What we’re reading: Johnson, Jameson, Gooch and Oh
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.
George Delaney is reading The Breakaways by Cathy G. Johnson
I’m really excited about The Breakaways by Cathy G. Johnson, a graphic novel for tween readers about a motley crew of very un-sporty kids in a C-Grade American High School soccer team. It’s a sweet story about friendship and not fitting in, and has a cast of characters that are quite diverse and relatable. One of the best parts about the story is that it unpacks the age differences between the characters and shows what I think is a pretty real range of lifestyles and families. It doesn’t shy away from how painful it can be when you don’t fit the popular mould, but it celebrates different identities and worldviews and has an enjoyable amount of drama. I recommend it for 11+.
Jason Austin is reading The Last by Hanna Jameson
This book has been ticking all the boxes for my current reading mood: a murder mystery set during a nuclear apocalypse in creepy old hotel in the Swiss countryside, as told by a somewhat unreliable narrator.
Jon is an historian and an attendee at a conference at said hotel in Switzerland when news breaks that there have been several nuclear attacks on most major cities throughout the world. Several guests at the hotel leave. Not wanting to risk the crush and doubtful of his ability to get an international flight out, Jon and about twenty other guests stay. When the tap water starts to taste bad, Jon and a few others investigate and find the body of a girl in one of the hotel’s water tanks. Could the girl’s killer be among the survivors?
This is a extremely engaging thriller that sadly feels quite prescient in our current political climate.
Jackie Tang is reading Under Earth by Chris Gooch, and watching Killing Eve: Season 1
I’ve just started on Melbourne comics artist Chris Gooch’s self-published graphic novel Under-Earth. Gooch’s previous book, Bottled, was published out of the US and featured stark and unsettling drawings that reminded me of a psychological horror movie, so I was excited to see how his style would translate to this ‘prison epic’. It’s the first of an ambitious trilogy set in a sprawling subterranean prison society housed among the trash-filled ruins of a eerily familiar city. We are introduced to the power hierarchies of this sunken world, the tentative allegiances and the different economies of survival. Printed using a Risograph press, Gooch’s illustrations have a vintage, almost ephemeral feel that contributes to the characters’ feelings of being disposable and expendable. Gooch also takes full advantage of the striking visual potential of his premise: the stripes of the prison uniforms provide some eye-catching, high-contrast geometric compositions and the panoramic quality of this world is beautifully rendered in some double-page spreads. I’m hoping to chomp through it in the next couple of days, which feels fitting as there will be several indie-published comics artists’ books on display at this weekend’s Melbourne Art Book Fair.
I’m also re-watching season one of Killing Eve in anticipation of the show’s second season, which is dropping in early April. If you haven’t watched this twisty psychological cat-and-mouse thriller about a female assassin and the MI5 agent obsessed with her catching her, then you really have a treat in front of you. It has fabulous dialogue, laugh-out-loud set-ups, great observations on gender and violence, and at the heart of it, a transfixing performance by Sandra Oh.