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The never ending TBR pile: recap on the reading life of a committed Reader.

My reading pile is a bit like the oft-wished for never-ending packet of Tim Tams. The more I read, it seems the larger the pile grows. Of course, if I would just stop buying new books then the issue would resolve itself. However, with so many new stories being published on a daily basis, I do not believe I will ever manage impulse control when it comes to books.

Here’s a round-up of what I’m reading, have read, and what’s rising to the top of my TBR pile.

The Birdman’s Wife by Melissa Ashley. I love my history and I love learning about people who have had an impact on what we know today, yet as individuals, they have been side-lined or relegated to the sidelines. This happens so often with the wives of men who are leaders in their field as with the inspiration of this story, Elizabeth Coxen, who was married to John Gould and was a major contributor of illustrations and observations. During their lifetime, John Gould did acknowledge the input of Elizabeth and she was often given credit for her work. However, and as is so often the case, publishers began leaving her name off reprints and it soon came about that Mr Gould was well known while Elizabeth was almost lost to obscurity.

I’m about half way through this and enjoying the story. I’ll make fuller comment when I’m done, however, midway I wonder how much of Elizabeth’s life was easy for the author to source and how much she needed to backfill. As its historical fiction, that doesn’t really matter. It just feels like the story is shallower than I would like. My opinion may change on that so stay tuned and I’ll review it properly in a couple of weeks.

Skin Deep by Liz O’Connor. I’ve been reading this one for awhile not because it’s not interesting, but because it’s a thick non-fiction book (well researched) and I keep getting side-tracked with new discoveries. My reading pace on this one is also set by the active brain matter I can bring to the experience – not always enough. Skin Deep is well written but I find it easier when I’m not also battling fatigue.

If you’re interested in Australian Aboriginal culture during the colonial times (current culture and issues are shaped by this time period), in particular women’s experience, then buy yourself a copy and start reading. It amazes me how much we still do not know.

The Have Read Pile

The Mysterious Bakery on Rue De Paris by Evie Gaughan – I am easily hooked on stories set in foreign climes where the main character is a female finding herself and there is food (or art and books) involved. Draw what conclusions you may from that. This story was recommended as a light and yummy read to be experienced while sipping fresh coffee and munching on buttered croissants. That’s good enough for me. Naturally, I fell right into this one; not even waiting for my croissants to warm in the oven. Our heroine is Edith from Ireland who, after the death of her mother, finds herself at a bit of a crossroads in life. Edith does what anyone would do in this situation and moves to Paris to work in a traditional bakery.

An extra I thoroughly enjoyed was the music. No, it is not an audio book, but the author tantalised me with French Gypsy music and Melody Gardot. I have most of Gardot’s albums and listen to them constantly and don’t mind a spot of Gypsy music either so I looked up the artist mentioned in the novel, and will be buying some new tracks for my listen pleasure soon.

While the story is a light and easy read there is still a twist, some mystery, a love interest, and some learning to be had. I also recommend this story; with or without the buttered croissants.

The Last Painting of Sara De Vos by Dominic Smith. Another historical fiction this time on what is known of the first female master painter to be admitted to the Guilds of St Luke in Holland, Sarah van Baalbergen. The Guild controlled all aspects of artistic life including who could sign and sell paintings. Sarah lived in the mid-1600s and so little is known about her that the character in the novel is based on the lives of several female painters from the Dutch Golden Age. Very few of their works survive today.

The author has also created a bridge between the 17th century and contemporary art worlds bringing in an Australian art curator, an American collector, and connections and threads to the shady world of art forgers.

It’s very interesting and I enjoyed learning about the paints that the Dutch artists used and how modern artists recreate their techniques in paint making and in the actual painting style. I thought the info was woven into the story quite well too. Nice work!

The Fifth Avenue Artists Society by Joy Callaway. You’re probably noticing a pattern with the books – arty or foody. Well, this one has the art, music, and writing. The “soundtrack” to Fifth Avenue is classical from the late 1800s, but the main focus of the story is writing and in particular, Virginia Loftin who is struggling to have her work published and earn a living from it (doesn’t that sound familiar?). She comes from an artistic family and their stories and the family’s background are all integral to Virginia’s story and the setting of the novel. This one has a good twist (or two) that are hinted at as Virginia is swept up into the world of French-styled artist salons and her family move from the circle of gentle paupers they reside in to the more well-to-do and, after scandal strikes, their unceremonious return to their origins.

I enjoyed this as I knew I would. It ticks all the right boxes for me and I was happy to be proved right.

To Be Read Pile: the list is long. This is just the tip of the iceberg

(In no particular order)

The Goldfinch by Donner Tartt

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