Book Review Still Life by Sarah Winman

About the book

1944, in the ruined wine cellar of a Tuscan villa, as bombs fall around them, two strangers meet and share an extraordinary evening.

Ulysses Temper is a young British soldier, Evelyn Skinner is a sexagenarian art historian and possible spy. She has come to Italy to salvage paintings from the wreckage and relive memories of the time she encountered EM Forster and had her heart stolen by an Italian maid in a particular Florentine room with a view.

Evelyn’s talk of truth and beauty plants a seed in Ulysses’ mind that will shape the trajectory of his life – and of those who love him – for the next four decades.

Moving from the Tuscan Hills and piazzas of Florence, to the smog of London’s East End, Still Life is a sweeping, joyful novel about beauty, love, family and fate.

Comments

Most of our readers loved this book.

We found it to be a long epic story that weaves through the lives of diverse characters. These many characters, with their exposed personal faults and their redeeming personal traits, were discussed animatedly and at length by our group.

The main character, Ulysses Temper, was a much-loved character in the book.

One reader summed up the story well by saying “this is a story about flawed characters adapting to kinder versions of themselves and it seems to be by the influence of one man, Ulysses Temper.”

The story begins in Italy during the last stages of the second world war and moves from 1944 through to 1979. The descriptive narrative contrasts between the dirty smog of Londen’s east end and the Italian city of Florence. The beautiful food and piazzas, the history of magnificent art and the wonderful Tuscan countryside.

Our readers described the story as being about friendship, love, art and community.

A wonderful story of historical fiction. Beautifully written and researched by the author Sarah Winman. Highly recommended. A criticism of the book from some readers was that it was hard to read for them due to small copy print. This did not allow the story to flow easily and fatigued some due to the concentration required.

Read by MJ Readers

Book Review Readers of the Broken Wheel Recommend

About the book

Sara has never left Sweden but at the age of 28 she decides it’s time. She cashes in her savings, packs a suitcase full of books and sets off for Broken Wheel, Iowa, a town where she knows nobody.

Sara quickly realises that Broken Wheel is in desperate need of some adventure, a dose of self-help and perhaps a little romance, too. In short, this is a town in need of a bookshop.

With a little help from the locals, Sara sets up Broken Wheel’s first bookstore. The shop might be a little quirky but then again, so is Sara. And as Broken Wheel’s story begins to take shape, there are some surprises in store for Sara too.

Comments

We had a range of opinions between 2 & 7 out of 10. Some of us like the fact that is was a believable story but we would not want to live in this town in the middle of nowhere.

We liked the way the letters gave structure to the story. Sara knew a lot about the people in the town and they knew all there was to know about her, because the old lady had told the towns people all about Sara; the old lady felt Sara would be good for the town.

Read by Winsmead Readers

Best Wishes by Richard Glover

When I purchased my copy of Richard Glover’s latest book Best Wishes, I set myself up in my favourite chair on the decking and didn’t really move again until I was finished the whole book.

Best Wishes was an enjoyable, relatable, laugh out loud read. Filled with Richard Glover’s usual wit, sass, and humour. I found myself wishing (excuse the pun) for another few hundred wishes. Somehow, 365 didn’t feel like nearly enough.

If you are looking for the perfect book to lose yourself in on a sunny Saturday morning in your favourite spot, then Best Wishes is that book. I guarantee you will feel a warm glow inside when you have finished.

Should you enjoy Best Wishes as much as I did, do yourself a favour and listen to the eAudiobook version; narrated by Richard Glover himself, it is brilliant! I read the book and listened to eAudiobook.

Listen to this book online [Borrow Box]

If you enjoy Richard Glover’s books as much as I do then why not pop along to his Author Talk on Saturday 18th November 2023 at Parramatta Library at PHIVE.

Happy reading everyone, I hope you all enjoy Best Wishes as much as I did.

Jody

Popular Australian Reads 2023

What great Australian authors have you discovered this year?

There is nothing we like better here at City of Parramatta Libraries than discussing and recommending Australian authors to our community of readers. Below is just a small selection of some of our current favourites.

Enjoy!

Seven days by Fleur Ferries

Winner of Best Young Adult novel, 2023 Davitt Awards.

When Ben is dumped with his country relatives for the holidays, he starts counting down the days until it is over, loathing every second.

However, Ben’s stay takes a sharp turn when he comes across his great-great grandfather’s journal – the final entry being from one hundred years ago, right after he was shot. With his cousin, Josh, Ben starts unravelling mysteries, lies and shocking crimes. Can the two boys beat the odds to resolve a century of bad blood between two families?

Fleur Ferries diverse background as a Paramedic and Police Officer has provided a unique narrative into current society.

https://www.penguin.com.au/books/seven-days-9781761043352

Stone town by Margaret Hickey

With its gold-rush history long in the past, Stone Town has seen better days. And it’s now in the headlines for all the wrong reasons . . .

When three teenagers stumble upon a body in dense bushland one rainy Friday night, Senior Sergeant Mark Ariti’s hopes for a quiet posting in his old home town are shattered. The victim is Aidan Sleeth, a property developer, whose controversial plan to buy up local land means few are surprised he ended up dead.

However, his gruesome murder is overshadowed by a mystery consuming the entire nation: the disappearance of Detective Sergeant Natalie Whitsed.

Natalie had been investigating the celebrity wife of crime boss Tony ‘The Hook’ Scopelliti when she vanished. What did she uncover? Has it cost her her life? And why are the two Homicide detectives, sent from the city to run the Sleeth case, so obsessed with Natalie’s fate?

Following a late-night call from his former boss, Mark is sure of one thing: he’s now in the middle of a deadly game . . .

Margaret Hickey is a playwright & author who has a strong interest in rural communities.

https://www.penguin.com.au/books/stone-town-9781761048692

The all of it by Cadance Bell

Seven years ago, Ben was loveless, overweight, in debt and living in his parents’ rumpus room, trying to find a way to quietly die. Days passed by in a haze of marijuana smoke and self-loathing. Then, one day, Ben decided not to die. He decided to change everything – starting with the Ben bit. Becoming Cadance would be more than a gender transition. It would be a transition in every way. It would mean leaving behind a rural Mudgee childhood filled with Frogger, hot chips, Godliness, and a forbidden love of Sarah Parker’s My Little Pony; and the violence, drugs and secrecy that plagued her twenties. Choosing to live was just the beginning; what mattered was how she existed.

Cadance Bell is a storyteller whose various pieces have appeared in The Guardian, popular blogs – ‘Rainbow Roo’ and ‘I miss pockets’. Documentaries to explore include ‘Rainbow Passage’ and ‘Who I am’. Candances’ hobbies and interests include playing Pokemon Go and eating burritos.

https://www.penguin.com.au/books/the-all-of-it-9781761045028

Believe by Sam Frost

Believe a mental health initiative created by Sam Frost and supported by her sister Krister is an online community forum inclusive to everyone focussing on mental health subjects as depression, anxiety, unhealthy relationships and dealing with the challenges of social media.

Believe has progressed from an online community forum into a great book!

In Believe, Sam shares her own experiences navigating dark mental health periods and, alongside Kristine’s own insights, offers warm, gentle inspiration and tips to help you come through to the other side of your own. Believe is a personal story, a battle cry and a reassurance for the many of Sam’s fans who have struggled as she has.

https://www.believebysamfrost.com/about

https://www.hachette.com.au/book/believe

Book Review The Alice Network

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

Summary

In an enthralling new historical novel from national bestselling author Kate Quinn, two women—a female spy recruited to the real-life Alice Network in France during World War I and an unconventional American socialite searching for her cousin in 1947—are brought together in a mesmerizing story of courage and redemption.

1947. In the chaotic aftermath of World War II, American college girl Charlie St. Clair is pregnant, unmarried, and on the verge of being thrown out of her very proper family. She’s also nursing a desperate hope that her beloved cousin Rose, who disappeared in Nazi-occupied France during the war, might still be alive. So when Charlie’s parents banish her to Europe to have her “little problem” taken care of, Charlie breaks free and heads to London, determined to find out what happened to the cousin she loves like a sister.

1915. A year into the Great War, Eve Gardiner burns to join the fight against the Germans and unexpectedly gets her chance when she’s recruited to work as a spy. Sent into enemy-occupied France, she’s trained by the mesmerizing Lili, the “Queen of Spies”, who manages a vast network of secret agents right under the enemy’s nose.

Thirty years later, haunted by the betrayal that ultimately tore apart the Alice Network, Eve spends her days drunk and secluded in her crumbling London house. Until a young American barges in uttering a name Eve hasn’t heard in decades, and launches them both on a mission to find the truth…no matter where it leads.

From the publisher

Comments

As a group, we had not read much historical fiction, or knew very much about the role female spies had played in WW1 and WWII. However,  we were impressed and enjoyed the history lesson! We quite liked The Alice Network.  We love a story told from different points of views, through alternating chapters.  In this case, moving back and forth between Eve during the war, and Charlie, after the war as she searched for her lost cousin.  While we loved Eve’s story, riveted and turning pages quickly to get back to her side of the story; we struggled a little with Charlie.  We didn’t connect as well with her, however, we loved the small cast of supporting characters. We were amazed to learn at the end that some characters had been based on real people and that some of these events had actually happened. Overall, we would recommend this one for anyone who loves a historical fiction read. 

Read by Cultcha Club