What we're reading: Persaud, Lehmann & Conte

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.

Mark Rubbo is reading The Tolstoy Estate by Steven Conte (available 2 September)

It’s been hard to find time to read during this second lockdown but then I picked up Conte’s second novel. Set in Russia during the second World War, Germany requisitions the estate of Count Leo Tolstoy as a field hospital against the wishes of the director, a fiery communist, Katerina Trusbetzkaya. Surgeon Paul Bauer is designated to be the liaison between Katerina and his homeland. Out of this uncomfortable situation, an unlikely love grows. The Tolstoy Estate is totally immersive and an absolutely wonderful escape from our rather stressed lives. If you enjoyed A Gentleman in Moscow or All the Light We Cannot See, you will love this book. I’m also enjoying watching the French spy series, The Bureau, on SBS streaming.

Sharon Peterson is reading Love After Love by Ingrid Persaud

If, like me, you’ve been struggling to find anything to hold your attention during these uncertain times, then may I recommend Ingrid Persaud’s new novel? Set in Trinidad, Love After Love tells the story of an unconventional family unit – a widow, her child and a lodger – and what happens to them when a secret is revealed over a few drinks one evening. I’m only about three quarters of the way through, but this novel has had me hooked from the start. It is heartwarming, funny, and sometimes sad. Persaud has created some wonderful characters that I look forward to returning to every chance I get!

Joanna Di Mattia is reading The Weather In The Streets by Rosamond Lehmann

I’ve just finished Rosamond Lehmann’s astonishing novel The Weather In The Streets. First published in 1936, it picks up Olivia Curtis’ story ten years after we meet her as a 17-year-old in Lehmann’s also exceptional Invitation To The Waltz. Now nearing 30, Olivia embarks on an affair with married Rollo Spencer, the brother of a childhood friend, who first appears towards the close of the earlier novel. Lehmann depicts their affair without cliché – in her hands it’s raw and real. In her time, Lehmann was a bestselling author, then derided as a writer of minor themes, as so many women who write about the intimate and domestic lives of women were/are. Total nonsense, of course, especially given that Lehmann’s experimental, interior style rivals Virginia Woolf. What Lehmann writes about is major and serious – love is a vital part of life. And frankly, I’ve never read a book as good on love as this one is – how it exalts, consumes, and isolates. A beautiful and brilliant novel. It might be difficult to get your hands on, so try your local library.

Ed. note: Stock of these two titles is currently limited in Australia and they may need to be sourced overseas which will mean additional delays in fulfiling orders.