This is an amazing book, and in fact has been longlisted for the Orange Prize this year. It’s a really difficult book to describe. Natalie, a young doctor, is visiting an orphanage in the devastated Balkans, as a mission of mercy to innoculate children. She feels there are many secrets her host family are not sharing with her, particularly why a group of people are digging in the vineyard. Her beloved grandfather has just mysteriously died far from home when he was meant to be meeting her in the Balkans. As she begins to unravel the secrets, the story goes back to the Balkans in 1941, when a tiger escaped from the zoo during the German bombing, took up residence close to the village of Galina and started coming into the village at night. All these strands come together to give Natalie the answers she was searching for. A great story, beautifully written.
Now here’s a great thriller! It does have certain similarities to Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men with drugs, good men overwhelmed by circumstances and dubious policemen, but the writing is terrific, the characters are very believable and the plot wont let you go. Phil Hunt has kept his livery business going with the occasional delivery of drugs across the mountains into Canada. Drake is the sheriff working under the shadow of his father who was part of the drug scene. Hunt has the drugs, the sheriff is after him, and the owners of the drugs send a killer after them. A real pageturner I just couldn’t put down.
The second book I wanted to tell you about is a book by Australian author Jennifer Mills. It’s also her second book and it is a must read – one of this year’s best. The story begins in Sydney where a young man has just been released from jail. He has no identity, no money, no future. He takes a train south and then begins hitching, heading eventually to Adelaide, relying on the kindness of people to feed him and shelter him. At some stage he decides to go home, probably around Katherine, and gradually his past starts filtering back. Mills lives in Alice Springs and her sense of place in the Australian outback is brilliant. Her writing is staggeringly good, I’m really envious with what she can do with words. Do read it. I’ll make sure we do this book for our next bookclub.