What We're Reading

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Neil

Lioness, by Emily Perkins Bloomsbury July 2023)

I was surprised to find that it's been over 10 years since Emily Perkins' last novel The Forrests, which I loved. Lioness is set amongst the comfortable upper middle classes of Wellington, and their self-satisfaction is brilliantly portrayed. The narrator, Therese, has married into an established wealthy family, and is much younger than her husband, and not fully accepted by his four adult children.

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Neil

Bodies: Life and Death in Music, by Ian Winwood (Faber 2022)

A powerful examination of what life in popular music does to the artists involved. Ian Winwood is a music journalist, and has first hand and personal experience of excess, drugs, alcohol and the impact on musicians mental health. It's a very honest and personal book as well, as Winwood describes his own agonising experiences with drugs and alcohol. It's a relentlessly grim chronicle, and according to the author, it's not getting any better.

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Neil

Old God's Time, by Sebastian Barry (Faber 2023)

Sebastian Barry comes from a long and grand tradition of Irish writers, and he's probably one of the best currently writing. This is a fantastically melancholy novel, as only the Irish seem to be able to conjure, as a recently retired policeman looks back over his life experiences. Two former colleagues turn up at his house unexpectedly, with questions about a decades old case. Tom Kettle can barely remember the case, but it stirs old and uncertain memories.

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Neil

Everything is Beautiful and Everything Hurts, by Josie Shapiro (A&U NZ, May 2023)

This is a debut novel, set mostly in Taranaki and Auckland, is mostly about running, but it's about a lot more than running. Mickey Bloom is a terrific character, five feet tall, dyslexic, bullied at school and bad at relationships, but a hell of a runner. This novel follows her through her life of triumph and failure, the loss of dreams, family tragedy, and ultimate redemption. It's quite a journey, atmospheric, compelling, dramatic and well paced. An excellent debut which deserves to be a bestseller.

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Neil

Move! The New Science of Body Over Mind, by Caroline Williams (Profile 2021)

A fascinating look at the current science about the impact on the mind and the brain that various forms of body movement and exercise can have, this book is full of helpful and convincing information about how one can live a better and healthier life. It looks at why we move in the first place, examines in turn walking, physical strength, dance, posture, stretching, breathing etc. It's amusingly and accessibly written, not all of it will take with any reader, but it's a reminder that doing anything is better than doing nothing!

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Neil

And Finally, By Henry Marsh (Jonathan Cape 2022)

Henry Marsh is a retired brain surgeon, and the author of two previous memoirs about his career Do No Harm: Stories of Life Death and Brain Surgery, and Admission: A Life in Brain Surgery. These chronicles reveal a man of huge compassion and humanity, the brain surgeon version of Oliver Sacks if you like. He thought he understood illness, but since his own diagnosis of advanced cancer, he has been forced to undergo a very confusing transition from doctor to patient.