These five books helped me weather a fiery summer …
Raynor Winn had not thought much about homelessness before it happened to her and her terminally ill husband in their 50s. With little alternative, Winn and her husband Moth decided to walk the South West Coast Path in the UK and wild-camp along the way. Winn’s Costa-nominated memoir, The Salt Path, shows how little money and food they had, how they scrounged hot water and shared tea bags, how Moth’s health held up, and how people backed away when they heard the couple was homeless. A warm and well-written memoir.
I’ll read most books that feature a loner on an island, which Kitty Hawke is at the start of Wolfe Island. But her weird name and that of her estranged husband (Hartford Darkness) almost capsized this novel for me. Luckily, Lucy Treloar tells a gripping tale wherein the coast is being eroded by climate change and the love of kith and kin is tested by extremis. Kitty’s an artist who says, “Ideas came to me like wolves down shadowy creek beds in failing light. I could let them kill me or wait for them to approach.” A gripping read.
The Weekend by Charlotte Wood tells an unflinching story of what happens when a group of four friends becomes a group of three, following a death. The ageing trio gathers at Sylvie’s beach house – tasked to clear it out for sale – and we see just how fragile their relationships have become since Sylvie’s departure. Jude, a once-famous restaurateur, Wendy, an acclaimed public intellectual, and Adele, a renowned out-of-work actress reflect on their younger selves and ageing and bear at least some of their grudges silently. Will their friendship survive the weekend?
Creatures of the cold
“Nine nippy, slippy blackfin icefish haunting the dusky depths” – is just one of the charming descriptions in Moira Court’s Antarctica – a children’s book for the little nippers in your life. Court’s illustrations are as gorgeous as her words, using texture, tone and simple repetitive shapes (collage, block print, woodcut art) to depict the Antarctic’s “quirky” creatures and to keep little fingers turning the pages. My favourite images are the orange flying squids. Fascinating information includes Starfish have tube feet, two stomachs, and eat anything, including seal poo! A cool read on a hot day.
Home and away
Grab Josephine Rowe’s collection Here Until August for “Glisk” alone and you won’t be disappointed. I return to this story often for its heartbreaking narrative, and its flawless depiction of a family wading to an island during a neap tide. Rowe is an Australian author who has built an international reputation due to the quality of her short stories. In these 10 disquieting narratives, you’ll be transported to the Snowy Mountains, the Catskills, Newfoundland and an Australian city with a taxi driver, a French émigré and a lesbian couple vexed about starting a family. Compelling.