In Praise of the New 

Louise Pfanner shares her latest discoveries.

August 2019

 - Tuesday, July 30, 2019
I love the photo on the cover of Niki Savva’s Plots & Prayers—Malcolm Turnbull looking intelligent, urbane and amused, and Scott Morrison looking, well, not like that. In fact I’m not a political person, and have never read a book about politicians in my life; but I was curious about this book. Like many people, I don’t understand why Malcolm Turnbull was overthrown, and no-one seems to be able to explain why it happened. Niki Savva calmly and competently unravels the whole mess, somehow managing to put in a timeline that makes sense, with a credible description of all the players in this coup. It’s not her fault that they are, in the main, insufferably dull, and incredibly self serving. Savva maintains a dignified stance with all of them, even the really awful ones, never descending to their level, which is admirable given the behaviour of some of them. What does come across is the incredible plotting and machinations of the people who are supposed to be governing us—the extreme solipsism and utter egocentricity of most of them, while they scheme and backstab, grandstand and flounce. Monkeys in a zoo, although lacking in any simian charm. This is a good book, but I still don’t understand what happened.

Speaking of our leaders’ banality, the latest Jackson Brodie book by Kate Atkinson, Big Sky, is riddled with similarly nasty and banal characters. Set in a seaside town in North Yorkshire, Jackson Brodie has left the police and is now a PI. He is working on one case, which of course leads to far greater crimes for him to eventually uncovers. Jackson is a charismatic character, the product of a tragic childhood, he has risen above this tragedy and gone forth into the world, attracting both good and bad. This is the fifth Brodie book, and it’s definitely the darkest—reflective of the times we live in—where long buried crimes and misdemeanours are coming to light, and silenced victims are getting a voice. I would recommend that you read some of the earlier books in this series, before embarking on this one. Fans of Jackson are invested in him, but he isn’t at his peak in this book. Like a lot of us, he is tired and somewhat disappointed, and that’s reflected in this story. Most of Kate Atkinson’s books have lots of intriguing secondary characters, and a strong and evocative sense of place, Big Sky is no exception. Louise