The Valentine House

Emma Henderson

* A 2017 Notable Book

Reviewed by Alison Burns

Inspired by the six years Henderson spent in a remote valley in the French Alps, The Valentine House takes its vantage point from a chalet she came across high in the mountains – built in 1858 by Sir Alfred Wills, British mountaineer and judge – and draws on the owner’s writings. The first of Henderson’s main characters – Anthony Valentine, scholarly patriarch of the family’s adored chalet, Arete – grew from these experiences and discoveries. The second, his servant Mathilde, is entirely Henderson’s creation, and into her the author seems to have poured everything she knows and feels about this magical region and its real-life occupants [Read more...] in Reviews

Here Comes the Sun

Nicole Dennis-Benn

* A 2017 Notable Book

Reviewed by Shirley Whiteside

Dennis-Benn roots the story firmly in Jamaica by using local patois in speech which has a musicality and poetry all of its own. Through Thandi she shows the discrimination against girls with dark skins and the lengths some will go to in order to have the light brown skin that is considered beautiful. It is another desperately sad example of healthy young women being told they are not enough in themselves [Read more...]in Reviews

Towards Mellbreak

Marie-Elsa Bragg

* A 2017 Notable Book

Reviewed by Alison Burns

Towards Mellbreak is suffused with love for these people and their place. You see and feel the rain ‘lathered onto the fells, clinging to the clouds like froth’, the snowdrops ‘spread across the lawn, as if a stream had come through’, the mourners crammed into the farm kitchen ‘like a bucket of coals’. It is such an intimate portrait that you don’t want to leave them [Read more...]

Behold the Dreamers

Imbolo Mbue

*A 2017 Notable Book

Reviewed by Elsbeth Lindner

As the shadow of the coming crisis intensifies, so other problems develop for Neni and Jende. The birth of their second child Timba compounds their financial difficulties while their individual and joint relationships with the Edwards become ever more tangled. Yet Mbue – a Cameroonian herself –notably inclines away from the predictable [Read more...] in Revews

November Crime Round-Up

N. J. Cooper

Reviewed by N.J. Cooper

Jackson is herself a journalist and makes Sophie’s work convincing in the office as well as in the field. Her determination to get at the truth behind a series of killings the police are sure they’ve solved puts at her great personal risk and involves her in the troubled marriage of her best friend and colleague. If it were not that practically every character in the novel has a dysfunctional personal life and unsatisfactory parents, I would give this novel five stars [Read more...] in Reviews

The Soldier’s Curse

Meg and Tom Keneally

Reviewed by Shirley Whiteside

The novel’s extensive but never intrusive historical detail brings the penal colony to life, and contacts with the Birpai, the local Aboriginal people, demonstrate how arrogant Europeans took their lands without a second thought...The descriptions of the flora and fauna of nineteenth-century Australia also root the story in a very particular time and place. It is beautiful, but for many it is a prison nonetheless [Read more...] in Reviews

A Woman’s War

Frances Donaldson

Reviewed by Jessica Mann

Frankie has to care for her two small children, run the house and make sure there is enough to eat in spite of ever increasing shortages and ever more severe rationing. She must also keep their farm going. She works with recalcitrant men who don’t believe women could or should be in charge. They are also (with good reason) afraid that if they teach her how to do their jobs, she will take over and they will be sacked. But the farm belongs to Frankie and she is tough and determined. She gradually masters most farming skills, discovers that they are not as difficult as her workers made them seem and, one after another, the men she employs either leave, or learn to live with her as boss [Read more...] in Reviews