The Dressmaker by Rosalie Ham

575758The Dressmaker by Rosalie Ham

I loved this dark comedy.  I don’t know how I missed it for so long.

Tilly returns to her small Australian home town 20 years after she was banished. A town full of characters, many with dark ulterior motives, full of jealousy, secrets and lies.

The town isn’t ready to accept Tilly back and her mother has become a recluse in a run down, unkept house. While Tilly was away she became a seamstress and although the residents resent Tilly’s return they can’t resist her custom made dresses.

Tilly is romanced by the town’s football hero. Circumstances change and once again she is shunned, but Tilly has plans of her own.

Great character development gives life to the unusual residents, not many who you will sympathise with.  Superior ending will leave you satisfied.

I just watched the movie. If I hadn’t read the book I would have liked it more. Too many people, bits and scenes got left out to fit it on the big screen.

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A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

25334922 A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

Ha!  There is no such thing as a little life. Every life is lived by the minute clocking up experiences, relationships, memories, regret.  Your life is defined by your hopes, dreams and your past.  Your decisions are based on how your memories and experiences shape your view of life and your feelings about yourself.

Guilt, regret and shame are yours to deal with or not, but they guide you whether you like it or not.

Four friends start their life long relationships as  University flatmates. Much water flows under the bridges as they navigate their further study, careers, partners and family lives or lack of.  The story centres around Jude.  Jude does not have a past he is willing to share but from what his flatmates can gather his childhood was brutal and scarring. Malcolm has had a charmed life of wealth and privilege, J.B.’s solo mum and grandmother have worked hard to be successful and dote on the only son.  Willem comes from the midwest, he had a disabled brother and parents who worked from dawn to dusk to provide for the family and had nothing left at the end of the day for him.

They need each other as they go their separate ways in the world, Jude as a lawyer, Malcolm an architect, J.B. a artist and Willem an actor. Coming together often over the years in combinations of the four.

This is a powerful book. Full of life that is real.  Full of success that isn’t taken for granted. Full of self loathing and full of love.

Absolutely FIVE stars.  This is a harrowing read that will invade your thinking when you aren’t thinking about it.  It is dark, challenging and brutally graphic. The ending is understandable in context with the ‘little life’.

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In My Heart: A Book of Feelings

by Jo Witek, Christine Roussey (Illustrations)
This is a special book in every way.  The format is beautiful with different colour heart cut outs going deeper and getting smaller on each page.  The illustrations are cute and clever and compliment the text in every way.
Recently a friend suffered a bereavement this book lead to good conversations about dealing with the range of emotions they were both feeling.
Normally wouldn’t use the publishers blurb in my blog posts but in this case I don’t think I could give a better explanation as to why this book is so good.  The only change I would make is to recognise that this book has much power to heal and isn’t just for toddlers :
Sometimes my heart feels like a big yellow star, shiny and bright.
I smile from ear to ear and twirl around so fast,
I feel as if I could take off into the sky.
This is when my heart is happy.
Happiness, sadness, bravery, anger, shyness . . . our hearts can feel so many feelings! Some make us feel as light as a balloon, others as heavy as an elephant. In My Heart explores a full range of emotions, describing how they feel physically, inside. With language that is lyrical but also direct, toddlers will be empowered by this new vocabulary and able to practice articulating and identifying their own emotions. With whimsical illustrations and an irresistible die-cut heart that extends through each spread, this unique feelings book is gorgeously packaged.

Hester and Harriet by Hilary Spiers

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Hester and Harriet by Hilary Spiers

Two widowed sisters live together in small town England.  Their life is how they like it with an annual holiday, family and friends to keep them busy. No drama, just the simple life, keeping the local gossip at bay and feeding the homeless man in the bus shelter.

Christmas has arrived. As they drive to their brother’s home for lunch lamenting the bad cooking and awkward company they spot something out of the ordinary.  This leads them to have quite a few adventures and house guests over the next couple of weeks.

This is a good read, funny with enough mystery to draw you in and keep you turing pages. I enjoyed the easy friendship of the sisters and the way they care deeply about each other.

Five stars – I shared it as a staff pick at work last week and the first customer to read it after me had to come and talk to me about how much she enjoyed it.

 

The Crash of Hennington by Patrick Ness

The Crash of Hennington by Patrick Ness

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Patrick Ness’s first novel written for adults recently reprinted.

As with his other books it is original, political and at times confusing but in the end satisfying.

Short chapters easily followed between many different characters and storylines.  They are coming together, but how?

A rhinoceros herd with free range in the town, a country club with corrupt management, a married mayor and her long lost ex coming to win her back. Oppression, wealth and drug addiction.  Prostitution, loyalty, religion and a town without history.

I highly recommend this title, it’s Patrick Ness darkness is hidden in farcical style.

The Painter by Peter Heller

The Painter by Peter Heller

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One of my favorite books of all time is Dog Stars, written by the same author.  A different type of story in some ways.

A damaged man, a talented painter, a confused sole.  A father who has lost a daughter, a marriage, a home.  He has started over but can’t leave his flaws behind.

This book is as beautifully written as the first.  It kept me turning the pages following the story to it’s conclusion.  It is sad, suspenseful, hopeful and has humour.

While is does lack in consequence, you are cheering for the underdog.