Book Review: ‘Sunbathing’ by Isobel Beech

I sit here, writing this review with a cup of Italian coffee and biscuit in tow. I do not think I could have a set up any more fitting. Isobel Beech has created a novel that draws you in from the very beginning. ‘Sunbathing’ by Isobel Beech, takes place mostly in Abruzzo, Italy. The setting is described in such an emotionally and physically connecting way that you feel the Italian breeze, smell the freshly cut tomato salad with basil and olive oil, hear the gurgling of fresh coffee on the stove in the morning, and can imagine the footfalls and efforts of love in the vegetable garden below your window.

I need to preface that this novel does surround the topic of suicide, therefore please read this review with caution and/or pop back onto the blog for another book review soon xx

“… ‘Sunbathing’ explores the workings of the self in the wake of devastation and deep regret, and reveals the infinite ways that the everyday offers solace and hope.”. Transcribed from the back cover of ‘Sunbathing’. In summary, this quote covers the essence of this novel completely.

After suffering the great loss of someone close, an Australian woman books a plane ticket to Italy. She is travelling to stay with her best friend, Giulia, and her fiancé Fab, in their old stone village home. Isobel lets your mind wander as to the setting of this home, and I say home because this is the instant feeling the Beech portrays. It is a place of comfort, warmth, support and hope. We know there is a vegetable garden that Giulia tends to and waters from the buckets of water both the women go walking for every few days. We know that Fab is a writer and pops up to say “Ciao” whenever he hears his name being discussed, either inside or outside the home. We know Giulia and our female main character sit and talk over homemade meals deep into the evening, under the big shady tree in the back yard. We know our main character feels responsible for the loss of a significant figure in her life to suicide. We know that this feeling is one that plagues her mentally and emotionally. Her grief is incongruent to the way she believes is ‘expected’ of her – her grief does not follow a pattern.

It is incredibly unique how connected a reader can feel to the main character through the workings of their inner most thoughts and internal dialogue. The main character utilises online platforms to try and refresh her mind, yet only finds herself feeling more self-destructive after seeking it out. The online and in person conversations about suicide and taking ones life, she finds quite flippant. There is a sense of nobody knowing what she is going through, therefore nobody can help fix her and the significant shift to her life. However, the slow pace of life with Giulia and Fab in Abruzzo, learning to understand the language, making friends with a stray cat called Bric and taking care in planting, tending and caring for, then harvesting their own food and appreciating all it does for the human body, becomes her salvation. Day by day, the sun would rise, the coffee would boil and the routines would begin to heal her.

One of my favourite parts of this novel was seeing how the main characters perspective about Bric, the stray cat, changed over time. To begin with, Bric would only visit Giulia and Fab’s home every so often for food. He was more of a neighbourhood cat but this worried our main character. She was terrified that he wouldn’t return, he would become lost and starve. This became comparative to the loss of the significant person in her life. She felt that if she looked for Bric, fed him and cared for him, he would stay with her. Sadly, no matter how much nurturance and love she expressed to Bric, she couldn’t make him stay. Towards the end of the novel, our main character comes to accept Bric’s coming and going, taking the pressure off herself and understanding that Bric can only extend a portion of himself to her. Nor is he something she, and only she, can feel responsible for on her own.

I also really enjoyed the overarching concept of the old birthing room, turned guest bedroom, that our main character resides in while staying at Giulia and Fab’s home. Throughout the novel, our main character is rebirthing herself into a new person that lives with the loss and grief experienced in her life. It does not leave her completely, it just becomes a manageable part of the new person she’s growing into.

This is one of the most touching books I’ve read this year and I can see myself re-reading it in the future. It is surely one I will be recommending to my local literary book clubs. It is a novel to read with openness and care. I believe it is greatly worth it.

Book Review: ‘The Girls of Lake Evelyn’ by Averil Kenny

Before I jump into this book review, I would love to give one big hug and cheer out to Allen & Unwin, Echo Publishing and Averil Kenny for sending me this beautiful copy of ‘The Girls of Lake Evelyn’.

‘The Girls of Lake Evelyn’ is a story about a curse, a playwright and a runaway bride. It is a story that wraps you in hopes and dreams, and allows you as the reader to escape into a world where the essence of small community care, love and support trumps all adversity and challenge.

💬 Let’s talk main characters:

Vivienne Brinsley is a high society young women living in Sydney at the beginning of the novel. It is the night before her wedding to Sydney’s biggest catch and high market man – yet she’s torn with feelings of dread and despair at signing up to a life she doesn’t truely want. Her mother cannot stand to listen to her discontent, so Vivienne turns to her Uncle Felix. Uncle Felix helps Viv escape her loveless relationship and expected life. He sets her travelling on a path to a small town in tropical North Queensland. Here Viv will find her confidence again, explore new friendships and possibly even fall in love with a rugged, handsome and hilarious dairy farmer, Owen.

Josie Monash is a small town gem! Even as a young woman, she has grown up to be a pivotal part of her community. Side stepping her dreams of city starlight and broadway, Josie has remained on her family dairy farm to take care of her Father and two brothers after her mother passed away. Josies’ Grandmother plays a big role in guiding her life choices and has always been a headstrong woman (maybe this is where Josie gets it from). Her Grandmother is determined to see Josie’s theatre directing skills have hit reviews in Sydney’s biggest newspaper. Her Grandmother can see such potential and how tirelessly she works to help others – now it’s Josie’s turn to bloom. So when Vivienne arrives to town and starts swimming in the cursed Lake Evelyn, Josie’s hit play seemingly comes to life.

✏️ Let’s talk plot:

Not so many years ago, a beautiful movie actress, Celeste Starr, tragically died in the lake and it spawned a curse that has plagued the town ever since. Josie’s play is set to uncover the true story behind the life of Celeste, yet it will not come without some adversity and unsettlement from community members. Lake Evelyn has been barricaded off for years now because of community fear. Josie is up against a number of people who do not trust Lake Evelyn and its ghosts.

As Josie persists with the play, people will begin to show their true colours. A number of characters are not who they seem and their small, unsettling parts in the novel, eventually surface what true motives lie beneath. Long kept secrets slowly reveal themselves in the most well paced and slow burning way!

⭐️ Final thoughts:

I loved that this novel, much like Those Hamilton Sisters by Averil Kenny (click on the title to read my Author Talks with Averil). ‘The Girls of Lake Evelyn’ has all the good things you’re looking for in a time period novel. Drama ✅ Mystery ✅ Romance ✅ Perfectly paced reveals ✅ Escapism ✅

I’m not lying to you when I say we have had to restock this novel in the book shop over 5 times now! Averil is a hit!! Her writing is DEvine and captures the reader with such lyricism that it becomes hard to put her novels down. I am so incredibly grateful to see, hold and enjoy another novel from her and can only predict that Averil is set to continue creating beautiful stories in the future. She is an instant purchase for me and I will be recommending her until the cows come home (🐮 I hope this was an Owen approved pun!).

💫 Mini Review 💫

‘Insomnia’ by Sarah Pinborough

I finished this novel in a matter of 3 days. If you liked Sarah’s most well known novel and now tv show ‘Behind Her Eyes’, you’ll love the twists and turns that ‘Insomnia’ presents.

Emma can’t sleep. She is plagued by paranoia and the feeling of dread associated with her 40th birthday. Her mother went mad at 40 and now Emma cannot let go of the fact that her inability to sleep has her mind and body travelling down the same path.
Her traumatic childhood meant the separation of Emma and her sister Phoebe, from their mothers care. In adult life, Emma seems the be the one who came out on top and overcame the challenges and impacts of her mothers madness … until now.
Her son is terrified of her. Her husband doesn’t trust her. Her mother has been murdered in her psychotic unit and Emma was the last to see her. Her sister may be having an affair with her husband. Her teenage daughter is rebelling. She’s unable to concentrate at work. She’s going mad or is she?

‘The Paper Palace’ by Miranda Cowley-Heller

How do I tell you generous reader, how much I’ve loved a book without telling you EVERYTHING about this book and giving away spoilers … keep reading to find out I suppose 🤣

Favourite passage: Pg. 6 “… While the doctor is inside me, he cuts off an ovary, careless, rushing to carve the death out of life. this, too, I will not learn for many years. When I do, my mother cries for me for the second time. “I’m so sorry,” she says. “I should have made him be more careful …” – as if she’d had the power to change my fate, but chosen not to use it.

Later I lie in a hospital cot, arms tied down at my sides. I scream, cry, alive, livid with rage at this injustice. They will not let my mother feed me. Her milk dries up. Almost a week passes before they free my hands from their shackles. “You were always such a happy baby”, my father says. “Afterward,” my mother says, “you never stopped screaming.”

Favourite character: Wallace, Elle’s Mother

I devoured ‘The Paper Palace’ by Miranda Cowley-Heller in less than 24 hours! I am not joking when I say the pacing of this book being on point, the character development and historical exposure was just right and the story had me captivated from chapter one. Our opening scene is Elle, our main character, waking up at the paper palace – her maternal families beach side cabins in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The setting throughout this novel is very ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ by Delia Owens. If you liked Crawdads, think of this books as an instant buy – you will enjoy it just as much. Here is me giving you approval to go and buy ‘The Paper Palace’ right now!!

These beach side cabins have great significance to Elle, as it is the place she first experienced love and love lost, a horrific sexual assault and predatory behaviour from a family member, family breakdowns, isolation and death. All of these experiences we dissect as the story unfolds, and it is told through the structure of flashbacks – moving from past to present.

At some points of the book, we go right back and learn about Elle’s family on a generational scale. This gives us positionally and understanding for how Elle loves, her thought process’ and behaviours – most significantly within her marriage to Peter and decisions about Jonas. We learn about her grandmother’s marital and family home decisions, and how this has affected her mother’s childhood and behaviours. We then move onto her mother’s story and learn how sexual relationships, experiences and assault have impacted her relationships, marriages, mothering abilities and connection to her daughters. This brings Elle into the picture. When we move in the present, we are learning about Elle’s marriage to Peter and her lost love (or resurrected love) with Jonas. The flashbacks with Jonas were some of my favourites and seeing the two characters grow together was very captivating. We delve in bits and pieces into Elle’s father and his marital decisions – the divorce with Elle’s mother, his remarriage and what Elle’s relationship is like with him now. All of these peoples’ stories are giving meaning and understanding of why Elle is facing her uncertainties of love and marriage in the present.

If you look into this novel deep enough, it really is focusing on the impacts of generational trauma. That being; physical and sexual assault, marital breakdowns and the impact on children, emotional attachment as a child, blended families, secrets and their longterm impacts, as well as neglect. Maybe it is the Social Work part of my brain that appreciated the rawness of the writing and grit behind Elle’s mother, in particular her self-centred behaviour. I could see why Elle and her mother’s actions were justified.

Nevertheless, Elle’s marriage with Peter is challenging and beautiful, like most. But her love for Jonas is stemmed from first love, passion and longing. Even the ending leaves you uncertain of who she chose. This was my Literature Lovers book club pick for March and we had a wonderful meeting discussing every members thoughts, feelings and final conclusions on ‘The Paper Palace’. Overall, this book was a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (5/5) for me. I could not put it down, nor would I stop raving about it to one of my lovely colleagues who gifted me the copy. She knew how much I’d love it and for that, I am very grateful xx

‘The Spanish Love Deception’ by Elena Armas

Okay so you know that chest caving, character loving, don’t touch me or talk to me or even breathe near me kind of feeling you get when reading a romance novel? Well, well, well – ‘The Spanish Love Deception’ will make your heart hurt SO MUCH in the best way possible!!

Not only will I gush to you online and in person at the book shop about this book, but I will also be shouting from the rooftops how DEVASTATED I am about having to wait 8 MONTHS before Elena Arma’s next book arrives on our shelves. Agh, the book pain is real! Elena’s next book is set to be published on the 6th of September and it is titled ‘The American Roommate Experiment’.

SOOooo Mel … get to the good part, the review!

Catalina is single and a short few weeks away from flying back to Spain for her sisters epic wedding. She moved to America in an attempt to reclaim her life and heal her broken heart after breaking up with her soon to be brother-in-law’s brother. Therefore, Catalina feels like the wedding will be a disaster if she rocks up alone. She needs to show her ex-boyfriend and her wide family that she is progressing with her life and achieving success. In walks her solution; office enemy, stubborn, rude and strangely attractive (😉😉) Aaron. He overhears Catalina’s ‘end of the world’ wedding scenario. Taking the plunge, he volunteers himself to be her date! This means flying to Spain together, pretending to be in love in front of her family, showing physical affection, sleeping in the same bed and well, keeping the arrangement hidden so Catalina’s family doesn’t suspect her love life isn’t as desperate as it actually is!

Que their ongoing love to hate relationship, and the cuteness that evolves to their falling in (actual) love. Aaron has a quiet persistence to prove how good of a ‘fake-date’ he is, but secretly and somewhat obviously, it is from a place of wanting Catalina to understand how much he really likes her. It takes a while for Catalina to see and feel that Aaron’s feelings are legitimate, but this just makes for more fun in their games of cat and mouse. Aaron is completely committed to investing in her happiness and wanting their relationship to evolve, regardless of their workplace conflict of interest. I really enjoyed their dynamic and seeing both their walls come down over time. I loved their trip to Spain and how much cultural immersion it allowed the reader to feel. I think this is a romance novel at its best.

Reading this book while suffering from a book slump really made it even more of a stand-out! I finished this book in less than 24 hours. It was EXACTLY what I was looking for and craving. Romance ✅ Love to hate banter ✅ Easy dialogue and world development ✅ Contemporary ✅ If you’re also looking for a book to soar you out of a book slump, ‘The Spanish Love Deception’ has all you, yes you, written all over it! I will 100% be re-reading this book before the end of the year.

‘Devotion’ by Hannah Kent

Hannah Kent has not failed to rip my heart out and then piece it back together again in her latest historical fiction novel, ‘Devotion’. I am in a book slump after reading this book and I’m finding it so hard to get the fictional characters of Hanne and Thea off my mind. Their love story is one for the ages and honestly, if you have not read this book, I strongly encourage you to find your nearest book store and buy a physical copy. Your note taking (if you’re that way inclined to annotate your books) is going to be flooded with pen marks and highlighted passages.

Growing up in the German village of Kay in 1830’s Prussia, Hanne represses her expectations of female friendships and socialising. She much prefers to be a child of nature as from a young age, believing to hear the whispers of trees, the nearby stream and the movement of air. Hanne knows that her love for nature makes her different from the other teenage girls in the village. It isn’t until she meets Thea that Hanne realises her long inherent beliefs of romantic love are also different.

Hanne’s family are set to follow their local Pastor to the new found land called South Australia. Here their community of Kay can continue to practice their Old Lutheran beliefs and spread the devotion of God. However, in order to get there they must sell everything they own and sail for months on end. (This is the part of the story where your heart will break. You will be baffled, you will find it hard to believe that Hannah has put us as the reader through this much horror, but you will also find it incredibly hard to stop reading).

At sea, they travel with their village for months on end. You feel the fear and uncertainly of being in the middle of the ocean without seeing land in sight, you smell the stagnate underneath living quarters and you sense that sickness and death is looming. It is inevitable and the inevitable does happen, but to whom? We see and feel love bloom, to then be ripped away from us. Hanne and Thea’s story falls short in so many ways but it only makes you realise how quickly your expectations of life can change in one moment.

The third section of this books is a mirage of life, yet through a different and troubling lens. It is raw and harrowing and heartbreaking. I continue to be utterly amazed at how hard hitting the writing of this novel is but yet it is delivered in such a rich and vibrant way. This is a big call to make but I truely believe that Hannah Kent had produced another national and international, award winning fiction. If this book does not move you, read it again! In my eyes, Hannah Kent is the reason we read fiction.

Book Review: ‘The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart’

Wow folks it’s been a hot minute! Where have you been Mel, you may ask? Well, it’s a busy time for bookselling and book recommendations! This makes me incredibly happy but it is also quite tiring, leaving me with limited time to write my regular book reviews. Things will slow down soon and uploading will become more regular – I promise 😉

So, a little while back (maybe 2-3 weeks ago), I finished The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart by Holly Ringland and honestly, I can absolutely see why this debut Australian novel caused a stir of positive discussion in its publication year of 2019. Additionally, I believe it is truely well worth the 2019 Australian Book Industry Award.

To begin with, a little disclaimer that this novel is strongly focused on the effects of domestic abuse and it’s long-lasting repercussions. Don’t let this put you off because it is a beautifully woven story.

Alice Hart is a young girl at the beginning of this novel. She is living on an isolated property with her whimsical, young and intelligent mother who speaks daily with love to her flowers. However her father has a consuming presence in her childhood, utilising narcissistic and abusive behaviours to control both Alice and her mother. Alice is aware of her mothers physical signs of abusive, yet it isn’t until she is on the receiving end of her father’s behavioural abuse does she realise that her childhood is not necessarily a happy one. Events occur and Alice uncovers a hidden secret of her fathers which ultimately leaves her as an orphan. Alice’s world then expands in ways she never knew possible.

Alice’s paternal Grandmother, June (a family member she never even knew existed), becomes her legal guardian. June takes Alice to live on her flower farm, Thornfield. Thornfield actually doubles as both a workplace and a safe house for women and children escaping domestic abuse. This environment of love, support and kindness is all new for Alice and quite hard to comprehend.

We continue to live through Alices’ experiences as a teenager and then as a young woman. Artistically and brilliantly, each chapter starts with an image and description of an Australian native flower. We learn to understand the language of flowers with Alice, where each flower comes from, how they look and what they mean. Without giving too much away, Alice soon becomes tangled up in her own abusive relationship. Interestingly and intelligently, Holly Ringland has peeled back the layers of emotional, mental, financial and physical abusive all in one novel. It is eye-opening, destroying and hard to put down. You want to throw the book across the room in exhausted anger but scavenge it to keep reading! As the reader, you yearn for Alice to see through the behaviours of her partner yet it is so explainable as to see why she doesn’t, creating the perfect depiction for domestic abuse. You’re a witness to her inside thoughts but you’re also weighing up the decisions she’s making from the outside as the reader. It is fantastically terrifying.

I think, if you can give yourself the time before the end of the year, read this book. Or if not, add it to your TBR for 2022. It will stay with you and make you become a full on advocate for exposing and supporting domestic abuse in Australia – maybe even around the world.

Book Review: ‘The Labyrinth’

I am utterly speechless and surprised. Not only in this book but in myself. Literature is not often my forte, nor do I usually find pleasure and addictiveness in reading literary language, plots and character conversations – yet THIS! WOW! I am blown away and can 100% see why ‘The Labyrinth’ by Amanda Lohrey won the Miles Franklin Literary Award for 2021.

Where to start …

‘The Labyrinth’ begins with the introduction of Erica, our main character. She is reflecting on her time as a child where she has just witnessed her mother abandoning Erica and her brother, Axel. They are left in the care of their father, who raises the children on the ground of a psychiatric facility where he also works as the head psychiatric doctor. This environment sets a feeling and acknowledgement of intense mental health and psychotic episodes throughout the novel. This theme reoccurs when Erica is comparing the life and work of her father, to her son Daniel.

Daniel is an incredibly interesting character in this story as we meet him whilst in goal. Erica bought and moved into a small coastal beach shack to be closer to him. We know that he is in goal after obsessing over a person, mostly through painting and drawing this person over and over. It is implied that this obsession then took a bad turn. Daniel connects to the world through his art, and there is an amazingly dark scene where Erica visits Daniel in goal after she has written multiple times to the goal administration to allow Daniel oil pastels. Daniel receives these but at the visitation with Erica, he breaks one in half, sits half on the table for her and proceeds to place the other half in his mouth, chew it and smirk as Erica. It’s twisted and dark and psychotic. You’re left thinking as the reader, what does this mean?! All the while, Erica continues to visit him due to this feeling of responsibility for him being the way he is and self-sabotage.

The idea of building a labyrinth comes to Erica in a dream and she feels this overwhelming urge to create one. The process of designing, developing, finding the right stonemason, obtaining material and the emotional support along the way, is all part of the core plot. The story is quite simple, yet it isn’t. Majority of my book club really enjoyed this novel and felt that Erica’s journey really did represented a Labyrinth. The circling relationship with Daniel, the moving past different characters and not overly investing time in or with them, or getting to know them. Erica’s dreams and final scenes in the novel were incredibly raw and moving.

I love that the Literature Book Club I’m leading is really pushing me out of my comfort zone. The discussions are AWE-some and really switching on this appetite for more Australian literature. If you’re looking for a novel to ponder over long after it’s finished – read this one!

Book Review: ‘The Night She Disappeared’

I can safely say that since forming and leading our local Crime Fiction Fanatic Book Club, my standard of crime fiction reading has boosted. Anddd… maybe I’m becoming a little more picky and snobish about which crime fiction novels actually peak my reading interests. I believe these feelings are arising due to the variety of novels we’re choosing to read and discuss – I’m really starting to find which themes, plots and character perspectives I like to read.

‘The Night She Disappeared’ by Lisa Jewell follows three perspectives. Tallulah is a 20 year old woman, mother, social studies student and in a relationship with Zach. They share a one year old son, Noah. He is the sole reason their relationship has found new life. Tallaluh does not feel that Zach’s forceful and controlling behaviour in their relationship is something she can foresee for her long-term future.

Kim is Tallulah’s mother and we also hear from her. Tallulah, Zac and Noah are currently living with Kim and she sees them as a happy couple and family trying to make things work. Until, Tallulah and Zach go out for an evening to the local pub, leaving Noah at home with Kim, and there is no reason for them not to come home after an enjoyable dinner and a few drinks – so where are they at 1am and the next 24 hours? Kim starts to question how healthy Tallulah and Zac’s relationship actually was.

Sophie is new to the little english village where this novel is set. She is our third perspective. She’s a writer of detective novels and is currently in the process of trying to write her next book. Her and her partner have moved into temporary teacher accomodation (with some sneaky history to it, you’ll find out if the final chapter 😉). Her partner is the new head teacher of the local college that Tallulah and Zac attended, and somehow, it’s a bit like their stay was set up … When Sophie comes across a note at her back gate saying “Dig Here” she is thrown into uncovering clues connected to the disappearance of Tallulah and Zac. Things start to play out a bit to much like her own crime fiction novels … IS somebody setting her up?

I won’t be giving too much away in this review, as I know some of my book clubs members read my blog and I don’t want to sway their reading process! However, what I will say it that this definitely wasn’t one of my favourite novels we’ve read this year. I felt it lacked something for my reading tastes and I wasn’t overly ‘wow’ed’ by the ending or characters. It did have good twists and turned but now, after reading around 6 crime fiction books this year, it’s hard not to start comparing. Our meeting, as it usually does, may change my point of view. Here are a few questions I intend to provide the group:

  1. How did you view Tallulah and Zac’s relationship?
  2. What did you think of Sophie being a crime writer herself and how this tied into the plot?
  3. Did you view Scarlett as a manipulative character or a product of her environment?
  4. Tallulah’s sexuality played a major role in this book. What do you think would have happened if her relationship with Zac continued?
  5. Arachnophobia: the extreme and intense fear of spiders. How did you predict this statement would tie in?

Happy reading folks! 🤓

Book Review: ‘Rabbit, Soldier, Angel, Thief’

If I was not in public right now writing this, I’d be crying. I’m not a crier when it comes to novels but, just wow, this book moved me! Regardless of age demographic and whomever this book is targeted towards, I strongly encourage all ages to read this – no restrictions. Now let me tell you why:

This Russian inspired story is like nothing I’ve ever read before. Reading and hearing from the perspective of a young 6 year old boy by the name of Sasha, we learn what living through the trauma of World War II was really like. This novel is fresh, current and important. The title ‘Rabbit, Soldier, Angel, Thief’ is so critical to the story.

Rabbit. As a child before the thick of war, Sasha was know a ‘Little Rabbit’ to his Mama. I believe this represents his time of innocence and pure joy as a 6 year old living life in a small loving village. His Papa has been lost in the war effort thus far, but this is the extent of his loss and tarnished childhood. His Russian community works together on their collective farm, known as a kolkhoz. This was his sense of normality. His life at this point was surrounded by love, flowers and games.

Soldier. Soon Sasha is thrown into a life he’s forced to live – a war-torn orphan who is taken in by soldiers of the Red Army. This new journey of his story is a violent push into the reality and consequence of war times and what will now define his life. The Russian people turned soldiers (as many of them were because they genuinely just wanted to protect their ‘Motherland’) become his new family. The way Sasha identifies and describes them in the novel is very child-like, which allows us as the reader to see this environment through his eyes. The regiment included Papa Scruff (a father figure to Sasha who had a dark unmanageable mop of hair), Grumpy Boris (constantly grumpy and not interested in childish antics), Invincible Ivan (get’s injured in every German encounter but survives every time), Windy Rustkov (who’s stomach really cannot handle cooks food and limited ingredients of potatoes and cabbage) and many more. This time as a solider was very crucial to the next part of his journey.

Angel. The Angel of Stalingrad. Sasha’s regiment takes in a frightened and lone newspaper reporter for a short time. During his stay, Sasha shares his story thus far with whisps of humour, storytelling, song and dance. Again, this is the child-like element of the story and showing the reader how different experiences, significant events and conversations can be altered through a younger perspective. This reporter named Sasha ‘The Angel of Stalingrad’ for his his ability to boost moral through song, story, affection, personal care and cuddles in the Red Army. Papa Scruff played a huge role in who he became through this time on his journey.

Thief. This is where we are currently, in the present with Sasha. He is in a war hospital healing from incredible trauma and he refuses to speak. He instead is collecting and thieving from other war patients, doctors and nurses around him. They know he is doing this but they allow him to take the items anyway because as they believe it will help him relive and recover his story. Spoons, feathers, watches, flowers, eight buttons, a shovel and a pair of clean underpants are just some of the items he takes. We live through these items with Sasha and learn his story along the way. A clever, clever plot structure.

All in all, I look forward to seeing how this novel is received in the book world. Katrina Nannestad‘s novel ‘We Are Wolves’ was selected for the 2021 Children’s Book of the Year Awards Shortlist. I have no doubt this novel will be a strong contender for the 2022 CBCA winner. Her writing is literary, emotive and honest but appropriate for a younger audience. Perfect for younger readers who like to delve into historical fictions and wonderful for adult readers looking for a little escapism.