teachers would never fit in buildings so small.

Warner and Prayer know their only hope is to scale up, but how can two littlepoors survive in a world built against them?

From the bestselling author of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl comes a brilliant, warm, skewering social novel for our times in the tradition of Great Expectations, 1984 and Invisible Man.

~*~

Munmun is a satirical, tongue in cheek story about wealth, and the privileges that come with it. As littlepoors – the smallest on the scale of wealth, Warner and his sister (consistently referred to as sis throughout). Prayer, have no power. They’ve got no way of working their way to a higher scale. But when an opportunity arises for them to leave where they have lived their whole lives, and start a journey to scale up, they take the chance, and traverse the strange country that is the Yewess, with places with names like Wet Almanac, and two different worlds – LifeandDeath World – Day and Dreamworld -Night. It is a world where wealth, education and opportunity is proportionate to size, an alternate world much like our own, but also a bit of a dystopia, where no matter how much some people have, it will never be enough, mirroring some of the attitudes in the world today, and where the bigrich look down on the littlepoors for not trying harder, even though those higher up on the scale don’t try to help them, but rather, blame them for the situation life has put them in.

it is narrated by Warner, and we see the world of each scale level through his eyes, from the littlepoor to the highest rich scale and beyond – and his journey to getting Scaled Up so he can make something of himself, but he thwarts every opportunity those in the middle present him with – or so it seems, on his quest to better the lives of those like him.

At times reading this, I wondered where the story was, and where the character growth – other than physically Scaling Up was. The mashed together words and the way Warner spoke worked at first, but once everyone, even those who had more education in the book than him did it, I began to wonder if that was the way Warner heard them, or whether the entire fictional nation spoke like that. For Warner, it worked, as it was him telling the story – though having everyone else speak exactly like him left little room for character growth and development, which would have added to the novel – which has the promise of being amusing whilst still being an allegory for the greed in the world today.

It is definitely a satirical allegory of society today – and that aspect worked really well, showing how greed affects people and what some people are willing to do to have it all, and the lengths they will go to. I did find the consistently mashed together words distracting if I put the book down, so I read whole chunks in a single sitting because that ensured the flow of the way the characters spoke and spoke about their world – putting it aside meant I needed a few pages to get used to it again, however, I feel for the purposes of the satire, it has worked – even the misspellings worked and were mostly understandable, as most of them were related to cities or countries, and it was as though we were reading Warner’s thought patterns and the way he understood spoken words as opposed to written words.

At times, the mashed together words worked, and at times, they didn’t – perhaps allowing other characters to not do this would also have been an effective way to show the differences in speech patterns for classes in society.

Overall, it was a rather strange book, not quite what I usually read. The premise is interesting, and the plot seemed to be rushed in places, especially the end. Whether this was intentional or not, I’m not sure – but in a way it worked because whilst the first few parts related Warner’s struggles, the last part was focussed on how munmun had made him greedy – and the implications of this in a society where it’s okay to Scale Up, but shh, don’t Scale Up too much, that’s too greedy, which felt reminiscent of some of the things said today by politicians, which is why this works as a political allegory because it shows there is no perfect life and no perfect ending, which for a dystopian novel that also reads as a satirical allegory, works well.

It’s marketed towards the higher end of the YA market, and can be a little dark. Not my favourite read of the year, however it is an interesting one that might provoke some interesting discussions.

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The World Goes On by László Krasznahorakai (translated from the Hungarian by John Bakti, Ottilie Mulzet and Georges Szirtes

world goes on.jpgTitle: The World Goes On

Author: László Krasznahorakai (translated from the Hungarian by John Bakti, Ottilie Mulzet and Georges Szirtes

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Allen and Unwin/Tuskar Books/Profile Books

Published: 18th December, 2017

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 312

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: A new work of fiction from the winner of the 2015 Man Booker International Prize.

A Hungarian interpreter obsessed with waterfalls, at the edge of the abyss in his own mind, wanders the chaotic streets of Shanghai. A traveller, reeling from the sights and sounds of Varanasi, encounters a giant of a man on the banks of the Ganges ranting on the nature of a single drop of water. A child labourer in a Portuguese marble quarry wanders off from work one day into a surreal realm utterly alien from his daily toils.

In The World Goes On, a narrator first speaks directly, then tells twenty-one unforgettable stories, and then bids farewell (‘for here I would leave this earth and these stars, because I would take nothing with me’). As Laszlo Krasznahorkai himself explains: ‘Each text is about drawing our attention away from this world, speeding our body toward annihilation, and immersing ourselves in a current of thought or a narrative…’

The World Goes On is another masterpiece by the winner of the 2015 Man Booker International Prize. ‘The excitement of his writing,’ Adam Thirlwell proclaimed in the New York Review of Books, ‘is that he has come up with his own original forms – there is nothing else like it in contemporary literature.’

~*~

In a series of short stories, an unnamed narrator, a Hungarian interpreter, and other travellers, take a journey across various nations and exploring a dark and what feels like a metaphysical side to humanity whilst taking the physical journey. Each of the twenty short stories is told in first person, with no inkling as to who is telling the story or indeed if any narrator is different: it all feels like the same narrator, dipping in and out of lives, times and places to tell stories of oblivion and hopelessness, where the title, once each story has come to its inevitable conclusion, lives up to its reputation – that once the narrator, or multiple narrators have completed their story, the world does indeed move on to the next story.

As each story is different, yet feels like it has the same narrator, it can be confusing at first, but once you’ve read the beginning, it starts to come together, albeit in many lengthy sentences, some of which appear to go on for pages at a time, and give a feeling of breathlessness, and claustrophobia – perhaps this is what the author was going for, the helpless feeling of not knowing where to stop to take a breath between punctuation marks, and the sense of what is happening in your life and the world rushing so fast at you, that your thoughts come out so quickly, there’s no time to pause, or take breath sometimes. This was how I felt reading this, which is why it has taken so long to finish it and review it – there were times the lengthy sentences, though they worked and made sense, could bring on a sense of dizziness and breathlessness – though the concept and ideas have been well executed.

It is also rather philosophical, with hints towards historical events, people and places, but at the same time, feeling sort of out of place, or as though what was happening could be happening anywhere.

Whilst this has not been my favourite read, I can appreciate what the author has done, and hope that there will be people who will enjoy this book.

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Book Bingo Five – A foreign translated novel, a novel with a yellow cover, a novel by an Australian man, a funny book, a memoir and a non-fiction book.

book bingo 2018.jpgIn my fifth Book Bingo post for the year, I can report that I have a BINGO! The final row going down, row five, is complete, with three out of the five squares being filled with Australian Women Writers. The text version of the row is below:

AWW-2018-badge-rose

Row #5 (Down) – BINGO

 A Foreign Translated Novel: Babylon Berlin by Volker Kutschner (translated by Niall Seller

A book with themes of culture: The Sealwoman’s Gift by Sally Magnusson

A book with a mystery: Olmec Obituary by LJM Owen – AWW2018

A book with a number in the title: Four Respectable Ladies Seek Part-Time Husband by Barbara Toner – AWW2018

A book written by someone over sixty: Eventual Poppy Day by Libby Hathorn – AWW2018

babylon berlinOf these, the latest addition is a foreign translated novel – Babylon Berlin by Volker Kutschner, translated by Niall Seller and sent to me by Allen and Unwin to review. It is the first in a crime series by a German author, set during the dying years of the Weimar Republic in the inter-war period, when the world is inching towards the Great Depression. It centres around Detective Gereon Rath, and the crimes he solves, and the things that he overlooks, the various underworld activities that are accepted in dark corners, but not always out in the open. I did like the idea behind this, and the historical backdrop, however, as stated in my review, I felt some things dragged on a bit, making these sections a tad slow but the fast-paced sections were what really drove the novel and gave it the oomph that it needed.

tin manI have five other squares to include – I am aiming to fill them with whatever works, and some will be Australian Women Writers, others won’t, it simply depends on where the books fit. First, is a novel with a yellow cover – Tin Man by Sarah Winman. It is the story of two gay men, whose first encounter has them ripped apart but then drawn back together as friends, with Annie, the wife of Ellis, one of the main characters. It is a touching story of the various ways we express our love, and to whom we choose to express that love. With a touch of realism about it, it touches on fears as well as love.

Skin-in-the-Game_cover-for-publicity-600x913My memoir square has been filled by Skin in the Game: The Pleasure and Pain of Telling True Stories by Sonia Voumard. In a series of essays, Sonia tells her story about being a journalist, and the daughter of a World War Two refugee – her mother, with humour and frankness, and an honesty that shines a light on some of the challenges faced by journalists behind the scenes of stories, interviews and publications, and how they try to overcome these under increasing pressure of a 24 hour news cycle, where the demand for facts and results at all times seems to be a struggle to keep up with. It is insightful and gives a new appreciation for what journalists do and at times go through for me.

grandpa me poetryThe book taking up the square of a funny novel has not been published yet, so the longer review will be linked here when it goes live. Grandpa, Me and Poetry by Sally Morgan, and published by Scholastic. It is the story of Melly, who loves poetry and her Grandpa. When given the chance to explore her two loves, she jumps at it, and through a series of amusing scenes with funny rhymes, she finds a way to write a wonderful poem for Family Day.

the opal dragonflyThe novel by Australian Man square was filled by new release, The Opal Dragonfly by Julian Leatherdale, about Isobel Macleod, youngest of seven and her father’s favourite, and the opal dragonfly brooch left to her by her mother that sees hard times befall the family through a series of tragedies over the years that they can never recover from. It is about family loyalty, betrayal and finding oneself in the harshest of circumstances, and finding a new life for yourself

spinning topsSpinning Tops and Gum Drops: A Portrait of Colonial Childhood fills the non-fiction square. Using images and statements, and other stories from the time, Edwin Barnard has created a window into a world where the realities of childhood were vastly different to those for today’s children. It tells of a time when threats from illness and bushrangers were ever present, where children had to work as well as go to school, and in some cases, instead of going to school. It is interesting and gives a window into colonial life beyond text on a page.  

Look out for my next Book Bingo in a few weeks time!

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Babylon Berlin by Volker Kutscher

babylon berlin.jpgTitle: Babylon Berlin

Author: Volker Kutscher, translated by Niall Seller

Genre: Crime/Mystery

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 24th January 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 528

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: A GEREON RATH MYSTERY

‘Political maelstrom, a populist right on the march — sound familiar? . . . It’s fabulous debauchery and naughtiness, a political maelstrom and a ticking timebomb.’ The Guardian

 

Set in pre-Nazi Germany, Babylon Berlin is the first book in the bestselling German crime series. Seasons one and two on Netflix Australia now.
Berlin, 1929: When a car is hauled out of the Landwehr Canal with a mutilated corpse inside, Detective Inspector Gereon Rath claims the case. Soon his inquiries drag him ever deeper into the morass of Weimar Berlin’s ‘Roaring Twenties’ underworld of cocaine, prostitution, gunrunning and shady politics.

A fascinating, brilliant and impeccably detailed crime series set in the Weimar Republic between the world wars with a backdrop of the rise of Nazism.

Now a major international television series

‘Unrelenting in tension until an explosive climax; as well as delivering the thrills Kutscher captures perfectly in dark tones the menacing atmosphere and lurking threats of a unique — and pivotal — time and place in history.’
Craig Russell, author of the Jan Fabel series

‘Twenties Germany in all its seedy splendour: impressive.’
Sarah Ward, author of In Bitter Chill

‘Gripping, skilfully plotted and rich in historical detail.’
Mrs Peabody Investigates

‘Evocative thriller set in Berlin’s seedy underworld during
the Roaring Twenties.’
Mail on Sunday 

~*~

In the months and years before Hitler’s eventual rise to power, and in the months before the Great Depression hits, Detective Inspector Gereon Rath investigates murders and other unsavoury crimes that plague the city of Berlin. It is May when a car is dragged from the Landwehr Canal, complete with mutilated corpse, just one in a string of murders and incidents that are connected and that form the case that Gereon Rath takes on, and digs deeper into, uncovering secrets, and villains he never thought he would. In this world, people are not as they seem, they are secretive, only showing what the world wants them to see. Gereon is like this too, hiding an addiction and a troubled mind and worries. The mystery thickens with each passing chapter and day – each day is encapsulated in a chapter, so it is a rather long book, and it does take a little while to solve the mystery. As things become more complicated, the flawed anti-hero, Rath, starts to become caught up in the very underworld he is investigating, with characters just as morally flawed as he comes across, though perhaps he gets points for trying to question the flawed morals he faces, but not always. It takes a long time for Rath to solve the mystery, which feels a little drawn out at times but then moves along at a decent pace at other times – the lulls seem to show relationships that feel like they fizzle out and disappear, with not much made of them beyond that.

Overall, the plot is intriguing, though a bit long-winded, and could have been edited down to gear up the pacing, the delays that Rath faced did allow for some character development, amidst a growing unrest in Germany, with the SA and Nazis slowly rising and causing trouble, mixed in with a fear of Russians and Communism, presenting a backdrop that doesn’t overshadow the main plot, whilst still setting the scene for Rath and the actions of those around him. Gereon’s flaws are potentially what made him the most interesting character out of a cast of many – some of which only had short roles, maybe a few chapters or a few pages, and then disappeared, and the hinted at romance seemed to fizzle out. However, I will give this the benefit of the doubt as it is the beginning of a series. and it is possible these threads will be picked up in subsequent books.

One thing that could have moved the plot along was less travelling time and time spent on travelling scenes – a few quick transitions here and there would have worked just as well as the intricate descriptions and details. When reading this book, I was much more interested in the case being investigated – I did want to know about the private lives of the characters but felt some of this came out a little too much for the first book in a series – spacing it out makes it more exciting for the reader to discover. Another was the mention of green lights and electric hair dryers – uncommon for the setting, with explanations that felt misunderstood by those questioning the lines about them – though perhaps they work in the sense that the modern world is coming into being and slowly, new developments are taking place, and that is why only a few people know about them.

Though this is a long book, if you enjoy crime fiction and historical fiction, I would still recommend this. But take your time, as there are many details to try and remember, as it does get quite busy at times.

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The Passengers by Eleanor Limprecht

the passengers.jpgTitle: The Passengers

Author: Eleanor Limprecht

Genre: Literary Fiction

Publisher:  Allen and Unwin

Published: 21st of February 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 344

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: A luminous novel about love by an acclaimed rising star of Australian literature.

‘A stunning exploration of hope and desire, fear and control, this story is full of heart and heartbreak’
ASHLEY HAY, author of The Railwayman’s Wife


‘A compelling novel about the bruises inflicted by fate and by ourselves, and the blessings to be found in resilience, determination, and love.’
DEBRA ADELAIDE, author of The Household Guide to Dying

Sarah and Hannah are on a cruise from San Diego, California to Sydney, Australia. Sarah, Hannah’s grandmother, is returning to the country of her birth, a place she hasn’t seen since boarding the USS Mariposa in 1945. Then she, along with countless other war brides, sailed across the Pacific to join the American servicemen they’d married during World War II.

Now Hannah is the same age Sarah was when she made her first journey, and in hearing Sarah tell the story of her life, realises the immensity of what her grandmother gave up.

The Passengers is a luminous novel about love: the journeys we undertake, the sacrifices we make and the heartache we suffer for love It is about how we most long for what we have left behind. And it is about the past – how close it can still feel – even after long passages of time.

‘Two women, two generations, two countries, two journeys. Eleanor Limprecht gracefully navigates the crosscurrents of history and creates vibrant characters from the extraordinary true experiences of Australian war brides. Sarah and Hannah’s urgent search for love and wholeness moved me in both senses: they touched my heart and I still feel I am churning across the Pacific with them. A deeply satisfying novel.’
SUSAN WYNDHAM, former literary editor, The Sydney Morning Herald

~*~

AWW-2018-badge-roseSixty-nine years after leaving her home in Australia, Sarah is heading home with her granddaughter, Hannah, on a cruise, the same way she left at the end of World War Two, to join the man she married, Roy, an American soldier serving in the Pacific theatre of the 1940s war. Up until the age of sixteen, Sarah had lived on a farm, and attended school, but just before World War Two breaks out, Sarah and her parents and brothers move to the city, where they must find work. When her brothers sign up for the war, Sarah watches them leave, and finds herself working as a typist for the Americans when they start to arrive. Caught between falling in love and loyalty to her family, Sarah has a choice to make when Roy proposes to her. They wed, and it is several years before they can be reunited in Roanoke, Virginia, and their reunion is not without its struggles – struggles that are not helped by Roy’s conservative parents. Soon, Sarah finds herself separated and alone. She soon reconnects with Jim, the Navy officer who was kind to her on her journey from Sydney.

Hannah is in her early twenties, and at constant war with anorexia. For her, this trip is a way to have time away from the stresses of her nursing course, and help her grandmother reconnect with the home she hasn’t seen for almost seventy years, having left when she was the same age Hannah is now. Struggling to keep up appearances and hide her reasons for not eating on the cruise, Hannah listens as Sarah tells her the story of how she became a war bride, and when the war hit the shores of Australia in February 1942, when Darwin was bombed by Japan. Both journeys have been on ships, one on the SS Mariposa, a luxury liner that had been repurposed for military personnel, and then again at the end of the war for the war brides and any children they had with them from Sydney to San Francisco, and the other a cruise ship taking them back to Sydney. Both journeys are transitions in the lives of the women, points at which things change for them, and alter their lives dramatically.

The Passengers is part historical fiction, part family drama, with two engaging female leads with vastly different experiences and lives on a journey to connect the present with the past and reconnect with family and homelands. With touches of romance that add to the story but do not overtake it, it is a nicely written book, and well researched, showing that not every war experience and not every war bride experience was the same. Eleanor Limprecht has shown the complexities of human nature and isolation in its various forms through each of the characters and their struggles to show how life can affect people and what can come out of it to make things better and the importance of family.

Read my interview with Eleanor here when it goes live.

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