What I'm Reading April 2017

Hello, I’m back! It feels like ages! Three weeks is a long time, at least for me. It’s been a great month for reading too, so I’ll get straight to business.

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman is exactly what I’d expected: accessible without being simplistic, these tales are lovingly (re)told by one of the world’s masters in such a way that can be enjoyed from childhood (at least, I’d allow my two to pick it up) to adulthood. There’s a savviness to this publication, capitalising on the popularity of both the Marvel movies and the comics from which they derive, as well as a hole in the commercial market. Before reading I had very little knowledge of the tales or its characters (beyond what I’d seen in movies), and upon finishing I sense that there is a lot from the Norse canon that Gaiman has probably left out, but I was more than satisfied with his curatorial choices.

I have seen a few sniffy reviews that question the book’s lack of passion or sense of… scale, I suppose. Epic deeds and epic nastiness are not always equalised by fair consequence or judgement. That’s a deliberate choice on Gaiman’s part – he’s not interested in moralising because that’s not the point of the stories. That’s why – for example – I think Loki captures so much attention. Yes, he’s sly and charming. But he’s almost certainly a psychopath. It was an enjoyable read.

See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt has hit the Australian bestseller lists and I’m very pleased to see her success. This is a novel over the decade in the writing, I can imagine her pride and relief in bringing it into the world. I read See What I have Done in almost an entire sitting – well, that was easy, as it was a twelve-hour road trip!

It has a juicy hook: ‘Lizzie Borden took an axe… or did she?’ If the opening phrase is familiar but you can’t quite place it, perhaps this old rhyme will help:

Lizzie Borden took an axe
And gave her mother forty whacks,
When she saw what she had done,
She gave her father forty-one

It is a compulsive page-turner and Schmidt executes the cloying, claustrophobic and dysfunctional household well with an evocative repetition of imagery and language, particularly from Lizzie’s sing-song manic point-of-view.

Last, From the Wreck by Jane Rawson. I’d been hearing a lot of advance praise of the novel, so couldn’t believe my luck when I got my hands on it at the library. It’s hard to classify the genre – literary historical magic realism, perhaps? I don’t know – frankly, it’s not all that important, at least to me. This is a fearless, inventive gem that is going to stay with me like a welcome visitor, much like Michel Faber’s The Book of Strange New Things has. It asks questions like, what is life? What does it mean to have a consciousness? In what ways are we connected to the world? Do we recognise the impact we have on each other? I’d be very surprised if this doesn’t find its way onto literary prize lists next year.

 

What are you reading this month?

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Karen Andrews is the creator of this website, one of the most established and well-respected parenting blogs in the country. She is also an author, award-winning writer, poet, editor and publisher at Miscellaneous Press. Her latest book is On The Many Shapes Bodies Will Take (March, 2017).