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Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth

Love and hatred were the witch’s currency. Her garden was an aphrodisiac garden and a poison garden. Roses and myrtle and passionflowers grew entwined with hemlock and foxgloves, mandrake and nightshade, the heavy-headed, bell-shaped flowers of dark purplish-red from which was distilled the belladonna eye-drops that had killed my mother.

A book about women's lives, somehow filled with magical realism and grounded in reality. A retelling of Rapunzel, the tale of the witch who imprisoned her, a tale (largely imagined, of course) of Charlotte-Rose de la France, granddaughter of a Marshal of France, the tale of Athenaïs, the Sun King's mistress, the stories of their mothers, rivals, sisters, mentors. All women who played the cards they were dealt as well as they could, who could be kind, who turned to sorcery, who were trapped in worlds made by men sometimes considerate, often capricious.

Meet Me at the Museum by Anne Youngson

When I read poems new to me, I have to read them slowly and carefully, and, if it is a poem I particularly like, several times. Then at last it may become one of those I know so well I only have to let the book fall open at the page as I walk past, between washing line and ironing board, and in the length of time it takes to switch the basket of washing from one hip to the other, I will have taken in the sense and beauty of a line or two and it will sustain me.
An exchange of letters between a middle-aged woman and the curator of a museum which houses the preserved remains of a prehistoric man which she has thought of visiting since childhood, never making trip to the museum herself. She has, all her life, tended to take the path of least resistance saying, early on: "It is hard for us to say, isn’t it, that nothing is so fixed it cannot be altered? The seasons do not linger, waiting for it to be convenient for the sowing and the harvesting. The artefacts you study are what they…

Half the Night is Gone by Amitabha Bagchi

You are my bastard son.
A father makes provision for his illegitimate son reminding him that he is his father, a man makes allowances for his unworldly brother, a wrestler becomes a servant in a businessman's house and attempts to have his son continue what he claims is tradition, a self-indulgent writer laments having ignored his duties towards his now-dead son... Set primarily at the end of the Raj, this novel talks of the ties which bind families and the passions which tear them apart.

The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker

Time played curious tricks too: expanding, contracting, burrowing back into itself in the form of memories that were more vivid than daily life. Particular moments -like the few minutes I'd spent staring at the stone- expanded till they felt like years, but that would be followed by whole days that drifted by in a haze of shock and grief. I couldn't tell you a single thing that happened on any one of those days. Gradually, though, a routine began to emerge. 
The tale of the Trojan war told by a woman whose nearby city was conquered and who became Achilles' slave. A contemporary story overlain over an older tale, sometimes clumsy, almost always honest, the effects of trauma are laid bare in its telling.

Jangam by Debendranath Acharya

A Goanese survivor recounts her brother's experiences: 'One day he saw beautiful butterflies in a certain spot. He looked around expecting to see a lot of flowers in this area but what he saw horrified him. The butterflies were covering a bloated corpse and they must have been feasting off the juices that oozed from the decaying body.' Painting such terrifying images of of death and decrepitude, Jangam's narrator says that these butterflies had exclusive sovereignty (xamarajyo) in this realm of death.

A study in contrasts, glimpsed at in this line from its introduction, as the tale of an Indian peasant's family and their neighbours making their way back to India in the wake of WWII and the rise of Burmese nationalism unfolds. Their flight is facilitated by a nationalist to whom they've been family, a nationalist who later pays dearly for aiding them but who had wanted them gone. The Indians themselves struggle to retain their humanity on their arduous journey t…

Bone River by Megan Chance

IT WAS A sacred place, an ancient place. Here was the confluence of river and bay, of sky and forest, salt marsh and slough, the water stretching its fingers far into the land as if it meant always to reclaim it. Here was a presence that gave weight to the fog and the rain, that lingered in the swollen air, even in sunlight, especially in moonlight. By the side of a river where spirits seem to speak to her, a woman learns how easily a man's protection of her can mean his control of her, and how the appearance of his love (whether he's her father or her husband or someone else entirely) may mean nothing. In fact, it is so easily put on to gain cooperation and keep its subject willingly tethered to him that he himself may believe in his lies. And, yet, despite all that, she also learns that she can come into her own, and that there are those both in the world of the living and that of the dead who will stands by her even if they are not perfect themselves.

In Another Light by Andrew Greig

I swallow cooling coffee again and taste the coarse ambiguous sweetness of not being dead. .... I thought on the child we never had. For months or years after a death you carry a weight till in time you learn a different and harder sorrow. You learn that you live on, and in time find yourself sleeping again, then smiling once in a while, noticing a fine day or a good face. And the knowledge that you can and do go on living when people you love do not, that is a grown-up sorrow at last.

After a brush with death, a middle-aged man explores his father's life as a young doctor in bustling Penang at a time when he himself has shifted to a sparsely-inhabited island in Scotland. One is a Presbyterian atheist with a strong work ethic while the other is relatively laid back but, for both of them, the consequences of their actions are determined by the times they live in. Both father and son learn that neither life nor love are easy, and that death is always around the corner. Generations a…