I brought this home from the library to read because it was labelled biography, but the author's preface at the front of the book dashed my interest: I brought this home from the library to read because it was labelled biography, but the author's preface at the front of the book dashed my interest:
In general, the events and incidents related in this book happened, and the characters involved are people who lived and breathed in Louisa's time. However, to fill in the gaps and maintain the flow of the narrative, some parts were conceived for this purpose. Where Louisa provided a detailed account of an incident, it has been presented as closely as possible to her original, but throughout the story, dialogue, actions, attitudes and emotions have been invented to present what probably would have been the reality.
A quick look through at the prose style confirmed my suspicions that this was published by a vanity press. *sigh*...more
A new book is on my TBR: it’s called Into the Heart of Tasmania: A Search for Human Antiquity and it’s by historian Rebe Taylor. But as soon as I starA new book is on my TBR: it’s called Into the Heart of Tasmania: A Search for Human Antiquity and it’s by historian Rebe Taylor. But as soon as I started reading it, I knew I wanted to read her first book, so I reserved that at the library… and lo! it was available the very next day. This promptness made me think I could read the book at my leisure and renew it if necessary, but no, *pout* somebody else wants it now and I’ve ended up having to dash through the last half of it because it’s due back tomorrow. So Unearthed, the Aboriginal Tasmanians of Kangaroo Island is not going to get the review it deserves from me, because I now don’t have time to read it all.
(But actually what Unearthed really deserves is a proper review from a proper historian and there seems not to be one online, only an archived Hindsight program about it on the ABC, and one lonely 4-line review at Goodreads. How has this happened to a book nominated for the 2003 Dobbie, that tells such an interesting story?)
Maybe it’s because Kangaroo Island doesn’t seem so very important in the national consciousness? Yet it’s our third-largest island (after Tasmania and Melville Island), and it’s a bit bigger than Majorca and Long Island. It’s also the site of first European settlement in South Australia – a settlement which followed an Indigenous settlement that predates the loss of the land bridge about 10,000 years ago when sea levels rose, creating the body of water now known as Backstairs Passage, separating Kangaroo Island from the Fleurieu Peninsula. Its Aboriginal name was Karta, ‘Isle of the Dead’ and there is a Dreaming story which tells the story of the people who did not get away in time from the flooding.
The fascinating aspect of this island’s settlement history is that modern day descendants of the sealers and Aboriginal women who re-settled Kangaroo Island in the early 19th century had – until recently – no idea of their ancestors’ existence. The simplistic explanation for this seems to be that the sealers, their Aboriginal ‘wives’ and their way of life had been given such a bad press that their story was suppressed both by their embarrassed descendants and by the victors in the land-grab.
After the Bombing is a deceptive novel. At first I thought I was a bit disappointed by it. I picked it up at the library because the author’s name wasAfter the Bombing is a deceptive novel. At first I thought I was a bit disappointed by it. I picked it up at the library because the author’s name was familiar to me: Clare Morrall’s Astonishing Splashes of Colour was shortlisted for the Booker (in 2003) and I remembered liking it very much. But while I enjoyed After the Bombing enough for bedtime reading, it seemed to be ‘just a story’, if you know what I mean. But as that story percolated in my mind over the next day or so, I began to see more of its merits.
Wikipedia tells me that Morrall was born in Exeter in 1952, well after the Exeter Blitz that frames her story, but like me, she would have grown up hearing family stories about the German bombing from those who experienced it. Stories abut the terror of the raids, and then ”getting used to it. Stories about lucky escapes, and about family members killed or injured by the bombing. She would have seen streetscapes like those I saw as a small girl in London: gaps between the houses with weeds growing over remnants of rubble. For us they were places to play in a city where large play spaces were at a premium, but for the adults around us these gaps in the streetscape were where a neighbour had lived, a place reduced to rubble overnight. It wasn’t just the large-scale loss of homes, it was the destruction of community: if the occupants had survived, they had to find a home somewhere else and move away. My father, an evacuee who returned to London because of ill-treatment by his hosts, has spoken of his street and the gang of kids he played with, gradually disappearing – one house after another, one child after another – until finally his house – almost the last one in the street – was bombed, leaving only the back of it standing. That was when he had to move away from everything he had known to his grandparents’ house in a different, unscathed suburb…
Morrall has set her story in two time frames: the story of teenage girls at an Exeter boarding school damaged by the bombs, and then in the same school in the 1960s when one of the girls has grown up to become a music teacher there. This structure enables her to show the long-term impact of the war on the generation too young to fight but old enough to understand.
This is a terrific cook book. It's worth having for The Mushroom Lasagne with Roasted Peppers and Ricotta alone - it's my favourite dish to prepare foThis is a terrific cook book. It's worth having for The Mushroom Lasagne with Roasted Peppers and Ricotta alone - it's my favourite dish to prepare for large gatherings. I make a traditional Bolognese-based one as well, but the vegetarian one is the one that walks off the table and there's never any left over!...more
I know, I know, everybody else read NoViolet Bulawayo’s We Need New Names ages ago when it was shortlisted for the Booker and won a swag of awards inI know, I know, everybody else read NoViolet Bulawayo’s We Need New Names ages ago when it was shortlisted for the Booker and won a swag of awards in 2013. I meant to read it then but other things got in the way. Since there are now a zillion reviews out there already, I should keep this brief, but this book bothers me…
I did not like this book, but it was not until after I had written most of my review and went looking for a positive one to balance mine, that I discovered that it’s been the subject of an interesting debate.
Nigerian author Helon Habila (whose Waiting for an Angel I reviewed in 2013) in his review of We Need New Names has suggested that there is a current trend of ‘poverty-porn’ writing coming out of Africa...
I have rated this five stars because of the exquisite artwork of Charles Mikolaycak. This is the must-read version of the legend of Orpheus and EurydiI have rated this five stars because of the exquisite artwork of Charles Mikolaycak. This is the must-read version of the legend of Orpheus and Eurydice and I sorely wish I'd kept my copy instead of donating it to the school library. I'd borrowed it from the local library and then searched for my own copy. It's hard to find because it's long out of print but worth the search. ...more
always liked the dark humour of Hilary Mantel, and this early novel from 1989 is seriously good fun.
Fludd is set in 1950, in the dreary Northern millalways liked the dark humour of Hilary Mantel, and this early novel from 1989 is seriously good fun.
Fludd is set in 1950, in the dreary Northern mill village of Fetherhoughton where the brutish inhabitants have little to recommend them…
From the doorsteps the women stared at passers-by, and laughed. They knew a joke, when it was pointed out to them, but for the most part their entertainment lay in the discernment of physical peculiarities in those around them. They lived in hope of seeing a passer-by with a hunchback, knock knees or a harelip. They did not think that it was cruel to mock the afflicted, they thought it was perfectly natural; they were sentimental but pitiless, very scathing and unforgiving about any aberration, deviation, eccentricity or piece of originality. There was a spirit abroad in the village that discriminated so thoroughly against pretension that it also discriminated against ambition, even against literacy. (p.14)
The one advantage of this unprepossessing lot, as far as the parish priest Father Angwin is concerned, is that they leave him alone. This suits Father Angwin because he has lost his faith and since he can’t imagine any other kind of future, he is content to go through the motions with desultory masses for the local convent and his dour housekeeper Miss Dempsey. But alas for the priest, there is a new bishop full of enthusiasm, and when he turns up on a parish visit he is not best pleased by the statuary in the church. He takes exception to the tongs held by St Dunstan (who was working in a forge when the devil came to tempt him) and the pliers brandished by St Appollonia, (whose teeth were pulled out by the Romans, making her the patron saint of dentists) and St Agatha, carrying her breasts on a dish. She is the patron saint of bellringers because a little mistake was made with the shape. The bishop decrees that the statues are idols pandering to superstition and that they must go – and so there is a macabre little ceremony where the parishioners help with the burial in the church graveyard…
Venice is Book 2 in Nick Earls’ Wisdom Tree series of novellas; it follows Gotham which I reviewed last month.
The title is a reference to the Venice BVenice is Book 2 in Nick Earls’ Wisdom Tree series of novellas; it follows Gotham which I reviewed last month.
The title is a reference to the Venice Biennale, where an invitation to exhibit would be a highlight of any artist’s career. The narrator, Ryan, recently ‘let go’ from a downsized mining company, is eking out his separation payment by staying with his sister Natalie who is preoccupied with her chances at the Biennale, while her husband Phil is preoccupied with being a successful dentist. They are a very successful couple: she has an installation in the NGV; they have a Margaret Olley on the wall and a pool in the garden; there are wine fridges full of expensive French wine, and their living-dining area is the size of a house like mine. But they are not at all preoccupied by their four-year-old son Harrison. For his part, Harrison is preoccupied by his tablet.
Ryan, who keeps his thoughts to himself about all this, is worried about the amount of screen time that the child has, and the lack of meaningful interaction in his life. Harrison is programmed into a routine of events, with day care, swimming lessons and scheduled days with his mother – when she’s not too busy. And since Uncle Ryan is now the de facto manny (i.e. a male nanny) he discovers that Harrison isn’t the best swimmer in his group because (despite the pool) he doesn’t practise at home; and that he has not had a turn at show-and-tell at day-care because (as we all know) parents have to invest a bit of time in the selection of the item with which to show and tell. Ryan has not had a lot of practice at being an uncle, but he ad-libs and is able to turn to advantage events that come their way.
The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty (1998) is the first in a series about the McNulty family of Sligo, and is followed in chronological time (if not in pThe Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty (1998) is the first in a series about the McNulty family of Sligo, and is followed in chronological time (if not in publication history) by The Temporary Gentleman (2014) and The Secret Scripture (2008), which I read in 2008, the year it was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. I realise now that The Secret Scripture would have resonated differently if (like everyone else!) I had read The Whereabouts first… and I also now realise that I read The Whereabouts with knowledge of the fate of one of its characters too. Ah well, I don’t think my reading of either was compromised by reading the books out of order, and I can’t wait to read The Temporary Gentleman as well.
The Whereabouts is a story of a lost man, his life destroyed by the tortuous politics of Ireland. It seems ironic now that the book was published in the same year as the Good Friday Agreement (1998) negotiated by Mo Mowlam, (a remarkable woman to remember on International Women’s Day). It seems ironic because the finale to the novel suggests that old scores are always going to be settled one way or another, and peace in Ireland is a very fragile thing indeed, though the Agreement has held so far for almost two decades…
Eneas as a boy feels an affection for France in peril from the Kaiser. He is too young for the trenches so he ‘takes the King’s shilling’ and joins the merchant navy, only to find himself rejected on his return, when the war finishing was only the signal to the hidden men of Ireland to brew their own war. Eneas finds that it’s a sort of sorrow to him that Jonno Lynch will not greet the old going-about companion of his boyhood.
But there’s worse to come in all manner of things. A long year passes, a long round of weather and eating his mother’s grub. Eneas roams the town asking everywhere and anywhere for a job and finds oh, kindness here and there, but mostly indifferent no’s and even aggression. And gradually Eneas understands that the little rebellion that took place just recent in Dublin and other points, with barely a flare-up in Sligo, barely a flash of fire on the hill, has done nonetheless a great altering in the hearts and minds of the townspeople. (p.54)
Jack London’s name is familiar to many of us who read his dog stories as teenagers. I think I was just into my teens when I first read The Call of theJack London’s name is familiar to many of us who read his dog stories as teenagers. I think I was just into my teens when I first read The Call of the Wild and White Fang, and I think I read them at school, not from the bookshelves at home. What I didn’t know until I Googled for his dates just now and found his page at Wikipedia, was that Jack London was a much more versatile and socially progressive author than I had ever suspected:
John Griffith “Jack” London (born John Griffith Chaney) January 12, 1876 – November 22 was an American novelist, journalist, and social activist. A pioneer in the then-burgeoning world of commercial magazine fiction, he was one of the first fiction writers to obtain worldwide celebrity and a large fortune from his fiction alone, including science fiction.
Some of his most famous works include The Call of the Wild and White Fang, both set in the Klondike Gold Rush, as well as the short stories “To Build a Fire”, “An Odyssey of the North”, and “Love of Life”. He also wrote of the South Pacific in such stories as “The Pearls of Parlay” and “The Heathen”, and of the San Francisco Bay area in The Sea Wolf.
London was part of the radical literary group “The Crowd” in San Francisco and a passionate advocate of unionization, socialism, and the rights of workers. He wrote several powerful works dealing with these topics, such as his dystopian novel The Iron Heel, his non-fiction exposé The People of the Abyss, and The War of the Classes.
Knowing this, I can now see that even in this early work, London’s social conscience was at work…
Wikipedia describes The Call of the Wild as a novel, perhaps because it is written in chapters. But it is only 88 pages long, which makes it more of a short story – or perhaps a short novella than a novel.