Friday, 29 July 2016

Abbey's Bookseller Picks ~ Book Reviews from 131 York Street

"Compelling and bittersweet"

Music and Freedom
ZoĆ« Morrison

On an orange orchard in rural Australia, from age three Alice Murray has been learning to play the piano. When her talents are soon recognised, Alice’s mother sends her to boarding school in England. As doors open and opportunities present themselves, Alice continues her musical education abroad all the while trying to reconcile her deep yearning to return home to her mother, with her dream of becoming a concert pianist. It’s during her time spent in a musical summer program at Oxford that she meets Edward, an intriguing, seemingly worldly economics professor. What she believes to be a powerful love, Alice soon realises is a harrowing force threatening to destroy and isolate her from the sanctuary of her music.

This compelling, bittersweet novel is a beautiful exploration of the transcendental nature of music and the restorative powers of love. In later years, as music once again makes its way into Alice’s life, she begins to realise that resurrection is never an impossibility, and that what is broken can, with a little faith and determination, be mended. Lyrical and intelligent in its style, this book will stay with you well after you have turned the last page.

Jessica Slade
More reviews from Jessica

"Suspense and humour"

The House at the Edge of Night
Catherine Banner

I am sure this writer will be compared to Louis de Bernieres but to me she has produced a truly original story and written it in a straightforward style of her own. Off the coast of Italy lies the island of Castellamare, remote, old fashioned and almost untouched by monumental events happening elsewhere in the world. But, change is inevitable and will bring both happiness and despair to the inhabitants of this small and rocky outpost. It’s a long book but a real ‘page-turner’ and has suspense and humour in every chapter.

Peter Smith
More reviews from Peter

"An absolute treasure"

Memories: From Moscow to the Black Sea

Every now and then you are fortunate enough to come across an author that you know you will be re-reading long into your golden years, and to that short but cherished list I now introduce Teffi. What a discovery! It only took a few chapters of her modern voice, charm and intelligent observation to wholeheartedly win me over.

A Russian writer from the early twentieth century, she was so widely read that she could count both Lenin and Nicholas II as avid readers. Only recently translated for English speaking audiences, her autobiographical account of leaving revolutionary Russia and her uncertain journey as a refugee is a timely release.

The journey itself is at times so distressing that it is a testament to her character and naturally humorous disposition that can still make you laugh. This book was an absolute treasure to me, as is Teffi herself, and I am so delighted to have discovered her!

Sian McNabney
More reviews from Sian

"Witty and literary"

Black Teeth
Zane Lovitt

Four oddball loners become entwined in a very strange and novel situation. Revenge and murder, and very enjoyable as the layers gradually peel away to reveal tragic truths. Witty and literary, Zane Lovitt’s writing pops with youthful invention and has that irresistible pull as to what happens next. 

Jason Ginaff goes by many names. This is due in part to his hyper-vigilant attitude to privacy and also to his consulting work, utilising his keen skills in accessing information online about corporate job candidates to unearth embarrassing or compromising stuff they’d forgotten or thought they’d deleted. He’s an accomplished liar.

Jason has also been seeking out the father he never knew. And now he’s found him - former Detective Glen Tyan, known as ‘The Polygraph’ for his ability to suss out a liar.

Rudy Alamein is a man-child whose stunted development arose from the tragic murder of his mother thirteen years ago, for which his father was incarcerated. Rudy wants Detective Glen Tyan dead.

And then there’s Elizabeth.  

As the day of reckoning draws nearer, some very intriguing aspects about the murder of Cheryl Alamein are unearthed.

When I finished reading this, I kind of wished I was starting out again. Very, very enjoyable. I’ll be seeking out Lovitt's debut, The Midnight Promise (Winner: Best First Fiction - NED KELLY AWARDS 2013), and anything else he cares to write.

Craig Kirchner
More reviews from Craig

"A thoughtful book"

The Bone Sparrow
Zana Fraillon

Subhi is of Rohingya descent, but he was born in Australia. Unfortunately, he was born in a detention camp, where he has spent his whole life. By nature he is optimistic and good-natured, though little in his external circumstances could be said to be hopeful - his mother is withdrawing from life, his older sister is either angry or contemptuous, his father still hasn't made it to Australia, the camp has little in the way of resources.

Yet Subhi is attracted to stories and they to him - the most powerful is the Night Sea, and the wondrous creatures and gifts it contains keep him  hopeful. Then one night Jimmie, who lives beyond the fence, makes her way over it and meets Subhi.

An unlikely friendship develops as they exchange stories. Jimmie is struggling with the loss of her Mum and the absence of her father, and poverty and neglect are part of her life, but together Subhi and Jimmie discover the true power of storytelling… A thoughtful book along the lines of Morris Gleitzman's novels.

Lindy Jones
More reviews from Lindy


Small Town Talk: Bob Dylan, the Band, Van Morrison, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix & Friends in Woodstock
Barney Hoskyns

Hoskyn's new book is about the artistic/bohemian community of Woodstock, from its beginnings in the early 1900's and its peak during the 60's and how Dylan embraced it, then abandoned what was once an isolated, artistic community but soon turned into a tourist haven. Brilliant.

Greg Waldron
More reviews from Greg

Since 1968 ~ Abbey's 131 York Street (next to QVB) Sydney ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Abbey's ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Notes from Eve Abbey ~ August 2016

There is a splendid book in the New Releases which will interest all our legal eagle customers and others interested in politics and law.

By Ian Hancock, an Editorial Fellow of the Australian Dictionary of Biography, and published by Federation Press, it is Tom Hughes QC: A Cab on the Rank.

There is a great portrait of him on the cover backing up the description “a lion of the Law”. A meticulous account of Tom’s childhood and his time in England as a Sunderland Pilot during the Second World War is followed by an even more meticulous account of the very many important cases Tom Hughes ran during his long period at the bar from 1952 to 2012 plus tales of political in-fighting when Hughes was Federal Attorney General. His 90th birthday was celebrated by the Bar Association in 2013. “He may be the last of the traditional barrister class but on his own he could draw a crowd, persuade a jury and ensure that judges paid attention”. Of course his other claim to fame is that he is Lucy’s father and thus father-in-law to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

An unusual Australian biography is Our Man Elsewhere: In Search of Alan Moorehead by Thornton McCamish. I say unusual because it also includes the activities and reactions of the author who has indeed set out to remind us of a famous Australian author who seems to have gone out of fashion. Alan Moorehead was a journalist par excellence. His first big success was the book he wrote about Gallipoli, reissued recently for the centenary of that battle. He was a famous war correspondent and then later took to travel writing.

He led a very cosmopolitan life, friendly with Hemingway and other writers of the period. Although he did write a few novels they were never the success of his travel stories. Who can forget The White Nile and then The Blue Nile, both with wonderful illustrations in large glossy paperbacks? There was a sad end to his life when he suffered a major stroke which left him unable to speak or write. Today his daughter, Caroline Moorehead, carries on his tradition of finding good true stories to tell-such as Village of Secrets: Defying the Nazis in Vichy France and A Train in Winter: A Story of Resistance, Friendship and Survival at Auschwitz, or Priam’s Gold: Schliemann and the Lost Treasures of Troy, as well as a biography of Freya Stark.

If you like true story adventures we have just the book for you. It is The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare: Churchill’s Mavericks Plotting Hitler’s Defeat by Giles Milton. Despite the real seriousness of these activities, which did indeed help defeat Hitler and the Nazis, I think the people involved, mostly men with double-hyphenated names, with very good mathematical minds, had the time of their lives. They blew up the vital dry dock at St. Nazaire which kept the dangerous warship Tirpitz out of the Atlantic; they blew up viaducts and railways; they parachuted behind the lines and linked up with Partisans, they invented and manufactured all sorts of tricky bombs and special detonators; they worked sixteen hour days and celebrated hard afterwards.
They certainly had Churchill’s gleeful support. A good thing that Giles Milton has written this book so their names won’t be forgotten. Milton’s forte is fossicking around in the sidelines of history to find exciting overlooked adventurers. His most famous book is Nathaniel’s Nutmeg about how Britain came to own New York and lots of other things. A few of his other titles are White Gold, Russian Roulette, Fascinating Footnotes from History and Paradise Lost: Smyrna 1922. All of them are entertaining.

I’ve just read a terrific crime novel called The Dry: A Desperate Act in a Small Town with Big Secrets. It is by Melbourne journalist Jane Harper. It is a gripping story, as the title suggests. I hope she will write another one soon. This is a perfect description of a country town sweltering in the heat and trying to decide just who was actually the shooter.

I’ve also taken up the crime stories by Lesley Thomson, in a series called The Detective’s Daughter. These are set in the suburbs of London which are carefully described. Lesley is now referred to as “firmly established as one of our leading crime writers”, so I am pleased for her. Years ago she stayed with me in Manly when she first travelled to Australia. She began her first book sitting under my jacaranda tree. The books are very intelligent and credible. There are four in the series now – the last two are The Detective’s Secret and The House with No Rooms.

Keep well,


Since 1968 ~ Abbey's 131 York Street Sydney ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Abbey's ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Just Arrived! For Keeps: A Treasury of Stories, Poems and Plays Celebrating 100 Years of the School Magazine

For Keeps has arrived.

For the last two years I have been attending regular committee meetings of the The School Magazine Centenary Reference Group.  It really opened my eyes to see what the valiant people who put out four levels of The School Magazine for ten months of each year go through to bring school children interesting, entertaining and (quietly) educational material. Putting together an anthology was a time-intensive labour of love, fraught with bureaucracy and careful steps through the minefield of departmental procedures, but what a triumph the final product is!

The School Magazine is the oldest continuous children's literary magazine in the world (and the second oldest magazine in Australia!) It has entertained, educated and enthralled children for a century and many adults have fond memories of anticipating each monthly issue when they were at school. (In fact, I know of some customers who still have their original copies!) Many of our best and brightest writers and illustrators got their start with the Magazine, and it still fosters emerging talent whilst attracting established contributors. Then there is Noela Young, the illustrator best known for bringing Ruth Park's Muddleheaded Wombat to life - she still contributes to the Magazine after more than half a century!

Today it is published in four age levels, ten times every year. To celebrate its centenary, this beautifully produced anthology presents a delectable selection of extracts from editions throughout its history - and as you can imagine, that's a century of delights to pick and choose from. Each entry has the year it appeared on the outer margin and comes with its original illustrations. They are arranged in themes (People, Play, Place) with historic photographs that are guaranteed to evoke nostalgia in older readers, this is both a fascinating resource and a trip down memory lane for adults, whilst still managing to reproduce articles and stories that children of today can appreciate. A truly fine book that indeed lives up to the name 'treasury'!

Lindy Jones

Since 1968 ~ Abbey's 131 York Street Sydney ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Abbey's ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Friday, 1 July 2016

Notes from Eve Abbey ~ July 2016

In June we had an unusual book launch in Abbey’s.

Ye Xin is a successful Chinese author as well as the Director of the Institute of Literature at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences. His latest book Educated Youth, tells the story of one of China’s huge social experiments. During the Cultural Revolution many millions of Chinese high school graduates were sent to live and work in the countryside. In the 1970’s this policy finished and the “educated youth” were allowed to return – but not their families. Many took advantage of this to escape an unhappy marriage or just for another opportunity to begin life again.

Ten years later the children, now teenagers, began to turn up in the cities looking for their parents. Ye Xin’s novel follows five such children, who find their parents have remarried and have new families. Greed and self-interest struggles with a sense of love and duty. I recently saw a film about just this situation and I think we will see more such books and films.

Giramondo published this first translation into English by Jing Han, a Sydney academic. For the launching a big crowd of Chinese people turned up; many of them bought multiple copies – no doubt to press upon the younger generations. I think they will find the story engrossing.

Below - L to R: Alice Grundy, Ivor Indyk (Giramondo), Ye Xin, Jing Han.

Ye Xin - Educated YouthYe Xin - Educated Youth

We have more stock of Michael Wilding’s latest, Growing Wild, so I have had fun reading this memoir of one of our most prolific and varied writers, a real Man of Letters. This time he also writes about his childhood on the outskirts of Worcester in England, which he writes about very affectionately although resentful of class differences.

After a very successful schooling and then graduation from Cambridge University, Michael took up a post in the English Department of Sydney University, at only 21 years of age. He remains Emeritus Professor of English. Included amongst the long list of his publications are his work on Milton and on Marcus Clark, Lawson, Furphy and Stead. On the other hand the Seventies soon came along and the huge outpouring of Australian writing.

In this memoir he doesn’t talk about Wild and Woolley, the distribution press he began with Pat Woolley, importing and publishing new and radical authors, because he has already written a separate book on this - Wild and Woolley: A Publishing Memoir.

That was a rather exciting time, the time of the 'Poetry Wars' and big social changes. I remember that well. Abbey’s Bookshop was a centre for new books coming in from Book People in California, and Robert Adamson said in the Sydney Morning Herald “There’s only one place for poetry in Sydney. I can’t say the name, but it is within spitting distance of the Town Hall”. We liked that.

Michael has also been a prolific short story writer. As well as an amusing series of spoof detective stories, featuring the detective Plant (a reference to possible supervision from ASIO) and the best Campus Novel – Academia Nuts – he was also, along with Frank Moorhouse and Carmel Kelly, the founder of Tabloid Story, a small magazine for short story writers. While reading this memoir it is intriguing to see Michael’s style swerve from lightly amusing chat to serious academic references. If you were living in Sydney in those days you will find much to amuse you here.

Just for interest, you can still buy David Lodge’s very funny campus stories. All three are collected in Campus Trilogy: Changing Places, Small World and Nice Work.

After my glorious sweep through Tim Winton’s Cloudstreet I decided to read two of his memoirs. First I read Land’s Edge: A Coastal Memoir (reprinted in 2010) and then Island Home: A Landscape Memoir (published in 2015). I’ve come to the conclusion that anything Tim Winton writes is worth reading. Same can be said about Helen Garner. They are people thinking deeply about how they live in Australia. It was interesting to see in the latter memoir that Tim himself was almost drowned under a boat when he was young – as was the character Fish in Cloudstreet.

I am now reading This Orient Isle: Elizabethan England and the Islamic World by Jerry Brotton which has been a most interesting surprise. The author is also a Shakespeare expert so he reminds us of the many oriental tales used by Shakespeare and reminds us that Henry VIII liked to wear oriental style clothes and brandish a scimitar. There is a nice overview of what was going on in the period directly following Henry’s death up to the accession of Elizabeth – a time usually dealt with quickly.

In 1600 Morocco sent a formal proposal to Elizabeth to join forces to attack Spain (maybe to reclaim Andalus, maybe to attack Spain’s colonies in the New World). The Catholic Church was concerned about both the Rise of Islam and the Rise of Lutheranism so Elizabeth was a likely ally.

I’m now reading about the rise of the Joint Stock Company and the search for the North West Passage. I also recommend The Silk Roads: A New History of the World by Peter Frankopan who also wrote The First Crusade: The Call of the East. I haven’t yet read The Silk Roads – it has 672 pages so too big for me just now. It is worth noting that the first Professorship in Arabic Studies was begun at Cambridge University in 1632 and at Oxford University in 1636.

Keep well,


Since 1968 ~ Abbey's 131 York Street Sydney ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Abbey's ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers