Best New Fiction and Non-Fiction Books, July 2021



Ground, Matthew Evans, Murdoch Books, $ 32.99

Matthew Evans, TV The Gourmet Farmer, plunges us into the heart of the earth’s most neglected attribute – the miraculous, ultra-thin skin that covers it: the floor. The best of soil is full of dead and living microbes. A shovelful of it contains more living species than the Amazon forests.

Despite photosynthesis, the soil is crucial for the taste of what grows there. terroir.

Modern vegetables are boring because of poor soil – we are designed to produce in quantity and not in quality, and to improve the taste of food, we have to know and take care of the soil. Entertaining, doco TV style, with a touch of Horrible stories, while being very informed.


Men without a homeland, Harrison Christian, Ultimo press, $ 34.99

The Bounty Mutiny in the revolutionary year of 1789 continues to force the popular imagination, not so much a mutiny as a moving story of the oppressed rising up against the oppressor.

It is both a journalistic investigation, using a variety of primary and secondary sources, and a personal journey, the author being a direct relative of the leader of the mutiny, Fletcher Christian. The mutiny itself comes halfway through the book, as what interests Harrison Christian most are the events that followed, with many mutineers settling on the isolated island of Pitcairn.

The possibility that Coleridge’s former sailor may have been based on Fletcher Christian, as well as the mystery of what happened to him, with some claiming to have seen him in England years later.


Choice of fiction of the week:
The 22 Madison May murders, Max Barry, Hachette, $ 32.99

Melbourne-based Max Barry has found success by refusing to be cataloged – his first novel, Syrup, was a satire on corporate marketing and its most recent, Providence, jumped into the realm of space opera.

The 22 Madison May Murders shifts to speculative fiction again, supercharging the serial killer thriller using alternate realities and timelines. It all starts with Maddie, a young real estate agent assigned to sell a landfill of a house to a single buyer, Clayton Hors. Outside of the murder, and when Felicity Staples, a junior reporter at a New York newspaper, is tasked with covering the crime, things quickly get weird. She meets Hugo, a member of a cabal leaping down the continuum that crosses timelines trying to perfect reality, and inadvertently joins him on the trail of a killer who travels the multiverse to murder his victim over and over again. Barry mixes psychological suspense and Sliding doors-style humor accessory in a tense and well paced novel with fully fleshed out characters.


The snow line, Tessa McWatt, scribe, $ 29.99

A Punjab wedding attracts four foreigners to India. There’s Jackson, an old white man with a dark past, who brought his wife’s ashes to scatter in the Ganges after the marriage was over. Other characters have Indian ancestors and represent the diversity of the country’s diaspora.

There’s Yosh, a yoga teacher, and Monica, an amateur photographer from Canada, as well as Londoner Reema, a classical singer who now faces a life-changing decision. The four take a trip to the Himalayas, where the novel takes on a spiritual twist, and the fault lines of cultural and historical conflicts that have been drawn and exposed collide with more existential questions in the face of the hostile majesty of the mountains.

Tessa McWatt has constructed a moving epic that is born from portraits of intimate and complex characters written with tenderness and precision.


Summer locust
David Allan-Petale, Fremantle, $ 29.99

Shortlisted for the Vogel Prize in 2017, Summer locust is a homecoming novel that resists all forms of easy sentimentality. Perth reporter Rowan Brockman has been called back to the Western Australian Wheat Belt, to the family farm he grew up on.

His brother Albert would have been the natural heir if he hadn’t died, and his ailing father is too confused to handle it now. Rowan is reluctant to return, but he must: his mother needs him to help with a final harvest as she prepares to sell.

David Allan-Petale’s debut is a calm, heartfelt novel that portrays the warmth and harshness of the wheat belt, while depicting the quicksand of Rowan’s inner landscape – nostalgia for the places of childhood and sorrow for losing people he loves (the progression of dementia is clearly portrayed), against the nagging sense of lack of belonging that took him away from his birthplace.

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