What we’re reading: Celeste Ng, Stephen Fry & Ann Patchett

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.


Lian Hingee is reading Mythos by Stephen Fry

I dove headfirst into Stephen Fry’s Mythos over my Christmas holidays. This engrossing book offers an in-depth but entertaining look at Greek mythology, from the creation myth of Gaia and Ouranos, to the legends of Olympus, Pandora, Hades and Persephone, and more. It’s a dense read, but Fry’s extraordinary brain and fascination with language is counterbalanced beautifully with his wit, and the book swings comfortably between history textbook and humorous narrative with ease. I thought I was pretty au fait with these myths, but Mythos has shown me how shallow my knowledge of these classic stories actually was – exploring them in greater depth through such erudite and sympathetic writer has been an absolute pleasure.


Ellen Cregan is reading Girl Through Glass by Sari Wilson

I’ve been reading Sari Wilson’s stunning novel, Girl Through Glass. This novel is split into two narratives. The first, set in late ‘70s New York, introduces us to Mira, an 11-year-old aspiring ballerina climbing her way to the top of the hyper-competitive world of dance. The second is set in contemporary Midwestern America, where academic Kate finds herself beginning an affair with a student and behaving in ways she never thought she would.

Wilson’s prose is stunning – in Mira’s chapters it is especially evocative. Wilson trained as a ballerina, and I feel like it is this insight that makes her writing so strong and vivid. As the novel progresses, Kate begins to investigate an unresolved trauma from her past, and the dual plots intertwine. It can be tricky to keep separate plots or timelines together in a novel like this, but Wilson has done an excellent job of this.

Girl Through Glass is a compelling literary novel that everyone should read, but is especially perfect for those interested in the world of ballet.


Bronte Coates is reading Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

I’ve had Celeste Ng’s second novel on my TBR pile for a few months now, thanks to rave reviews from my colleagues Nina and George, and finally got around to reading it over the break. It’s an absolutely terrific novel and a great pick for holiday reading as it’s almost impossible to put down. (I read it in two sittings.) Ng has crafted an absorbing story about families, motherhood and being young that touches to the bone. The turns of the plot are juicy and thought-provoking, sometimes darkly humorous, and tucked in to this swirling, fast-placed narrative are passages about the relationship between mothers and children that are breathtakingly beautiful.

Here is one of my favourite moments, in which one of the characters reflects on how she misses the physical touch of her daughter, now a teenager: 'It was the way of things, Mia thought to herself, but how hard it was. The occasional embrace, a head leaned for just a moment on your shoulder, when what you really wanted more than anything was to press them to you and hold them so tight you fused together and could never be taken apart. It was like training yourself to live on the smell of an apple alone, when what you really wanted was to devour it, to sink your teeth into it and consume it, seeds, core, and all.’

Little Fires Everywhere is an immersive, smart and beautifully written domestic drama that will likely appeal to fans of Liane Moriarty.


Fiona Hardy is reading Robert Twigger and Ann Patchett

My partner requested a book on African history for his holiday reading, and so on advice from a colleague, I picked up a copy of Robert Twigger’s Red Nile. As we’ve been doing a lot of driving to visit family, I’ve been reading it aloud in the car to keep us all awake. This is a fascinating investigation of the famed river’s history from ancient times – we’re just made it to the late nineteenth century now – and filled with enthralling bits of trivia, and not an insignificant amount of brutality. (When reading in the car with a five-year-old, there was a fair amount of censorship…) The bite-sized chapters are perfect for reading aloud, and very digestible for people like me who are amateurs in the region’s history.

For my own reading, I’ve been enjoying Commonwealth by Ann Patchett, an author I’ve long adored. Commonwealth has everything I love in a Patchett novel – namely her attention to small details and in-depth characterisation. A 1960s neighbourhood barbecue lays the foundation for an affair that grows into a new, blended family, and the narrative travels back and forth over the years, from that day and into the present where the family patriarch, Fix, is receiving treatment for cancer.

I almost don’t want to keep reading this novel because I want the experience last as long as it possibly can. So don’t be surprised if you see me writing this same thing next summer as I bravely carry on to the end.

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Ann Patchett

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