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2014’s Booker prize winner, now out in paperback, is the complex and powerful story of Dorrigo Evans, an army doctor in a Japanese PoW camp working on the Burma Death Railway. Many thousands died in the building of that railway through the dense jungles of Thailand and Burma but Dorrigo survived. Back in Australia, he is feted as a war hero for saving the lives of many during the horrors and cruelty of the war. But he cannot accept the praise. For him and for many other survivors, returning to the ordinariness of post war life was not easy. Memories cannot be escaped and peace held its own terrors. An ultimately doomed love affair runs through these pages bringing hope, tenderness and passion into the unrelenting darkness of the prison camp. A book of grand themes; love and war and what it means to live a worthy life.
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
This strikingly original novel starts when narrator heroine, Rosemary, is a 22 year old college student. She is an outsider; quiet, lonely and strangely different from those around her. We soon find that her difference is understandable – for she spent the first five years of her life with a twin sister, Fern, who disappeared. And Fern was a chimpanzee! Rosemary’s psychologist father, ran an experiment bringing up a chimp in his own family with a team of researchers analysing their behaviour. Rosemary grows up feeling a part of herself is missing and the part that is left has unusual behaviour patterns – nobody else at school needed to be taught not to put fingers in anyone’s mouth or jump on tables when excited. Rosemary’s search for her true identity is a moving and, at times, comic exploration of family, friendship, trust and animal rights.
I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
Last month, Malala, at seventeen, became the youngest ever Nobel laureate. Malala was ten years old when the Taliban moved into her beloved, beautiful Swat Valley in Northern Pakistan. Soon life was changing as people threw out their TV’s and Cd’s. But more was under threat than entertainment. Education for girls was frowned upon. At that young age Malala began to chronicle her experiences in a blog for the BBC. Her influence and notoriety grew until she was targeted and shot by the Taliban as she boarded the school bus one morning in 2012. This memoir tells how she survived that shooting and how she eventually settled in Birmingham where she manages to live as an ordinary schoolgirl whilst acting also as a passionate and committed international campaigner for the right of all children to education. This is a powerful and inspirational story.