What we’re reading: North, Cusk & Rippin

Each week we bring you a sample of the books we’re reading, the films we’re watching, the television shows we’re hooked on, or the music we’re loving.


Fiona Hardy is reading Outlawed by Anna North

After loving North’s The Life and Death of Sophie Stark when it came out a few years ago, I was thrilled to pick up a copy of her new book. Set in a slightly different version of classic Movie-Western 1894 America, a woman’s fertility is valued to the point that a year after marriage, if a baby hasn’t been born, the wife is consider a witch–and hanged accordingly. When Ada, training to be a midwife like her mother, discovers she can’t have a baby, she runs, ending up in the Hole in the Wall Gang, a bunch of outlaws with no man nearby. Taking up a position as Doc, the gang’s only member with some medical know-how, Ada finds a new way of living–as long as she can survive gunfights, robberies, and the bounty on her head. This is a gun-totin' Western on one hand, and a layered look at womanhood and gender that never preaches, only lays bare a bracing, dangerous, and all-too-horrifying reality. This is short, punchy, and entertaining as hell, and I loved it.


Tye Cattanach is comfort (re)reading the Polly & Buster trilogy by Sally Rippin

Some days the world being such a strange, unpredictable place to be is easier to cope with than others. With everything that is happening globally right now, and beginning a new lockdown in Victoria, I am craving the comfort, warmth and joy that Polly and Buster delivers in spades. This beautifully written and illustrated middle grade series is literally a master class in kindness, friendship and radical empathy. Sally Rippin has created a magical safe haven for readers to escape into and I am so deeply grateful for the care and thought Rippin consistently applies to her world building. Though written for children, I would challenge you to find me a single human of any age that would not benefit from reading these beautiful books.


Mark Rubbo is reading Kudos by Rachel Cusk

I’ve never read Rachel Cusk before and on the weekend I bought a copy of Kudos. It’s the third book of a loose trilogy and I haven’t read the earlier two; why I chose Kudos I’m not sure, probably laziness. A writer is on a plane travelling to a writers festival. The man sitting next to her starts to unburden himself with a sad story of the death of his dog. The story which should make us feel sympathy and some admiration for the man, doesn’t. So far, I’m unsettled but mightily intrigued; I can see why people rave about Cusk.



Anna North

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