The Weekly Review book club: Michael Rowland reviews Butterfly on a Pin

Photo: Julian Kingma

Photo: Julian Kingma

Welcome to our monthly book club, where we invite you to read along with ABC News Breakfast‘s Michael Rowland.

Each month, Michael will share his impressions of his chosen book and we want your thoughts on each title.

To join the conversation, make sure you like our Facebook page. Your mini review could be featured in the next instalment of our book club.

At the end of the year, three readers will receive a bundle of great titles from Australia’s top publishers.

Make sure you share your reflections of Michael’s most recently reviewed books on The Weekly Review’s Facebook page to be in the running.

The June read: Butterfly on a Pin

As one Australia’s top fashion designers, Alannah Hill’s name is associated with glamour, red carpets and that trademark eccentricity. But in this searingly raw memoir, Hill reveals a childhood and adolescence marred by physical, emotional and sexual abuse.

Butterfly on a Pin opens with Hill’s mother, Aileen, trying to kill herself and in short order we are introduced to her alcoholic and distant father, Jimmy, and a family struggling to survive in a tiny Tasmanian apple-growing town.

We follow Hill’s escape to Hobart, where she writes about being raped in a grim boarding house, and her arrival in Melbourne with $50 in her pocket. From there, some of the book’s bleakness starts to lift. We learn how, in the early 1980s, Hill was plucked from waiting tables to help run the Indigo boutique on Chapel Street and from there launched her own fashion empire. We get a heady insight into the world of catwalks and couture with a liberal dose of name dropping. Carla Zampatti, Alex Perry, Nick Cave, Michael Hutchence and the Minogue sisters all play cameo roles.

But no matter how well Hill succeeds, grinding disappointment is never far away. She’s unlucky in love.

And, of course, Hill eventually has to walk away from her fashion brand after falling out with her financial backer. Writing the memoir has clearly been a cathartic experience (“I couldn’t type the past out fast enough,” she says). It’s a life story that will stay with you for a long time.

Michael’s last word

“A harrowing, warts-and-all account of how a staggeringly tough childhood produced one Australia’s fashion stars.”

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Next month’s read

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Australia’s 10 best-selling books in June

  1. The Barefoot Investor, by Scott Pape. $29.95, John Wiley
  2. WeirDo #10: Messy Weird! by Anh Do. $14.99, Scholastic
  3. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck, by Mark Manson. $29.99, Pan Macmillan
  4. The Shepherd’s Hut, by Tim Winton. $39.99, Hamish Hamilton
  5. CSIRO Low-Carb Every Day, by Grant Brinkworth and Dr Pennie Taylor. $34.99, Pan Macmillan
  6. 12 Rules for Life, by Jordan B Peterson. $35, Allen Lane
  7. Terry’s Dumb Dot Story: A Treehouse Tale, by Andy Griffiths. $2, Pan Macmillan
  8. The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart, by Holly Ringland. $32.99, Harper Collins
  9. The Woman in the Window, by AJ Finn. $29.99, Harper Collins
  10. The Tattooist of Auschwitz, by Heather Morris. $29.99, Echo Publishing

Source: Nielsen Bookscan

Michael Rowland is the co-host of ABC News Breakfast, weekdays 6-9am on ABC TV.

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