Keeping Up With The Penguins

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Search results: "fitzgerald" (page 1 of 12)

Everything Feels Like The End Of The World – Else Fitzgerald

Everything Feels Like The End Of The World - Else Fitzgerald - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Everything Feels Like The End Of The World is “a collection of short speculative fiction exploring possible futures in an Australia not so different from our present day to one thousands of years into an unrecognisable future”. The wonderful team at Allen & Unwin were kind enough to send me a copy for review.

These short, sharp stories are like fireworks. Fitzgerald is clearly a writing talent to be reckoned with. I particularly appreciated her brilliant use of simile and metaphor, the kinds of descriptions that make you say “woah” out loud.

Really, the only downside to reading Everything Feels Like The End Of The World is that Fitzgerald writes so well, the science fiction (science faction?) is all too believable. It’s straight-up frightening. The intensity with which she depicts the fires and floods, the confused yearning she captures so beautifully about the future and whether or not to bring kids into it – it’s honestly terrifying.

I couldn’t sleep after I finished this book; I needed a glass of wine and a cuddle with my dog until my heart stopped pounding. It’s scarier than any “horror” novel I’ve ever read.

So, obviously, I need to offer trigger warnings for natural disasters and in/fertility in Everything Feels Like The End Of The World. If you can handle that, and you’re a fan of Black Mirror, you absolutely must read this collection – it hits a lot of the same, terrifying, notes. This is an incredible debut collection, Fitzgerald’s writing belies her early career status, but be sure to take care of yourself while reading it.

The Cry – Helen Fitzgerald

I was truly blown away by the TV series The Cry when I caught it by chance on the ABC a few years ago. I didn’t actually realise it was adapted from a book until I came across a copy! So, even though the ending is “spoiled” for me (I couldn’t forget it if I tried, it’s brilliantly plotted), I was still eager to read The Cry and see how it unfolds on the page.

The Cry - Helen Fitzgerald - Keeping Up With The Penguins
Buy The Cry here.
(And my tears will turn to smiles if you use an affiliate link on this page to make a purchase, I’ll get a tiny cut of the cart!)

From the blurb: “When a baby goes missing on a lonely roadside in Australia, it sets off a police investigation that will become a media sensation and dinner-table talk across the world. Lies, rumours and guilt snowball, causing the parents, Joanna and Alistair, to slowly turn against each other.”

Naturally, the premise of The Cry evokes Madeline McCann, for the tender age of the child and the worldwide scrutiny of the parents in the case, but also Azaria Chamberlain for its Australian setting. It’s a modern take on the missing child, told in the style of Liane Moriarty and Gillian Flynn (if you’re fans of their books, you definitely want to pick this one up).

The family at the heart of the story – Joanna, Alistair, and baby boy Noah – are embarking on a long-haul flight from Glasgow to Melbourne when The Cry begins. Joanna is a first-time mother, and the former mistress of British Labour spin-doctor Alistair. The nine-week-old child cries the entire flight, so Joanna is understandably stressed (to say the least) while Alistair remains remarkably calm and actually manages to get some refreshing sleep (typical). Joanna is relieved that when they reach Melbourne, now that the ordeal of the flight is over and Noah is finally asleep.

Of course, the ordeal is only beginning. Baby Noah goes missing, taken from his car seat while Joanna and Alistair were picking up a couple of items from a grocery store.

All of this is told from a close third-person perspective in Part 1, but it shifts in Part 2 to alternating first-person perspectives (more on that in a minute). The timeline of The Cry also shifts back and forth, from events in a courtroom where a trial is taking place back to the events around The Incident, before it settles into a roughly chronological rhythm.

The blurb doesn’t exactly advertise what I’m going to say next, so I’m not sure if it constitutes a “spoiler” – so, heads-up etc. if that would bother you.

The first-person accounts are those of Joanna, and Alistair’s ex-wife, Alexandra. The Cry actually offers a lot more insight into Alexandra’s perspective than I recall being in the TV series. She’s a natural suspect in Noah’s disappearance, if only for the fact that the reason for Joanna and Alistair’s trip to Melbourne is to fight a custody battle for a child from his first marriage. In the book, we can see more about her role in what’s unfolded and her conflicted feelings.

What’s great, though, is that The Cry isn’t a “woman v. woman” thriller. Even though there’s not much love lost between Alexandra and Joanna, Fitzgerald doesn’t pit them against each other in the sympathy stakes.

Both are harangued by the press and the public in the wake of Noah’s disappearance – though Joanna, obviously, more so. It feels sadly realistic and believable, the way that Joanna is picked apart. She’s too distraught, she’s not distraught enough, she shouldn’t smile, she should cry, what’s she wearing, why did she behave this way… It’s a public stoning we’ve seen play out all too many times.

The Cry isn’t a police procedural, so you won’t find any hard-drinking detectives declaring they’re “too old for this” or they “won’t rest until they find Noah”. In fact, the police are increasingly baffled by Noah’s disappearance (and they do a piss poor job of communicating with the parents and the public, to boot).

The ending didn’t punch quite as hard in the book as it did on-screen, but I put that down to Jenna Coleman’s incredible performance as Joanna and Glendyn Ivin’s masterful direction, rather than any fault in Fitzgerald’s writing. The Cry still has a brilliant twist (or two), no matter which way you experience it.

It’s a dark, psychological thriller with a gripping moral dilemma, perfect for anyone who enjoys a story about good people doing bad things. I really want to emphasise that The Cry isn’t just for thriller readers; anyone who likes ethical grey areas and/or the complexity of modern families will rip through it. Clearly, there’s some triggering content (child/infant loss, mental illness), but if you can cope with that, it’s definitely worth a read.

My favourite Amazon reviews of The Cry:

  • “This was an interesting and puzzling story. I enjoyed the writing style of the author and the basis of the plot. What I didn’t like was the character of the mother…whiny, weak, and worn. Often, I put down books written about women who are ‘man crazy’ and lose their own souls just to have a guy pay attention to them. Plus, why did this baby cry ALL THE TIME? Take it to a Dr.” – onecarolinagal
  • “If you’ve not lived with a psychopath then you might not appreciate this book.” – Lovinavidadaluz

The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald

The recent Keeping Up With The Penguins trend of reviewing short-novels-by-dead-white-guys-that-got-turned-into-movies ends (promise!) with The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald - Keeping Up With The Penguins
Buy The Great Gatsby here.
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This is a beautiful Penguin edition of the 1925 novel. I picked it up from my favourite secondhand bookstore (as always), and yet it looks brand new, never read. In the front they’ve printed Fitzgerald’s original dedication, to his wife Zelda. I thought that was really sweet… until I later learned that she was quite a piece of work, and would probably have kicked up a royal stink if he hadn’t dedicated the book to her. I can respect that.

Fitzgerald began planning The Great Gatsby in 1923, but it was a long and laborious process to get to the finished product. In his first year of writing he pumped out 18,000 words, only to scrap it all and start again. There were stacks of revisions, even entire chapters re-written, before it went to press. Fitzgerald also changed the title more often than he changed his underpants. His reported favourite was “Under The Red, White and Blue”, but it was vetoed by his publishers (and his wife, ha!).

The Great Gatsby, in its final form, received mixed reviews and sold “poorly” – just 20,000 copies in its first year. Fitzgerald died in 1940 believing himself to be a failure (boohoo). Shortly after his death, the book experienced a strong resurgence, thanks in large part to the Council on Books in Wartime that distributed 155,000 copies to American soldiers fighting in WWII. It is now considered a contender for that ever-elusive accolade: The Great American Novel. It has been adapted for film, television, literature, opera, ballet, radio, and even computer games. I vaguely remember seeing the 2013 movie at some point, but my memories are mostly just glitter and sparkly costumes. The only concrete fact that my brain saw fit to retain was that Leonardo launched a thousand memes.

Leonardo Di Caprio as Jay Gatsby - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Anyway, what’s the story? Well, a young Yale graduate slash Great War veteran (Nick Carraway) moves to Long Island to work as a bond salesman and basically sort himself out. He ends up friends with his rich neighbour – Jay Gatsby – who throws a lot of fancy parties. (He’s really rich, okay? It’s very important that you know that.)

So, Nick just kinda hangs out there a bit. His only other social outings are visiting his flapper cousin and her philandering husband, who live just up the road.

As I was reading, I couldn’t stop asking myself: what’s the point? I mean, a swotty young guy discovers that he likes drinking and pretty girls, and he hangs around his rich neighbour’s hectic parties – so what?

Later, we find out that Gatsby is actually in love with Nick’s beautiful cousin, and has quasi-stalked her for years (but we’re supposed to think that’s romantic, not creepy). He uses Nick to engineer a rendezvous, and finally gets into her pants. They continue hooking up on the sly for a while, until her husband Mr Philanderer finds out and gets all jealous (ironic). There’s a crazy show-down at a hotel in the city, and the beautiful cousin runs over her husband’s mistress in Gatsby’s car (yes, shit really escalated, but it’s not over yet).

Because of the car, everyone assumes that Gatsby is the one who was driving, and it’s all very I Know What You Did Last Summer. The mistress’s husband avenges her death by killing Gatsby, and then himself. The beautiful cousin gets back with her husband, and they run away together. Nick tries to throw a funeral for Gatsby and nobody comes. The end.

Fitzgerald famously drew inspiration from the parties he attended in Long Island in the early 1920s, and many true events from his life are reflected in the plot (he fell in love with a girl and needed to “prove himself” with material success before he could marry her, and so on). You don’t have to try too hard to pick apart the Very Important Themes in The Great Gatsby, a lot of stuff about the façade of class mobility in America and the excesses of wealth and the recklessness of ambitious youth. Blah, blah, blah… It all boils down to a cautionary tale, and a pretty boring one at that.

How many times do we need to expose the “underbelly” of the Great American Dream? It is a myth, we get it. I mean, maybe they didn’t back in the 1920s, but we’ve all seen American Beauty now, so I’m not sure how much The Great Gatsby adds to that narrative.

I fail to understand how this has become a staple of the high school English syllabus. Is it because it’s a “classic” that’s short enough to squeeze into a teenager’s limited attention span? Do the grown-ups think it’s “relateable”? The characters do all talk and act like rich, indulgent teenagers I suppose, like an old-timey version of The OC. I know I’m not an authority, but I think there are better choices for reading assignments. I mean, as far as the literary merit goes, to me Fitzgerald sounded like a wannabe poet trying too hard to write romantic prose. He told a friend that he wanted The Great Gatsby to be a “consciously artistic achievement”, but it came off sounding like desperate, over-reaching wank half of the time.

So, in conclusion, no. Not for me. No, thank you. My tl;dr summary is this: a shady rich guy gets taken in by a slapper, and owning a fancy car comes back to bite him in the arse. I really didn’t care about the characters or the story at all, and finer examples of American literature abound as far as I’m concerned – but by all means, check this one out for yourself if you want to see just how far it falls short of its reputation.

My favourite Amazon reviews of The Great Gatsby:

  • “Hated this book. It was a total waste of time. If I wanted to be depressed and read about unfaithfulness in marriage, I would read the court records. Don’t know why this is a classic.” – Amazon Customer
  • “Wow, even better than the Cliff notes I read in High School.” – Marc Reeves
  • “I had to buy this for my son for school. He did not like the book but that’s not Amazon’s fault…” – D. Basuino
  • “One star is too many, but it is the minimum.
    The only reason I read this was for a class. I gave the teacher a stinker review as well.The book is a pointless exercise in futility about pointless stupid people. The only point to the story is that people with money are just as trashy, if not more so, than people without. The characters have no development, are barely two dimensional, do stupid things for no reason and face no consequences for their veniality.This books is the literary equivalent of being stuck in a window seat on a airplane for 14 hours needs to a drunken, smelly creep with bad breath and smelly gas who talks at you for the whole flight about his pointless job. For being such a thin book, it is the hardest reading I have ever had to do.Of course, it is even more aggravating that the kindle edition costs $11 for a book you can get at a bookstore for less than a dollar.” – Heinrick Ludwig von Mencken

20 Most Reviewed Books On Goodreads

Goodreads is kind of a necessary evil in the book world. There are plenty of alternatives out there, but Daddy GR already kind of owns the market. I recently came across an interesting Instagram reel by beloved bookstagrammer @James_Trevino where he went through a list of the most rated books on Goodreads. I did some googling, and it turns out (like best-seller lists) there are a lot of different ways to quantify “most reviewed books on Goodreads”, each with different results. Here are some of the recurring entries on these lists.

20 Most Reviewed Books On Goodreads - Book List - Keeping Up With The Penguins
You’ll be my best-reviewed reader if you make a purchase through an affiliate link on this page – you’ll be supporting my work with a small commission!

Heads up: I’ve personally chosen to exclude Harry Potter books from this list, because J.K. Rowling keeps espousing garbage. Besides, if you don’t already know that they’re among the most reviewed books on Goodreads, I don’t know how to help you.

Most Reviewed Books On Goodreads

20. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Little Women - Louisa May Alcott - Book Laid on Wooden Table - Keeping Up With The Penguins

2,106,021 ratings

Average rating: 4.14 stars

Blurb: Generations of readers young and old, male and female, have fallen in love with the March sisters of Louisa May Alcott’s most popular and enduring novel, Little Women. Here are talented tomboy and author-to-be Jo, tragically frail Beth, beautiful Meg, and romantic, spoiled Amy, united in their devotion to each other and their struggles to survive in New England during the Civil War. Read my full review of Little Women here.

19. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury - Book Laid on Wooden Table - Keeping Up With The Penguins

2,246,404 ratings

Average rating: 3.97 stars

Blurb: Sixty years after its original publication, Ray Bradbury’s internationally acclaimed novel Fahrenheit 451 stands as a classic of world literature set in a bleak, dystopian future. Today its message has grown more relevant than ever before. Read my full review of Fahrenheit 451 here.

18. A Game Of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

A Game of Thrones - George R R Martin - Book Laid On Wooden Table - Keeping Up With The Penguins

2,374,386 ratings

Average rating: 4.44 stars

Blurb: Sweeping from a harsh land of cold to a summertime kingdom of epicurean plenty, A Game of Thrones tells a tale of lords and ladies, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and bastards, who come together in a time of grim omens. Read my full review of A Game Of Thrones here.

17. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

The Book Thief - Markus Zusak - book laid on wooden table - Keeping Up With The Penguins

2,393,632 ratings

Average rating: 4.39 stars

Blurb: It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will be busier still. By her brother’s graveside, Liesel’s life is changed when she picks up a single object, partially hidden in the snow. It is The Gravedigger’s Handbook, left behind there by accident, and it is her first act of book thievery. So begins a love affair with books and words, as Liesel, with the help of her accordian-playing foster father, learns to read. Read my full review of The Book Thief here.

16. Of Mice And Men by John Steinbeck

Of Mice And Men - John Steinbeck - Keeping Up With The Penguins

2,420,877 ratings

Average rating: 3.88 stars

Blurb: They are an unlikely pair: George is “small and quick and dark of face”; Lennie, a man of tremendous size, has the mind of a young child. Yet they have formed a “family,” clinging together in the face of loneliness and alienation. Laborers in California’s dusty vegetable fields, they hustle work when they can, living a hand-to-mouth existence. But George and Lennie have a plan: to own an acre of land and a shack they can call their own. Read my full review of Of Mice And Men here.

15. The Fellowship of The Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

Lord Of The Rings - JRR Tolkien - Keeping Up With The Penguins

2,704,909 ratings

Average rating: 4.38 stars

Blurb: In The Fellowship of The Ring, young Frodo Baggins finds himself faced with an immense task, as his elderly cousin Bilbo entrusts the Ring to his care. Frodo must leave his home and make a perilous journey across Middle-earth to the Cracks of Doom, there to destroy the Ring and foil the Dark Lord in his evil purpose.

14. The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins

The Girl on the Train - Paula Hawkins - book laid on wooden table - Keeping Up With The Penguins

2,761,234 ratings

Average rating: 3.96 stars

Blurb: Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning. She knows it will wait at the same signal each time, overlooking a row of back gardens. She’s even started to feel like she knows the people who live in one of the houses. ‘Jess and Jason’, she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. If only Rachel could be that happy. And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Now Rachel has a chance to become a part of the lives she’s only watched from afar. Now they’ll see; she’s much more than just The Girl On The TrainRead my full review of The Girl On The Train here.

13. Lord Of The Flies by William Golding

Lord Of The Flies - William Golding - Book Laid on Wooden Table - Keeping Up With The Penguins

2,765,481 ratings

Average rating: 3.69 stars

Blurb: Labeled a parable, an allegory, a myth, a morality tale, a parody, a political treatise, even a vision of the apocalypse, Lord of the Flies is perhaps our most memorable novel about “the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart. Read my full review of Lord Of The Flies here.

12. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

The Alchemist - Paulo Coelho - Book Laid on Wooden Table - Keeping Up With The Penguins

2,830,977 ratings

Average rating: 3.90 stars

Blurb: Combining magic, mysticism, wisdom, and wonder into an inspiring tale of self-discovery, The Alchemist has become a modern classic, selling millions of copies around the world and transforming the lives of countless readers across generations. Read my full review of The Alchemist here.

11. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn - Book Laid Face Up On Wooden Table - Keeping Up With The Penguins

2,905,373 ratings

Average rating: 4.12 stars

Blurb: Who are you? What have we done to each other? These are the questions Nick Dunne finds himself asking on the morning of his fifth wedding anniversary when his wife Amy suddenly disappears. The police suspect Nick. Amy’s friends reveal that she was afraid of him, that she kept secrets from him. He swears it isn’t true. Read my full review of Gone Girl here.

10. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini - Keeping Up With The Penguins

2,983,265 ratings

Average rating: 4.34 stars

Blurb: 1970s Afghanistan: Twelve-year-old Amir is desperate to win the local kite-fighting tournament and his loyal friend Hassan promises to help him. But neither of the boys can foresee what would happen to Hassan that afternoon, an event that is to shatter their lives. After the Russians invade and the family is forced to flee to America, Amir realises that one day he must return to an Afghanistan under Taliban rule to find the one thing that his new world cannot grant him: redemption. Read my full review of The Kite Runner here.

9. The Catcher In The Rye by J.D. Salinger

The Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger - book laid on wooden table - Keeping Up With The Penguins

3,346,163 ratings

Average rating: 3.80 stars

Blurb: The Catcher in the Rye is an all-time classic in coming-of-age literature- an elegy to teenage alienation, capturing the deeply human need for connection and the bewildering sense of loss as we leave childhood behind. Read my full review of The Catcher In The Rye here.

8. The Diary Of A Young Girl by Anne Frank

The Diary Of A Young Girl - Anne Frank - Keeping Up With The Penguins

3,522,518 ratings

Average rating: 4.18 stars

Blurb: Discovered in the attic in which she spent the last years of her life, Anne Frank’s remarkable diary has become a world classic—a powerful reminder of the horrors of war and an eloquent testament to the human spirit. Her account offers a fascinating commentary on human courage and frailty and a compelling self-portrait of a sensitive and spirited young woman whose promise was tragically cut short.

7. Divergent by Veronica Roth

Divergent - Veronica Roth - Book Laid on Wooden Table - Keeping Up With The Penguins

3,746,041 ratings

Average rating: 4.15 stars

Blurb: In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself. Read my full review of Divergent here.

6. Pride And Prejudice by Jane Austen

Pride And Prejudice - Jane Austen - Book Laid on Wooden Table - Keeping Up With The Penguins

3,990,032 ratings

Average rating: 4.28 stars

Blurb: Since its immediate success in 1813, Pride and Prejudice has remained one of the most popular novels in the English language. Jane Austen called this brilliant work “her own darling child” and its vivacious heroine, Elizabeth Bennet, “as delightful a creature as ever appeared in print.” The romantic clash between the opinionated Elizabeth and her proud beau, Mr. Darcy, is a splendid performance of civilized sparring. And Jane Austen’s radiant wit sparkles as her characters dance a delicate quadrille of flirtation and intrigue, making this book the most superb comedy of manners of Regency England. Read my full review of Pride And Prejudice here.

5. Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

1984 - George Orwell - Book Laid on Wooden Table - Keeping Up With The Penguins

4,258,687 ratings

Average rating: 4.19 stars

Blurb: The year 1984 has come and gone, but George Orwell’s prophetic, nightmarish vision in 1949 of the world we were becoming is timelier than ever. 1984 is still the great modern classic of “negative utopia”—a startlingly original and haunting novel that creates an imaginary world that is completely convincing, from the first sentence to the last four words. No one can deny the novel’s hold on the imaginations of whole generations, or the power of its admonitions—a power that seems to grow, not lessen, with the passage of time.

4. The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

The Fault In Our Stars - John Green - Book Laid On Wooden Table - Keeping Up With The Penguins

4,821,366 ratings

Average rating: 4.15 stars

Blurb: Insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw, The Fault in Our Stars is award-winning author John Green’s most ambitious and heartbreaking work yet, brilliantly exploring the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love. Read my full review of The Fault In Our Stars here.

3. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald - book laid on wooden table - Keeping Up With The Penguins

4,897,924 ratings

Average rating: 3.93 stars

Blurb: The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s third book, stands as the supreme achievement of his career. This exemplary novel of the Jazz Age has been acclaimed by generations of readers. The story of the fabulously wealthy Jay Gatsby and his love for the beautiful Daisy Buchanan, of lavish parties on Long Island at a time when The New York Times noted “gin was the national drink and sex the national obsession,” it is an exquisitely crafted tale of America in the 1920s. Read my full review of The Great Gatsby here.

2. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

To Kill A Mockingbird - Harper Lee - Book laid on a wooden table - Keeping Up With The Penguins

5,753,350 ratings

Average rating: 4.27 stars

Blurb: The unforgettable novel of a childhood in a sleepy Southern town and the crisis of conscience that rocked it. To Kill A Mockingbird became both an instant bestseller and a critical success when it was first published in 1960. It went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 and was later made into an Academy Award-winning film, also a classic. Read my full review of To Kill A Mockingbird here.

1. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins - book laid on wooden table - Keeping Up With The Penguins

8,058,782 ratings

Average rating: 4.33 stars

Blurb: Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister’s place in The Hunger Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before—and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weight survival against humanity and life against love. Read my full review of The Hunger Games here.

Most Reviewed Books On Goodreads: Honourable Mentions

How many of the most reviewed books on Goodreads have you read? Let me know in the comments!

23 Books About Missing Persons Cases

The first week in August each year is National Missing Persons Week, a week of action to address the startlingly high number of open missing persons cases in Australia. Each year, tens of thousands of people are reported missing; while, fortunately, around 80% of them are located within a week of a report being made, too many vanish. This is a unique opportunity to raise awareness of people who are missing, and the issues faced by their loved ones who search for them. I’m doing my part with this list of fiction and non-fiction books about missing persons cases.

23 Books About Missing Persons Cases - Book List - Keeping Up With The Penguins
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If you have information about a person who may be missing, report it straight away to Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty

Apples Never Fall - Liane Moriarty - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Apples Never Fall is exactly what you’d expect of a Liane Moriarty novel: perfectly paced and totally readable, with town gossip and parallel timelines that keep you guessing. But instead of a particularly violent crime or broken marriage at its heart, Moriarty centres this one around a family falling apart after the disappearance of its matriarch. Joy had no reason to vanish into thin air, but she did, and she is sorely missed. One nosy detective is particularly determined to find her, no matter how many family secrets she has to dig out of the closet to do so. Read my full review of Apples Never Fall here.

Sadie by Courtney Summers

Sadie - Courtney Summers - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Even if you read a lot of books about missing persons cases, Sadie will probably take you by surprise – if for no other reason than the person who is missing gets to narrate one side of the story. She reveals pretty early on where exactly she’s gone “missing” to: she’s on the hunt for the man she believes killed her little sister, and she plans to give him a taste of his own medicine. She also has a stutter, which makes her internal monologue particularly powerful; what she’s not able to physically say out loud, she can share with the reader. This is a moving and intense story, suitable for older-young adults and adult-adults alike. Read my full review of Sadie here.

The Woman In Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

The Woman In Cabin 10 - Ruth Ware - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Imagine you know that someone’s gone missing – that’s scary in and of itself, right? Ruth Ware doubles down on that premise in The Woman In Cabin 10, by having everyone around the protagonist insist that her fellow traveller isn’t actually missing. This story is reminiscent of Agatha Christie and Hitchcockian films where the fear comes not just from not being able to trust anyone around you, but not being able to trust your own mind. Plus, there’s the locked-room aspect of the cruise ship setting, meaning that the culprit of a violent crime must be on board.

Fleishman Is In Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner

Fleishman Is In Trouble - Taffy Brodesser-Akner - Keeping Up With The Penguins

At first glance, Fleishman Is In Trouble looks like your stock-standard New York divorce novel, but by the end of the first chapter, you’ll realise that this is one of the most compelling books about missing persons cases you’ll find on the literary fiction shelf. Toby Fleishman’s single life comes to an abrupt halt when his soon-to-be ex-wife drops their kids off at his apartment in the middle of the night and disappears. She won’t answer calls or texts, and her assistant won’t tell Toby where she is or when she’s coming back. Forced to reckon with both his kids and his emotional baggage without support, Toby thinks he’s got it tough – but there’s two sides to this fascinating story. Read my full review of Fleishman Is In Trouble here.

The Lake House by Kate Morton

The Lake House - Kate Morton - Book Laid on Wooden Table - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Kate Morton has said she was inspired to write The Lake House, her fascinating book about a missing persons case stretching back decades, by the real-life mystery of the Beaumont children. In Morton’s fictional version, an infant goes missing in 1933 during a Midsummer Eve party, and the house gardener is blamed (though he is never caught or charged). In 2003, a police detective on “enforced leave” stumbles across the now abandoned home, and learns of the unsolved disappearance. She finds herself drawn into the mystery, and can’t help asking questions. Read my full review of The Lake House here.

Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe

Say Nothing - Patrick Radden Keefe - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Say Nothing is one of the essential books about missing persons cases, in that it shines a light on the disturbing history of “disappearances” during the Troubles. In 1972, Jean McConville, a 38-year-old widowed mother of ten(!), was abducted from her Belfast home and never seen alive again. No one has ever been officially brought to justice for her abduction and murder. Through this unsolved case, Keefe explores the sectarian violence that has divided Ireland, and specifically the culture of silence that underpins the social contract in all areas of Irish life as a result. Read my full review of Say Nothing here.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn - Book Laid Face Up On Wooden Table - Keeping Up With The Penguins

If you want books about missing persons cases with big twist reveals… well, you’ve probably already read Gone Girl, but it’s worth mentioning all the same. This super-mega-best selling thriller starts as many others do, with a bright and charming young woman going missing and her husband under suspicion. However, about halfway through, the truth behind Amazing Amy’s disappearance is revealed, and it completely changes everything you thought you knew about the case. This one is as propulsive as it is shocking, and iconic. Read my full review of Gone Girl here.

Paper Towns by John Green

Paper Towns - John Green - book laid on a wooden table - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Paper Towns is your standard coming-of-age story for the most part, but the personal growth for Quentin “Q” Jacobsen comes through his search for the enigmatic girl next door. He’s “loved” Margot Roth Spiegelman from afar for years, so when she vanishes and leaves behind a trail of clues, he can’t help but follow them. Of course, you have to suspend your disbelief a bit to fully enjoy this young adult novel (I’ve never met a teenager with enough foresight to leave complex metaphorical breadcrumbs when they run away, and, indeed, why would they? The whole point of running away is, y’know, to not get caught!), but it’s a sweet example of books about missing persons cases with a happy ending. Read my full review of Paper Towns here.

Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey

Elizabeth Is Missing - Emma Healey - Keeping Up With The Penguins

How can you find a missing person when your own memory can’t be trusted? You can’t be sure when she went missing, or why, and your memories of what happened to her are getting muddled up with what happened to your sister decades ago. This is the predicament of Maud in Elizabeth Is Missing, a story about a woman with dementia searching for her missing friend. Even with all the things her failing mind is taking from her, Maud clings to the memory of her friend Elizabeth and resolves to find her – whatever it takes. It’s a heart-wrenching one, obviously, but a beautiful novel all the same.

The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins

The Girl on the Train - Paula Hawkins - book laid on wooden table - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Here’s another one of the super-mega-best-seller books about missing persons cases: The Girl On The Train. A bereft woman descending into alcoholism rides the train every day, looking into the lives of people who live along the track – that’s how she notices when one of them, a young woman, goes missing. Would anyone believe her if she told them? The story unfolds with three different narrators offering their perspectives in turn, each of them providing a piece of the puzzle. This is a disorienting, but compelling, mystery thriller. Read my full review of The Girl On The Train here.

I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston

I Kissed Shara Wheeler - Casey McQuiston - Keeping Up With The Penguins

You remember what it was like to have your first kiss, don’t you? Especially if you were a teenager at the time! The heady rush, the butterflies, the nerves, the excitement… But what if the person you kissed went missing right after? How far would you go to find them? That’s the conceit of I Kissed Shara Wheeler. The titular Shara Wheeler disappears after being kissed by aspiring school valedictorian Chloe Green (among others). She left behind a series of annoyingly cryptic notes, and Chloe has to assemble a team of unlikely allies in the quest to track her down. As far as books about missing persons cases go, this is one of the most lighthearted and delightful of the bunch.

The Chain by Adrian McKinty

The Chain - Adrian McKinty - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Adrian McKinty has cited an interesting mish-mash of sources as inspiration for The Chain. It seems he combined stories missing persons cases triggered by cartel kidnappings, and the strange chain letter trend of his youth. Reading it, you can see how these ideas melded together in his mind. A woman receives a phone call telling her that her daughter has been kidnapped (terrifying, in and of itself), and to ensure her safe return, she must kidnap another person’s child. She’s on “the chain” now, and there’s no way off it but to do what the kidnappers say. It’s a book about missing persons cases with a high-stakes ethical dilemma at its core. Read my full review of The Chain here.

The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse

The Sanatorium - Sarah Pearse - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Books about missing persons cases and locked room mysteries seem kind of antithetical… but here we are! The Sanatorium manages to do both, with a woman going missing (during her engagement celebrations, no less) at a remote mental asylum remodelled as a luxury hotel. Yes, there’s a lot at play in this story, but traumatised Detective Elin’s search for her brother’s missing fiance is the driving force in the narrative. Read my full review of The Sanatorium here.

Picnic At Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay

Picnic At Hanging Rock - Joan Lindsay - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Picnic At Hanging Rock is one of the most iconic books about missing persons cases in Australian literary history. The story follows a group of girls from the Appleyard College for Young Ladies on a sunny Valentine’s Day in 1900, as they set out for a picnic that goes terribly wrong. Three girls climb into a secluded volcanic outcropping, and mysteriously vanish into thin air. This spooky and intriguing masterpiece has spawned fantastic film and television adaptations, and readers still share theories as to what might have happened to the girls (given the book’s notoriously open-ended conclusion).

Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor

Reservoir 13 - Jon McGregor - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Reservoir 13 is a strange book – to read and to describe. It shouldn’t be, as it’s got all the key ingredients of favourite books about missing persons cases. There’s a rural village setting, a chilly winter, and (of course) a missing girl. Rebecca Shaw is thirteen years old, in the area on holidays with her family, and she has disappeared. The townspeople gather to search the moors, and reporters descend on their small town. Jon McGregor uses all the tropes to lull us into a false sense of security, before up-ending our expectations completely. This is one of those stories that must be read to be believed.

Instructions For A Heatwave by Maggie O’Farrell

Instructions For A Heatwave - Maggie O'Farrell - Keeping Up With The Penguins

When Instructions For A Heatwave begins, Gretta thinks that it’s any ordinary day: her husband wakes up, goes out to get the paper… except he never returns. His disappearance is the catalyst for a family reunion, of sorts, as Gretta and her grown children come together to try and figure out what the heck has happened. It’s a story full of family secrets, simmering resentments, and emotional claustrophobia. You’ll find this one smack bang in the middle of the Venn diagram of the “popular” and the “literary”, a rich family drama with a curious missing persons case to draw you in. Read my full review of Instructions For A Heatwave here.

Missing, Presumed Dead by Mark Tedeschi

Missing, Presumed Dead - Mark Tedeschi - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Dorothy Davis and Kerry Whelan came from opposite sides of Sydney. They were both (very) comfortably middle class, but other than that they had little in common. They ran in different circles, they had different hobbies, they never met. So, how did they both vanish without a trace, never to be seen again? Missing, Presumed Dead is one of the more recent Australian books about missing persons cases, with Mark Tedeschi (the Crown Prosecutor of both cases) providing a lot of insight into the machinations of the criminal justice system when someone goes missing. Read my full review of Missing, Presumed Dead here.

Remember Me by Charity Norman

Remember Me - Charity Norman - Keeping Up With The Penguins

The thing about missing persons cases is that there’s always the chance someone who knows something will let it slip someday. That’s what happens in Remember Me. When Emily Kirkland returns to her small hometown to care for her aging father, she realises he might know more than he’s let on about the disappearance of Leah Patara. Leah’s disappearance rocked the town twenty-five years previously, and now, through the mists of her father’s failing memory, Emily is getting glimpses of what might have happened to her. The thing is, does she really want to know? Is closure for Leah’s family worth ruining her father’s final moments, if there’s a chance he might have had something to do with it? Read my full review of Remember Me here.

The Cry by Helen Fitzgerald

The Cry - Helen Fitzgerald - Keeping Up With The Penguins

The Cry is, hands down, one of the most brilliantly plotted books about missing persons cases I’ve ever read. The premise evokes Madeline McCann, for the tender age of the child who goes missing and the worldwide scrutiny of the parents in the case, but also Azaria Chamberlain for its Australian setting. It’s a modern take on the missing child, told in the style of Liane Moriarty and Gillian Flynn (if you’re fans of their books, you definitely want to pick this one up). It’s a dark, psychological thriller with a gripping moral dilemma, perfect for anyone who enjoys a story about good people doing bad things. Read my full review of The Cry here.

The Temple House Vanishing by Rachel Donohue

The Temple House Vanishing - Rachel Donohue - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Twenty-five years ago, a teenage student of Temple House vanished, along with her enigmatic and charming art teacher. In the (roughly) present day, a journalist with a childhood connection to the girl decides to investigate. She uncovers multiple stories of unrequited love, artistic passion, obsession, fantasy, and betrayal. That’s the premise of The Temple House Vanishing, the debut novel from Irish writer Rachel Donohue. It might sound like your standard book about a missing persons case, but Donohue manages to use a well-worn plot to interrogate all manner of very literary themes. Read my full review of The Temple House Vanishing here.

The Women Could Fly by Megan Giddings

The Women Could Fly - Megan Giddings - Keeping Up With The Penguins

When The Women Could Fly begins, Josephine Thomas isn’t sure that witchcraft actually exists. It could be a lie perpetrated by the authorities to keep women oppressed. Of greater concern is her mother being declared dead, after she disappeared off the face of the earth fourteen years ago. She left concerning, mysterious instructions in her Will that Josephine must follow to the letter in order to collect her inheritance, and put the past behind her. What follows is a strange story about witchcraft, feminism, and forging unique paths in societies that don’t tolerate them. Read my full review of The Women Could Fly here.

Big Lies In A Small Town by Diane Chamberlain

Big Lies In A Small Town - Diane Chamberlain - Book on Wooden Table - Keeping Up With The Penguins

I wouldn’t blame you for glancing at Big Lies In A Small Town and writing it off as another in the litany of potboiler books about missing persons cases with historical fiction bents. But you’d be wrong, as I was when I did the very same thing! The story centers around a Depression-era mural: the woman commissioned to paint it (who disappeared under mysterious circumstances), and the woman charged with restoring it for installation, nearly eight decades later. It’s fictional, but the town of Edenton and the themes Chamberlain explores (race, privilege, and opportunity) are very real. Don’t skip past this one at the airport – it’s worth it! Read my full review of Big Lies In A Small Town here.

Mother May I by Joshilyn Jackson

Mother May I - Joshilyn Jackson - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Bree is 38 years old, she uses canvas bags, she’s a former board member of several charities, and she’s a doting mother to two teenage daughters and a “surprise” infant son. Her perfect life is shattered when she looks away for just a moment, and her son is taken. The phone rings: “Go home. Tell no one. Do not call the police. Do not call your husband. Be at your house by 5:15pm or he’s gone for good.” It’s a nightmare scenario, truly the worst of the worst – Mother May I is one of the books about missing persons cases that will strike fear in the heart of every new parent. Read my full review of Mother May I here.

If you have information about a person who may be missing, report it straight away to Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

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