North Melbourne Books - November 2019 Newsletter
     Independent, local book shop set in the heart of North Melbourne


This month we talk to Nina Kenwood, winner of the 2018 Text Prize, about her charming, funny, all-too-human young adult debut It Sounded Better In My Head. Set in Melbourne, this smart romantic comedy perfectly captures those awkward, uncertain teenage years when emotions are constantly on the boil. Don't miss it!

In new fiction this month there are novels from Elizabeth Strout, Sally Vickers, Garry Disher, Lee Child, Andre Aciman, Christos Tsiolkas, Martin Cruz Smith and James Patterson.

In non-fiction there are new books from Will Self, Jung Chang, Lydia Davis, Helen Garner, Tim Flannery, Robyn Annear, Julian Barnes, Geoffrey Robertson, Bri Lee and David Mitchell. For music fans, there are memoirs from Elton John and Prince. 

Australian historian David Day has also written an excellent biography of Labor Party politician, barrister and worker's champion, Maurice Blackburn. Read our staff review

Happy reading!

North Melbourne Books talks to Nina Kenwood
                                                               (photo credit: Lian Hingee)       

North Melbourne Books: Eighteen-year-old Natalie’s world is coming apart. Out of the blue her parents announce they’re separating and two members of her close-knit group of friends have paired off. Natalie feels like the proverbial third wheel.

Then along comes Alex, who starts to take notice. Through a series of farcical mix-ups, the two get to know each other, but when Natalie finds out something from Alex’s past, she wonders if he can be the right boy for her.

The novel has an autobiographical feel. Did you use a lot of your own experiences for the plot?

Nina Kenwood: I definitely drew on a lot of my own neurosis and insecurities, as both a teen and an adult, to create Natalie’s internal voice. She is traumatised by her experience of having bad skin when she was younger, and I’ve had bad acne throughout my life, so that part definitely had autobiographical elements. Saying that, the plot and the characters are not autobiographical. Most of my friends and family have read the book, and while they’ve seen a few familiar moments or snippets of conversation, they didn’t find themselves in there! I think my sister was quite disappointed she didn’t feature in the novel, actually (I’ve promised her she’ll be in the next book.)

NMB: While Natalie has a smart sense of humour, she’s also quite introverted and obsessive. We don’t see that many clearly introverted characters in fiction. Do you think she’s quite original in that sense?

NK: I think she’s original in the sense that she’s got a distinctive voice and point of view, one that really carries the book. I assume a lot of writers (and readers) must be introverts, because you’re spending so much time on your own, in your head, so it would also make sense that a lot of characters in fiction must be introverts too.

I am a classic introvert, and I was interested in digging into what that means in my book, and exploring how introversion can be an excellent way to understand yourself and your limitations, but also how it can be used as a way of avoiding doing things you’re afraid of.

NMB: Jane Austen comes to mind when reading It Sounded Better in My Head. Natalie goes through a process of transformation throughout the novel. There’s also a touch of Pride and Prejudice, where Natalie thinks she likes the gregarious Owen (Mr Bingley) but soon prefers the subtler Alex (Mr Darcy). Did Jane Austen come to mind during the writing process?

NK: Ha! It did not, to be honest, but I love this and will take any comparison to Jane Austen that I can get. I like to think all books that focus on the everyday lives of women and their romantic interests owe a debt to Austen.

NMB: There are some hilarious, bedroom farce scenes in the novel where Natalie and Alex are thrown together. It’s all ingeniously done. How did you come up with these ideas for the plot?

NK: These were my favourite scenes to write. I love writing dialogue, and the appeal of writing a romantic plotline is, for me, figuring out ways for the characters to have to spend time together and then, inevitably, talk about their feelings. I knew I needed to throw Natalie and Alex together during this section of the novel, and I knew I wanted it to be nighttime, and I figured out the plot mechanics from there.

NMB: What books are you enjoying reading at the moment?

NK: I recently had a baby, and as it turns out, she’s not the biggest fan of sleeping, so I have been a little bit too sleep deprived to read all the books I had on my to-read pile for maternity leave. I recently finished Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino, which is a really interesting essay collection, and now I’m reading Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell, because I’m a Rainbow Rowell superfan. I read Mem Fox’s Where Is The Green Sheep at least once a day at the moment, as it’s my daughter’s favourite book. I’m hoping to read some more non-fiction soon including Inside Out by Demi Moore (in large part because it’s ghost written by Ariel Levy, and I love Levy’s work), and Fair Play by Eve Rodsky.

It Sounded Better in My Head, by Nina Kenwood. Text Publishing. $19.99

New Fiction for November
Olive, Again
Elizabeth Strout
Viking $29.99


Olive, Again follows the blunt, contradictory yet deeply loveable Olive Kitteridge as she grows older, navigating the second half of her life as she comes to terms with the changes - sometimes welcome, sometimes not - in her own existence and in those around her.

Olive adjusts to her new life with her second husband, challenges her estranged son and his family to accept him, experiences loss and loneliness, witnesses the triumphs and heartbreaks of her friends and neighbours in the small coastal town of Crosby, Maine - and, finally, opens herself to new lessons about life.

Release date 5th November

Salley Vickers
Viking $32.99

Grandmothers follows four grandmothers - Blanche, who can't seem to stop stealing things from the local pharmacy; Minna, who just wants a quiet life in her shepherd's hut, though the local children have other ideas; Cherry, who's adjusting to life in a care home; and Nan, whose favourite occupation is researching funerals - whose lives and grandchildren become unexpectedly entangled.

Release date 19th November

Garry Disher
Text Publishing $29.99

Constable Paul Hirschhausen runs a one-cop station in the dry farming country south of the Flinders Ranges. He's still new in town but the community work - welfare checks and working bees - is starting to pay off. Now Christmas is here and, apart from a grass fire, two boys stealing a ute and Brenda Flann entering the front bar of the pub without exiting her car, Hirsch's life has been peaceful.

Until he's called to a strange, vicious incident in Kitchener Street. And Sydney police ask him to look in on a family living outside town on a forgotten back road.

Suddenly, it doesn't look like a season of goodwill at all.
Blue Moon
Lee Child
Bantam Press $32.99

Jack Reacher is back in a brand new white-knuckle read from Lee Child, creator of ‘today’s James Bond, a thriller hero we can’t get enough of’ (Ken Follett).
In Darkness Visible
Tony Jones
Allen & Unwin $32.99


In 2005, Marin Katich, living in Croatia, is being watched. Before the year is out, he has been assaulted, arrested, charged with serious war crimes and locked up in Scheveningen Prison in The Hague.

In Sydney, Anna Rosen, a freelance journalist, is emailed photos of a man she knows to be dead - gunned down in a brutal ambush in Bosnia over a decade ago. A man she'd once loved but who had betrayed her. Is it possible that the photos really are of Marin Katich? 

From Croatia to The Hague to Bosnia and Herzegovina to Sydney, Anna and Marin's intertwined history fuels her determination to tear apart his secrets, while continuing to keep her own.

Intriguing, gripping and believable, Tony Jones has used worldwide political history to create a second sensational thriller.

Release date 5th November

Robert Macfarlane and Stanley Donwood

Hamish Hamilton $29.99

What happens when the land comes to life?

Somewhere on a salt-and-shingle island, inside a concrete-and-iron structure called The Green Chapel, a figure called The Armourer is leading a black mass. He plans to detonate a thermonuclear missile. But something is coming to stop him.

Five more-than-human figures - or forms, or forces - are traversing the landscape, moving steadily towards a point where they will converge and become Ness. Ness is the land awakened. Ness is lichen skin and willow-bower bones, condensing mist, tidal drift and deep time. Ness has hagstones for eyes and Ness speaks only in birds, firecrests in the day and swifts after dusk. And Ness has come to take this island back.

Release date 19th November

The Great Divide
L.J.M. Owen
Echo $29.99

In the rural Tasmanian town of Dunton, the body of a former headmistress of a children's home is discovered, revealing a tortured life and death. Detective Jake Hunter, newly arrived, searches for her killer among past residents of the home. He unearths pain, secrets and broken adults. Pushing aside memories of his own treacherous past, Jake focuses all his energy on the investigation. Why are some of the children untraceable? What caused such damage among the survivors? The identity of her murderer seems hidden from Jake by Dunton's fog of prejudice and lies, until he is forced to confront not only the town's history but his own nature...

Find Me
Andre Aciman
Faber $29.99

In this spellbinding new exploration of the varieties of love, the author of Call Me by Your Name revisits his characters' complex lives in the years after their first meeting.

Release date 5th November
Christos Tsiolkas
Allen & Unwin $32.99

Christos Tsiolkas' new novel Damascus takes as its subject nothing less than events surrounding the birth and establishment of the Christian church.

Based around the gospels and letters of St Paul, and focusing on characters one and two generations on from the death of Christ, as well as Paul (Saul) himself, Damascus explores the themes that have always obsessed Tsiolkas as a writer: class, religion, masculinity, patriarchy, colonisation, exile; the ways in which nations, societies, communities, families and individuals are united and divided - it's all here, the contemporary and urgent questions, perennial concerns made vivid and visceral.
The Starless Sea
Erin Morgenstern
Harvill Secker $32.99

The magical new novel from the bestselling author of The Night Circus.

When Zachary Rawlins stumbles across a strange book hidden in his university library it leads him on a quest unlike any other. Its pages entrance him with their tales of lovelorn prisoners, lost cities and nameless acolytes, but they also contain something impossible: a recollection from his own childhood.

Determined to solve the puzzle of the book, Zachary follows the clues he finds on the cover – a bee, a key and a sword. They guide him to a masquerade ball, to a dangerous secret club, and finally through a magical doorway created by the fierce and mysterious Mirabel. This door leads to a subterranean labyrinth filled with stories, hidden far beneath the surface of the earth.

Release date 5th November

Criss Cross
James Patterson
Century $32.99

Alex Cross must confront a criminal from his past before his master plan to frame him succeeds, in the latest instalment to the bestselling series by James Patterson.

Release date 19th November
The Siberian Dilemma
Martin Cruz Smith
Simon & Schuster $32.99

From the internationally bestselling author of Gorky Park comes a new Arkady Renko story set against the harsh and forbidding landscape of Siberia. Renko must fight against his own demons, as well as the larger global threat posed by Russian spies.
New Non-Fiction for November
Tour de Force: The Explosive Journey from Street Cop to Chief of Australian Border Force
Roman Quaedvlieg
Viking $34.99

Roman Quaedvlieg was always destined to make a mark. As a rookie policeman on the mean streets of Fortitude Valley in the dying days of the Moonlight State, his first arrest was Brisbane's most wanted escapee. Three decades later, he found himself navigating through the corridors of power in Canberra.

This is a personal and political story that exposes a deeply conflicted national security system and doesn't shy away from his notorious sacking from the top job.

Release date 19th November
Will Self
Viking $35

An intense and anarchic memoir of addiction from one of Britain's most original writers.

Release date 19th November
Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister
Jung Chang
Jonathan Cape $35

A major new biography from the internationally bestselling author of Wild SwansMao and Empress Dowager Cixi - a gripping story of sisterhood, revolution and betrayal, and three women who helped shape the course of modern Chinese history.
Transcendence: How Humans Evolved Through Fire, Language, Beauty and Time
Gaia Vince
Allen Lane $45

Exploring cutting-edge advances in population genetics, archaeology, palaeontology, psychology and more that fundamentally change our understanding of how we developed as a species, Transcendence compels us to reimagine our ancestors. 

Release date 19th November
Good Economics for Hard Times: Better Answers to Our Biggest Problems
Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo
Allen Lane $45

In this ambitious, provocative book Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo show how traditional western-centric thinking has failed to explain what is happening to people in a newly globalized world - in short Good Economics has been done badly. This precise but accessible book covers many of the most essential issues of our day, including why migration doesn't follow the law of supply and demand, why trade liberalization can drive unemployment up and wages down and why nobody can really explain why and when growth happens.

Release date 19th November
Don't Be Evil: The Case Against Big Tech
Rana Foroohar
Allen Lane $35

Today Google and Facebook receive 90% of the world's news ad-spending. Amazon takes half of all ecommerce in the US. Google and Apple operating systems run on all but 1% of cell phones globally. And 80% of corporate wealth is now held by 10% of companies - not the GEs and Toyotas of this world, but the digital titans.

How did we get here? How did the tech industry get to dominate our world so completely? How did once-idealistic and innovative companies come to manipulate elections, violate our privacy, and pose a threat to the fabric of our democracy? In Don't Be EvilFinancial Times global business columnist Rana Foroohar documents how Big Tech lost its soul - and became the new Wall Street.

Release date 19th November
An Economic History of the English Garden
Roderick Floud
Allen Lane $55

An Economic History of the English Garden draws on never-seen primary sources to explore how much gardens cost to make and to maintain; how many gardeners tend to particular gardens; the prices of plants sold by nurseries, or imported from far-flung corners of the world; where the plants come from, what tools and techniques were used to create them and how they were invented. The author compares one garden with another in terms of the burden that it has put on the family that has owned it over the centuries. He unearths where their money came from and why they spent it on a garden. The result is a far deeper understanding of one of England's dearest - and indeed costliest - industries.

Release date 19th November

Lydia Davis
Hamish Hamilton $45

A crystalline collection of literary essays from the Man Booker International Prize-winning author of Can't and Won't.

Release date 19th November
Maurice Blackburn: Champion of the People
David Day
Scribe $49.99

Part love story, part gripping political thriller, the poignant story of the much-lauded Maurice Blackburn exposes a time when influence-peddling was rife, when political possibilities seemed limitless, and when a man of principle could still make a big difference to the course of Australian politics.

Release date 19th November
Yellow Notebook: Diaries Volume One 1978 - 1987
Helen Garner
Text Publishing $29.99

Helen Garner has kept a diary for almost all her life. But until now, those exercise books filled with her thoughts, observations, frustrations and joys have been locked away, out of bounds, in a laundry cupboard.

Finally, Garner has opened her diaries and invited readers into the world behind her novels and works of non-fiction. Recorded with frankness, humour and steel-sharp wit, these accounts of her everyday life provide an intimate insight into the work of one of Australia's greatest living writers.

Release date 5th November
Life: Selected Writings
Tim Flannery
Text Publishing $39.99

Essays, speeches and collective musings from one of Australia's greatest minds. From climate change to art, books, and the environment, there is something here for every Flannery fan.

Release date 5th November
Nothing New: A History of Second-Hand
Robyn Annear
Text Publishing $29.99

Robyn Annear lends her signature wit to this fantastic history of second-hand - from the origins of the op shop to eBay, up-cycling and how new became normal.

Release date 5th November
I You We Them: Journeys Beyond Evil: The Desk Killers in History and Today
Dan Gretton
William Heinemann $35

I You We Them is a study of the psychology of some of the least visible perpetrators of crimes against humanity, the 'desk killers' who ordered and directed some of the worst atrocities of the last two hundred years. It is also an exploration of corporate responsibility and personal culpability today, connecting the bureaucratic blindness that created desk killing to the same moral myopia that exists now in the calm, clean offices of global capitalism.

Release date 19th November
The Man in the Red Coat
Julian Barnes
Jonathan Cape $39.99

The Man in the Red Coat is at once a fresh and original portrait of the Belle Epoque - its heroes and villains, its writers, artists and thinkers - and a life of pioneering surgeon Samuel Pozzi, a man ahead of his time. Witty, surprising and deeply researched, the new book from Julian Barnes illuminates the fruitful and longstanding exchange of ideas between Britain and France, and makes a compelling case for keeping that exchange alive.

Release date 5th November
The Beautiful Ones
Century $49.99

The Beautiful Oneis the official story of Prince's life, told through his own words, work, and personal effects, illustrated in full-colour. It will be an intimate, unconventional narrative, echoing his mantra of creativity, community and identitygiving an unprecedented and inspiring insight into the life of the global superstar.
Who Owns History? Elgin's Loot and the Case for Plundered Treasure
Geoffrey Robertson
Viking $39.99

Geoffrey Robertson focuses his razor-sharp mind on one of the greatest contemporary issues in the worlds of art and culture - the return of cultural property taken from its country of creation.

Release date 5th November
The Knowledge Solution: Australian History: What Place Does History Have in a Post-Truth World?
Edited by Anna Clark
Melbourne University Press $29.99

Acclaimed historians and writers reveal defining moments of Australian history and what impact they'll have on our future.

Release date 5th November
Bri Lee
Allen & Unwin $19.99

In Beauty Bri Lee explores our obsession with thinness and asks how an intrinsically unattainable standard of physical 'perfection' has become so crucial to so many. What happens if you try to reach that impossible goal? Bri did try, and Beauty is what she learned from that battle: a gripping and intelligent rejection of an ideal that diminishes us all.

Release date 5th November
Dishonesty is the Second-Best Policy and Other Rules to Live By
David Mitchell
Guardian Books $32.99

From UKIP surge to Brexit shambles, fatbergs to food banks: bestselling comedian David Mitchell brilliantly tackles the dumbfounding times we live in.

Release date 5th November
Letters from Tove
Tove Jansson. Edited by Boel Westin & Helen Svensson. Translated by Sarah Death
Sort Of Books $39.99

Out of the thousands of letters Tove Jansson wrote, a cache remains that she addressed to her family, her dearest confidantes, and her lovers, male and female. Into these she spilled her innermost thoughts, defended her ideals and revealed her heart. To read these letters is both an act of startling intimacy and a rare privilege. Penned with grace and humour, Letters from Tove offers an almost seamless commentary on Tove Jansson's life as it unfolds within Helsinki's bohemian circles and her island home.

Animal Languages: The Secret Conversations of the Living World
Eva Meijer
John Murray $35

Researchers are discovering that animals have rich and complex languages with grammatical and structural rules that allow them to strategise, share advice, give warnings, show love and gossip amongst themselves. Animal Languages will reveal this surprising hidden social life and show you how to talk with the animals.

Release date 12th November
Grantlee Kieza
ABC Books $39.99

In this, the most comprehensive biography yet of this fascinating colonial governor, acclaimed biographer Grantlee Kieza draws on Macquarie's rich and detailed journals. He chronicles the life and times of a poor Scottish farm boy who joined the British army to make his fortune, saw wars on five continents and clawed his way to the top. Ultimately, Macquarie laid the foundations for a new nation, but, in the process, he played a part in the dispossession of the continent's original people.
Elton John
Macmillan $44.99

In his memoir Me, Elton writes powerfully about getting clean and changing his life, about finding love with David Furnish and becoming a father. In a voice that is warm, humble and open, this is Elton on his music and his relationships, his passions and his mistakes. This is a story that will stay with you, by a living legend.
Janis: Her Life and Music
Holly George-Warren
Simon and Schuster $32.99

What no one besides Holly George-Warren has captured in such intimate detail is the way Janis Joplin teetered between the powerful woman you hear in her songs and the little girl who just wanted to go home and feel emotionally safe there. The pain of that dichotomy fuelled her music - and ultimately killed her.
New Magazines
New Philosopher #26: Can You Change Who You Are?
Various Contributors

With contributions from Patrick Stokes, L.A. Paul, Myisha Cherry and more.
Womankind #22
Various contributors

With contributions from Nellie Bennett, Amy Egan, Christian Jarrett and more.
The Monthly - November Edition
Various Contributors

With contributions from Don Watson, James Button, Fiona McGregor and more.
New Books From Our Children's Room
Jon Klassen's Hat Box
Jon Klassen
Candlewick Press $64.99

The bear's hat is gone, and he wants it back. A fish has stolen a hat; will he get away with it? Two turtles have found one hat, but the hat looks good on both of them. . . . Jon Klassen's deliciously deadpan hat tales continue to surprise and delight readers of all ages, and they are all now available in one impeccably designed boxed set along with a free frameable print.
The Painted Ponies
Alison Lester

Allen & Unwin $24.99

Matilda loves staying at Grandma Lucky's, riding Luna in the front paddock and playing with the painted ponies in their carved wooden wagon. The gold palomino, the chestnut, the bay, the pinto, the brown and the dappley grey. One day, Lucky tells Matilda about when she was a little girl and the real ponies were her friends... A big, beautiful story about friendship and freedom, from one of Australia's favourite picture book creator, Alison Lester.

Myths, Legends and Sacred Stories
Philip Wilkinson

Dorling Kindersley $39.99

From lightning-wielding Zeus, the supreme Greek god, to protective Hathor, the Egyptian goddess of love - heroes, gods, and monsters are brought to life in these retellings of myths from around the world.

Bizzy Bear Books and Blocks
Benjie Davies

Nosy Crow $22.99

With a set of nine picture blocks and a cute board book edition of Bizzy Bear Things That Go, this book and jigsaw block pack is perfect for little hands!

Noel Streatfeild & Susanne Suba

Scholastic $24.99

Father says Osbert the family dog is too unsightly for the family wedding tomorrow. The children are outraged! Can they find a way to give Osbert the ultimate makeover? Rarely seen since its first publication in 1950, this charming picture book from the author of "Ballet Shoes" is a classic waiting to be re-discovered.
Adventures in Moominvalley
Amanda Li

Macmillan $29.99

This is a colourful collection of nine amazing adventure stories based on episodes of the animation series Moominvalley about Moomintroll and his family... in which the Moomins and their friends encounter the hattifatteners, capture a dragon, unexpectedly move house - and meet the mysterious Groke.

Explore Your World: Weird, Wild, Amazing!
Tim Flannery
Hardie Grant $34.99

The first book for children from renowned author and scientist Professor Tim Flannery, exploring the world’s weirdest and most fascinating animals in all their bizarre glory!

The House of Madame M
Clotilde Perrin
Gecko Press $34.99

Are you lost? Come in! You're in luck-there's no one here just now Shhh… Be as quiet as you can, and very, very careful! In The House of Madame M, we explore a strange house: hallway, living room, kitchen, bathroom and bedroom. Each room is full of surprises to make even the bravest shiver.  This large format lift-the-flap book will mesmerise readers of all ages.
A World of Plants
Martin Jenkins and James Brown
Walker Studio $29.99

Discover incredible facts and marvel at what plants can do in this beautiful book from conservation biologist and award-winning author Martin Jenkins, stylishly illustrated by print-maker James Brown.
Maisy's Christmas Letters
Lucy Cousins
Walker Books $19.99

Maisy is throwing a Christmas party, and all her friends are invited! When her guests RSVP, they send other Christmas surprises including an advent calendar, festive decorations, a gingerbread recipe and more. This story includes six real envelopes containing Christmas cards, gifts, decorations and a special letter from Maisy to personalise.

Staff Picks, Favourite Books and Latest Reviews from our Blog
Our top picks from the web
Heller Mcalpin at NPR reviews Elizabeth Strout's new novel, Olive, Again. "Olive, Again poignantly reminds us that empathy, a requirement for love, helps make life  'not unhappy.'"Click here.

Hannah Beckerman at The Guardian reviews Andre Aciman's new novel, a sequel to Call Me By Your Name, titled Find Me. "...Find Me is a study in love: not only the love we dare to embrace but the love that exists in the parallel lives we lack the courage to explore." Click

Kirkus reviews Martin Cruz Smith's new novel, The Siberian Dilemma. "This is vintage Martin Cruz Smith. Fans of Arkady Renko will be pleased." Click here.

Kirkus reviews Erin Morgenstern's follow-up to The Night Circus, The Starless Sea. "An ambitious and bewitching gem of a book with mystery and passion inscribed on every page." Click here.

Julia Lovell at The Guardian reviews Jung Chang's new book, Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister." The lives of the three Song sisters – the subjects of Jung Chang’s spirited new book – are more than worthy of an operatic plot." Click here.

Read this article at The New Yorker by Prince collaborator Dan Piepenbring about working with the legendary musician on his unfinished memoir, The Beautiful Ones. Click here.
Our Favourite Books This Month...
Lampie and the Children of the Sea
Annet Schaap
Pushkin Children's $16.99

When a young girl is sent to work at a sea admiral's house, she discovers a bizarre boy-monster hiding under the bed in a secret room.

Young Emilia (affectionately known as Lampie) lives with her father Augustus in a lighthouse. It is part of her job to light the lamp in the lighthouse to warn ships, but one night she forgets the matches and disaster strikes. A ship crashes and all hell breaks loose. Lampie's father, who is also a drunk, strikes her on the cheek and she is sent away to work at Black House. Black House belongs to the often absent Admiral and Lampie must labour under the orders of Martha, the housekeeper. Lampie starts to hear rumours about a horrible monster that lives in a mysterious room at the top of the house. Curiosity drives her on, despite the possible dangers, and what she discovers is both amazing and shocking. A boy, the Admiral's son, is hiding under the bed. His name is Edward, although Lampie calls him fish because of certain physical attributes he has. Edward has difficulty walking due to what he describes as his “deformity” and would dearly like to walk like a normal boy, not so much for himself but to impress his distant father.

Lampie and the Children of the Sea, a first novel from Dutch illustrator and writer Annet Schaap, reads in many ways like a seafaring version of Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden. The novel's central struggle centres around an orphaned girl trying to help a crippled boy regain his sense of self and belonging, and hence curing him. Whereas The Secret Garden is more realistic and psychological, Lampie and the Children of the Sea is an out and out fantasy, whimsical and otherworldly. There are some great set pieces – especially Lampie's visit to the fair and meeting with the "phenomenal freaks".  Annet Schaap's visceral description of the freakshow mermaid, sitting in her dirty tub of water, is genuinely hair raising. It is this mixture of constant invention and playfulness, along with the novel's undertow of melancholy, its themes of displacement and abandonment, that makes Lampie and the Children of the Sea emotionally resonant but also an unabashed entertainment.

A thrilling, soaring adventure with a cast of idiosyncratic, if not bizarre, characters that captures the imagination.

9+ years old

The House Without Windows
Barbara Newhall Follett
Hamish Hamilton $22.99

Child prodigy Barbara Newhall Follett wrote The House Without Windows, a song in praise of nature, at the age of twelve.

A young girl, Eepersip, finds living in a house – restrictive doors, windows, rooms and their attendant rules for living – repugnant to her. She decides to leave her parents' house and live in the wild. At first Eepersip roams the woods and meadows, making friends with animals and exulting in the plant life. She eats berries and roots, drinks freshly gathered water and makes comfortable beds in the wild for sleeping. Eepersip lives in a kind of ecstasy; a pure joy inhabits every waking minute of the day. She can't imagine going back to living in a house. Her parents, Mr and Mrs Eigleen, have different ideas. In a comic game of cat-and-mouse, they try to capture Eepersip and bring her back. But their half-hearted, ill conceived strategies always fail, often farcically. In one episode Eepersip actually jumps over her father and runs in the opposite direct. 

Having experienced the wonders of the woods, Eepersip decides to discover the delights of the sea. For the third part of the novel, Eepersip treks to the mountain tops, where she experiences a near transformation, giving the novel a mesmerising, glittering finish.

Barbara Newhall Follett began writing The House Without Windows when she was eight and finished it at age nine. The manuscript was destroyed in a fire and so she began re-writing it from memory. Where memory failed her, she recreated, letting her writing go off in new directions. She was only twelve years old when her novel was published in 1927.

The House Without Windows is certainly an astonishing feat, for a writer at any age. The book is suffused with a magic and wonder; the descriptions of fish, animals, plants, insects all convey an utter ecstasy of experience. The book also offers psychological lessons. Eepersip eschews identity – there are sections where she doesn't even like to be called by her name – in favour of merging with the natural world. To achieve happiness and oneness with all things, the ego must be erased. By the novel's end, Eepersip, as a solid personality, with name, family history and place in society, has almost disappeared, replaced with a humming presence, a oneness with the world.

A book of mind boggling originality from a preternaturally gifted writer. 

Recent book reviews from our blog

Face It: A Memoir, by Debbie Harry. "Self-created pop and rock icon Debbie Harry tells her story in this punchy memoir." 

A Moth to the Flame, by Stig Dagerman. "A Swedish classic of psychological drama."
Community Message Board

North Melbourne Book Club

​The North Melbourne book group provides a chance to expand your reading material and discuss current books in a friendly atmosphere.

Third Monday of the month, 6pm to 7pm.

When: Monday 18th November, 6pm to 7 pm.
Where: North Melbourne Library
66 Errol Street, North Melbourne

Contact: (03) 9658 9700
Website: click

Melbourne Book Club at City Library

The Melbourne Book Club reads a wide variety of fiction and non-fiction, chosen by book club members.

The group meets on the first Tuesday of the month, 6pm to 7pm.

When: Tuesday 12th November, 6pm to 7pm
Where: City Library, 253 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Contact: (03) 9658 9500
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Copyright © 2019 North Melbourne Books, All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:
546 Queensberry Street, North Melbourne 3051.

(03) 9041 4216


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North Melbourne Books · 546 Queensberry Street, North Melbourne, Victoria, Australia · North Melbourne, VIC 3051 · Australia

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