Wednesday, July 20, 2011

When Home is... Fiction

I’ve been busy writing book reviews for Good Reading magazine lately. It is always fun to dwell in the world of fiction for ‘work’ when the books are ones I would choose to read for pleasure anyway.

So was the case with the following two books. Both, appropriately, are about what ‘home’ means to the characters. Very different – one literary, one mass-market –both explore the ideas of what we need in life to make us feel safe, nurtured and at home.

And what more do you need to feel at home on this windy, wet and cold night in Sydney than a good book, glass of wine and pasta sauce simmering away on the stove-top?

Too Close to Home
By Georgia Blain
RRP: $32.95

Georgia Blain has crafted a page-turning story of a generation and a moment of time in Australia’s history that will resonate deeply with anyone in their 30s or 40s.

Freya and Matt are living with the ‘Real People’ in an inner western suburb of Sydney, while their friends – writers, editors, artists and actresses – have stayed in the East. Set during the period that saw the Labor Party fall out of favour, the ousting of Kevin Rudd and culminating with the election that marginally kept Labor in power, Blain navigates the sometimes messy and complicated lives of this old circle of friends.

When Matt discovers he may have fathered a child 17 years ago, his and Freya’s world is turned upside down. Both are tested and forced to look at themselves and the choices they have made in a new light. It’s this tension between them and how that affects their relationships with their friends that makes this story so absorbing.

It’s easy to relate to the characters and their moral and ethical dilemmas of living in this modern world. Blain has created an excellent work of fiction and years from now people will read this novel to understand life in Sydney during this period.

Sing You Home
By Jodi Picoult
Allen & Unwin
RRP: $32.99 (Paperback)

Jodi Picoult’s greatest strength has always been her exploration of moral dilemmas and she excels with the moral minefield she presents in her latest novel, Sing You Home.

In this absorbing work, readers will be faced with the complex emotional issues of a couple facing infertility, IVF, stillbirth, divorce, alcoholism, adultery, homosexuality and the religious opposition to it. Yet, perhaps the most fraught dilemma is that of frozen embryos: after a divorce who has the right to choose to use them, give them away or have them destroyed? Who gets to decide what constitutes a family unit today? Church or State?

Picoult manages to present a balanced view; sympathetic to both sides of the debates at all times and ultimately will leave readers feeling satisfied with her resolution. The courtroom drama that always unfolds with her novels will not disappoint. She continues to weave tight, suspenseful plots and her main characters are well-developed.

Readers will empathise with the plights of Zoe and Max, the main characters, regardless of their personal views of such contentious issues.

Yet again Picoult has created a world that will keep people turning pages long into the night.

*Reviews originally published in Good Reading magazine

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