What we’re reading: April Genevieve Tucholke, J.M. Coetzee & Clémentine Beauvais

Each week we bring you a sample of the books we’re reading, the films and TV shows we’re watching, and the music we’re listening to.


Paul Goodman is reading Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee

Emotions are raw this week after taking a recommendation from a customer and finally reading the copy of J.M. Coetzee’s Disgrace that had been collecting dust on my shelf.

I was lured into what seemed like a story of campus scandal, of protagonist David Lurie’s abuse of power and refusal to repent in front of a university inquisition; I was left wondering where this was going politically – at which point my heart was taken out, beaten up and put back badly. This is a multi-layered story about exploitation, violence and rights, the many forms these take and how timeless, how without a geographical centre they are. Despite all this, Coetzee manages to be a joy to read and captures the dual threat and beauty of the South African wild for the reader to savour in all its awe/horror. Effortlessly brilliant, very much humbling, wholeheartedly recommended!


Lian Hingee is reading The Boneless Mercies by April Genevieve Tucholke

At the insistence of one of my workmates I’ve put aside everything on my teetering TBR pile in favour of a new YA novel I’d never heard of. It’ll be worth it, my workmate said, this book is very you. She hasn’t steered me wrong yet, so I dutifully put aside the new Liane Moriarty, the new Robert Galbraith, the upcoming Dervla McTiernan, and picked up The Boneless Mercies by April Genevieve Tucholke.

Set in a brutal, wintery world this well-conceived fantasy follows 17-year-old Frey, the leader of a troupe of Boneless Mercies – young women who travel the world trading in merciful assassinations for the sick and the sad. The work is soul-destroying, but for women in this world there aren’t a lot of options beyond work at a Bliss House (which is exactly what you think it is) so when Frey hears about a mysterious beast that’s been slaughtering people in the north – and more importantly the enormous reward being offered for its destruction – the decision is made to put the Boneless Mercies’ talents for dealing death towards a new goal. It’s not that often that I read a book that seems wholly original, but The Boneless Mercies is definitely one. It’s dark and visceral and bloody, and Tucholke does a remarkable job of creating a complex world without sacrificing plot. I can’t wait to see where it goes.


Mike Shuttleworth is reading In Paris With You by Clémentine Beauvais (translated by Sam Taylor)

A chance meeting on the Paris metro reunites Eugene and Tatiana, now in their early-to-mid 20s, having not spoken since a terrible episode in their teenage years. The cynical, world weary Eugene – once a man of fashion and high society – is now a consultant. Tatiana is an art history researcher, a character that would fit nicely into an Anita Brookner novel.

If you feel that you have read this story before you are right. In Paris With You is a very clever remake of Eugene Onegin, Alexander Pushkin’s classic verse novel of the 1820s. (Vikram Seth also revisited Onegin in The Golden Gate.) A Russian classic might seem an unlikely model for contemporary young adult fiction. But Clémentine Beauvais’s remake as a Parisian love story is a triumph. After all, who are the original Eugene and Tatiana if not teenagers and young adults, capable of making all the mistakes we can make?

In the Pushkin’s original, Onegin casts off Tatiana after seeming to woo and pursue her, leaving Tatiana broken-hearted and Eugene empty-handed. Now that they have met again, who has feelings, how deep do they run, can the splenetic Onegin be more than than a callow dude, and how might Tatiana chart her own way forward? There’s a lot at stake underneath the breezy, sparkling poetry and Sam Taylor’s agile translation. In Paris With You is a joy to read and highly recommended for mature teenagers and adults.


Paul Barr is listening to Not All Who Wonder Are Lost by Bowlines

This the second CD release by Melbourne three piece string ensemble Bowlines. Bowlines consists of Ernie Gruner (violin, viola), Helen Mountford (cello), and Hope Csutoros (violin, viola).These musicians have extensive experience playing genres including jazz, classical, folk, pop, and would be familiar to listeners of bands like My Friend the Chocolate Cake, Stiletto Sisters, Cosmo Cosmolino, Klezmeritis and Bohemian Nights. Bowlines is primarily an improvisation group for these accomplished string players. Not All Who Wonder Are Lost is an impressive and beautifully recorded live session taken from one afternoon at the Uniting Church in Northcote.

In Paris With You

In Paris With You

Clementine Beauvais, Sam Taylor

$19.99Buy now

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