The Colours of all the Cattle (No.1 Ladies Detective agency #19) by lexander McCall-Smith

Mma Ramotswe 19.jpgTitle: The Colours of all the Cattle (No.1 Ladies Detective agency #19)

Author: Alexander McCall-Smith

Genre: Crime, literary fiction, mystery

Publisher: Hachette/Little, Brown

Published: 11th September 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 231

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: The new Botswana book from bestselling author Alexander McCall Smith, this is Mma Ramotswe’s nineteenth wonderful adventure.

 

Mma Ramostwe’s friend will persuade her to stand for election to the City Council. ‘We need women like her in politics,’ Mma Potokwani says, ‘instead of having the same old men every time . . .’ To be elected, Mma Ramotswe must have a platform and some policies. She will have to canvas opinion. She will have to get Mma Makutsi’s views. Her slogan is ‘I can’t promise anything – but I shall do my best’. Her intention is to halt the construction of the Big Fun Hotel, a dubious, flashy hotel near a graveyard – an act that many consider to be disrespectful. Mma Ramotswe will take the campaign as far as she can, but lurking around the corner, as ever, is the inextinguishable Violet Sephotho.

 

At the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, Precious Ramotswe is pondering the meaning of her life and whether in fact there is one. A meeting with Mma Potokwani – who runs the local orphan farm – provides unsettling inspiration.

 

It is Mma Ramotswe’s instinct for selflessness, her calm and rational thinking, Mma Potokwani proclaims, that make her a perfect candidate for a newly vacant seat on the local council. Who better than Precious Ramotswe to defend the community against corruption and injustice?

 

Meanwhile, part-time detective Charlie is assigned a troubling case. He is keen to prove both his ability to his superior, Mma Makutsi, and his worth to Queenie-Queenie who has captured his heart; and Mma Makutsi is confidently in pursuit of a ruthless property developer.

 

The path to triumph, however, is beset with problems for Charlie and Mma Makutsi, while Mma Ramotswe comes to recognise that it is not political power that gives her life its vital purpose – it is simply her inherent desire to understand and support those who need her most.

 

~*~

 

Heading back to Botswana with Mma Ramotswe, Mma Makutsi and their friends and families is a welcome respite from the world we live in today. In the latest instalment, Precious Ramotswe, owner of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, takes a back seat from investigations as she begins to run for the local council, with one goal, and spurred on by the woman who runs the Orphan Farm her two children – Puso and Motholeli – came from: to prevent a big business owner and property developer, Gobe Maruti – from building the Big Fun Hotel right next to a cemetery where the late loved ones lie. Mma Potokwani, like others in the community, fears that the once the Big Fun Hotel is a success, developers will want to disturb those resting in the cemetery – and Mma Potokwani is convinced that Mma Ramotswe will be able to do something about it. As Precious works on her campaign, part-time detective Charlie must look into an elderly man getting hit by a car, and the mystery of the absence of a car that colour, whilst trying to impress a young woman called Queenie-Queenie. Mma Makutsi investigates the property developer to assist the campaign and find a way to discover the motives behind her nemesis, Violet Sephotho, from the Botswana Secretarial College, who is also standing for council and supporting the development of the hotel. Mma Ramotswe is not sure politics is for her, but with her team rallying around her, she decides to let things happen as they do.

 

Each character has obstacles and challenges to overcome in their daily lives as detectives, and Charlie as a mechanic with Tlokweng Speedy Motors and Mma Ramotswe’s husband, Mr J.L.B. Matekoni, grapples with his own case, and the mystery of a car that ran down a doctor and hasn’t been seen since. As they plot to prevent to construction of the hotel, each case somehow intersects a little, apart from the case of the car that has been missing since running Dr Marang over, which has links to other characters in the story.

 

As each plotline intersects, the race to be a councillor begins to make Mma Ramotswe wonder if politics is the place for her – doing so is the right thing for her community, however long she is able to serve on the council. In Mma Potokwani’s eyes, Precious is the perfect candidate to prevent the Big Fun Hotel being built next to a graveyard – seen as disrespectful by many, and in Mma Ramotswe’s gentle, firm way, she agrees to help stop the construction – and speak out against the council that seeks to disrupt Gaborone, and its gentle citizens going about their lives. Within these books. Africa leaps off the pages in sight, sound and smell, and is vivid and inviting to readers new and old.

 

The Colours of All the Cattle makes a wonderful addition to the series, and there will hopefully be more to come.

 

The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency is one of those series that is fun and comforting and a light, gentle read with a sense of simplicity and tradition yet at the same time, explores the ways societies and people change, but also, want to stay the same, without disruption to lives. It is a charming series, and the most recent novel is no exception, filled with the places and people that readers have come to know over the past twenty years and nineteen books. The charm in this series is in the simple beauty these characters see in their world, and the connections they make, as well as the understanding they have for each other, a world where they do not begrudge friends and family mistakes. Not all characters are perfect – they have their flaws and make errors in judgement at times. But the case will be solved, and all will be right in Zebra Drive and Gaborone.

 

 

The Colours of all the Cattle (No.1 Ladies Detective Agency #19) by Alexander McCall-Smith

Mma Ramotswe 19
Title: The Colours of all the Cattle (No.1 Ladies Detective agency #19)

Author: Alexander McCall-Smith

Genre: Crime, literary fiction, mystery

Publisher: Hachette/Little, Brown

Published: 11th September 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 231

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: The new Botswana book from bestselling author Alexander McCall Smith, this is Mma Ramotswe’s nineteenth wonderful adventure.

Mma Ramostwe’s friend will persuade her to stand for election to the City Council. ‘We need women like her in politics,’ Mma Potokwani says, ‘instead of having the same old men every time . . .’ To be elected, Mma Ramotswe must have a platform and some policies. She will have to canvas opinion. She will have to get Mma Makutsi’s views. Her slogan is ‘I can’t promise anything – but I shall do my best’. Her intention is to halt the construction of the Big Fun Hotel, a dubious, flashy hotel near a graveyard – an act that many consider to be disrespectful. Mma Ramotswe will take the campaign as far as she can, but lurking around the corner, as ever, is the inextinguishable Violet Sephotho.

At the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, Precious Ramotswe is pondering the meaning of her life and whether in fact there is one. A meeting with Mma Potokwani – who runs the local orphan farm – provides unsettling inspiration.

It is Mma Ramotswe’s instinct for selflessness, her calm and rational thinking, Mma Potokwani proclaims, that make her a perfect candidate for a newly vacant seat on the local council. Who better than Precious Ramotswe to defend the community against corruption and injustice?

Meanwhile, part-time detective Charlie is assigned a troubling case. He is keen to prove both his ability to his superior, Mma Makutsi, and his worth to Queenie-Queenie who has captured his heart; and Mma Makutsi is confidently in pursuit of a ruthless property developer.

The path to triumph, however, is beset with problems for Charlie and Mma Makutsi, while Mma Ramotswe comes to recognise that it is not political power that gives her life its vital purpose – it is simply her inherent desire to understand and support those who need her most.

~*~

Heading back to Botswana with Mma Ramotswe, Mma Makutsi and their friends and families is a welcome respite from the world we live in today. In the latest instalment, Precious Ramotswe, owner of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, takes a back seat from investigations as she begins to run for the local council, with one goal, and spurred on by the woman who runs the Orphan Farm her two children – Puso and Motholeli – came from: to prevent a big business owner and property developer, Gobe Maruti – from building the Big Fun Hotel right next to a cemetery where the late loved ones lie. Mma Potokwani, like others in the community, fears that the once the Big Fun Hotel is a success, developers will want to disturb those resting in the cemetery – and Mma Potokwani is convinced that Mma Ramotswe will be able to do something about it. As Precious works on her campaign, part-time detective Charlie must look into an elderly man getting hit by a car, and the mystery of the absence of a car that colour, whilst trying to impress a young woman called Queenie-Queenie. Mma Makutsi investigates the property developer to assist the campaign and find a way to discover the motives behind her nemesis, Violet Sephotho, from the Botswana Secretarial College, who is also standing for council and supporting the development of the hotel. Mma Ramotswe is not sure politics is for her, but with her team rallying around her, she decides to let things happen as they do.

Each character has obstacles and challenges to overcome in their daily lives as detectives, and Charlie as a mechanic with Tlokweng Speedy Motors and Mma Ramotswe’s husband, Mr J.L.B. Matekoni, grapples with his own case, and the mystery of a car that ran down a doctor and hasn’t been seen since. As they plot to prevent to construction of the hotel, each case somehow intersects a little, apart from the case of the car that has been missing since running Dr Marang over, which has links to other characters in the story.

As each plotline intersects, the race to be a councillor begins to make Mma Ramotswe wonder if politics is the place for her – doing so is the right thing for her community, however long she is able to serve on the council. In Mma Potokwani’s eyes, Precious is the perfect candidate to prevent the Big Fun Hotel being built next to a graveyard – seen as disrespectful by many, and in Mma Ramotswe’s gentle, firm way, she agrees to help stop the construction – and speak out against the council that seeks to disrupt Gaborone, and its gentle citizens going about their lives. Within these books. Africa leaps off the pages in sight, sound and smell, and is vivid and inviting to readers new and old.

The Colours of All the Cattle makes a wonderful addition to the series, and there will hopefully be more to come.

The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency is one of those series that is fun and comforting and a light, gentle read with a sense of simplicity and tradition yet at the same time, explores the ways societies and people change, but also, want to stay the same, without disruption to lives. It is a charming series, and the most recent novel is no exception, filled with the places and people that readers have come to know over the past twenty years and nineteen books. The charm in this series is in the simple beauty these characters see in their world, and the connections they make, as well as the understanding they have for each other, a world where they do not begrudge friends and family mistakes. Not all characters are perfect – they have their flaws and make errors in judgement at times. But the case will be solved, and all will be right in Zebra Drive and Gaborone.

The Distance Between Me and the Cherry Tree by Paola Peretti, translated by Denise Muir

cherry tree.jpgTitle: The Distance Between Me and the Cherry Tree

Author: Paola Peretti, translated by Denise Muir

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Bonnier/Allen and Unwin

Published: 29th August 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 208

Price: $16.99

Synopsis: A novel for all ages about a young girl losing her sight, inspired by the author’s own life story. For fans of Wonder, The Little Prince and The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly

A novel for all ages about a young girl losing her sight, inspired by the author’s own life story. For fans of Wonder, The Little Prince and The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly

Mafalda is a nine-year-old girl who knows one thing: some time in the next six months her sight will fail completely. Can Mafalda find a way through a seemingly dark future and still go to school, play football and look after her beloved cat? With the help of her family, and her friends, Mafalda needs to discover the things that will be important to her when her sight has failed. A moving, empowering tale of courage and determination that will inspire young and old.

~*~

Mafalda is going blind – she knows, at nine years old, that she has six months left until her world changes forever – her house, what she can do now and what she will have to give up when she loses her sight, and the changes she will have to make. At home, she has her cat, Ottimo Turcaret, and her parents. At school, a counsellor called Estella, who is hiding a dark battle of her own, and her new friend, Filippo, who helps her navigate a world that is slowly descending into darkness. As she ventures towards her new reality, each part measuring the distance she can see until her whole world is taken by the darkness, Mafalda crosses off everything she can no longer do on her list and prepares to live a new life. However, Mafalda doesn’t really want things to change, and as her sight diminishes, the other changes in her world become more apparent as well.

Translated from Italian, and inspired by the life story of the author, who has Stargardt disease like Mafalda, the novel explores what it is like to live with a disability that is constantly getting worse, that has no cure, and impacts on everything Paola and Mafalda are able to do. It a story about friendship, family and hope, but also about how disability can affect the life of the disabled person and those around them, and how family and friends choose to act, the roles the must take on and what they do when the disability becomes more apparent or perhaps difficult for them to understand.

Through her experience of an encroaching disability, Mafalda finds friendship in an unlikely place with Filippo – someone she never thought would be her friend, but it is Filippo and Estella, the school counsellor, who help her through the encroaching darkness and whose loyalty proves she can still be who she is, just a little bit different to before. Having a friend like Filippo helps her through the changes she is going through.

The disabled experience is not often explored in books – and if it is, not always allowing the disabled character to be disabled -they must be healed or freed somehow. So what I liked about this book was the reality of Mafalda’s disability and how it will change her life, how illness can affect people and take them away. It is all seen through the eyes and feelings of a child, Mafalda, but is still very powerful. It allows people of all ages who are disabled to see themselves reflected in literature – to see how a disabled person navigates and must learn to adjust the way they navigate the world they live in are real experiences for disabled people that differ from person to person, and through Mafalda, some of these struggles can be seen.

A very powerful book about family, friendship and identity that will stay with you long after you finish.

Hey Brother by Jarrah Dundler

hey brother.jpgTitle: Hey Brother

Author: Jarrah Dundler

Genre: Literary Fiction

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 1st August 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 288

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: A genuine and compellingly portrayed family drama of a tough kid from rural Australia.

Before leaving for war in Afghanistan, Shaun Black gives his little brother Trysten a mission of his own. Keep out of trouble.

Trysten tries, but with Mum hitting the bottle harder than ever and his dad not helping, Trysten responds the only way he knows how, with his fists – getting into a fight at school and lining up for another one with his uncle who’s come to stay.

When the family receives news that Shaun will be home for Christmas, Trysten is sure that good times are coming. But when Shaun returns, Trysten soon realises he has a whole new mission – to keep Shaun out of trouble.

Hey Brother tells the story of a tough kid from the bush whose world comes crashing down on his shoulders. But with his own blend of fury, resilience and deadpan humour, Trysten proves to be up for every challenge.

~*~

Hey Brother is set in the early 2000s, just after 9/11. Trysten Black’s brother, Shaun, has gone over to fight against the Taliban with the Australian and US armies, leaving Shaun at home to take care of their mother, whose troubles with alcohol scare, and worry them both, but also tells him to keep out of trouble – easy, right? Trysten reckons it will be – until a new girl – Jessica – starts in his year. Together with best friend Ricky, who has a crush on the girl who befriends Jessica, Jade, As the months go on, the boys get to know Jessica and Jade, and even begin to hang out together at school. On top of this, Trysten must look out for his Mum, and keep an eye on his uncle, who has come to stay while Shaun is away.

As he tries to care for his mother, and make sure he gets along with his uncle, Trevor, Trysten’s promise to stay out of trouble seems to be forgotten between this and building his relationship with Jessica – and when Shaun returns home, Trysten’s family will be tested – his father, who has lived away from the home for months, seems to have a change of heart, and his mother is improving. But there’s something about Shaun that Trysten can’t quite put his finger on, and a party, and the subsequent events during the summer holidays will bring to a head everything that has been building with Shaun and reveal secrets about the family that Trysten never knew about or saw coming, and revelations about the world and their lives show things will never be the same.

Hey Brother is a coming of age story, set in the early years of the twenty-first century, when terrorism entered our world, and how we all reacted to it – how some of our worlds didn’t change, how as a teenager, Trysten’s mind was often on school, Jessica, his friends and his family, rather than a faraway attack and war. He is the go-between messenger for his parents, and it looks at how war can affect soldiers – at the way Shaun comes home and tells a story one way, but the reality is quite different and the PTSD that he brings back with him – something Uncle Trevor notices and does his best to help with. As mental illness and alcohol abuse are explored through Trysten’s eyes, as a child narrator he comes across as mature at times, and immature at others, perhaps hinting at how fast he is having to grow up and adapt to this new, uncharted territory his family finds themselves in, coupled with hormones and the influences of friends, his and his brother’s, as well as events that trigger the climax, and how Trysten finds himself dealing with the fallout.

The genre of this book is hard to pin down – I’ve marked it as literary fiction but is it young adult, adult or does it cross those two distinctions? Possibly, but I think that will depend on the individual. It was an interesting take on a modern war and its fallout, and a modern family dealing with personal issues and secrets that come out towards the end. It is raw and emotional and shows that we are all just human and anything can affect us in different ways at any time, and nobody is immune to the fragility of the mind and the way it processes things.

In some ways I liked this book and what it did, though it is not one I plan to revisit too quickly like others. It is one that needs time and processing between reads to maintain the impact it can have. It does reveal something about Australia and our culture, attitudes to war and how we deal with things like mental health, and these are important conversations to have, and I hope Jarrah Dundler’s work is one that helps start these discussions amongst people.

Booktopia

The Upside of Over by JD Barrett

upside of overTitle: The Upside of Over

Author: J.D. Barrett

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Hachette

Published: 29th May 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 298

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: A scathingly brilliant new novel from TV scriptwriter J.D. Barrett, author of THE SECRET RECIPE FOR SECOND CHANCES, that explores sex, love and all the stuff in-between.

What happens when one of the country’s most popular identities goes from reading the news to being the news?

Olivia Law had always been the good girl. Great grades, perfect career, husband, house and hairdo. She’d learnt image was everything, so she refused to look below the surface of her life. When not at work, her minutes were filled with causes, chairing boards and dining at fabulous restaurants with her equally fabulous husband, David. She kept up the Botox, blow-dries and worked hard. It wasn’t enough, but whenever doubt crept in she’d head to a Pilates class or plan a renovation on her trophy house.

Then she turned 45.
Olivia wasn’t prepared for David to leave. The fact that they hadn’t had sex for two years should have triggered warning bells … it didn’t.

In an attempt to fix her broken marriage Olivia exposes herself like never before. But when her confession goes viral, the husband, house and job disappear. The woman who once offered glamorous reassurance and a steady gaze is labelled a princess of perversion. Humiliated, defeated, facing fifty shades of failure, she’s left wondering who the hell she really is? Stripped bare, she abandons perfection … and something remarkable happens.

Olivia Law just might get her sass back (and this time, it’s the real thing).

The brilliant new novel from J.D. Barrett about break ups, breakdowns and break throughs. Batteries not included.

 

~*~

Olivia Law has enjoyed a well-respected career as a newsreader and in the media for many years. And then her marriage falls apart, and she sends a private video to her ex-husband that is a little risqué, which somehow goes viral. What follows is the epic fallout that sees Olivia hit rock bottom, and it takes best friend Darcy, stepson, Finn, her best gay friends, Hugo and Ricky, and a few unexpected allies to pull her through. Escaping up to Byron, Olivia confronts her own sexuality and identity, finding friends in Leo, and Ace, and a new identity that she forges through an online personality, which is encouraged by her friends and her stepson’s mother, Karen and sister Ava. As she ventures into this new life, hints of why she was fired and how the video was leaked to the public start to come out, and sexual harassment cases start to emerge as Olivia’s videos begin to empower women to speak out about anything and everything and stand up for themselves. What will follow results in the reactions to what happens in these cases and how people try to make sure the least harm is done, and what happens when people are caught out.

AWW-2018-badge-roseThe Upside of Over looks at how women in the entertainment industry can and at times, are treated once they reach a certain age, as though they have a use by date that society seems to impose on them for career, family, marriage. After her unsuccessful marriage, Olivia feels lost for a while and is questioning where she fits in, and whether she really has a place in the world anymore, which leads to her exploration of self. When she fails, that failure is what catapults her into a new life, and with a renewed sense of self. It is a funny book, that readers at cross roads of their life, and wondering about where they are going, J.D. Barrett writes about the forced invisibility and compliance of Olivia with humour and sass that ensures each page is a surprise and creates a story with charm as well as humour.

Of all the characters, I think Ricky, Hugo and Finn ended up being my favourites, and I was surprised by Karen, and the way she turned out to be such a good friend to Olivia in the end and backed her at every stage in the case that the network Olivia had worked for brought against her. I loved the diversity in this book – the ages, the genders, everything and the way the plot and everything else all flowed so seamlessly together, showing that the world isn’t always what we see on the surface, that there is more to people than meets the eye and peeling back the layers shows who we truly are.

In today’s world, where the #TimesUp movement was started with the revelations last year about Harvey Weinstein, this is an eerily prophetic book that looks at the inner workings of the television and media industries – what we see onscreen doesn’t reveal what happens behind the scenes, and the way the media treated Olivia in the novel – when it had never been her intention for the video to be leaked – illustrated the different ways media reports scandals depending on who is involved and the perspective they want to present. Where Olivia’s network tried to throw her under  the bus, when one of her former colleagues came through for her, I liked that, and thought it sent a powerful message that sometimes standing up for what is right, and doing everything possible to uncover the truth, even if it means risking your own career, is better than kowtowing to executives and what they want.

With the current wave of stories coming out against Hollywood producers, this could not be a more timely novel in my mind, and even though it doesn’t directly reference the #TimesUp movement or Weinstein, the shadows and hints about it are there, showing the fickleness of the outward appearance of perfection, and how quickly things can go wrong, but the upside of this is what Olivia made of it, and the voice that she gave to women all over through her venture – even those she didn’t expect to hear from.

Interview with J.D. Barret appears on this blog too.

Booktopia

P is for Pearl by Eliza Henry Jones

p is for pearl.jpgTitle: P is for Pearl

Author: Eliza Henry Jones

Genre: Young Adult, Literary

Publisher: HarperCollins Australia

Published: 19th of February 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 304

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: A POIGNANT READ BURSTING WITH HEARTACHE, GRIEF AND SMALL-TOWN FAMILY SECRETS THAT WILL DRAW YOU IN UNTIL THE FINAL PAGE’
– Gabrielle Tozer, award-winning author of The InternFaking It and Remind Me How This Ends

Seventeen-year-old Gwendolyn P. Pearson has become very good at not thinking about the awful things that have happened to her family.

She has also become used to people talking about her dead mum. Or not talking about her and just looking at Gwen sympathetically.

And it’s easy not to think about awful things when there are wild beaches to run along, best friends Loretta and Gordon to hang out with – and a stepbrother to take revenge on.

But following a strange disturbance at the cafe where she works, Gwen is forced to confront what happened to her family all those years ago. And she slowly comes to realise that people aren’t as they first appear and that like her, everyone has a story to tell.

From the talented author of the celebrated novels In the Quiet and Ache comes a poignant and moving book that explores the stories we tell ourselves about our families, and what it means to belong.


PRAISE

P is for Pearl is a complex, authentic exploration of grief, friendship, mental illness, family and love, sensitively written by a writer whose voice will resonate with teen readers.’  Books+Publishin

~*~

Gwendolyn P. Pearson hides the dark family secrets that have plagued her family for years very well, and she is good at it. For years, the small Tasmanian town of Clunes has whispered and spoken about her mother, who died when Gwen was a child, one of two family tragedies that happened within months of each other. Gwen has her best friends, Loretta and Gordon, school and running to distract her – that is, until a strange incident at the cafe she works at triggers a memory, and Gwen must confront her memories. When new kids, Ben and Amber arrive in town, Gwen is torn between letting them be, and befriending them and their aunt. As she tries to hide secrets from everyone and hide from her past, it is Ben who will show her that the surface of someone is not always what they seem, and that it is okay to be angry when you are hurt.

AWW-2018-badge-roseP for Pearl completes my book bingo for the first half of 2018 – this will be in a separate post next Saturday, and then I am embarking on round two, using the same card but hopefully, different books as much as I can. First written when Eliza was sixteen, P for Pearl is the world of tragedy and loneliness seen through the eyes of a teenager whose understanding of what happened is coloured by what she wants to believe, and what, as a child, she was told or led to believe. Through narrative and diary entries, Gwen’s story is slowly revealed, and we see the pain she has been in for years, slowly emerging and bubbling its way to the top following the smashed windows at work.

Gwen’s family – her father, stepmother Biddy, step-brother Tyrone and half-sister Evie, are all key figures in the way Gwen experiences her life, and of them all, she seems to feel closer to Evie at first, and a little distanced from the rest of her family, perhaps feeling a little lost in it all. Tyrone is older – and at first, is rather annoying but later, I found something endearing about him and the way he genuinely cared for Gwen, which comes through gradually as she comes to terms with her confusion and pain. In the end, Tyrone, Ben, Loretta and Gordon are the ones who help her come through her pain and the realisation of the painful family history that has haunted her.

P for Pearl is aimed at teenagers but is a novel that speaks to the grief and complicated events and tragedies in life that we all face and endure. Gwen’s voice is genuine, and works well in the novel, as is the character growth and learning little bits about characters as the novel progresses. A greet novel to check off my final bingo box.

Booktopia

Ready to Fall by Marcella Pixley

ready to fallTitle: Ready to Fall

Author: Marcella Pixley

Genre: Young Adult Fiction

Publisher: Pushkin Press/Allen and Unwin/Murdoch Books

Published: March 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 368

Price: $16.99

Synopsis: A YA novel about a teen who finds hope and a fresh start after a terrible loss, and learns that being strong means letting go

When Max Friedman’s mother dies of cancer, instead of facing his loss, he imagines that her tumour has taken up residence in his brain. It’s a terrible tenant – isolating him from family, distracting him in school, and taunting him mercilessly about his manhood. With the tumour in charge, Max implodes, slipping farther and farther away from reality.

Finally, Max is sent to the artsy, off-beat Baldwin School to regain his footing. He joins a group of theatre misfits in a steam-punk production of Hamlet where he becomes friends with Fish, a girl with pink hair and a troubled past, and The Monk, an edgy upperclassman who refuses to let go of the things he loves. For a while, Max almost feels happy. But his tumour is always lurking in the wings – until one night it knocks him down and Max is forced to face the truth, not just about the tumour, but about how hard it is to let go of the past. At turns lyrical, haunting, and triumphant, Ready to Fall is a story of grief, love, rebellion and starting fresh from acclaimed author Marcella Pixley.

 

~*~

 

Max’s story begins with a flashback to when he was five, and the first time his mum came home from hospital after being sick. And then, ten years later, she has passed away from a brain tumour. Max has watched her slow deterioration, struggling to cope with his own grief as he goes back to school, and as his dad tries to make the best effort he can, but Max just wants to feel close to his mother, which is when his own brain tumour comes into being. Max’s belief that the tumour exists impacts everything in his life, and he begins to become withdrawn, hiding away from friends. When his father sends him to an artsy school – the Baldwin School, Max begins to settle down a little, finding friends like Fish he can talk to. But the cloud that is the tumour is always there, hovering at the edges of his mind – until the day he is forced to face the truth and come to terms with what has happened in his life.

 

This was a surprise arrival from Allen and Unwin – I have only managed to finish it now after a gap in other books presented itself, and found that, as strange as the story felt, it was one where I wanted to know what happened to max, to Fish and I wanted to know more about Lydie and her girls, Soleil and Luna.

 

When I read it, I could feel Max’s grief over losing his mother – it was raw, real and Marcella didn’t shy away from letting Max feel things or bottle them up – she let him exist as the person he was, wary, yet wanting to talk – yet not knowing how to begin a conversation. Throughout it all, I also felt for Max’s dad, whose grief was just as intense and in his own way, he dealt with it and showed his love for Max, though it was hard for him. When it came to Lydie and her twins, I enjoyed getting to know them and came to love them, especially Luna and Soleil as the novel progressed.

 

Of the friends at Baldwin, Fish was my favourite – the one who let Max be who he was, and didn’t judge him, who truly cared, but had secrets of her own. I quote liked Ravi too, because he seemed to temper The Monk, who I didn’t really like and couldn’t understand why everyone did when he came across as quite the bully, trying to get everyone to think like him – at times, I felt Max agreed with him to keep the peace. This showed I think, the dynamics of school and various relationships though, and in the end, it was the ones with Fish, Dad, Lydie and her girls that helped Max the most, and the ones I cheered for – because here we had family love, the love of friends, and romantic love – though this last one was a delightful surprise that wasn’t forced, and that felt real when it happened.

 

Even though I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book when I first got it, I did enjoy it, though I found it hard to pin down a genre – it doesn’t neatly fit into one, and I feel that the books that do this are ones that are either very good, or potentially odd – this one was a little odd, but good – and the execution of the storyline, and anthropomorphising of the tumour made Max and how people deal with their own grief or illness interesting and relatable. A decent, though provoking read for teenagers.

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