Thanks to Sonia who posted a comment during Indigenous Literature Week in 2015, I have had Marie Munkara’s novella A Most Peculiar Act on my radar forThanks to Sonia who posted a comment during Indigenous Literature Week in 2015, I have had Marie Munkara’s novella A Most Peculiar Act on my radar for a while, and I was lucky that with great timing for #IndigLitWeek & #NAIDOC it came into the library this week. Set during WW2 in the prelude to the Japanese bombing of Darwin, it’s only 169 pages long, but this witty satirical novel certainly packs a punch…
The ‘peculiar act’ referred to in the title is the Aboriginal Ordinances Act of 1918, and in what amounts to a stroke of political and literary genius, Munkara has structured her novella around clauses from this act at the beginning of each chapter of the book. So Chapter 1, titled ‘Horrid Hump’ alerts the reader to the provisions of Part 1 of the act, establishing that there will be a Chief Protector appointed by the Administrator of the Northern Territory and that it shall be the duty of the Chief Protector –
(f) to exercise a general supervision and care over all matters affecting the welfare of the aboriginals, and to protect them against immorality, injustice, imposition and fraud.
And then with high farce the reader is introduced to the man who fulfils this role:
Although he never lacked in enthusiasm, Horatio Humphris (Horrid Hump to every one else) was a man with ambitions that far outweighed his capabilities. […] He didn’t get the fact that his appointment had nothing to do with skill or intelligence but everything to do with sticking him in a place where his ineptitude wouldn’t make too much impact on the machinations of the public service. […] everyone knew that if there was one thing you could rely on Horrid Hump to do it was to b—— things up. So the rationale behind his appointment was that he wouldn’t be able to b—— up a situation that was already b——ed. (p.9-10)
(Yes, there is a bit of lively language in this book, and since this is a family friendly blog I don’t reproduce language that may offend – but it is very funny!)
Well, to say that Horrid Hump fails miserably to protect the Aborigines in his charge is an understatement.
There’s a certain synchronicity about finishing this book today, the very day on which I attended the History Writers’ Festival at Readers’ Feast, wheThere’s a certain synchronicity about finishing this book today, the very day on which I attended the History Writers’ Festival at Readers’ Feast, where one of the topics under discussion was the issue of historical truth. Because this novel, The Profilist, is a splendid example of playing with the historical truth to tell a riveting story, the story of our fledgling nation, through the observant eyes of an artist. This novel brings history alive…
Samuel Thomas Gill was a real-life English artist who migrated to Australia in 1839 with his parents and siblings, and you can read all about him at the Australian Dictionary of Biography Online. You can also see dozens of his goldfields landscapes if you do an image search using his name. What Adrian Mitchell has so cleverly done is to imagine the voice of a character called Ethan Dibble who’s a man ‘very like’ Samuel Gill. He travels to the same places, he paints the same scenes, he suffers very similar setbacks in his life, and he dies the same undignified death on the steps of the Melbourne Post Office. But where the real Samuel Gill’s legacy comprises wonderful sketches, lithographs and watercolours of life in the new Australian colonies, the imaginary Ethan Dibble’s droll observations form a journal that is a delight to read, each chapter introduced by a relevant painting from Gill’s oeuvre.
Wayne Macauley is the author of The Cook, a dark and funny satire which I read and reviewed a year or so ago just as Macauley was starting to gain anWayne Macauley is the author of The Cook, a dark and funny satire which I read and reviewed a year or so ago just as Macauley was starting to gain an international profile, but I have had Blueprints for a Barbed-wire Canoe and Caravan Story on my TBR for ages. I bought them when I heard that Blueprints for a Barbed-wire Canoe was included in Year 12 reading lists and I was intrigued by the title.
I enjoyed The Cook but I found that Blueprints for a Barbed-wire Canoe was a more thought-provoking book. I finished it two books ago and (apart from the fact that I’ve been AWOL online this week due to some pressing commitments) this absurdist novella’s been swirling around in my brain bothering me ever since I finished it at half past one in the morning on Monday night (which hasn’t helped with the pressing commitments). Like The Cook, Blueprints for a Barbed-wire Canoe is a satire, one which attacks the sacrosanct Great Australian Home Ownership Dream, and Macauley uses lashings of black humour to make his point. It’s deeply unsettling.
Narrated by Bram, the story takes the reader to a strange alternative society that has formed in a satellite housing development marooned beyond the outskirts of Melbourne. Originally planned as a model suburb, the development stalled because a promised freeway and fuel subsidy failed to materialise, so the car-dependant projected population never materialised either. Before long nearly all of the residents leave because the place is unliveable: no transport links, miles from anywhere, and almost nothing in the way of amenities such as parks, schools, medical services, shops or eateries so there are no local jobs to be had.
But a small core of disgruntled residents remain, obstinately clinging to the belief that the promised freeway will be built and their dreams restored. As the development decays, the situation becomes macabre: there is no electricity; a failed sewage system produces a foul stench; the streets are filthy, and vandals from the nearest town do the moronic things that vandals usually do. Into this profoundly unaesthetic environment Macauley places a motley collection of characters who form a bizarre little community.
Simon Cleary’s second novel, Closer to Stone is a stunning novel. It opens in Casablanca, where (as shown in the Sensational Snippet that I posted onSimon Cleary’s second novel, Closer to Stone is a stunning novel. It opens in Casablanca, where (as shown in the Sensational Snippet that I posted on my blog last week) the central character Bas Adams is overwhelmed by a culture completely alien to a country boy from The Springs near Toowoomba. He is on a quest to find his missing brother.
Bas has lived in the shadow of his more impressive older brother since childhood. The boys’ bombastic father makes no attempt to conceal his preference for Jack, who has fulfilled the family’s military destiny by becoming a peace-keeper with the UN in the Western Sahara. It is unthinkable that his mysterious disappearance could be desertion. Bas is expected to put his (by inference, trivial) work as a sculptor on hold and to find out what’s happened. And despite some vaguely ambivalent feelings, Bas, because he loves his brother, does what he’s told. He’s not a psychologically strong personality like his brother, he’s a follower.
Deserts, despite dangers well-known to any Aussie, seem to be romantic places, and Cleary masterfully evokes the ascetic beauty of the Sahara and its isolated settlements. Images from the films The English Patient and Lawrence of Arabia spring to mind; we feel the winds, we can almost taste the gritty sands. A laconic Aussie called Logan at the military base, and a chance meeting with a beautiful American volunteer called Sophe provide leads, and Bas – no longer alone – sets off for places ever more remote.
Memoirs of a Suburban Girl is not a memoir, it’s a novel, but the author has based this remarkable story on her own life experience and it is compelliMemoirs of a Suburban Girl is not a memoir, it’s a novel, but the author has based this remarkable story on her own life experience and it is compellingly authentic. Wakefield Press released it in November to coincide with White Ribbon Day, a men’s campaign against domestic violence, and I think it should be widely read. I’d like to see governments issue a free copy to every young girl the way they provide free Gardisil…
I picked it up late last night ‘just to have a little look at it’, and could not stop reading it. What could have been a dreary memoir is a riveting tale that is impossible to put down (even when you know you should turn the light out because you have to go to work in the morning). It’s described in the publisher’s blurb as ‘a cautionary tale of an everyday girl who takes a wrong turn’ and what is shocking is the way the teenage girl is so easily charmed by the sadistic older man, and then so easily intimidated into being afraid to leave him.
Usually when I read a book that the book group is discussing later in the year I take copious notes as I read, but The Street Sweeper, Eliot Perlman'sUsually when I read a book that the book group is discussing later in the year I take copious notes as I read, but The Street Sweeper, Eliot Perlman's latest novel had me so absorbed, I just didn't want to stop reading. At 544 pages it's a long book, but it held my attention throughout.
In a fractured world where people seem less and less connected to each other, Perlman's story shows us that we can be drawn together by the networks of history and our common humanity. Indeed, despite the barriers of modern life, it may well be that we have more in common with the strangers that we brush up against than we suspect. And although the author builds his plot around the greatest crime of the 20th century - the Holocaust - and the most persistent social problem of America's history - its pernicious racism - it is a profoundly optimistic work, celebrating compassion, courage and truth.
Charlotte Wood is an impressive Aussie author. The ANZ LitLovers book group has read and enjoyed discussing both her novels, The Submerged Cathedral aCharlotte Wood is an impressive Aussie author. The ANZ LitLovers book group has read and enjoyed discussing both her novels, The Submerged Cathedral and The Children. (See my review of that one at http://anzlitlovers.wordpress.com/200...). Wood is a sharp and witty observer of human frailty, and her mastery of characterisation is superb.
Character is what drives Animal People. Readers of The Children will remember Stephen: he is the loser, the ‘hopeless’ one, the one who dithers about going nowhere. In a dynamic family Stephen was a drifter and he drove his siblings to distraction. Charlotte Wood has made this character and a single day in his so-ordinary life the focus of Animal People. Perhaps contrary to expectation, it works perfectly.
Child’s Play, David Malouf’s fourth novel, was first published in 1982, but it’s still in print. Although it is, like many of his other novels, focussChild’s Play, David Malouf’s fourth novel, was first published in 1982, but it’s still in print. Although it is, like many of his other novels, focussed on the themes of ‘male identity and soul-searching’  it is certainly a departure from his other early works because it takes us back to the days of the Bologna Bombing in 1980 and the activities of the Red Brigades. (Malouf lived in Tuscany for part of his early career). It’s a chilling portrait of a terrrorist, planning his attack, somewhere in Italy in a town named only as P. The young man who narrates the story has been recruited to assassinate ‘one of Italy’s most beloved men of letters’. To see the rest of my review please visit http://anzlitlovers.wordpress.com/201...
This is an interesting book. Autobiographical in origin, it’s a coming-of-age novel which explores the angst of a teenage girl brought up in the MennoThis is an interesting book. Autobiographical in origin, it’s a coming-of-age novel which explores the angst of a teenage girl brought up in the Mennonite sect. Nomi Nickel’s family has been torn apart because her mother and sister have left town while she – longing to escape the strictures of her religion – is still at home with her father and trying to solve the mystery of their sudden departure.
Narrated from Nomi’s point-of-view, A Complicated Kindness reveals the harshness, inflexibility and hypocrisy of the Mennonite Faith as she sees it . Nomi is both naïve and worldly-wise and she has the usual ambitions of a teenager, but her life is circumscribed by strict rules and the fear of eternal damnation. No dancing, make-up or fraternisation - and excommunication (shunning) for those who break the rules To read the rest of my review, please visit http://anzlitlovers.wordpress.com/201... http://tinyurl.com/3ftgfuu ...more
I like David Lodge, and this rating is probably not fair. But I had just read The Masterby Colm Toibin, and this so feeble by comparison, I couldn't mI like David Lodge, and this rating is probably not fair. But I had just read The Masterby Colm Toibin, and this so feeble by comparison, I couldn't make myself continue reading it. I might try it again one day......more