Life lessons and stylish fashion tips

Book reviewers Fiona Capp and Lucy Sussex take a look at recent fiction and non-fiction releases. Here are their reviews.

Non-fiction pick of the week


stroking the shark
Tim Baker, Ebury Press, $34.99

“Buddhism teaches us that our life’s work is to prepare for death, but for most of us this is a duty that we put off until the last minute. A cancer diagnosis is a wake-up call to do your homework. And that’s what Tim Baker did. With diligence, courage, frankness.

Her story has much to offer and inspire people with terminal illness and all those who wish to face their mortality and live more fully. Seven years after learning he had incurable stage four prostate cancer, Baker stopped struggling with the acute sense of impermanence that such a diagnosis induces and embraced this knowledge, let him break it.

From the debilitating effects of hormone therapy to the solace found in the waves, Baker’s determination to see cancer as a teacher rather than an enemy has allowed her to not only defy the odds, but also thrive in the most challenging circumstances. more unlikely.


Lucianne Tonti, Black Inc., $32.99

The beauty of this book is that it does not scold. Instead, he conveys his message about the connection between our wardrobe and the health of the planet by appealing to our senses and the well-being that good clothes provide – the caress of silk against the skin, the lightness of cotton on a hot day, the way wool breathes while warming us, the way linen softens with wear, and how these natural fibers connect us intimately to the sun, the sky, the earth.

In prose as stylish as her fashion sense, Lucianne Tonti shows how a combination of love for clothes and love for nature can “subvert the take-do-waste model that is at the root of the enormous fashion’s environmental footprint.

While peeling off the hype around sustainable clothing, she offers sound advice and promising examples of how regenerative agriculture is forging a new holistic paradigm that reconnects fashion with the cycle of life.


The lessons of history
Ed., Holbrook, Megarity & Lowe, NewSouth, $39.99

Learning from history may seem like a simple process. But as the historians writing for this collection are all too aware, ideology and meta-narratives such as “progress” or “productivity” invariably shape how those in power politicize the past at their own ends, whether provocative statements about China or hypotheticals. on the inexorable march of capitalism.

“If we want to avoid human extinction,” says Yves Rees, “we have to reimagine how we exist over time.” As “time workers,” historians are uniquely placed to help challenge and change the story we tell ourselves about how history unfolds.

In addition to this global perspective, these essays offer focused reflections on topical issues such as the cultural narratives that legitimize war crimes, effective ways to counter the rise of the far right, and the importance of a policy bipartisan on domestic violence.


train lord
Oliver Mol, Michael Joseph, $35

It’s a story about the inability to make sense of chronic pain, largely because it defies any consoling story arc. In gasps of conscience, Oliver Mol recounts and recounts how a 10-month-old migraine bothered him, rendered him unable to write. And how he found some kind of order amid the chaos while working as a train guard, and how the trace of that pain rippled through the years that followed.

As he approaches his story from different angles, constantly baffled by how to turn the mess of life into meaningful form, he also ponders the storytelling itself – the hope it holds, the promise of certainty and transcendence.

“At the end of the day, the stories aren’t for the truth… They’re bridges to places that no longer have or never existed, and the only reason I’m still writing is because I believe, childish as it is, that there might be something on the other side.”

Fiction selection of the week


After Sappho
Selby Wynn Schwartz, Text, $29.99

Related feminist biographies can be purely factual, like Francesca Wade’s excellent book haunted square. Selby Wynn Schwartz similarly raises the interesting dead, but with additional imaginaries.

The work is a patchwork of lesbian lives, speculation as questioning. The usual suspects – Virginia Woolf, Gertrude Stein – appear, but also lesser-known, if not largely unknown, women, artists and activists. They are bound in their gifts, which they have the opportunity to express, by money, sheer will or sheer luck. Likewise, they share a dedication to Sappho, with her verse fragments being the key image and inspiration.

Such a project involves considerable risks, but Schwartz’s erudition and rigor maintain it. The work, in the running for this year’s Booker Prize, is a triumph. For Sappho and other fangirls.


Electric and crazy and brave
Tom Pitts, Picador, $34.99

This debut is focused on young lives, which might land it in the YA category. That it is 300 pages indicates a literary audience. It also has difficult subject matter: mental disorders, here fueled by pure bad luck.

Two families cross paths, with intense teenage love between narrator Matt and wild child Christina. They could have been brothers and sisters by marriage, if a paternal death had not triggered a spiral of disaster. Almost everything goes wrong afterwards, a heavy burden on the narrative.

Years later, in therapy, Matt writes a memoir, a task to exorcise his demons. As he admits, it’s unreliable. In words as in life, Christina remains elusive to him, but he can learn to live with it.


keep it sweet
Helen Fitzgerald, Affirm, $29.99

Helen Fitzgerald is an Australian now residing in Scotland and enjoying an international reputation as a thriller writer. The best known is The Screamtelevised by ABC and starring Jenna Coleman.

keep it sweet similarly mixes Anglo-Australian characters, here in the Ballarat setting. It’s unlikely to please the local tourist office, with mineshafts and crystal meth. Jen and Andeep are a troubled couple, and now their adult daughters have moved in. Asha and Camille have always been restless, but something worse has happened. When an unfortunate family therapist is assigned, she too seems infected with the growing madness.

Fitzgerald can keep a reader up all night turning pages, with great storytelling and horror skills. That this book is completely exaggerated is either enough or too much, depending on taste.


The Crimson Thread
Kate Forsyth, Penguin, $32.99

All kinds of authors write stories centered on women. Kate Forsyth began in fantasy, her work still marked by her roots in fable and fairy tale. Here she addresses the oft-visited World War II, in particular the role played by the Australians in Crete.


The setting is unusual, as is the Cretan heroine having a half-German Nazi brother. Naturally, Knossos and its labyrinth figure, but the story is also about modern Crete and its culture. It has a strong sense of belonging, as well as a family history, as Forsyth had relatives serving in Crete.

The result successfully mixes war and archeology, coding and traditional embroidery. For war buffs with a penchant for romance.

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