Inner West Courier – Inner City Edition, Jack’s Story

Inner West Courier – Inner City Edition
18 Oct 2016

Posted in History, Inner West Courier, John Thomson, Local Author | Leave a comment

It’s a Very Good Month Indeed!

October is a very good month for Australian Women Writer’s.

Local author and singer, Holly Throsby has published her debut novel, Goodwood with Allen & Unwin.



It wasn’t just one person who went missing, it was two people. Two very different people. They were there, and then they were gone, as if through a crack in the sky. After that, in a small town like Goodwood, where we had what Nan called ‘a high density of acquaintanceship’, everything stopped. Or at least it felt that way. The normal feeling of things stopped.

Goodwood is a small town where everyone knows everything about everyone. It’s a place where it’s impossible to keep a secret.

In 1992, when Jean Brown is seventeen, a terrible thing happens. Two terrible things. Rosie White, the coolest girl in town, vanishes overnight. One week later, Goodwood’s most popular resident, Bart McDonald, sets off on a fishing trip and never comes home.

People die in Goodwood, of course, but never like this. They don’t just disappear.

As the intensity of speculation about the fates of Rosie and Bart heightens, Jean, who is keeping secrets of her own, and the rest of Goodwood are left reeling.

Rich in character and complexity, its humour both droll and tender, Goodwood is a compelling ride into a small community, torn apart by dark rumours and mystery.

We are delighted to announce that Holly Throsby will be coming to talk with us at Brays Books, 7pm Thursday 20th October.

Holly will be in conversation with Philip Bray, followed by discussion and book signing.

Tickets for Loyalty Club members $5 (finger food and drinks included). Reserve your tickets in store or call 9810 5613. Bookings are essential as space is limited.

The Good People by Hannah Kent is her latest release published by Picador.


In 1825, in a remote Irish valley lying between the mountains and Flesk river of Killarney, three women are brought together by strange and troubling events.

Nora Leahy, a widow, has lost her daughter and her husband in the same year, and is now burdened with the care of her grandson, Michael. The boy cannot walk or speak and Nora has kept him hidden from neighbours, who might see in his deformity evidence of supernatural interference.

There is rumour that Michael is a changeling, a ‘fairy stock’, and the cause of the ill luck that swarms the valley.

Down by the river, an old woman known as Nance Roche lives alone, acting as a ‘doctress’ to the community, a person said to possess knowledge from the Good People that enables her to cure inexplicable ills. With the arrival of a new priest and his determination to cleanse the valley of superstitious practices, the purity of Nance’s actions is called into question.

As misfortune begins to befall Nance’s patients and her need to assert her importance to the community intensifies, Nora Leahy brings Michael to be cured. The women begin to banish the changeling and restore the healthy child, but as their desperation increases, their folkloric practices become more dangerous, until all their lives are in danger.

Both books have become staff ‘good reads’.

Posted in Bronwyn, Event, Holly Throsby, Local Author, New Releases | Leave a comment

Man Booker Shortlist 2016

It’s that time of year again when our readers catch Booker fever!

This year’s shortlist looks like this:


Paul Beatty (US) The Sellout 

Deborah Levy (UK) Hot Milk

Graeme Macrae Burnet (UK) His Bloody Project

Ottessa Moshfegh (US) Eileen

David Szalay (Canada-UK) All That Man Is

Madeleine Thien (Canada) Do Not Sat We Have Nothing

Have you read any yet?

And now for a little Booker trivia – which actor has featured in three movies based on three Man Booker Award winning books?

The movies/books are:

The English Patient, Schindler’s Ark/List and Oscar & Lucinda.

Posted in Bronwyn, Ralph Fiennes, Trivia | Leave a comment

Growing Up in Balmain

John Thomson, known as Jack to his friends, was born in Balmain in 1927.

Over the years Jack’s family have been continually asking him to write down his stories and memories about growing up in Balmain during the Depression and War years.

Once he got started though, he found that the few quick notes quickly turned into a much bigger story. With the encouragement of family and friends and the assistance of a Local History Grant from the Inner West Council, Jack was able to self-publish his family history with WriteLight Publishing.


Within one week of stocking Jack’s book, we sold out of our first shipment. We had an instant non-fiction bestseller on our hands!

John Thomson, known to his many friends as Jack, has spent all his life in Balmain. Born in 1927, Jack remembers the days of the Depression, when kind greengrocers put aside ‘specs’, fruit with spots on it that they gave to hungry children. Jack’s childhood had its trials: when he was five his father was diagnosed with schizophrenia and spent the rest of his life in Callan Park; then his mother became ill with tuberculosis and died when Jack was nine. But Jack’s life changed when the Phillips family took him in. Jack tells about his happy time with this warm, quintessentially old Balmain family. His remarkable memory of the people who lived in the area, the way they lived, of the children and the games they played, brings old Balmain back to life. After school Jack worked at CSR in Pyrmont, then on the trams and the buses.

Sport – particularly football and sailing – was a big part of his life. Jack remembers when Balmain Rugby League players were locals, the waterfront was ringed with boatsheds, and the winters were spent playing or watching footy, and the summers were spent sailing. Jack still lives in Birchgrove in the house he bought in 1954 when he worked on the trams. He has seen many changes. Jack’s story is a warm retelling of how life was lived in old Balmain, when people didn’t have much money, but they had their neighbours and community.


Jack recently popped in to sign some copies for us and he was thrilled to see his book sitting in the No 1 bestsellers position, ahead of Richard Fidler’s Ghost Empire!

For lover’s of local history and family history, Jack’s Story takes us back to the days when mine and dock workers tramped the streets of Balmain and where convenience stores adorned every intersection. Jack remembers all their names and recalls the times when horse-drawn carts also delivered fresh eggs, rabbits, kitchenwares, ice, wood and coal door to door.

As kids, Jack and his friends had all of Birchgrove and Balmain as their playground. They knew all the good trees to climb, slopes to slide down and old houses to explore. They had three cinemas on the peninsula and trams running down Darling Street.

Peppered with old family photographs and pictures of old Balmain, Jack’s Story is a nostalgic walk down memory lane.

Available at Brays Books for $15

Posted in Biography, Bronwyn, History, John Thomson, Local Author | Leave a comment

Local Author – Caroline Beecham

It’s always very exciting for us when we see one of our loyal customers produce their first novel. Recently Caroline popped in to sign copies of Maggie’s Kitchen, her fabulous new historical fiction title.


Amid the heartbreak and danger of London in the Blitz of WWII, Maggie Johnson finds her courage in friendship and food.

They might all travel the same scarred and shattered streets on their way to work, but once they entered Maggie’s Kitchen, it was somehow as if the rest of the world didn’t exist.

When the British Ministry of Food urgently calls for the opening of restaurants to feed tired and hungry Londoners during WWII, Maggie Johnson seems close to realising a long-held dream.

Navigating a constant tangle of government red-tape, Maggie’s Kitchen finally opens its doors to the public and Maggie finds that she has a most unexpected problem. Her restaurant has become so popular that she simply can’t find enough food to keep up with the demand for meals.

With the help of twelve-year-old Robbie, a street urchin, and Janek, a Polish refugee dreaming of returning to his native land, she evades threats of closure from the Ministry. But breaking the rules is not the only thing she has to worry about. . . as Maggie fights to keep her beloved Kitchen open, she discovers that some secrets have the power to change everything.

Caroline became interested in the how and why of British Restaurants – the ‘paddock to plate’ style of eating – that was encouraged during WWII. The more she researched, the more she realised that stories about our former eating habits could inform our current discussions about health, food and the environment.

You can read an excerpt of Maggie’s Kitchen via Allen & Unwin here.

An Afterword also contains many of the recipes mentioned throughout the story.

For more details on Caroline’s research and her book, visit the website here.

Maggie’s Kitchen is also featured in a Blog Tour hosted by Allen & Unwin. To see the latest stage of the blog tour visit Tracey @Carpe Librum who has cooked one of the recipes in the book here.


Signed copies are now available at Brays for $29.99.

Posted in Bronwyn, Caroline Beecham, Historical Fiction, Local Author | 1 Comment

L.A. Larkin


Local author, L.A. Larkin recently popped into Brays to sign copies of her latest spine-chilling thriller, Devour.

Their greatest fear was contaminating an ancient Antarctic lake, buried beneath the ice for millions of years. They little knew about the catastrophe they were about to unleash.
Welcome to the high octane world of Olivia Wolfe.
As an investigative journalist, Wolfe lives her life in constant peril. Hunted by numerous enemies who are seldom what they first seem, she must unravel a complex web of lies to uncover an even more terrifying truth.
From the poppy palaces of Afghanistan and Antarctica’s forbidding wind-swept ice sheets, to a top secret military base in the Nevada desert, Wolfe’s journey will ultimately lead her to a man who would obliterate civilisation. She must make an impossible choice: save a life – or prevent the death of millions.


You can hear Louisa talk about Devour, and her trip to Antarctica, with Cheryl from Better Reading on our facebook page.

Devour is Better Reading’s ‘Weekend Read’ this weekend.

Join in here.

You may have also spotted Devour‘s cameo appearance on this week’s ABC Bookclub when Jennifer asked her panel to discuss book cover genres!

Posted in Antarctica, Australian Authors, Bronwyn, Crime and mystery fiction, L A Larkin, Local Author | Leave a comment

Staff Favourites – Sara

Over the coming months we plan to share with you some of our staff favourites.

This week Sara takes us through a few of her favourite picture books – new releases and old friends.


Bee – & – Me
A Story about Friendship by Alison Jay (2016)

Alison Jay creates wordless children’s books – the illustrations tell the story. Her latest book, Bee – & – Me is the tale of a bee which flies into a little girl’s bedroom in a city apartment building on a summer’s day. She feeds it sugary water to revive it (after trapping it under a glass and making it VERY unhappy) and then releases it. But after a thunderstorm that night a very bedraggled bee returns to her window and moves in.

A magical story unfolds, in which the girl and the bee become the best of friends, until a time comes when the bee becomes homesick and has to leave. Its parting gift is a lesson in how to bring all the other bees and butterflies bees to her home.

This is a book which is suitable for the very young up to 6 or 7 years of age. Every reader will create their own story from the charming illustrations while learning how to care for bees.


Words by Kelly DiPucchio. Pictures by Christian Robinson. (2014)

Once upon a time there was a family of French poodle puppies: Fi Fi, Foo Foo, Ooh-La-La and Gaston. They were precious puppies, the size of teacups, they yipped and never yapped … except for Gaston who was the size of a teapot and whose yip was more of a RUFF! One day in the park they met a family of French bulldog puppies: Rocky, Ricky, Bruno and Antoinette, and strangely, Antoinette looked just like a poodle puppy.

This is a story about a mix-up, not knowing where you fit in, being yourself and being accepted by the people who love you, and it’s as light and sweet as a profiterole. I have fallen in love with it and one of our customers even shed a tear after she read it.

Suitable for 2 years and up and the young at heart.

Miss Lily's

Miss Lily’s Fabulous Pink Feather Boa
Margaret Wild and Kerry Argent (1998)

Miss Lily – of the eponymous feather boa – runs the Tropical Holiday House way Up North where the hibiscus flowers are as big as dinner plates. Despite being a very large crocodile Miss Lily is a charming and thoughtful host, and in the evenings she dances the tango for her guests, with a fabulous pink feather boa swept around her neck. When a small and rather sad guest, the Last Potoroo , arrives to stay Miss Lily taker her under her arm and makes her feel like she can do anything, with a little dash of wisdom along the way. The Last Potoroo leaves the Tropical Holiday House with a very special farewell gift to help her find what she’s looking for.

This is an old family favourite – suitable for 3 years and up.

What has been your favourite picture book to share with your family?

Posted in Picture Book, Sara, Staff Favourites | Leave a comment

J.K. Rowling does it again!

On the 30th June 1997, an unknown debut author published her first book about a young orphaned wizard called Harry Potter.

Nineteen years later, Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling are now two of the most recognisable names in the Western world. They have won many awards and broken worldwide book-selling records.

They are predicted to break another set of records with the fast approaching opening night for the new play, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Already, a record breaking 175 000 tickets have been sold for the play in just 24 hours.


Based on a new story by J.K. Rowling, written by playwright Jack Thorne and directed by John Tiffany, the play picks up where the last book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows left off – with an adult Harry, Hermione and Ron waving off their children (Albus and Rose) as they catch the Hogwart’s Express to school for the very first time.

It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband, and father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.

Twitter fans will have spotted the Pottermania that exploded on the 1st September last year when J.K. tweeted good luck to James S. Potter (Harry & Ginny’s eldest son) who was starting his first year at Hogwarts. Rowling was inundated with requests for more.

She later told Sarah Crompton of The Observer, that she carries “Harry Potter’s world around in my head all the time“.

Opening night is at the Palace Theatre , London on the 30th July. The Special Rehearsal Edition of the play script will be released at 10am EST on the 31st July (which is incidentally the date of Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling’s birthdays).

The Special Rehearsal Edition is based on the script that the production team took into its preview period (which started 7th June). From this time until the end of July, small changes may be made to the original script.

Audiences at the preview nights have been sworn to secrecy and given #keepthesecrets badges.

Such is the power of Pottermania and J.K. Rowling, nothing has been leaked so far.

And when I say preview nights, I do mean nights – with a plural!

Due to “the epic nature of the story” the play will be performed over two sessions (matinee & evening or two consecutive evenings) according to the Harry Potter the Play website.


A Definitive Collector’s Edition will be published at a later (to be announced) date that will reflect any such changes.

To date, audience responses have been glowing, as reported in the English papers:

The Guardian’s Ben QuinnThe first fans to witness the theatrical adaption of the boy wizard’s tale emerged blinking, beaming and giving the thumbs up.

The Telegraph’s Hannah Furness “The audience came wanting magic and they got in spades.

The Mirror’s Clare Fitzsimons  “Spells and hexes combined with laughs and drama mean Harry Potter and the Cursed Child will be every bit the hit everyone expects.

The New York Times “The three main characters remained true to their younger selves… The audience cannot be more thrilled or more appreciative or more ready to be caught up in the spirit of the undertaking.

Harry Potter and The Cursed Child (hardback) will be sold in Australia at 10am on the 31st July 2016 for RRP $45.

Pre-orders are now being taken by our friendly staff at Brays Books.

Posted in Bronwyn, Harry Potter, J K Rowling, New Releases, Play | Leave a comment

Author Visit – Natasha Lester

Recently Natasha Lester, author of A Kiss from Mr Fitzgerald popped into Brays to sign copies of her book.

It’s 1922 in the Manhattan of gin, jazz and prosperity. Women wear makeup and hitched hemlines – and enjoy a new freedom to vote and work. Not so Evelyn Lockhart, forbidden from pursuing her passion: to become one of the first female doctors.

Chasing her dream will mean turning her back on the only life she knows: her competitive sister, Viola; her conservative parents; and the childhood best friend she is expected to marry, Charlie.

And if Evie does fight Columbia University’s medical school for acceptance, how will she support herself? So when there’s a casting call for the infamous late-night Ziegfeld Follies on Broadway, will Evie find the nerve to audition? And if she does, what will it mean for her fledgling relationship with Upper East Side banker Thomas Whitman, a man Evie thinks she could fall in love with, if only she lived a life less scandalous?

Captivating, romantic and tragic, A KISS FROM MR FITZGERALD follows a young woman ahead of her time amid the fragile hearts and glamour of Jazz Age New York.


With a 4 1/2 star rating on Goodreads, it has been described by readers as ‘enchanting‘ and ‘evocative‘ with ‘compelling characters‘.

If you loved The Paris Wife and Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald then this could be the book for you!

Signed copies now available at Brays for $29.99

Posted in Australian, Australian Authors, Bronwyn, Historical Fiction, Jazz Age, Natasha Lester, New York | Leave a comment

Book Launch for Circle

Last week Bronwyn attended the launch of Jeannie Baker’s latest picture book, Circle.

Jeannie is one of the many very talented artists who we are delighted to claim as ‘local’. Her last picture book, Mirror featured many local scenes including our iconic terrace houses and the Anzac Bridge.

Circle sees Jeannie return to one her enduring and most popular themes – the environment. We follow the story of the bar-tailed godwits from their home in southern Australia and NZ to their feeding grounds around the Yellow Sea and onto their summer home in Alaska.

Destruction of the wetlands of Southeast Asia for land reclamation and development means that migrating shorebirds like the godwits are finding it harder and harder to find places to rest and feed on their epic journey around the world.

Jeannie tells the story of the godwits via her gorgeous, detailed collages.

These beautiful collages are on display at the Australian Maritime Museum until the end of July before beginning their own migration around various museums and galleries in Australia (click here for details).

Circle is one of our ‘special’ offers this month.

RRP is normally $27.99. But for one month only you can snap up Circle at Brays for $23.99.

Posted in art, Australian, Australian Books, Bronwyn, Jeannie Baker, Local Author, Picture Book | Leave a comment