Book Review: The Survivors by Jane Harper @janeharperautho @Flatironbooks

The Survivors
Jane Harper
Flatiron Books, February 2021
ISBN 978-1-250-23242-7

Jane Harper, an Australian writer, has been making a name for herself in the past few years. Her first book, The Dry, received much acclaim, followed by Force of Nature, and The Lost Man. They are all stand-alones, set in Australia, and if you haven’t yet checked them out they are well worth a read.

The Survivors, her fourth Novel, is set in Tasmania, in a small coastal town called Evelyn Bay. It’s a popular summer resort favoured by divers who like to explore a shipwreck in the bay. Kieran, the protagonist, grew up in Evelyn Bay and has come home with his girlfriend Mia and their baby daughter Audrey to help his mother and father move to Hobart, where his father, Brian, who is suffering from dementia, will be admitted into a care facility.

Leaving baby Audrey with her grandmother, Kieran and Mia meet up with some friends at The Surf and Turf, a favourite watering hole they’d frequented in summer’s past.

The next morning, the body of a young woman is discovered on the beach. Shock reverberates through the small community stirring up memories of the time twelve years ago when a local girl had gone missing during a violent storm that hit the shores of Evelyn Bay, resulting in the drownings of several young men.

As snippets of information, together with secrets from the past, are slowly revealed the tension mounts, until it reaches its exciting conclusion.

Tasmania is a beautiful island and Evelyn Bay is a beautiful setting for this tangled but engrossing story. Past friendships are tested and as a parent now himself Kieran learns the truth of a past he’d never before come to terms with. Savour and enjoy this heart-wrenching story. You won’t regret it!

Respectfully submitted.

Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, March 2021.

Book Review: The Marvels by Brian Selznik

The MarvelsThe Marvels
Brian Selznick
Scholastic Press, September 2015
ISBN 978-0-545-44868-0

I believe that, right before blowing out every single candle on the cake, a young reader somewhere made a spectacular wish for a book filled with gorgeous illustrations and a fabulous, fanciful story rich with quirky characters, adventure and mystery.  Mr. Selznick fulfilled this wish in grand fashion.

To open The Marvels is to be immediately immersed in a harrowing adventure at sea.  In the blink of an eye….or to be precise, the turn of several pages, invested in the story of a shipwreck with spunky survivors.  Illustrations that seem to float above the pages “tell” a compelling, heart-tugging tale.  Delightful drawings seem to reach out and wrap around the reader, securing you in the story well before Mr. Selznick weaves his word magic.

When Mr. Selznick does put his pen to paper to write rather than draw, the result is no less stunning.  His young, out-of-place-and-underfoot main character, Joseph, embodies awkward instances we’ve all endured.  In his earnest desire to genuinely bond, to actually belong…he easily elicits empathy.

When the sweet, stubborn boy tracks down his eclectic, enigmatic uncle in London, Joseph is sure he’s off to a terrible start.  Genuine curiosity, compassionate neighbors and most importantly, time, make the reunion more palatable and the untold story of Joseph’s past is slowly revealed.

In a sly, subtle shift, Mr. Selznick spins two separate, yet supporting stories in one brilliant book.  Both with breathtaking backdrops: The Marvel family in the theatre and Joseph’s in his uncle’s frozen-in-time home.   In the end, it seemed that I was moved by two different families.  I was close, but not correct.

My very favorite parts of the book occurred to me days after I’d finished the story.  Mr. Selznick managed to encompass serious social issues such as loss, suddenly and inexplicably; alongside of loss that is excruciating slow, as two men deeply in love are both infected with AIDS.  Intrigued and impressed, I finished the book by reading the Afterword, where Mr. Selznick sprung one more surprise.  A large part of this fantasy is based loosely on the lives of two very real people.

Reviewed by jv poore, February 2016.