BOOK OF THE MONTH: The Gamekeeper by Portia Simpson
Simon & Schuster, $40
It was towards the end of September 2007 when Portia Simpson became the hunted. The 28-year-old was already something of a rare breed – a female gamekeeper with a penchant for designer clothing and sparkly lip gloss. But on this particular day she was about to become something else. Lunch.
After shooting a stag on the Scottish Isle of Rum, she’d expertly disembowelled the beast before dragging it down the hillside to wait for someone to take her back to base.
Lying in the heather in the autumn sunshine, she drifted off to sleep and who knows what woke her. Perhaps it was a flicker of light. Maybe some kind of ancient and instinctive sense of danger.
Whatever it was, she awoke just in time to see a large golden eagle swooping down, seconds away from grabbing her torso between its outstretched talons. Her piercing scream and instinctive waving of arms saw the predator off and, unsurprisingly, Portia Simpson never fell asleep in the heather again.
Fending off an attack by an eagle is a riveting way to start a memoir of how a woman, and a townie at that, followed her dream of living on a remote island, killing some things, nurturing others, and fighting for her right to do so in a profession still seen as a male domain.
Her path from tomboy child with a collection of pet snails to her fight to become the first woman to become a gamekeeper and wildlife manager in Scotland is at times surprising and, more often than not, hilarious.
TRUE STORY: The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy Hamish Hamilton, $38
Hamish Hamilton, $38
Twenty years after her Booker Prize-winning debut novel The God of Small Things dazzled the world, Roy is back with her second work of fiction. Anjum was born intersex and raised as a male, but she grows up to embrace her female side.
When a baby girl is abandoned amid the urban detritus, both Anjum and the book’s other protagonist, Tilo, try to claim her. And so, their worlds collide. Poetic, complex and worth the long wait.
TRUE STORY: From Cradle To Stage by Virginia Hanlon Grohl
As if giving the world Dave Grohl (Nirvana and The Foo Fighters) isn’t enough, in this book Virginia Grohl both chronicles how she raised a rock legend and interviews the parents of a number of other music idols – from Michael Stipe to Amy Winehouse – on the same subject.
She appears to come to the conclusion that the most interesting thing about rock mums is not their kids, but the ways in which they gave their children the freedom to follow their dreams.
Keep Me Safe is the atmospheric and mysterious new novel by Daniela Sacerdoti (Hachette, $35)
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These Dividing Walls by Fran Cooper
Tolerance hangs by a tenuous thread in this debut novel set in a Paris few tourists experience. The vastly mismatched occupants of an apartment building live parallel lives: A harassed mother, a redundant banker, a young Muslim couple among them. When riots break out in the city, the residents’ secrets begin to unravel.
Domina by L S Hilton
If you loved Hilton’s 2016 thriller Maestra, you’re in for a treat! Ruthless art historian Judith Rashleigh rashly returns for more intelligent, thought-provoking mayhem. The woman might not be entirely likeable, but she’s never boring. This time, living in Venice, Judith finds herself being blackmailed for, well, you know… her unsavoury murdering ways. A pacy, erotic page-turner.