Evening group: Violeta by Isabel Allende

The Pageturner Evening group discussed Violeta by Isabel Allende. Violeta is the epic story of Violeta del Valle, a woman whose life spans one hundred years and bears witness to the greatest upheavals of the twentieth century and book-ended by the Spanish Flu and COVID-19.

Pageturners comments included, ”read it quickly, didn’t know where it was located, a little bit plodding, a bit of a ramble, it was narrated at a distance, it was a letter to her grandson, she didn’t use real names of places, easy to read, loved the family on the farm, her husband was a psychopath,  geographic ambiguity, greatest love stories are told by time and that is true for this book, well-drawn characters, it was overloaded with stories, had everything – corruption, dictatorships, love etc, it felt a bit detached, loved it, I had no knowledge of South American history, it was political, she was handing over her history like cleaning out her house.”

Ratings ranged from 3 to 4.5.

September Evening Meeting

At the next meeting on Wednesday 14 September at 5.30pm we will be talking about Elizabeth Finch by Julian Barnes. Elizabeth Finch was a teacher, a thinker, an inspiration – always rigorous, always thoughtful. With careful empathy, she guided her students to develop meaningful ideas and to discover their centres of seriousness. Please book your place.

Daytime group: The Promise by Damon Galgut

The Pageturners August Daytime discussion featured The Promise – an expansive family novel that explores the interconnected relationships between members of one family through the sequential lens of multiple funerals. In The Promise, Damon Galgut makes a strong, unambiguous commentary on the history of South Africa and of humanity itself that can best be summed up in the question: does true justice exist in this world? The novel’s way of tackling this question is what makes it an accomplishment and truly deserving of 2021 Booker Prize win.

Pageturner comments included “well-written, ghost-like characters, all funerals, the promise would never have happened, the promise was uncertain – never clear and questioned, it is an allegory for South African history, it has a powerful ending, contained all meanings of the word promise, loved it, it touched the surface on multiple themes – needed to pick just one and dive into that, there was a lot of humour, it was all false promises, the apartheid promise was not realised, loved the language, it was told in 3rd person narrative, I liked the roaming narrative, it was an unsettling book, there were no happy endings, it is multi-faceted, great ending, it has made me think.”

Ratings ranged from 4 to 5 with one 2.

September Daytime Meeting

At the next meeting on Wednesday 14 September at 12.30pm we will discuss The Natural History of Love by Caroline Petit. It is based upon the true story of 19th century French explorer, naturalist and diplomat the Count de Castelnau and his lover Madame Fonçeca; a sweeping historical narrative set in the wilds of Brazil, salons of Paris and the early days of Melbourne’s settlement. Please book your place.

Pageturners August Meetings

The August Daytime group discuss The Promise by Damon Galgut on Wednesday 10 August at 12.30pm.

The Promise is an expansive family novel that explores the interconnected relationships between members of one family through the sequential lens of multiple funerals. Death assumes here both a closing but also an opening into lives lived. It is an unusual narrative style that balances Faulknerian exuberance with Nabokovian precision, pushes boundaries, and is a testament to the flourishing of the novel in the 21st century. In The Promise, Damon Galgut makes a strong, unambiguous commentary on the history of South Africa and of humanity itself that can best be summed up in the question: does true justice exist in this world? The novel’s way of tackling this question is what makes it an accomplishment and truly deserving of its place on the shortlist. Remember to book your place.

The August Evening group talk about Violetta by Isabel Allende on Wednesday 10 August at 5.30pm.

From Isabel Allende, the Sunday Times bestselling author of A Long Petal of the Sea, this is the epic story of Violeta del Valle, a woman whose life spans one hundred years and bears witness to the greatest upheavals of the twentieth century. Here is the link to book your place.

See you there!

Pageturners Discuss Cooper Not Out

Pageturners June meetings were spent talking about a new novel by Justin Smith titled Cooper Not Out. This charming story is about an unlikely hero – Sergeant Roy Cooper – a country policeman in the small country town of Penguin Hill. He’s been batting for his local cricket club for decades – where he’s a statistical miracle. He’s overweight, he makes very few runs, he’s not pretty to watch, but he’s never been dismissed……

But while the book is funny, it does have serious underlying themes of sexism, homosexuality and domestic violence as well as being a love letter to cricket.  

Comments from the Daytime Meeting included:

“I really enjoyed it, loved it, it was light, just like The Dish, it brought me back to Summer and having the cricket on the radio all the time, it is a feel good book, is was a bit far-fetched, it’s about staying true to yourself, it is an easy read, it is set in the 80s, the Wally Grant character was a caricature, I loved reading about the West Indies team – they were poetry to watch, the writing reminded me of Trent Dalton – that laconic storytelling, shows sport is an important cultural phenomenon, I learnt some cricket terms, there were quirky people in the town, I didn’t like it – it didn’t go far enough – these themes could’ve been explored more, it is a tall tale, it was fun. Ratings ranged from 1 to 3.5 and 4.”

Comments from the Evening Meeting included:

“There were no chapters, I didn’t notice that, it was a quick and easy read, nostalgic, loved all the characters, the old lady and the trolley was familiar, I liked the little girl and journalist relationship, there was a level of tension in the book – they were going to be found out, the sister didn’t say anything, I didn’t know anything about cricket and it didn’t matter, the author showed the cricketers as they were, he portrayed the West Indies team well, the real was blended well with the fiction, portrayed the atmosphere of a small country town, Roy was picked out the blue – that was far-fetched, loved how they all turned up for the parade in Penguin Hill, loved all the friendships, liked Donna’s relationship, Australian story  like The Dish, or The Castle, just wondered about the term “gone out”?, I liked Roy – he’s a silent achiever, backbone of country policing, Roy hung in there!, loved the CWA ladies, it was  journey into rural Victoria.” Ratings ranged from 3.5 to 4.5.

Interview with Justin Smith The Canberra Times

Meet Cooper Not Out Author Justin Smith

It’s the summer of 1984, the West Indian cricket team is touring Australia, and the Aussies are getting flogged. Then, a very unlikely hero steps up to the crease…

Sergeant Roy Cooper is a country policeman in the small country town of Penguin Hill. He’s been batting for his local cricket club for decades – where he’s a statistical miracle. He’s overweight, he makes very few runs, he’s not pretty to watch, but he’s never been dismissed….

Cooper Not Out is a funny, heart-warming novel set against a backdrop of real events. It is moving and highly original tale about friendship and belief, and the joy of being true to yourself and discovering your greatest potential.

Author Justin Smith will be touring the Central West later next week to talk about the book with local readers.

“I’m thrilled Cooper Not Out has been chosen for the One Library, One Book initiative,” Justin Smith said.

“This is a fantastic idea and I hope people enjoy reading about Roy Cooper. I worked in radio for a few years in the Central West, and I’m very much looking forward to getting back there,” he said.

Justin Smith is a Melbourne writer, journalist and broadcaster. He’s a columnist with the Melbourne’s Herald Sun and a weekly guest on Channel Seven’s Sunrise program and Sky News.

Justin has had a long career in radio as a presenter and executive producer. He has hosted national programs, he was embedded with Australian troops in Afghanistan, and was the Drive host on Sydney’s 2UE. He’s won multiple awards for journalism and broadcasting.

Meet author Justin Smith when he tours:

  • Monday 20 June: Blayney Library 11.30am, Cowra Library 2.30pm
  • Tuesday 21 June: Forbes Library 1pm, Orange City Library 5.30pm – 7pm
  • Wednesday 22 June: Molong Library 11.30am.

See you there!

Miles Franklin Literary Award Longlist 2022

The longlist for the 2022 Miles Franklin Literary Award, worth $60,000, has been announced.

The 12 longlisted novels are:

‘This year’s longlist, drawn from a robust pool of entries, reflects the thematic richness and the formal adventurousness of the contemporary Australian novel, as our writers respond to our times. Diverse in every sense, it extends from works of realism to novels in a more experimental vein, proving that the nation’s story-tellers are continuing to test the boundaries of what the novel can do,’ said State Library of NSW Mitchell Librarian Richard Neville, who is judging the 2022 award alongside critics Bernadette Brennan and James Ley, scholar Mridula Nath Chakraborty, and writer and editor Elfie Shiosaki.

The shortlisted novels will be announced on 23 June, with the winner to be revealed on 20 July.

Both Daytime and Evening Pageturners groups will discuss the longlisted books (select one longlisted book to read) on Wednesday 13 July and try to pick the winner. Good luck!

The Promise: May Evening Discussion

Photo: David Parry/PA Wire

Pageturners evening discussion group enjoyed a lively chat about 2021 Booker Prize winner The Promise by South African author Damon Galgut.

The Promise charts the crash and burn of a white South African family, living on a farm outside Pretoria. The Swarts are gathering for Ma’s funeral. The younger generation, Anton and Amor, detest everything the family stand for – not least the failed promise to the Black woman who has worked for them her whole life. After years of service, Salome was promised her own house, her own land… yet somehow, as each decade passes, that promise remains unfulfilled.

Pageturners discussion was about the main characters – Pa, Amor, Anton, Astrid and Salome as well as the structure of the book, the writing, corruption, land ownership, religion, Apartheid and dark humour. Comments included: “what a dysfunctional family, some narrow character viewpoints, it is four funerals and a farm, really really enjoyed it, loved the use of language, found it extremely annoying, lack of punctuation, the symbolism was obvious, wasn’t saying anything new, lacked details on some incidents and characters, there were no quotations marks, I didn’t know who was speaking at times, it is not a conventional writing style, I found it clever, it was the story of Apartheid, the promise was a curse, just incredible writing, I haven’t read anything like it, really enjoyed it, just so emotional, has captured the times, there was so much complexity, I’m still thinking about it.”

Pageturners rated the book 2.5 to 4.5 out of 5 stars.

The Promise by Damon Galgut Reviews:

Harvard Review

The Guardian Review

Good Reading interview with Damon Galgut

Sydney Writers Festival Live & Local Event

Join us for this event The Limits of the Imagination on Saturday 21 May, 4-5pm at Orange Regional Gallery for the free Sydney Writers Festival Live & Local event.

Damon Galgut (The Promise), Larissa Behrendt (After Story) and Paige Clark (She is Haunted). Join host Sisonke Msimang to explore the responsibilities and opportunities of the creative writer and artist, and ask: who gets to tell a story? Please book your place or call Orange City Library on 6393 8132.

June meeting:

Our next meeting will held on Wednesday 8th June at 5.30pm to talk about our One Library One Book community read Cooper Not Out by Justin Smith.

Justin will be touring Central West Libraries in June. He will be speaking at Orange City Library on Tuesday 21st June 5.30pm – 7pm.

And some Booker Prize reading for you:

Booker Prize

International Booker Prize

History of the Booker and the Man Booker Prizes

May Daytime Discussion – Violetta

Chilean/American author Isabel Allende’s latest book Violetta generated plenty of discussion at Pageturners May Daytime discussion.

Violeta comes into the world on a stormy day in 1920, the first girl in a family of five boisterous sons. From the start, her life will be marked by extraordinary events, for the ripples of the Great War are still being felt, even as the Spanish flu arrives on the shores of her South American homeland almost at the moment of her birth.

Through her father’s prescience, the family will come through that crisis unscathed, only to face a new one as the Great Depression transforms the genteel city life she has known. Her family loses all and is forced to retreat to a wild and beautiful but remote part of the country. There, she will come of age, and her first suitor will come calling. . . .

She tells her story in the form of a letter to someone she loves above all others, recounting devastating heartbreak and passionate affairs, times of both poverty and wealth, terrible loss and immense joy. Her life will be shaped by some of the most important events of history: the fight for women’s rights, the rise and fall of tyrants, and ultimately, not one but two pandemics.

Pageturners talked about all the remarkable characters, and the pace of the book. Comments included “liked the book, easy to read, well written, her other books feature magical realism, it drew me in, but it was so fast, I was exhausted, it was one thing after another, I needed a breather, this is one of the best books we have done for book club, I liked the Spanish Flu and COVID-19 connection, I really wondered about the structure  – it was linear, it was a letter to her grandson, it reminded me of The Magician and the retelling of an historical period, enjoyed it, it was about domestic violence, it spanned a century, and enjoyed the writing.”

Pageturners rated the book 2 – 4.5 stars out of 5.


New York Times

Better Reading

June meeting:

Interview The Guardian

Our next meeting will held on Wednesday 8th June at 12.30pm to talk about our One Library One Book community read Cooper Not Out by Justin Smith.

Justin will be touring Central West Libraries in June. He will be speaking at Orange City Library on Tuesday 21st June 5.30pm – 7pm. Be ready to ask questions.

April & March Discussions

River of Dreams Discussion

The publisher describes this book as “set on timeless Wiradyuri country, where the life-giving waters of the rivers can make or break dreams, and based on devastating true events, Bila Yarrudhanggalangdhuray (River of Dreams) is an epic story of love, loss and belonging.”

Our Pageturners had much to talk about with this book which beings with the floods at Gundagai in 1852.

Pageturners talked about language, Indigenous issues, and found it a door opening experience to discuss a range of social issues.

“it is more of a history, easy to read, it is a bit airbrushed and Mill & Boon, it is really controversial about a Aboriginal woman living a settler’s life, I didn’t know about the floods of Gundagai, it really opened my eyes and I’m still thinking about it, the most impressive part was about the floods, I don’t understand why she didn’t leave earlier, it really a love story, ther is a lot of Wiradjuri language, it could be more developed, the river gives and takes, I cound’t finish it, the love story was trivial, it shows the importance of Aboriginal knowledge and the Wiradjui language, this would be a good book for young adults, Louisa’s ideas never amount to anything, it lacked a truth.”

Ratings out of 5 ranged from 2 to 3.5 for the Daytime group and 3 to 4 for the Evening group.

After Story Discussion

Pageturners enjoyed their discussions about After Story by Larissa Behrendt.

The publisher described this book as “When Indigenous lawyer Jasmine decides to take her mother Della on a tour of England’s most revered literary sites, Jasmine hopes it will bring them closer together and help them reconcile the past. Ambitious and engrossing, After Story celebrates the extraordinary power of words and the quiet spaces between. We can be ready to listen, but are we ready to hear?”

Pageturners March & April groups talked about “the change in language as the alternate chapters told Jasmine and Della’s stories, same events, different perspectives, really powerful,  it was a great read, loved the characters, we all know women like these characters, really liked Della, there was no rosy ending, she didn’t try to tie up the loose ends, it just spoke the truth, the gardens signified new beginnings, new growth for them, liked the infusion of the Australian landscape and English classics,  Della was very observant,  I think there was a lot of unnecessary details, she could’ve explored the characters more, it was so believable.”

Ratings ranged from 2 to 4 for both sessions.

Coming Up:

  • Wednesday 11 May – Daytime group discuss Violeta by Isabel Allende and the Evening group talk about 2021 Booker Prize winner The Promise by Damon Galgut.
  • Wednesday 8 June – Both the Daytime and Evening groups discuss the One Library One Book community read Cooper Not Out by Justin Smith.
  • Wednesday 13 July – Both Daytime and Evening groups read the Miles Franklin Literary Award Longlist and try to guess the winner.
  • Wednesday 10 August – Daytime group read The Promise by Damon Galgut and the Evening Group discuss Violeta by Isabel Allende.
  • September, October, November and December reads to be announced.

Special Event: We are hosting the Livestream and Local from the Sydney Writers Festival this year. We will be streaming sessions in the new theatre at Orange Regional Gallery on Friday 20, Saturday 21, Sunday 22 May 10am – 5pm. There will also be a launch of the SWF Livestream Program featuring local author Stuart Lloyd on Thursday 19 April 5pm for 5.30pm – 7pm at Orange Regional Gallery. Please book your place online or call us on 6393 8132.

We would like to highlight the Limits of Imagination session on Saturday from 4-5pm that will feature Damon Galgut (The Promise) and Larissa Behrendt (After Story)!!!!

And a new event has just been added to replace the Derecka Purnell session. Derecka has withdrawn from the Festival. An interview with bestselling British author Sarah Winman will take her place. Sarah will talk about art, love and was in her joyous and richly drawn new novel Still Life. See you there!

More Holiday Reads

The Evening Pageturners Group talked about their Holiday Reads recently:

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman – is about 4 people in a nursing home who investigate unsolved mysteries. The four unlikely friends meet up once a week to investigate unsolved murders. But when a brutal killing takes place on their very doorstep, the Thursday Murder Club find themselves in the middle of their first live case. 4/5.

The second book The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman is more involved. It’s the following Thursday. Elizabeth has received a letter from an old colleague, a man with whom she has a long history. He is being hunted and he needs her help. His story involves stolen diamonds, a violent mobster, and a very big mistake. As bodies start piling up, Elizabeth enlists Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron in the hunt for a killer. And if they find the diamonds too? Well, wouldn’t that be a bonus? 4/5.

Love Stories by Trent Dalton  – I couldn’t get into Boy Swallows Universe but this is about people he interviews, some were funny, some sad but I really enjoyed it, it is rather sweet. 4/5.

The Countess of Kirribilli by Joyce Moragn – she’s a real person, went to England, entered into society, married a count, died young. Elizabeth von Arnim was an extraordinary woman who lived during glamorous, exciting and changing times that spanned the innocence of Victorian Sydney and finished with the march of Hitler through Europe. 4/5.

A Time For Mercy by John Grisham – Clanton, Mississippi. 1990. Jake Brigance finds himself embroiled in a deeply divisive trial when the court appoints him attorney for Drew Gamble, a timid sixteen-year-old boy accused of murdering a local deputy. Many in Clanton want a swift trial and the death penalty, but Brigance digs in and discovers that there is more to the story than meets the eye. 

Beautiful World, Where are you by Sally Rooney. I couldn’t get into to it. Alice, a novelist, meets Felix, who works in a warehouse, and asks him if he’d like to travel to Rome with her. In Dublin, her best friend Eileen is getting over a break-up and slips back into flirting with Simon, a man she has known since childhood. Alice, Felix, Eileen and Simon are still young – but life is catching up with them. They desire each other, they delude each other, they get together, they break apart. They worry about sex and friendship and the world they live in. Are they standing in the last lighted room before the darkness, bearing witness to something? Will they find a way to believe in a beautiful world?

An Officer and A Spy by Robert Harris – about the Dreyfuss Affair, very good, most famous miscarriage of justice, compelling too. Dreyfus affair: political crisis, beginning in 1894 and continuing through 1906, in France during the Third Republic. The controversy centred on the question of the guilt or innocence of army captain Alfred Dreyfus, who had been convicted of treason for allegedly selling military secrets to the Germans.

The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri  – gut wrenching, fleeing from Syria, similar to what’s happening today, can’t believe what they have gone through to survive. The publisher says moving, powerful, compassionate and beautifully written, The Beekeeper of Aleppo is a testament to the triumph of the human spirit. Told with deceptive simplicity, it is the kind of book that reminds us of the power of storytelling. 4.5/5.

Devotion by Hannah Kent – enjoyed it, divided into 3 parts, set in Prussia, the Ocean and South Australia, beautiful use of words, lyrical, it is a love story, bit unusual. The publisher says this long-awaited novel demonstrates Hannah Kent’s sublime ability with language that creates an immersive, transformative experience for the reader. Devotion is a book to savour. 4.5/5.

Still by Matt Nable – a murder mystery, story about Darwin in 1963, very interesting. The humidity sat heavy and thick over the town as Senior Constable Ned Potter looked down at a body that had been dragged from the shallow marshland. He didn’t  need a coroner to tell him this was a bad death. He didn’t know then that this was only the first. Or that he was about to rick everything looking for answers. 2.5/5.

The Woman They Could Not Silence: One Woman, Her Incredible Fight For Freedom and the Men Who Tried to Make her Disappear by Kate Moore about the lack of rights for unmarried women, sent to asylum, non-fiction, she did get many laws changed, well written enjoyed reading it. The publisher says from the New York TimesUSA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Radium Girls comes another dark and dramatic but ultimately uplifting tale of a forgotten woman hero whose inspirational journey sparked lasting change for women’s rights and exposed injustices that still resonate today.4.5/5

The Hobbit by JR Tolkein – read this for the first time, I really liked it. The Hobbit is a tale of high adventure, undertaken by a company of dwarves in search of dragon-guarded gold 3.5/5.

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro – is a dystopian science fiction story. Set in the U.S. in an unspecified future, the book is told from the point of view of Klara, a solar-powered AF (Artificial Friend), who is chosen by Josie, a sickly child, to be her companion. I liked it, Klara learns how to please the store owner, learns by observing, there is symbolism, about the element of the sun, does it well, about observing relationships. 4/5

Reading the Seasons Books Holding Life & Friendship Together – charts the evolution of a friendship through candid letters between bibliotherapists Germaine Leece and Sonya Tsakalakis. Ignited by a shared love of reading, of finding a book for every occasion, every emotion – both for themselves and for their clients – their conversations soon confront life’s ups and downs. 

The Guernsey Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Anne Barrows. Couldn’t put it down, written as a set of letters, people create a literary society, people from different walks of life, learnt about the dramas of war. 4.5/5.

The Funny Thing about Norman Foreman by Julietta Henderson. An Australian author, first book, endearing characters, story draws you in, follows boy and his mum, told in two parts from their perspectives, they have a 5 year plan to go to Edinburgh Comedy Festival. Norman is not really funny, has psoriasis, itchy flare ups, very bittersweet, it is an hilarious road trip to Edinburgh, Norman find his own voice, and builds confidence. 5/5.

The Faith of Queen Elizabeth: The Pose, Grace, And Quiet Strength Behind the Crown by Dudley Delffs – chapters set up her story of devotion and public service, gathered information about her, walked through London, asked people’s opinion, easy read, enjoy British History. 4/5.

Billy Connolly Windswept & Interesting My Autobiography – interesting, engaging, makes you laugh, there is something special about him. 4/5.

Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty – a pageturner, easy reading style, set in Sydney, a whodunnit, a mother and father, involved in the tennis scene, 4 adult children, family both functional and dysfunctional, seems a little contrived, about domestic violence. 4/5.

The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams –  really enjoyed it. In 1901, the word ‘Bondmaid’ was discovered missing from the Oxford English Dictionary. This is the story of the girl who stole it. 4/5.

The Gold Rush by David Hill – about the gold rush in Australian easy read, includes Chinese and Aboriginal people. Publisher says David Hill relates the extraordinary people and staggering events of Australia’s great gold-rush years. From the mid- to late-1800s, people from all corners of the globe and all walks of life, including two future prime ministers of Great Britain and Australia, threw off their previous pursuits and made the often perilous journey to the goldfields, from where they would return either fabulously wealthy or demoralised and broken – if they returned at all.4/5.