Episode 30 – Author’s Choice
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Bram’s writing has appeared in Best Australian Stories, Award Winning Australian Writing, The Sleepers Almanac and Higher Arc. His 2017 debut novel, The Book of Dirt, won the 2018 Goldberg Prize for Debut Fiction in the US National Jewish Book Awards, the 2018 Voss Literary Prize and three awards in the 2018 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards: the Christina Stead Prize for Fiction, the UTS Glenda Adams Award for New Writing and The People’s Choice Award.
A busy young writer struggling to cope with domestic chores, hires a housekeeper recommended by a friend. The housekeeper’s reputation is one built on dependable efficiency, though she is something of an oddity. Stubborn, foul-mouthed and with a flagrant disregard for her employer’s opinions she may even be crazy. She allows no-one to set foot inside her house; she masks herself with a veil and is equally guarded about her personal life. And yet Emerence is revered as much as she is feared. As the story progresses her energy and passion to help becomes clear, extinguishing any doubts arising out of her bizarre behaviour. A stylishly told tale which recounts a strange relationship built up over 20 years between a writer and her housekeeper. After an unpromising and caustic start benign feelings develop and ultimately the writer benefits from what becomes an inseparable relationship. Simultaneously we learn Emerence’s tragic past which is revealed in snapshots throughout the book.
Bram called this the most beautiful book he has ever read, a modern classic, and a beautiful meditation on dignity and how we imagine people to be. To pair with the interesting and complex character of Emerence he suggests a classic Borscht with sour cream and a traditional Pilsner Urquell.
William and Molly lead a life of small pleasures, riddles at the kitchen table, and games of string and orange peels. All around them a city rages with war. When the uprising began, William’s wife was taken, leaving him alone with their young daughter. They keep their heads down and try to remain unnoticed as police patrol the streets, enforcing a curfew and arresting citizens. But when an old friend seeks William out, claiming to know what happened to his wife, William must risk everything. He ventures out after dark, and young Molly is left to play, reconstructing his dangerous voyage, his past, and their future.
Bram called Jesse Ball the most exciting writer out of America right now and highly recommends this totalitarian dystopia with its surrealist and strangely beautiful experimental writing. The perfect pairing for Bram is a Corpse Reviver, made with absinthe, gin, cointreau, lillet and lemon juice … ooooof! It is weird, subtle, warm, sweetly discombobulating with a kick!
Three women in their seventies reunite for one last, life-changing weekend in the beach house of their late friend. The four women have a lifelong friendship of the best kind: loving, practical, frank, and steadfast. But when Sylvie dies, the ground shifts dangerously for the remaining three.
They are Jude, a once-famous restaurateur; Wendy, an acclaimed public intellectual; and Adele, a renowned actress now mostly out of work. Struggling to recall exactly why they’ve remained close all these years, the grieving women gather at Sylvie’s old beach house–not for festivities this time, but to clean it out before it is sold. Can they survive together without her? Frustrations build and painful memories press in. Fraying tempers, an elderly dog, unwelcome guests and too much wine collide in a storm that brings long-buried hurts to the surface–and threatens to sweep away their friendship for good.
Justine says: This is a gently written, yet sharp look at relationships, growing old, the secrets we keep from others and the lies that we tell ourselves. I read it in a weekend and whilst the ending bothered me somewhat – because it didn’t tie everything up with a bow – I like that it’s an ending which continues, because these women continue. And the only thing that I could possibly pair with this book would be sparkling wine – given this book is set in NSW, a lovely local Hunter Valley sparkling, sharp and dry just like these women, yet made in the traditional method so with hints of cream and a fullness and body to it and of course it is to be guzzled with gusto amongst friends.
This episode of Literary Elixirs was recorded via Zoom, please forgive any minor technical glitches!
Into/Outro music is Mosquito Mojito by Rachel K. Collier. Sourced from Free Music Archive under a Creative Commons Licence.