Ask Agatha: Hilary Mantel, The Leftovers and romantic comedies

The latest installment of our book advice column where you can ask our wise bookseller Agatha all your tricky (book-related) questions.


I’ve really enjoyed the Hilary Mantel Cromwell novels. Can you recommend other historical novel writers/titles?

Isn’t Mantel spectacular? If you haven’t yet tried her previous books it’s worth testing a title from her backlist. Beyond Black is one of the best.

Other writers of historical fiction who draw comparisons with Mantel include Vanora Bennett (try Portrait of an Unknown Woman) and Peter Ackroyd (try Shakespeare: The Biography). You may like to give Sarah Waters’s deliciously subversive Tipping the Velvet and I also insist you take a look at fellow Man Booker Prize-winner Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries. This astrological mystery set in 1866 Hokitika is a gripping, extremely enjoyable read.

A relevant upcoming release to look out for is Jessie Burton’s The Miniaturist. Set in seventeenth-century Amsterdam, this debut historical novel has been compared to heavyweights such as Sarah Waters, Emma Donoghue and Donna Tartt, and described as a sensational feat of storytelling complete with heart-pounding suspense. I simply can’t wait to get my hands on it.

And finally, to throw in a wild card, George R.R. Martin’s immensely successful series Game of Thrones has proved popular with Mantel fans. While it definitely resides in the fantasy genre, Martin is not shy of crediting the influence of real historic events in his series which, much like the Cromwell novels, is tangled throughout with political intrigue.

I recently saw the trailer for HBO’s upcoming adaptations of Tom Perrotta’s The Leftovers and now I want to read some of the author’s work. Which book should I start with?

Well look, The Leftovers is probably as good a place as any to start with the lovely Tom Perrotta. Its premise is different to the rest of his novels, which are all contemporary realist fiction. The Leftovers sounds a little sci-fi – one day, a chunk of the world’s population simply disappears and the novel is set in the aftermath of this strange occurrence. But other than the mysterious disappearance, The Leftovers is classic Perrotta, delving deep into relationships, characters and American culture. I loved it, and can’t wait for the TV show.

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If you want to start with one of his earlier work, try either Little Children or The Abstinence Teacher. Both are fascinating portraits of American suburbia and present Perrotta at his absolute best.

I love, love, love, lovvvveeeeedddd The Rosie Project. What other books can you recommend?

If you enjoyed The Rosie Project it’s worth noting that the sequel is due for release in September of this year. In The Rosie Effect, Don Tillman and Rosie Jarman are now married and living in New York when Rosie announces she’s pregnant. Naturally, hilarity ensues.

In the meantime… For another Melbourne-based, unusual love story try Toni Jordan’s Addition. For another charming, quirky tale (one described as a love letter to books) try The Collected Works Of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin. And for something that takes a surprising approach to the typical rom-com story, try Nora Ephron’s Heartburn (a personal favourite).


If you have a question for Agatha please email askagatha@readings.com.au. We’ll be publishing her next column on Monday 23 June. All questions answered on our blog will be kept anonymous and questions will be chosen at Agatha’s discretion.

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The Miniaturist

The Miniaturist

Jessie Burton

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