Towards the end of 2018, I began to feel incredibly burnt out and decided that I needed a mini getaway. Being in Australia means that I am too far to dash off to Europe or the US, but it also means being very close to Asia. I've been to Hong Kong before (well, technically anyway), but that was only for a stopover and I never had the chance to actually see the city. When I saw that flights were on sale for Hong Kong, I thought, why not? A couple of weeks later, I became lost amongst the craziness of HK — whether it was the density of the buildings, hectic nature of the city or the humid (almost unbearable) weather. Below are some of my favourite snaps from my trip.
Justice against child predators is something that has become a major talking point in 2018 — Only this week, Woody Allen was accused of having an illicit relationship with a minor. The plot of Sofka Zinovieff’s novel Putney addresses an event that has become all too familiar.
Putney details the abuse of Daphne, who started being groomed as a nine-year-old by Ralph, who in present-day is a renowned composer. Convinced that she was in love, it wasn’t until approximately thirty-five years after the events happened that she began to view her relationship with Ralph as something more sinister. Ralph is obsessed with Daphne as a child to the point where he thinks of her as a mythical creature, unleashing his disturbing fantasies on her and grooming her to view their relationship as romantic.
To say that parts of the plot became frustrating is an understatement — in fact, I would argue that it's how you’re supposed to feel when reading Putney. For anyone who hasn’t endured a situation like the events Daphne had to go through, it would be hard to comprehend how she’s feeling. There were many moments where I had to remind myself that it isn’t as easy as simply reporting someone and seeking justice. Daphne’s character went through different stages of processing the events of her childhood (from anger to confusion). Zinovieff was also able to distinctively capture the emotions of not only Daphne, but other people impacted by what happened — her best friend who saw it happen, her friend’s husband who didn’t know his wife endured such trauma, the predator’s wife and children, as well as Ralph’s own views on what happened. Though these views were often conflicted, what they did do was show how these events affect people in an array of different ways.
Halfway through the novel, I thought the plot was starting to drag on, but the ending provided the intensity I was looking for. The structure of the novel’s plot was reminiscent of a Greek classic, which was intriguing.
I advise that if sexual abuse and grooming are events that you find triggering, you might want to reconsider reading the novel.
Putney is a gut-wrenching and stirring book about emotional manipulation, sexual abuse and grooming. It also has the power to launch a series of important conversations on a topic that’s extremely relevant in our world today.
Release date: July 12th 2018 by Bloomsbury Publishing
In her superb debut novel Famous Adopted People, Alice Stephens breaks down the complicated relationship between adoptees and their birth parents, as well as the struggles adoptees face whilst growing up in an environment where they're treated differently for who they are.
The novel follows the story of Lisa, who was originally born in Korea and raised in America after being adopted by an American couple. Urged by her friend Mindy, she signs up to an agency to help find her birth mother. Due to a lack of paperwork, the agency fails to find Lisa’s birth mother. She’s then lured by a handsome local named Harrison, which ultimately results in her being drugged. She wakes up inside an underground compound that's close to Pyongyang, North Korea — Lisa is pulled into a life full of wealth and prestige but remains prisoner to an image-obsessed and narcissistic woman called Honey.
Famous Adopted People contains so many twists and turns that you won’t be able to predict what’s happening next. Whenever I expected something to happen, something else more bizarre would occur — the unpredictability of the book made it enjoyable to follow.
The character development of Lisa was also another intriguing part of the book. Before being kidnapped, Lisa had a long history of messing up and acting recklessly. She dabbled in drinking and drugs and broke the rules of her teaching contract in Japan by being involved in an illicit relationship with a pupil. Her troubles are slowly revealed throughout the book, weaving into the present where she is being held captive. Learning more about Lisa’s past through a series of flashbacks plays an important role in showing the shift in her overall outlook. Her character undergoes a massive change in the book and the author’s use of flashbacks plays a crucial role in this.
The novel’s only flaw is that ending appeared rushed, and I would have liked another 30 pages or so that detailed the final events in the narrative. Perhaps I was enjoying the novel so much that I didn't want it to end.
Famous Adopted People is a witty and enthralling debut by Stephens and one that provides a unique story on the nature of adoption.
Release date: October 2018 by The Unnamed Press
Some women might dream of a world that is free from the patriarchy — for the females of The Water Cure, their life in isolation has resulted in a hatred (and fear) of men. Sophie Mackintosh’s novel is a startling and eerie debut and one that causes an array of reactions and questions from those who have read.
Separated by the sea, sisters Grace, Lia and Sky have lived a large portion of their lives away from the outside world. Living alongside them is their Mother and Father (who they refer to as King). Their home has become a retreat to women who are seeking refuge or therapy. They’ve been raised to believe that men are toxic and any interaction with them will lead to them becoming gravely ill. The sisters are also expected to live free of emotions — partaking in a series of self-harm rituals to rid their bodies of real feelings and human experiences. After the loss of their father, two men and a boy wash-up to the shore, setting off a series of events that question the way they’ve lived their entire lives.
I’ve seen references to The Water Cure as being similar to The Handmaid’s Tale, which is a resemblance I didn’t see. The only Atwood connection I noticed whilst reading The Water Cure was the inclusion of strong female characters. Even though the parental figures of the book have tried to recreate a perfect utopia, the novel isn’t exactly a female dystopian — it’s a complex novel that focusses on the psychological implications of abuse and living away from the world.
There’s an atmospheric quality to the novel and Mackintosh’s use of water adds another layer of emotional depth to the story. Though the story is particularly gripping, it's her captivating prose that hooks readers in. There are some elements in the book that may be questionable — such as whether the voices were unique enough — but, Mackintosh’s style of writing flows like a body of water, delicately weaving between perspectives.
Longlisted for this year’s Man Booker Prize, The Water Cure is a dazzling debut novel by Sophie Mackintosh, and a must-read for anyone who is interested in reading about the female experience of the patriarchy when living without it and whether women are truly free from its wrath, even when in isolation from it.
Release date: May 31st 2018 by Hamish Hamilton
Longlisted for this year’s Man Booker Prize, Normal People by Sally Rooney is a book you’ve probably seen near the top of most ‘best fiction’ lists this year, and it’s for good reason. Rooney’s second novel takes readers on an eventful journey that dives into the morality of love and attraction.
Normal People doesn’t follow a typical plot sequence. The entire novel is focussed on the complicated relationship of Connell and Marianne, who have known each other since they were young. Connell’s mum is a cleaner for Marianne’s household, and this causes a degree of division between the pair since they’re of different classes. Marianne is also considered by her peers as an ‘outcast’ and Connell’s self-conscious nature leads to them never talking to each other within the restraints of school. They, however, begin to feel a growing attraction to one another, and this eventuates into a sexual relationship between the pair. The rest of the book follows their connection and the ways they continually find each other, even after months apart. The book’s summary may sound like a romance novel, but it isn’t, in fact, the two spend the majority of the book far apart.
Rooney’s characters are also complex, and you find yourself glued to their growth as individuals and not as a pair. Marianne’s resilience is one of her many strengths as a character. She has little concern for what people say about her, and though she was often isolated in high school, this put her in a position to quickly adapt to new surroundings and people. Connell, who was confident in high school, is the more fragile of the two. Though he was popular in school, he’s unable to find his place in the real world once it’s over. Both their growth (and sometimes their moments of fragility) makes for a magnetic reading experience. Despite their differences, Connell and Marianne and dynamic characters who undergo an immense amount of change as time progresses.
Though the book sporadically jumps between unsequenced time periods, you’re able to pick up exactly where you left the characters, even if there are seven months between chapters or a mere five minutes. Each jump in time marks a new significant life change, but their fierce attraction and connection continue to remain.
If you plan of reading Normal People, I recommend taking your time reading it. A novel this superb deserves to be devoured delicately.
Release date: August 28th 2018 by Faber & Faber
Release date: 5/5