Back by popular demand, Australia’s second annual Books Alive promotion — a two-week, federally-funded, book-buying bonanza — kicked off last month as Australian Minister for the Arts and Sport Rod Kemp officially pronounced the campaign’s motto: “lose yourself in a book and find yourself in a bookstore.” During the two week period ending August 15, Aussie bibliophiles lined up to bring home one of six bestselling books (chosen by a panel of retailers, publishers, and government officials) for just A$5, with the purchase of any book from a participating bookstore. For the indecisive at heart, Books Alive issued a keepsake booklet listing 50 Books You Must Own. “We want to make sure that everyone buys a book during Books Alive and this booklet provides great ideas to help readers take advantage” of the offer, said Books Alive chair Sandra Yates. As an added bonus this year, Kmart and Target stores doled out copies of Gabrielle Lord’s classic Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing for free to customers who purchased her latest psychological thriller Spiking the Girl. In a move to reach new readers, 50 cents from every Books Alive book sold was donated to the Smith Family literacy programs, student2student (which helps to develop the literacy skills of disadvantaged children by providing them with books and learning support) and Books For Christmas (an initiative that provides books to disadvantaged children at Christmas time). With more than 90% of all book retailers participating (that’s approximately 800) and more than 7,000 people in attendance at 90-plus Books Alive-related public events, Project Director Brett Osmond is pleased with how the campaign went overall. Still, he admitted that there is room for improvement. “The impact on sales is not as evident as we would have liked. This may be a factor of the range of books on offer. It also may be an indication that the offer itself is not compelling enough to motivate customers to enter the category.” He added that the amount of high-profile publicity in the press could be improved. “Advertising alone is not usually enough to motivate consumers to buy a book; they need that third-party recommendation that positive publicity provides.”
Moving on, in the mythical yet vividly real Tuscan village of Colle (reminiscent of Gabriel García Marquez’s iconic locale Macondo), the stories of two very different families unfold and eventually intertwine against a backdrop of violence and oppression in Ugo Riccarelli’s 2004 Premio Strega-winning novel The Perfect Sorrow. First he follows the anarchist actions of the Maestro, who arrived from Sapri in the late nineteenth century, and of his children and grandchildren who have names evocative of the revolutionary milieu in which the book is set, like Liberty, Ideal, and Mikhail. The accompanying story is that of the Bertarellis, a family of animal traders who, for generations, have borne the names of Homeric heroes and whose favorite pastime is reading The Iliad and The Odyssey by the fireside. Caught up in a frantic quest for wealth and power (with the exception of the narrator, Annina), the Bertarellis fall victim to the tragedy of epidemic, and the brutality of WWI as well as the eventual Nazi occupation. This “fascinating blend of chronicle and fairytale” forms a “great fresco which tells the story of life,” a life which Annina characterizes as filled with nothing but “perfect sorrow.” Rights have been sold to Hanser (Germany), Plon (France), Maeva (Spain), De Arbeiderspers (Holland), Kastaniotis (Greece), and Hakibbutz (Israel). Contact Emanuela Canali at Mondadori.
Budding Czech author Petra Hulová explores a family tree with more than a few knots in the bark in her first novel Memory of My Grandmother. A family saga told by various female narrators in the first person, the book depicts the trials and tribulations of members of a family of herdsmen in Mongolia (a locale of personal significance to Hulová, who traveled there several years ago). At the heart of the story is Dzaja, who describes a childhood spent in the Gobi desert doing odd jobs, taking care of her younger sister, and riding on horseback with her sisters and father Tüleg. When their grandmother dies, Tüleg tells his daughters about her pure Mongolian roots and formally asks his eldest daughter Magi to name her first-born daughter Dolgorma, after her grandmother. Dzaja and her other sister Nara look on as their father grows closer to Magi, and it is only a matter of time before they discover that they are not his biological daughters. Born from passionate affairs between their mother and a Chinese man, followed by a Russian door-to-door sardine salesman, Dzaja and Nara are soon condemned as mongrels by the pure Mongols who bully them at school and in their community. Following a fatal horseriding accident involving Magi, the two girls are shipped off to relatives and eventually find themselves laboring in a family-run house of ill repute. Dzaja finds herself pregnant and the story resumes when her daughter, Dolgorma, describes her own account of alienation from her family. “An impressive novel” with a “strong element of surprise,” Hulová’s debut has been sold to Europakiado (Hungary), Editions d’Olivier-Seuil (France), and Prometheus (Holland). Contact Edgar de Bruin at Pluh.
Dubbed “the next queen of crime” in Sweden, Camilla Läckberg has created a gem of a mystery “on par with Liza Marklund” with her second book The Preacher. Early one summer morning, a young boy sets off to play at King’s Crevice in Fjällbacka. The fun doesn’t last long as he happens upon the body of a naked lady staring up at him. The real mystery begins after the police rule the death a homicide, when they find beneath the body the skeletons of two women who had disappeared in the 1970s. Packed with “great psychological insight,” the book has been sold to People’s Press (Denmark) and Gyldendal Norsk (Norway).
Also in Sweden, Anna Jansson, a nurse with a knack for composition (her accomplishments include setting the poems of Nils Ferlin to music) examines the dangers of online chatting in her latest book, Dreams from Snow. A 14-year-old girl disappears on her way home from a late night at school and her body is found in the forest the next day. Detective Maria Wern is assigned the unpleasant task of informing her father, who is a priest in Kronviken. When another girl disappears, panic spreads and the town begins to look for scapegoats, setting their sights on a suspicious young man who had visited the vicarage and who has been seen following the girls when he’s not cruising cyberspace. Jansson has been published in Denmark (Fremad), Finland (Gummerus), Germany (Rowohlt), Holland (Van Buuren), and film rights are being negotiated. Contact Bengt Nordin.