Mark Rubbo recommends nine favourite reads from 2019
Readings Manager Director Mark Rubbo recommends a sample of nine favourite books he’s read this year – including fantastic Australian fiction, a sprawling family epic, two brilliant crime novels, Helen Garner’s diaries, and more.
Invented Lives by Andrea Goldsmith
Set in the mid 1980s as the Cold War rages and the crisis of AIDS is unfolding, Invented Lives is the eighth novel from Andrea Goldsmith and an immersive tale of exile, identity, and inheritance.
Mark says: “Andrea Goldsmith writes about people struggling to make sense of their lives, but the forces that impact their lives are much larger than them. This novel deserves a wide audience.”
Metropolis by Philip Kerr
Berlin, 1928, the height of the Weimar Republic. Bernie is a young detective working in Vice when he asked to investigate the Silesian Station killings: four prostitutes murdered in as many weeks, and in the same gruesome manner. He barely has time to acquaint himself with the case files before another murder occurs, and this time the girl’s father runs Berlin’s foremost criminal ring, and he’s prepared to go to extreme lengths to find his daughter’s killer.
Mark says: “The late author’s final book in the Bernie Gunther series returns us to the Weimar Republic, Berlin – a den of vice and corruption.”
Travellers by Helon Habila
Moving from a Berlin nightclub to a Sicilian refugee camp to the London apartment of a Malawian poet, Helon Habila evokes a rich mosaic of migrant experiences. And through his characters' interconnecting fates, he traces the extraordinary pilgrimages we all might make in pursuit of home.
Mark says: “I was very moved by this beautifully written story about African refugees in Europe. This marvellous novel, without being polemical, returns humanity to people who are often faceless, stripped of their humanity.”
Late in the Day by Tessa Hadley
Alexandr and Christine and Zachary and Lydia have been close friends since they first met in their twenties. Thirty years later Alex and Christine are spending a leisurely summer evening at home when they receive a call from a distraught Lydia: Zach is dead. In the wake of this profound loss, the three friends find themselves unmoored.
Mark says: “In this excellent novel from British author Tessa Hadley, the death of one person in a group of friends reveals the fragility of relationships.”
The Glad Shout by Alice Robinson
After a catastrophic storm destroys Melbourne, Isobel flees to higher ground with her husband and young daughter. Food and supplies run low, panic sets in and still no help arrives. To protect her daughter, Isobel must take drastic action. The Glad Shout is a deeply moving homage to motherhood and the struggles faced by women in difficult times.
Mark says: “Based in the new future as the world starts to collapse, Alice Robinson’s Readings prize winning novel is a taut, brilliant book.”
Yellow Notebook: Diaries Volume One, 1978-1987 by Helen Garner
Helen Garner has kept a diary for almost all her life. But until now, those exercise books filled with her thoughts, observations, frustrations and joys have been locked away, out of bounds, in a laundry cupboard. Finally, Garner has opened her diaries and invited readers into the world behind her novels and works of non-fiction.
Mark says: “Drawn from ten years throughout Helen Garner’s life, these diary entries reveal the life and growth of one of our greatest authors.”
The Eighth Life (For Brilka) by Nino Haratischvili (translated by Ruth Martin & Charlotte Collins)
Opening with a dangerously delicious chocolate recipe, this is a sweeping family saga that spans six generations as their lives unfold in Georgia, Moscow, London and Berlin. Tumbling down the years, and across vast expanses of longing and loss, generation after generation of this compelling family hears echoes and sees reflections.
Mark says: “If you want to read one 900+ page book this year, please make it this sprawling family saga set in the Soviet Union.”
Peace by Garry Disher
In this sequel to Garry Disher’s award-winning 2015 novel, Bitter Wash Road, Paul Hirschhausen has been demoted to a one-cop town in country South Australia and life seems to be settling down. That is until he’s called in to investigate a bizarre and vicious crime in the midst of Christmas festivities.
Mark says: “One of Australia’s most underrated crime writers shows us why he should be one of our most highly rated.”
Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson
When Lillian receives a mysterious job offer from her glamorous and wealthy ex-high school friend, Maddison, she views it as a way out of her dead-end life. The job: taking care of Maddison’s twin stepkids who spontaneously combust when they get agitated, leaving them unharmed but causing havoc around them.
Mark says: “I haven’t quite finished this one yet but I am enjoying it so much and I already know I’ll probably agree with Taffy Brodesser-Akner, who started her review in the New York Times by saying: Good Lord, I can’t believe how good this book is.”