Things To Look Forward To 

David Gaunt has owned Gleebooks with partner Roger Mackell since 1976.

June 2019

 - Thursday, May 30, 2019
Just two books to talk about this month, as I slowly come back to life after SWF. Both by women, but literally a world apart. The first is a novel by the American author, Elizabeth Gilbert, best known for her massive bestseller Eat, Pray, Love. I never read that, but found her most recent fiction, The Signature of All Things a wonderfully enjoyable, and erudite work. It’s an  account of a scientifically gifted young woman’s journey through a life that takes her from Kew Gardens to Tahiti. It’s ambitious, epic almost, in scope, but a quite wise and lovely rumination about human nature. Which is to suggest, by a roundabout way, that it’s a splendid book to introduce yourself to Gilbert’s fiction. And then to say that she brings the same wit and wisdom to her new novel, City of Girls, a first-person coming-of-age story, told with the benefit of hindsight by the gloriously engaging Vivian Morris. Our narrator has been exiled from the middle class comfort of her parents’ house into the ‘care’ of an eccentric, theatrical Aunt Peg. This is an uneven, far from flawless piece of storytelling, but it’s hugely entertaining, and packs more than a few well-delivered punches. Vivid, flesh-and-bone characters, and a world unfamiliar to most readers, revealed with zest and tenderness. Worth a wallow.

The Yield, the long awaited new novel from Tara June Winch (her debut novel being the award-winning Swallow the Air), is indeed a world away from City of Girls. Set on the banks of the Murrumby River, at Prosperous, on Massacre Plain, this a profoundly affecting story of endurance, fortitude and even celebration, in the face of the dispossession of a people and a culture. August Gondiwindi has returned to Australia after ten years, for the funeral of her beloved grandfather—an event coinciding with the takeover of ancestral land at Prosperous House for mining. And grandfather Albert ‘Poppy’ Gondiwindi, knowing his death is imminent, has been compiling a dictionary of words and phrases from the language he was not allowed to use as a child. It’s a fictional scenario which provides a breadth and depth of possibilities that Winch takes full advantage of—and the result is a work of dazzling originality, in structure, language, and intent. Quite simply, nobody has written anything quite like this before. Interspersed narratives weave through chapters comprised of entries from Poppy’s dictionary, from the diary of the Lutheran missionary whose intervention in Aboriginal lives a century before  has such tragic consequence, and from the contemporary action. And as the title intimates, ‘Yield’ embodies both senses of the word—of reaping/taking, and of giving/giving up. Winch explores this beautifully, all the while reclaiming the storytelling of her people. Essential reading. (out July 2nd).