‘They kill us, they crucify us, they throw us to beasts in the arena, they sew our lips together and watch us starve. They bugger children in front of their mothers and violate men in front of their wives. The temple priests flay us openly in the streets. We are hunted everywhere and we are hunted by everyone’ – Damascus.

Here’s a bit of a wrap up on my reading this month. Firstly, Damascus by Christos Tsiolkas takes as its subject the events surrounding the birth and establishment of the Christian church. Based around the gospels and letters of St Paul, and focusing on characters one and two generations on from the death of Christ, as well as Paul (Saul) himself, this is an extraordinary telling with a definite R rating. Part way through Damascus I lost interest. The darkness that pervaded the story was barely illuminated by the moments of grace in the narrative, and I found sections of the story repetitive and at times boring. However, I persevered, enjoying the final stages of the work. In the end I was left wondering at the huge amount of research required to write Damascus, the blurring of what Christians believe to be fact – granted Damascus is a novel, and pondering how much of the author’s own background coloured certain elements. A masterful piece of storytelling, featuring all of Tsiolkas’ trademark interests, religion, masculinity, family and patriarchy. A thought-provoking read.

I’m currently reading Olive, again. It was just as well I picked up a copy of Olive, again by Elizabeth Strout. I needed the light relief after Damascus. Some of you may have read Strout’s Pulitzer Prize winning book Olive Kitteridge so this sequel of sorts takes up from where we left the retired school-teacher. I l-o-v-e feisty Olive. It’s just a pity that Strout rather keeps Olive in the background as she struggles to understand not only herself and her own life but also the lives of those around her in the town of Crosby, Maine. While Olive features in dedicated chapters there are many where we are drawn into the lives of people in Crosby with Olive barely making an appearance. So here is Olive’s community – a teenager coming to terms with the loss of her father, a young woman about to give birth during a hilariously inopportune moment, a lawyer who struggles with an inheritance she does not want to accept, murder, mayhem, retirement homes and children who should know better. Throughout all this Olive remains, obstinately, well Olive. I’m two thirds through this delightful book.

And now to my ‘to-be-read’. Maybe the Horse Will Talk by Elliot Perlman is a book club selection in my hometown of Moree. Elliot Perlman is an Australian author and barrister. He has written two novels and one short story collection. His author blurb says that his work: “condemns the economic rationalism that destroys the humanity of ordinary people when they are confronted with unemployment and poverty”. I’m sure there would be a more succinct way to say that Mr Pearlman, but in the meantime, as I’m still visiting with Olive in Maine I’ll share the blurb from the novel.

Stephen Maserov has problems. A onetime teacher, married to fellow teacher Eleanor, he has retrained and is now a second-year lawyer working at mega-firm Freely Savage Carter Blanche. Despite toiling around the clock to make budget, he’s in imminent danger of being downsized. And to make things worse, Eleanor, sick of single-parenting their two young children thanks to Stephen’s relentless work schedule, has asked him to move out.

To keep the job he hates, pay the mortgage and salvage his marriage, he will have to do something strikingly daring, something he never thought himself capable of. But if he’s not careful, it might be the last job he ever has…

The jury is out on this one until I open the first page although political satire is not one of my go-to reads.