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Posted on 24 Dec 2021 in Fiction, Non-Fiction |

NRB readers’ favourites for 2021

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Which were the reviews you enjoyed the most this year? We’ve come up with the ten most popular reviews we’ve run this year, based on reader views. Inevitably it skews a little to reviews we ran earlier in the year (as there has been more time for readers to discover them) but it’s one way to get an overview of the books that caught our attention in 2021. How many of these books have you read? Is your personal book of the year among them? Here’s a chance to catch up on reviews you may have missed, or to revisit books that have resonated with you this year.

This is our final post for 2021. Our deepest appreciation to all the fine reviewers who have published with us over the year, and to you, our readers – we wouldn’t exist without you. We’ll be back with more reviews mid-January. In the meantime, a happy, healthy and book-filled summer to you all.

Douglas Stuart Shuggie Bain

Reviewed by Linda Godfrey

The novel opens with Shuggie when he is 16 years old, living in a boarding house and working in a sandwich shop. We experience his world, the cold, the dullness and flatness of his life. All of Agnes’s children have at one time expressed their desires and ambitions. Only Catherine has escaped Scotland and Agnes …

Read the full review here.

JP Pomare Tell Me Lies

Reviewed by Ashley Kalagian Blunt

Early one morning at Melbourne’s Southbank station, psychologist Margot Scott approaches a man from behind, hesitating as she waits for the approaching train … who is the man, and what has led a woman with a successful career and a happy marriage to kill him?

Read the full review here.

Amanda Lohrey The Labyrinth

Reviewed by Linda Godfrey

This book’s epigraph is ‘The cure for many ills, noted Jung, is to build something.’ In Part One of this novel, the main character, Erica Marsden, has many ills: she has a son in prison for manslaughter; she has memories of her dead parents, her abandonment as a child by her mother, and her estrangement from her only sibling, her brother.

Read the full review here.

Emily Maguire Love Objects

Reviewed by Linda Godfrey

Narrated from the points of view of three people from the same extended family, Love Objects is a study of hoarding, violations of private spaces, consent and social class. Nic lives alone in her parents’ home and works in a low-paid job in retail. She is on good terms with her work colleagues, her neighbours and the local feral cats.

Read the full review here.

John Hughes The Dogs

Reviewed by Paul Anderson

Michael Shamanov, a second-generation son of Italian-Russian migrants to Australia, imagines his mother’s past in a Europe on the cusp of world war and revolution – an early life he knows nothing about because she has always withheld it from him …

Read the full review here.

Briohny Doyle Echolalia

Reviewed by Amy Walters

The book opens with an omniscient view of a baby’s body discarded, ‘a small thing, alone, in the reeds by the lake’. Then, jumping back to the ‘before’, we see Emma, a young mother of three, trying to find the energy to mind her three children alone all day.

Read the full review here.

Carly Findlay (ed.) Growing Up Disabled in Australia

Reviewed by Michael Jongen

… this remarkable collection of personal essays … provides a social history of disability in Australia, and has fascinating stories on the realities of surviving a world that demands the disabled adapt to the ‘normal’ – a euphemism for the abled.

Read the full review here.

Kazuo Ishiguro Klara and the Sun

Reviewed by Paul Anderson

Klara is an AF, an Artificial Friend. She is bought, as one might a domestic appliance, as a companion for Josie, to prevent the teenager from becoming lonely. The book is about her two key relationships: with Josie, her client and raison d’être, and with ‘the Sun’, her essential energy source and object of worship.

You can read the full review here.

Rebecca Starford The Imitator

Reviewed by Ann Skea

[This novel] is based on real wartime espionage that occurred in London between 1939 and 1940 … Rebecca Starford imagines Evelyn’s life and the mixed emotions and conflicts that might plague an ordinary woman who lives half her life as a lie, pretending to be what she is not, and seeming to espouse views that she actually abhors.

Read the full review here.

Michael Mohammed Ahmad The Other Half of You

Reviewed by Paul Anderson

[This is] a contemporary Australian story of an author as a young man and a father’s unflinching love. Bani Adam is funny, punchy and emotional, a great character to read. However categorised, the writing is brave, authentic and unrestrained as it imparts slices of Lebanese-Australian life. 

Read the full review here.

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