Posted by: Lisa Hill | November 21, 2018

2018 Non-fiction November: Book pairing

It has taken me forever to come up with a book pairing for Non-fiction November, but I’ve finally done it:)

The meme is jointly hosted this year by Katie (Doing Dewey), Lory (Emerald City Book Review), Sarah (Sarah’s Book Shelves), Rachel (Hibernator’s Library) and Julz (Julz Reads). The pairing involves matching a non-fiction book with a fiction one…

*drum roll*

Both books feature the iconic Sydney Opera House, but in entirely different ways. Kristina Olsson’s exquisite new novel Shell (which I reviewed late last month) is a perfect match for The House, the dramatic story of the Sydney Opera House and the people who made it, by Helen Pitt. I haven’t read this book yet, but I’ve seen handsome reviews about it.  This is the blurb:

The best-loved building in Australia nearly didn’t get off the drawing board. When it did, the lives of everyone involved in its construction were utterly changed: some for the better, many for the worse.

Helen Pitt tells the stories of the people behind the magnificent white sails of the Sydney Opera House. From the famous conductor and state premier who conceived the project; to the two architects whose lives were so tragically intertwined; to the workers and engineers; to the people of Sydney, who were alternately beguiled and horrified as the drama unfolded over two decades.

With access to diaries, letters, and classified records, as well as her own interviews with people involved in the project, Helen Pitt reveals the intimate back story of the building that turned Sydney into an international city. It is a tale worthy of Shakespeare himself.

The cover of Olsson’s novel signals its different emphasis: the image of the opera house swept by the winds of the Red Centre suggests that matters are not clear-cut.  Shell explores the era, a time when Australia was not ready for ambitious architecture yet only too ready to follow the US into the disastrous Vietnam War.  The story shows how women’s ambitions were crushed in the 1960s, and how conservative forces suppressed the fledgling anti-war movement in Australia, though they were not to know how it would rise and change nation’s culture.  At a deeper level the novel is also a meditation on ideas about beauty in public spaces and the built environment, about the cultural contribution made by immigrants and everyday workers,  and whether Australia’s sorry genesis in the dispossession of its Indigenous people makes us hesitant to lay claim to the land on which the icon was built.

A perfect match!

Shell by Kristina Ollson is published by Scribner, (an imprint of Simon and Schuster, 2018, 374pp, ISBN: 9781925685329 (hbk.)
The House, by Helen Pitt is published by Allen & Unwin, 2018, 312 pages, ISBN: 9781760295462. (You will need this ISBN if searching online for the book. If you Google the SOH, all you get for your search is pages and pages of tourism and (mysteriously) other books about it but not this one.)

Both books are available from Fishpond: The House: The dramatic story of the Sydney Opera House and the people who made it and Shell.



  1. By George, she did it! I knew you could! Perfetto.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I sometimes try to match my Nonfiction Reading with my current fiction reads. This month I’m reading German Literature. Tied to that I’m reading Weimar in Exile- The Anti- Fascist Emigration in Europe and America by Jean Palmier. Very long and detailed it goes into a lot on German writers reaction to Nazi rule.

    I normally read several books at once. I was recently given a review copy of a biography Mel Brooks Funny Man by Patrick McGillgan. I love his movies and am grateful to learn about how they were created.

    I like biographies of writers. I am currently also reading Neruda: The
    Poet’s Calling by Mark Eisner. I bought it marked down short time as a kindle from $16.95 to $0.95. (Now sale over ).


    • Hello, thanks for dropping by with your comment:)
      Yes, it can certainly enhance the reading of fiction if it’s matched with non-fiction background information, especially if reading from an era or a culture that’s unfamiliar. It’s usually better than looking up Wikipedia!


  3. A perfect match indeed! Both books look interesting.


    • Yes, when I’m not so snowed under with books I’m going to get a copy of The House and read it too:)

      Liked by 1 person

  4. These both sound really interesting Lisa – great pairing!


  5. great pairing! here are mine:


  6. I absolutely love this pairing. So specific and, yet, so universally recognizable!


    • LOL I still can’t quite believe it took me so long to think of it:)


  7. I think you meant to say Sydney Opera House not S Harbour Bridge in your opening remarks. Both iconic of course.

    Sent from my iPhone



    • Oh doh! Thank you for pointing it out, I’ll fix it now.
      (More haste less speed, eh?)


  8. I was so taken by your description of Shell that I just bought it. So when bank statement comes through I shall be holding you personally responsible (just thought I should warn you) :)


    • Ha!
      I’ll shout you lunch when you come to Melbourne, to make up for it.


      • what an offer! I’ll do a screen grab of your comment just so you can’t wriggle out of it ……


        • Ha!
          Read my review of Net Loss, and then put your phone away. If I were going to wriggle out of it, no photo would persuade me not to.


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