From ‘India’s answer to the Godfather’ to an end-of-times speculative fiction collection by a new voice in Australian fiction. Here’s what our Balmain bookshop staff are reading this month.

April is reading…
An epic thriller out of India

My reading year burst out of the gate with Deepti Kapoor’s explosive new literary thriller, Age of Vice. If you’re looking for something to get you back into reading, this sweeping, compelling and often moving saga could do just that – with a vengeance. Age of Vice is epic, action-packed and cinematic and after the first few gripping pages, you’ll see why there was a 20-way bidding war for the film rights.

Touted as “India’s answer to The Godfather“, it frequently shifts times and perspectives: from quiet village life in the mountains to the isolation of London and Delhi’s crowds and fast pace, from an orphaned untouchable to a mobster’s troubled son, casting an unflinching eye on the vast inequalities of Indian society, seething with greed, cruelty and corruption. Warning: this isn’t a book for the faint-hearted, with depictions of suicide, rape and violence. However, I never felt the violence was gratuitous, as it vividly and affectingly explored themes around oppression, poverty, power and love. The characters are often flawed but equally sympathetic, very human and utterly memorable.

It’s a big book but I was totally engrossed and raced through it in a few days. Kapoor is a great storyteller with an evocative eye for detail, mood and atmosphere, and after a cliffhanger ending I was thrilled to discover this is the first of a trilogy. I can’t wait for the second instalment. You won’t be able to either.

Bron is reading…
A lot! (As usual)

My 2023 has started off with a diverse range of reading matter so far.

I began the year with a short story collection by Else Fitzgerald. Everything Feels Like the End of the World is a speculative fiction collection ‘exploring possible futures in an Australia not so different from our present day to one thousands of years into an unrecognisable future.’ The manuscript won the 2019 Richell Prize for Emerging Writers. In the beginning it feels like the world being written about is only five minutes in the future. It’s familiar, our new ‘normal’ with extreme weather events following one behind the other, unrelenting. Bushfires, floods, droughts, extreme heat and extreme cold. Rising sea levels, food supply issues, viruses and pandemics.

But as the stories continue the situation, our situation, steadily declines.

How we adapt to these changes becomes the hinge for most of her stories. Our sense of belonging is challenged as not only our local area changes in front of our eyes, but our whole world changes beyond recognition. According to Fitzgerald, there is still hope, but we have to act now.

A graphic novel that has been attracting a healthy buzz in the past six months is Alison by Lizzy Stewart.

Alison’s story begins as she finishes school in a small seaside Dorset town, falls in love and marries at the tender age of 18. It is the early 1970s and she is not expected to work outside the home. She loves her husband, and he loves her, but as time passes, Alison realises she is not only bored and lonely, but has failed to get going with a meaningful adult life.

A visit to the local library gives her the idea to try a hobby – an art class. Enter Patrick Kerr, a London artist holidaying in the area, ‘the last great painter‘ of portraits.

You can guess what happens next!

The story is a mixture of narrative text, speech boxes, letters, drawings and paintings, creating a scrapbook effect. Alison is a wonderful story about one woman’s search for identity, independence and the creative life. The perfect choice for anyone who has ever been caught by tradition and convention, for anyone who has ever struggled to kick start their adult life or for anyone who appreciates a beautifully wrought, tender depiction of female friendship and creativity.

A real gem.

I’ve also just started Victory City by Salman Rushdie. It has been worth the wait. Part fairy tale, part historical epic, it is full of exuberant, lush storytelling. Rushdie leads us on a merry dance through a 14th century India complete with divine intervention, ritualistic death, a magical city, a woman who never ages and the corrupting influence of power.…and I’m only 100 pages in!

If you don’t see me around for the next few days, you now know why!