The Bedside Bookstack – March 2023

What’s teetering on the bedside bookstack this March.

Wolfe Island by Lucy Treloar, Picador, 2019

Kitty Hawke is the last person living on Wolfe Island. Everyone else left when the water started to rise. One day her estranged granddaughter arrives bringing a boyfriend and a brother and sister who are looking for their mother and trying to get north.

This brilliant book is so rich and immerses you completely in Kitty’s natural and internal world. It’s epic and timely, daring to take on the biggies of climate change, migration and borders, family and the idea of home when the one you knew is no longer an option – all don so skilfully.

Unexplained Laughter by Alice Thomas Ellis, Corsair, 2012

I’d never heard of Alice Thomas Ellis until Charlotte Wood mentioned her in The Luminous Solution. So glad she did. This book was such a hoot.

Lydia’s relationship has just ended. Her partner left her for someone else and she’s gone to a cottage in the Welsh countryside for some time out. Her colleague Betty comes with her. They don’t actually know each other very well, which isn’t too awkward for Betty but it rubs at Lydia initially.

Lydia is one of the most unique characters I’ve read. She’s a total original. She’s clever, witty, judgemental, flippant, eccentric but also completely aware of her foibles. It’s her monologues (internal and external) as they meet and get tangled up with the locals and their business that provide the clever humour here.

It got me wondering why literary fiction is usually so un-funny. And I put it out there for suggestions of more books like this one, but haven’t heard any yet. Please pass them on if you have them.

Bedtime Story by Chloe Hooper, Illustrated by Anna Waler, Scribner, 2022

Chloe Hooper writes so beautifully. She burst onto the scene back in 2002 with The Child’s Book of True Crime. Since then, she’s written more non-fiction than fiction (The Tall Man, The Arsonist) and incredibly well but seems to fly under the radar a bit.

This is a memoir about her husband, Don Watson (of Weasel Words and Paul-Keating’s-speech-writer fame) getting a rare type of blood cancer. She wonders how to tell her young boys aged seven and four. She tries to find the perfect book to do the job for her and in doing so contemplates children’s stories, the authors who write them and the stories we tell ourselves. This is a sobering and contemplative read about sickness, mortality, love and words. Beautiful. And I can’t wait to see her this weekend at the Newcastle Writer’s Festival!!

The Sun Walks Down by Fiona McFarlane, Allen & Unwin, 2022

Another Australian writer who you know you’re in good hands with and who also seems to not get the readership, or is it air-play that her words deserve. Fiona McFarlane also had a big-deal debut with The Night Guest. After that came her beautiful short story collection The High Places and now we have The Sun Walks Down.

Six-year-old Denny Wallace goes missing in a dust storm in 1883. The locals of Fairly, South Australia, (both newly arrived and first nations) are unsettled by the event and their complex relationship with the land. This is a roving POV which moves seamlessly between the immediate family, neighbouring farms, domestic staff, police search party and trackers.

I haven’t finished it yet and am dying to know what has happened to Denny.

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4 thoughts on “The Bedside Bookstack – March 2023”

  1. Hard agree re Wolfe Island and Bedtime Story – both brilliant books.
    And you’ve reminded me to try the work of Alice Thomas Ellis (was re-reading The Luminous Solution last weekend and saw Charlotte Wood’s recommendation but promptly forgot again!)
    Another friend raved about The Sun Walks Down so it seems I’ll need to add it to my towering tbr pile/list!
    Hope life and writing are going well for you Nina 🙂


    1. Oh Fiona, get on to Alice Thomas Ellis, such a revelation!! And back at ya re life and writing. It’s Newcastle Writer’s Festival this weekend, so have a stack of sessions booked and can’t wait!!

      Liked by 1 person

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