Pineapple Street by Jenny Jackson (Fiction, Penguin $37)
If, like the rest of the world, you’re soon to have a Succession shaped hole in your evenings, let me fill it with Pineapple Street (albeit without villains). Currently number seven on our Spinoff bestsellers chart, this is a funny, feel-good read with political substance. The grossly rich Stockton family are in America’s 1%, and the matriarch, Tilda, is a woman so far up her ass she can’t seem to feel anything unless at a themed soirée or on the tennis court, while her husband Chip is, I imagine, somewhere making pyramids out of his billions. Their three children are at the centre and contend with the myriad emotions one would be conflicted by (I imagine) living with obscene wealth. Darley works for an NGO and has a lot of rich-person fun and decides to give all her wealth away, while her sister Georgiana forfeited her wealth in lieu of signing a prenup to marry sweet natured and wealthy Aviation nerd, Malcolm, and be a Mum. Then there’s Sasha who’s from a working-class Rhode Island household and had the audacity to marry their sought-after stallion brother, Cord, and refuse to sign a prenup. This spicy novel’s inspired by an article Jackson read in The New York Times titled The Rich Kids Who Want to Tear Down Capitalism, “about socially conscious millennial heirs who reject the fortunes they are set to receive”, and cleverly dismantles many perceptions people might have of the privileged. It satiates the thirst that readers like myself have for glimpsing into the lives of the 1% as I can’t get enough of unobtainable housing, soirees and rich-people problems, and appreciate the fine balance of plot-driven tragedy in a novel. It has the politics of the Peltz-Beckham wedding and the glamour of Tommy and Dee Hilfiger on Architectural Digest only with the kind of family discomfort that’s surely rife behind the scenes. What’s not to love?
Red Carpet Oscars by Dijanna Mulhearn (Thames & Hudson, $110)
There’s nothing like living vicariously through the glamour and excess of Hollywood’s finest at a time when tomatoes are $8 a punnet and pasta and salt is the déjeuner du jour. I’m sat staring in wonder at a 1960s photo of Elizabeth Taylor at the 32nd Academy Awards.
Elegantly doused in diamonds, she’s wearing a white version of Helen Rose’s ‘Cat’ dress while her fourth husband Eddie Fisher is grinning behind her.” Author Dijanna writes, this is a show of Taylor starting afresh and in stark contrast to the black dress she wore in mourning for her late husband at the awards the year before. Never has the phrase ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ felt truer than when leafing through this enchanting tome. Spanning 461 pages of beautifully made up thespians across 94 Oscars, with an intro from Cate Blanchett and a letter from Giorgio Armani, Dijanna builds a story of Hollywood through the ever-evolving fashion beginning with Janet Gaynor in 1929 who left work to put on a dress she bought from a thrift store before collecting her Oscar, to Jessica Chastain wearing a Gucci gown in 2022. It’s grown into a spectacle of bedazzling fashion, and better yet celebrities today are using the carpet as their stage for sustainability, climate change, and politics. In 2018, you can see Jane Fonda pictured wearing a Times Up pin while Chadwick Boseman has “playfully crossed his arms over his chest in a ‘Wakanda Forever’ salute of Black solidarity”. Red Carpet Oscars is a fashion bible packed with iconic photos and is a timeless keepsake for anyone in love with fashion, Hollywood and history. I also counted how many times Jack Nicholson has attended the Oscars with a different woman, and it’s a lot.
Sonnets for Albert by Anthony Joseph (Bloomsbury, $23)
Trinidadian-born poet, musician, lecturer and novelist, Anthony Jospeh, has produced something of a lyrical masterpiece in Sonnets for Albert, so much so it won him the T.S.Eliot Prize for Poetry, which is to poetry what the Oscars is to film. I had the honour of speaking with Anthony (read the full conversation here) and I asked what the catalyst was for writing this collection. He said he’d flown to Trinidad for his Dad’s funeral and when he arrived back in London “I was just compelled to write, not about the funeral per se but the act of going there… the order of the poems is the order in which the memories that I had with him came back to me”. It’s a collection of sonnets that not only contain the memories of his mostly absent father but capture a vivid portrait of a life lived by a man in Trinidad. Joseph said “for years I’ve been thinking about the lives of people like him, the lives of Caribbean people who live a whole life and we never hear about their lives. Biographies are about famous middle-age rich white dudes, a lot of biographies are about that. But never about the life of an ordinary man in Trinidad, who’s a bit of a bad father, has ten kids and many different women. You know, that’s a life”. His words are mesmerising, producing a biography cum poetry collection that opens with two lines currently etching themselves on my brain: “When I hear my father dead, I flew ten hours into the sun”. Personally, I think the best Mother’s Day gift is that of time, so why not buy this and insert tickets to see him at this years Auckland Writers Festival?
Winters Warmers: Recipes & stories from a New Zealand country station by Philippa Cameron (Allen & Unwin, $50)
If the mother in your life appreciates a strong female lead at the centre of her books, Winter Warmers is for her. Philippa Cameron and her husband Joe, along with their two small children, live and work on Ōtemātātā Station; a 40,000-hectare high country station in Otago where the Cameron family has farmed for five generations. Philippa began documenting their rural lifestyle, mostly of what she was making their staff for smoko (morning tea), on what was then a small Instagram account, @philippacameron_whatsforsmoko. But after publishing her first cookbook, A High Country Life, it’s grown exponentially into a space for aesthetically pleasing, cosy recipes and photography. She says “It was a concept that grew from people’s misconceptions about what a farmer’s wife does all day… Those of us who fill the role know it doesn’t mean taking a backwards step in feminism, and we most definitely know it’s not a ‘kept woman’s position’”. To emphasize that, her second cookbook is equal parts recipes and photos of her own and the letters she’d been sent after publishing her first book. There are stories by previous employees from the station (dating as far back as the 1930s) and from women who’ve held posts similar to hers over the decades. Among the recipes for Irish Stew, Quick Fish Pie, and Whiskey Cake for example, there are endearing photos and stories that are akin to reading a late Great Aunt’s journal. Every entry immortalizes a remarkable life spent on a station that may otherwise have been forgotten, and ultimately captures a slice of New Zealand history for us to peek into.