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Recommended Reads

Time to add to your reading list? From a story of the weirdest summer featuring a heartbreaking cat to a time-travelling heroine on a nostalgic journey to her father, enjoy the latest recommended reads from Artistic Director Michaela McGuire.

Visit Readings, our Official Festival Bookseller, to get your hands on these two. 

by Ronnie Scott 

Set in the Melbourne summer that was marked by bushfire smoke and the encroaching threat of the pandemic, Shirley, Ronnie Scott’s sophisticated, sophomore novel feels slightly dangerous. There’s the fact that we all know what’s coming, that when the unnamed female protagonist enjoys a spontaneous, hedonistic Saturday because, “March is the month where Melbournians begin the many weeks’ long production of doing things just in case it turns out to be the last nice day”, that it will be the last nice day for a very, very long time. There’s also the fact that this young woman’s quiet, ordinary existence as a copywriter who has just bought her first, small apartment in Collingwood stands in stark contrast to that of her mother. Twenty years earlier, her mother, a famous TV food personality, was photographed, covered in blood, outside their infamous family home, before fleeing the country. Trouble glints again when a glamorous, pregnant neighbour moves into the downstairs apartment, and the narrator’s boyfriend starts sleeping with men.  

It’s the story of the weirdest summer, rendered compellingly and mysteriously by Scott, but also with great sweetness and warmth. There’s a cat that will break your heart, and for those of us who live locally or are even friends with the author (full disclosure: I am) there’s the distinct pleasure of reading a novel full of hyper-local references. Michelle de Kretser is among this novel’s early fans, and calls it “a very astute, very stylish and very funny novel that establishes Ronnie Scott as a tremendously gifted social portraitist.”  

Check it out at Readings.

This Time Tomorrow
by Emma Straub 

New York Times–bestselling author of the novels All Adults Here, Modern Lovers and (my favourite) The Vacationers Emma Straub has been in the news this month, not just for opening her second independent bookstore in Brooklyn (the beloved Books Are Magic) or for publishing her first children’s book (Very Good Hats), but for being uninvited to schools in Texas. Allegedly, this is because of her use of foul language online, but according to the author, via her charming and essential newsletter, is actually because Books Are Magic raises funds for and supports abortion rights and gun safety.   

For those who haven’t yet familiarised themselves with Emma’s impressive back catalogue, her latest novel This Time Tomorrow is a perfect starting point, especially for this time of year, when we’re all feeling a combination of nostalgic for the past and hopeful for the future. The time-travelling heroine here is Alice, a woman who is about to turn 40; her father, Leonard, is the author of a blockbuster pop culture book and then long-running TV series about time travel. Leonard is elderly, and running out of time. This story mirrors and pays homage to the recent experience of the author herself, whose famous sci-fi writer father Peter Straub, died late last year. Suddenly and strangely finding herself with the ability to travel back to 1996 to relive her 16th birthday on the Upper West Side, all Alice wants to do is spend time with the younger, healthier, happier version of her father.  

This is a sweet, tender novel about the most ordinary subjects: love, family and mortality, suffused with the most beautiful, ambient nostalgia.    

Check it out at Readings.