What We’re Reading: Sales, Darke and Cheng
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.
Fiona Hardy is reading Any Ordinary Day by Leigh Sales
After selling piles of Leigh Sales' book on trauma, I was looking forward to reading Any Ordinary Day for my book club last week, even though it seemed obvious that a book about the very worst day of peoples' lives would require tissues to read. And I did cry all over the place, of course. When Sales speaks to some of the public’s most well-known figures of devastation–the likes of Walter Mikac, Stuart Diver and Hannah Richell–it’s so raw, and awful, and full of hope all at once. I’m sure everyone who reads this can relate something back to a devastating loss in their own lives, and how they are treated by others, or how the world changes for them.
This is not just a book of trauma, though; Sales has delved into what happens afterwards, and how these ordinary days that change lives so abruptly affect the people involved. She talks to those who support victims, and those who study trauma, and the network around these people; my favourite chapter, to my surprise, talks about what happens to the body after death, in the morgue. What is seemingly a cold and difficult time is transformed through the love and care given by the people who work there, and it felt–much like the rest of the book–reassuring, warm and life-affirming.
Georgia Brough is reading Star-crossed by Minnie Darke
I’d had a recent reading binge of new contemporary fiction (Normal People, Baby and My Year of Rest and Relaxation to name a few), so I was very much looking forward to reading a novel that was both light-hearted and romantic. Star-crossed, Minnie Darke’s sparkling romantic comedy, has been just that.
Justine, an ambitious young journalist with a penchant for correcting grammar on street signs, bumps into Nick, handsome aspiring actor, old friend and the one-time object of her childhood affections. As they get talking, it becomes apparent that Nick is a true believer – in star signs, that is, and looks to them to guide his life. Romantic interest reignited, Justine is inspired to edit the horoscopes in her newspaper in an attempt to encourage Nick to ask her out. But her edits will impact more than just her own life, and set off a ripple effect that will change the love lives of many.
If Love Actually and your horoscope had a novel baby, this would be it. Star-crossed is witty and uplifting; the perfect antidote to any potential oncoming winter blues.
Jackie Tang is reading Room for a Stranger by Melanie Cheng
This week I’ve been reading Melanie Cheng’s second book and first novel Room for a Stranger. The book centres on the relationship between Meg, an elderly woman who lives alone with her pet parrot Atticus; and Andy, a teenage international student from Hong Kong, who starts renting out Meg’s spare room.
With such a big difference in age, culture and perspectives, the two start off slightly at odds, but over time they form an unlikely friendship. Cheng is such a tender and detailed writer – as her previous award-winning work can attest (her debut short story collection, Australia Day, won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Fiction). She captures the nuance of human interactions with granular detail and evokes whole worlds and histories with the barest dialogue exchange. I was touched and moved by this quietly powerful story of cross-cultural and intergenerational connections.