June Mini Reviews

The Edith Readalong has been my priority of late. But before I got started with it, I was determined to finish a few of the half read books by my bed which included a trip to Nigeria, dabbling with some poetry and a peek inside a leper colony.


Princeton, in the summer, smelled of nothing, and although Ifemelu liked the tranquil greenness of the many trees, the clean streets and stately homes, the delicately overpriced shops and the quiet, abiding air of earned grace, it was this, the lack of a smell, that most appealed to her, perhaps because the other American cities she knew well had all smelled distinctly.

Americanah was my June by-default book group choice. We were meant to read Purple Hibiscus, Adichie’s first novel, but there were no copies to be found anywhere. The library was out and none of the local bookshops had a copy, with no more stock due until the second week in June. The rest of my group are happy to read on ereaders. I’m not. So I decided to finally read Americanah instead.

It was just what I needed at the end of May as we moved into the cold wintry days of June – a rich, engrossing, sprawling love story across three continents and a couple of decades.

A number of people have commented on how this book opened their eyes to racial issues they had not considered before, and perhaps if I had read this when it first came out, I may have felt the same way. As it stands though, most of the issues were ones I have read about before (I don’t mean this to sound dismissive. Anyone alive in the world today, who is paying attention knows what the issues are, and hopefully the more we read about them and talk about them it will create a momentum where fundamental change finally happens. However, for now, this is a mini review.)

I did learn a little bit about modern life in Nigeria and found the different experiences of a non-American black woman in America compared to a black woman born and raised in the US, fascinating. As Ifemula says at one point, she didn’t know she was black until she moved to America.

But the main reason I enjoyed this story as much as I did was the romance. The wonderful, oft-told trope of young lovers going their separate ways, only to find each other (and love) again later in life is one of my favourites. Maybe one day I will write the story about Mr Books and myself…!

Title: Americanah
Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
ISBN: 9780007356348
Imprint: 4th Estate
Published: 23rd February 2017 (originally published 14th May 2013)
Format: Paperback
Pages: 481

When Benjamin Franklin wanted to fly his kite on a Sunday, he used to tie a key on its string and use a mysterious but convincing-sounding excuse. When asked why he was breaking the Sabbath, Franklin would tell people he wasn’t actually flying a kite, but was instead ‘fishing for lightning’.

In an attempt to better understand poetry and to help me in any future reviews, I quickly added Sarah Holland-Batt’s Fishing For Lightning: The Spark of Poetry to my bedside table last year.

It has been a slow read, one or two poems and their commentary at a time.

The book started as a weekly poetry column in The Australian newspaper. The first one was slated for 21st March 2020, World Poetry Day. Cultural observors will also note that this was just one week before the world went pear-shaped for most of us.

I will never have the depth and breadth of poetic knowledge that Holland-Blatt has developed and I often found myself overwhelmed by all that I do not know about poetry as I read her pieces. This wasn’t a bad thing, but I did need to be fully switched on and mentally alert to successfully engage with each essay and its accompanying poem.

In the end, this book has become an aspirational addition to my poetry shelf. One that I hope to dip in and out of as my interest and need dictates.

Title: Fishing For Lightning: The Spark of Poetry
Author: Sarah Holland-Batt
ISBN: 9780702263378
Imprint: University of Queensland
Published: 28th September 2021
Format: Paperback
Pages: 296

Alice: 1926

Sixteen years captive. But this last year I have hardly felt it, the sky has opened instead of pressing down.

Even though I love historical fiction and was fascinated by the leper colony at Little Bay in Sydney, for some reason I thought I might not get on with The Coast. How wrong I was!

The parallel stories of Alice and her mum, Clea and Jack, a young Aboriginal boy were engrossing and absorbing from page one. I found myself thinking about the book at odd times during the day and night, trying to imagine their lives inside the lazaret (quarantine station) at the Coast Hospital (now part of Prince Henry Hospital). I know this area pretty well and could picture exactly where they were, which added to the appeal for me.

The story switched between life inside the lazaret for our three sufferers (plus their doctor, Will Senger) to flashback chapters of their earlier lives. Jack’s story was complicated by being part of the Stolen Generation and an amputee from WWI, while Will’s story was complicated by his secret homosexuality.

Limprecht wrote Jack’s side of the story with the ‘advice and feedback from Yuwaalaraay reader Nardi Simpson and Gamilaraay and Yuwaalaraay reader Frances Peters-Little.’ While Will’s exemplary medical care was based on that of Dr E. H. Molesworth who was in charge of the Little Bay lazeret for twenty-five years.

I’ve given you these small facts to show some of the depth of research that went into this story. Knowledge that was woven seamlessly and effortlessly throughout the book to create believable, authentic characters. As you would expect, a story set inside a leper colony has a lot to say about shame, displacement, isolation, identity, loss, institutional misconduct and maltreatment.

I’d also recommend listening to Limprecht’s interview with Cassie McCullagh here.

Book 2 of 20 Books of Summer Winter

Title: The Coast
Author: Eleanor Limprecht
ISBN: 9781760879402
Imprint: Allen & Unwin
Published: 1st June 2022
Format: Trade paperback
Pages: 336

  • This post was written on the traditional land of the Wangal clan, one of the 29 clans of the Eora Nation within the Sydney basin. This Reading Life acknowledges that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are this land’s first storytellers.

19 thoughts on “June Mini Reviews

    1. I have one of Limprecht’s previous books on my TBR pile; I’m certainly very keen to get to it now. Her writing is crisp & clean which makes the sense of loss and isolation that pervades the story less overwhelming.

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  1. I really love these mini reviews. I have heard good things about Americanah but not read it. I hadn’t realised there was a leper colony in Australia but it stands to reason I guess. I enjoyed hearing about all three of these books. They all spiked my interest. 😁💕

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    1. Thanks Pam, I had to restrain myself when writing up The Coast as I could have gone down many rabbit holes re isolation & our recent lockdowns, the politics and ethics of illness, the stigma of contagion, how misinformation and lack of science can create havoc and foster superstition…..but I hope there was enough there to convince you to read at least one of them 🙂

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  2. Just finished my first book of poetry this year.
    It takes more energy to absorb poems than it does to read 600+ page novel!
    Fishing for Lightning looks like a book I can adding to my “understand poetry” file.
    I just ordered the paperback (reading more paper than ebooks these days) and the book is probably on a “delayed” Quantas flight b/c I can expect it to get here 23 July-06 August!
    Oh, well plenty of other books to keep me occupied until then!

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    1. I thought this one would appeal to you Nancy. I’m assuming outgoing is the same as incoming atm – things like books are being shipped around the world rather than flown as there are still not enough international flights. Or so we’ve been told!

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  3. I didn’t read your review of Limprecht’s latest as I have it on my pile. I have enjoyed her previous two.

    I read and loved Purple hibiscus when it came out. I’ve also read a great little short story of hers. I have Americanah on my pile but am not sure when I’ll be able to fit it in. My daughter loved it though.

    Would love to hear the story of you and Mr Books!

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    1. One advantage of writing mini-reviews, Sue, is that the risk of revealing a spoiler is very slim!

      When the copies of Purple Hibiscus finally reach Australia, I will certainly be keen to read one based on my enjoyment of Americanah.

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  4. I loved Americanah; I read it a little while ago so I think I did learn about some bits we all know more clearly now. I remember being struck by the different experiences in the US of US-born and African-born Black people, though, something that’s cropped up fairly regularly since. I loved the bit in the UK and the love story, too. I find I mentioned much of that in my review – I apparently loved the book so much it stopped me opening some Christmas presents! Here’s my review: https://librofulltime.wordpress.com/2014/12/30/book-reviews-127/

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