Books in the news 14-15 November 2015

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Fiction

Spirits of the Ghan by Judy Nunn
It is 2001 and as the world charges into the new Millennium, a century-old dream is about to be realised in the Red Centre of Australia: the completion of the mighty Ghan railway, a long-lived vision to create the 'backbone of the continent', a line that will finally link Adelaide with the Top End. But construction of the final leg between Alice Springs and Darwin will not be without its complications, for much of the desert it will cross is Aboriginal land. Hired as a negotiator, Jessica Manning must walk a delicate line to reassure the Elders their sacred sites will be protected. Will her innate understanding of the spiritual landscape, rooted in her own Arunta heritage, win their trust? It's not easy to keep the peace when Matthew Witherton and his survey team are quite literally blasting a rail corridor through the timeless land of the Never-Never. When the paths of Jessica and Matthew finally cross, their respective cultures collide to reveal a mystery that demands attention. As they struggle against time to solve the puzzle, an ancient wrong is awakened and calls hauntingly across the vastness of the outback...

Bream gives me the hiccups & other stories by Jesse Eisenberg
Written in the droll tradition of Woody Allen, Simon Rich and David Sedaris these short pieces from Jesse Eisenberg are hilarious and ironic. The series of stories that gives the book its unusual title are written from the point of view of a nine-year-old boy whose mother brings him to expensive Los Angeles restaurants so that she can bill her ex-husband for the meals. One story in this series begins: "Last night, Mom and I went to Thanksgiving dinner at a Vegan family's house, which is kind of like going to Temple for Christmas. Mom said that Vegans are 'people that don't eat any meat or cheese or shave." Other stories imagine discussions in ancient Pompeii just before the volcanic eruption, explore the vagaries of post-gender-normative dating in New York City, and conjure up Alexander Graham Bell's first five phone calls: "Have you heard anything from Mabel? I've been calling her all day, she doesn't pick up! Yes, of course I dialled the right number - 2!" In different ways, these stories explore what it means to navigate the modern world, and are all illuminated by Eisenberg's ironic wit and funny, original voice.


The pretenders lady by Alan Gold
Alan Gold’s meticulously researched novel accurately opens history’s pages on a peerless woman who helped change the course of history and whose legend lives on in Scotland today—Flora MacDonald.

She was the most famous Scotswoman of her day, single handedly saving Bonnie Prince Charlie. This is her fictionalized life story—her relations with the Prince, her flight to America, Ben Franklin’s influence, and her return to Britain to lobby for peace

But what’s hidden from history, revealed now for the first time in Gold’s dazzling new work of fiction, is the result of Flora’s and Charlie’s love: a beautiful and talented boy raised on an American farm. But only she knows his true heritage and his claim to the world’s greatest throne. And only the genius of Ben Franklin understands how to use this na├»ve boy to change the history of America.

Non Fiction
The art of free travel: a frugal family adventure by Patrick Jones and Meg Ulman
Patrick, Meg and their family had built a happy, sustainable life in regional Victoria. But in late 2013, they found themselves craving an adventure close to the hearts of many Australians: a road trip. But this was a road trip with a difference. With Zephyr (10), Woody (1) and their Jack Russell Zero, they set off on an epic 6,000km year-long cycling journey along Australia's east coast, from Daylesford to Cape York and back. Their aim was to live as cheaply as possible - guerrilla camping, hunting, foraging and bartering their permaculture skills, and living on a diet of free food, bush tucker, and the occasional fresh road kill. They joined an anti-fracking blockade, spent time in Aboriginal communities, documented edible plants along the way, and braved the country's most hazardous highways. The Art of Free Travel is the
remarkable story of a rule-breaking year of ethical living.

Easily distracted by Steve Coogan
The autobiography of one of Britain's favourite actors. Born and raised in Manchester in the sixties, Steve Coogan was the fourth of seven children. It was soon noticed that he had a talent for impersonations, and, after numerous failed applications to London based drama schools, he gained a place at the Manchester Polytechnic School of Theatre. His career as a comedian and impressionist began in the 1980s, working as a voice artist on the satirical puppet show Spitting Image and in 1992 he won the Perrier Award for his show at which he launched his character Paul Calf. But it was working with Chris Morris, Patrick Marber and Armando Iannucci for On the Hour and The Day Today, where Steve created his most popular and most developed character, the one and only, Alan Partridge. Two television series, a mockumentary, two one-off specials, and seven BAFTA nominations later, Alan hit the big screen, opening at number one at the British box office with Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa. In addition to his acting career, Steve set up Baby Cow Productions in 2002 with Henry Normal producing several award winning programmes including Marion and Geoff, The Mighty Boosh, Gavin and Stacey, Sensitive Skin and Cruise of the Gods. And last year he was recognised by the Oscars for his outstanding work on Philomena. In his touching and funny memoir, Steve shares the highs and lows of his journey through three decades in the entertainment industry. From Manchester to Norwich and beyond, with a few bumps along the way: this is Steve Coogan, in his own words.

Great South Land by Rob Mundle
For many, the colonial story of Australia starts with Captain Cook's discovery of the east coast in 1770, but it was some 164 years before his historic voyage that European mariners began their romance with the immensity of the Australian continent. Between 1606 and 1688, while the British had their hands full with the Gunpowder Plot and the English Civil War, it was highly skilled Dutch seafarers who, by design, chance or shipwreck, discovered and mapped the majority of the vast, unknown waters and land masses in the Indian and Southern Oceans.This is the setting that sees Rob Mundle back on the water with another sweeping and powerful account of Australian maritime history. It is the story of 17th-century European mariners - sailors, adventurers and explorers - who became transfixed by the idea of the existence of a Great South Land: 'Terra Australis Incognita'. Rob takes you aboard the tiny ship, Duyfken, in 1605 when Dutch navigator and explorer, Willem Janszoon, and his 20-man crew became the first Europeans to discover Australia on the western coast of the Gulf of Carpentaria. In the decades that followed, more Dutch mariners, like Hartog, Tasman, and Janszoon (for a second time), discovered and mapped the majority of the coast of what would become Australia. Yet, incredibly, the Dutch made no effort to lay claim to it, or establish any settlements. This process began with British explorer and former pirate William Dampier on the west coast in 1688, and by the time Captain Cook arrived in 1770, all that was to be done was chart the east coast and claim what the Dutch had discovered.

John Farnham: The untold story by Jane Gazzo
John Farnham is nothing less than an Aussie icon. In a career spanning almost five decades, the likeable, charismatic star has entertained countless Australians of every generation, selling millions of records along the way. But his extraordinary story is as much about tackling adversity as it is about topping the charts. In the mid-1980s, without a recording contract, more or less penniless, and seemingly destined to be remembered mainly as the chirpy teenager whose debut single 'Sadie (The Cleaning Lady)' swept to number one back in 1967, Farnham had hit rock bottom. But courageously - and assisted by his great friend and manager Glenn Wheatley who mortgaged his house to finance an album - John stormed into the public consciousness again in 1986 with the epic 'You're The Voice' single and stunning LP Whispering Jack. His spectacular comeback complete, the fair-haired superstar has simply gone from strength to strength in the decades since. In this compelling biography, radio broadcaster and music journalist Jane Gazzo tracks down the key figures in John's life - from the 1960s to the present day - revealing Farnham as an inspirational Australian whose bubbly personality sometimes disguises his steely determination beneath the surface. Former teen idol, Australian of the Year, the man known across the nation as 'The Voice', John Farnham has earned his reputation as a genuine legend of the local entertainment industry.

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