Last minute ideas for those last minute gifts, as Christmas Day so rapidly approaches. I am a pushover for a novel based on fact, so that is why I am able to recommend CIRCLING THE SUN with such confi dence. The astonishing life of Beryl Markham in Kenya in the 20s is the basis for Paula McLain captivating novel. Indeed the truth is so astounding that it would be impossible to invent it. Born so far ahead of her time, Beryl Markham scandalised society by her life style, her love affairs, her racehorse training, and then her record breaking fl ight across the Atlantic in 1936 seemed to crown everything else. omen did not train horses, women did not fly! McLain has used Markham’s own voice to bring her story to life, and through this medium seems to inhabit Markham’s skin bringing the reader an exceptional novel. The passion with which she writes matches the passion nature of her subject in perfect detail, while choosing her title seems to capture the essence of this remarkable woman. Unputdownable if there is such a word.
For the person on your list who loves short stories, look no further than the Irish writer, Colum McCann’s latest. THIRTEEN WAYS OF LOOKING is the first tale, and it certainly whets your appetite for the rest. SH’KHOL, the third story, even begins on a Christmas morning, so there’s a pleasant tie-up for this lucky recipient. While going to the rescue of a woman who was being assaulted, McCann was himself attacked, resulting in horrifi c injuries. He used his convalescence to think about himself, about life and about the world, resulting in these four insightful narratives. His poetic prose is uplifting and could prove inspirational to its entranced reader.
Roland Perry is better known for his factual books, mainly relating to war, but with THE HONOURABLE ASSASSIN he brings his talents to fiction, and succeeds just as admirably. His likeable protagonist is Victor Cavalier (wonderfully named) who when training with the Australian SAS “topped the squad in physical endurance, stamina, strength, IQ and personality and interpersonal skills”. all of which he needed 35 years later, when he was following a drug trail in South East Asia. For excitement, a complicated plot, well-drawn characters and a relentless pursuit, Perry’s book is firs.
CIRCLING THE SUN by PAULA McLAIN PUBLISHED by VIRAGO for a recommended $29.99
THIRTEEN WAYS OF LOOKING by COLUM McCANN PUBLISHED by BLOOMSBURY for a recommended $29.99
THE HONOURABLE ASSASSIN by ROLAND PERRY PUBLISHED by ALLEN & UNWIN for a recommended $29.99