A Pale View of Hills 

Dulwich Hill branch manager, radio personality, and book selling superstar, Morgan Smith tells us how it is.

February 2018

 - Friday, February 09, 2018
Well, here we all are again, still. At gleebooks we are going into our 8th year at Dulwich Hill. Children who were in primary school when we opened are going off to University or overseas on a gap year, or starting jobs. Their gen-x parents are sprouting grey hairs—yes, you know who you are! And the baby boomers, we’re just getting older, some frailer than others. But we’re all still reading and that’s what binds us and keeps us involved in a communal conversation.

I usually like to read a new crime novel in summer and this year’s discovery is English crime writer Eva Dolan. Apparently she is acclaimed for a series she writes set in a Police hate crime unit—which reflect contemporary English society and its troubles. This is How it Ends is a stand-alone but also very political. Sydney readers will connect with the scenario in which a block of flats is to be razed to allow yet another high-rise to go up in its stead. One of the residents is Molly, a baby boomer activist who was at Greenham Common in the 70s (look it up Millennials!) who helps her young friend Ella dispose of a body. Social media savvy Ella has been instrumental in leading the protest against the developers and Molly regards herself as her mentor, so when Ella claims the death was an accident she believes her. This is how the story begins but the twists and turns that follow are delightfully surprising. A well-written, enjoyable crime novel with heart and soul.

Widely praised, and highly recommended, is this year’s Costa Book Award winner, Jon McGregor’s magical Reservoir 13. The book starts with the familiar trope of a young girl going missing from a village somewhere near Manchester. And that’s where any sense of it being a crime novel ends. In prose that is at once simple, lucid and poetic, McGregor relates the lives of the villagers, whom, while they may have mobile phones, feel like they’re out of a previous century. Much of this is due to the stunning nature writing in which the rise and fall of the seasons, the activity of flora and fauna around the village are as beautifully rendered as the many characters with whom they share the environment. Unusually McGregor has released a companion piece to the book called The Reservoir Tapes—a collection of stories about some of the characters in this elusive and wonderful book. I’ll definitely be reading that.

The big ticket item for next month—March—is the release of a new Tim Winton novel The Shepherd’s Hut. Here, Winton returns to familiar territory with the main character and narrator, an uneducated teenage boy blindsided by circumstance. I won’t give anything more away now as I’m interested to hear what others think once they’ve read this very strange novel. I suspect being brought up an atheist means I am missing much of the real meaning of The Shepherd’s Hut. There’s a biblical metaphor (or three) in there I’m sure—I just don’t know what it is. Morgan