‘Time has no meaning when you are trapped in a bottle.’
Centuries ago, humankind left earth. Ten thousand starships transported passengers to destinati‘Time has no meaning when you are trapped in a bottle.’
Centuries ago, humankind left earth. Ten thousand starships transported passengers to destinations throughout the galaxy. They took their literature with them, but much of this literature was lost in the period before the creation of the Galactic Commonwealth. While some stories, once known as the ‘Arabian Nights’ survived, those stories have changed over the centuries. Different versions of these stories have become folklore on barbarian worlds: the stories have been transformed or transmuted, corrupted or enhanced by the changing worlds they are told in. And now, they have been rediscovered.
In these thirteen stories, we read of the war between Men and Jinn, of Hafwen (sometimes Halfwen) and her story, of Nouredan and Nesjella, of Elgelt of Gloune, and Aubwoo. We learn (with Hekaib) that it is best not to be early for some appointments.
The stories vary in length, some stand alone, others are interwoven. Some characters we meet but once, while others appear in different stories. While my favourite is the story of Halfwen (or Hafwen), the story of Nouredan and Nesjella is the centrepiece of the collection. Definitely echoes of the ‘Arabian Nights’ and I was also reminded at times of some of Herodotus’s descriptions of peoples in ‘The Histories’.
I enjoyed reading this collection of stories, and am likely to reread at least some of them. In many ways, these are traditional stories in an alternative world setting. Is it science fiction? Not really, it’s more fantasy: the distant galactic future provides some (as yet) unknown possibilities, but these are secondary to the stories being recounted. If you enjoy short stories, if you enjoyed the ‘Arabian Nights’, you may well enjoy ‘1,001 Lightyears Entertainments’. I did.
‘He never again left the city, though on occasion he wondered what parts of his life were memories and what parts were dreams.’
Note: I was offered, and accepted, a copy of this book for review purposes.
Hester Larkspur’s will, leaving her home Red Barn Cottage in Suffolk, England to her goddaughter Josephine Tey has two codicils. Th‘Who is Lucy Kyte?’
Hester Larkspur’s will, leaving her home Red Barn Cottage in Suffolk, England to her goddaughter Josephine Tey has two codicils. The first requires Josephine to sort out her godmother’s papers and possessions and evaluate their worth; the second is to let someone named Lucy Kyte to take what she most needs from the cottage in the hope that it will bring her peace. The lawyer does not know who Lucy is, or where she may be.
When Josephine first visits the cottage, she finds it in a state of disrepair. Red Barn Cottage is named for a barn in which Maria Marten, a local woman, was murdered and buried over a century earlier. As a younger woman, Hester Larkspur had been a beautiful and popular actor, who was best known for her role in a play written about Maria’s murder. Hester had also collected a lot of memorabilia about the murder, and had written a diary containing a fictionalized account of Maria’s life, recounted by her friend.
‘It is a writer’s gift to know what has meaning in a person’s life, to decide what stories are worthy of being told..’
While reading the diary, Josephine learns more about Hester and Maria. But while Josephine is sorting through Hester’s possessions, and making the cottage more liveable, she becomes increasingly aware that there is something wrong.
Is it the cottage’s past that causes Josephine unease, or are more contemporary factors coming into play? While trying to meet the terms of her godmother’s will, Josephine is struggling to write a biography, and has some personal preoccupations as well.
I enjoyed this novel, with its subtle plotting and interesting twists and turns. We learn about Hester and her preoccupation with Maria Marten as Josephine Tey, acting as a detective, pieces together the past. I liked the gradual, atmospheric development of the story as it builds to what (for me, anyway) was a satisfying conclusion.
This is Nicola Upson’s fifth novel to feature real-life mystery writer Josephine Tey: I’ll be looking to read the other four as soon as I can.
‘I couldn’t live in a place where no one believed me.’
Daniel, aged 29, lives in London with his partner Mark. His parents, Chris and Tilde, have sold‘I couldn’t live in a place where no one believed me.’
Daniel, aged 29, lives in London with his partner Mark. His parents, Chris and Tilde, have sold their business and retired to a rural idyll in Sweden. As the novel opens, Chris rings Daniel to tell him that his mother has become psychotic and has been hospitalized. Daniel makes arrangements to fly to Sweden, but before he does so, Tilde contacts him and travels to London. There is nothing wrong with her, she tells Daniel. She is a victim of a conspiracy: people (including Chris) want her incarcerated because she knows too much.
‘Chronology is sanity.’
Much of the balance of the novel is between Daniel and Tilde as she sets out the evidence for her claims. Tilde claims that a neighbour by the name of Hakan Greggson has set out to befriend Chris and shame her, that his actions have brought together a group of people in order to discredit her, to have her locked up, to protect themselves. Daniel has to decide whether he can believe Tilde’s version of events or, should he believe his father? Is Tilde being victimised, or is she unwell and in need of treatment? Where (and what) is the truth?
‘There was a reason we were at this farm. We belonged here.’
Daniel has his own secrets, and so does Tilde. But can there be secrets in a situation when so much rides on truth? Who will Daniel believe, and what will the outcome be? How objective can Daniel be?
‘My defences crumbled. I told him everything.’
I couldn’t put this book down. It seemed that every time I turned the page I had a different possibility to consider. While Tom Rob Smith provides a narrative that can be read one way, and then another, Daniel needs to decide – quickly – what to do. I’m grateful for a timely rainy day that allowed me to read the book in one sitting.
‘I have the greatest and most terrible stories to tell.’
At the beginning of the 5th century AD, the Roman Empire is under threat. A new power is risin‘I have the greatest and most terrible stories to tell.’
At the beginning of the 5th century AD, the Roman Empire is under threat. A new power is rising in the east: barbarian warriors mounted on horseback, striking terror into those they confront. They are called the Huns.
In this novel, the first of a trilogy, Attila is a young boy being held hostage to ensure that the Huns continue to support the Romans. The sons of chiefs of other peoples are also held hostage: most of the defenders of Rome were formerly barbarians from one tribe or another, and hostages are one way of trying to guarantee peace. Rome has corrupted many of the hostages, but not Attila. While Attila is the source of friction between the Roman elite he also has supporters. His objective is to escape from Rome and its decadence and to return to his people.
‘You have to believe in something. So believe what is right.’
This novel is largely the story of Attila’s battle, against almost insurmountable odds, to make his way back home. But when he does finally return home, he finds even more challenges in front of him.
‘Do what is right, Attila.’
I’m intrigued. I enjoyed the first novel, and am about to start the second. I like (mostly) the Attila depicted by William Napier, and am curious to see how he progresses from teenager to being one of the most feared enemies of the Eastern and Western Roman Empires. I admit that I don’t know much about this period of history, so I’m enjoying the story without worrying about the factual setting. An enjoyable escapist read.
‘Have we not done the job of becoming our best selves?’
The title of this novel is drawn from a line in Shakespeare’s play, ‘Julius Caesar’. It’s a lin‘Have we not done the job of becoming our best selves?’
The title of this novel is drawn from a line in Shakespeare’s play, ‘Julius Caesar’. It’s a line from Act IV Scene II where Brutus speaks to convince Cassius that it is time to begin the battle against Octavius and Antony : ‘On such a full sea are we now afloat/ And we must take the current when it serves/Or lose our ventures.’ Sometimes (but not always) this line seems appropriate to the journey of Fan throughout this novel.
At some time in the future, after a period of decline, America is a rigidly class-stratified society. Urban neighbourhoods are now self-contained labour colonies. The labourers themselves are descendants of people brought over from provincial China, by then an environmental ruin. The lives of the labourers are given shape and purpose by their work which is to provide produce and fish to the small elite charter villages that surround the labour colony. Fan is a female fish-tank diver in the B-Mor settlement (once known as Baltimore). Fan leaves her home when Reg, the man she loves, disappears. Her journey in search of Reg takes her from B-Mor, through the anarchy of the Open Counties to a faraway charter village. Fan’s quest becomes a legend to those she leaves behind, and the narrative unfolds in a first person plural voice: the collective voice of those that Fan leaves behind in B-More.
‘A tale, like the universe, they tell us, expands ceaselessly each time you examine it, until there’s finally no telling exactly where it begins, or ends, or where it places you now.’
This novel is part quest and part dystopian fiction with hints, to me at least, of a futuristic morality play. I found elements of the narration irritating and yet, while I didn’t like the anonymity of a collective first person voice it seemed to very effectively convey Fan’s world. For me, it wasn’t Fan herself that made the story interesting, or even the (incomplete and sometimes hazy) world depicted. What held my attention was trying to work out how Fan was going to arrive at (and at which) one of three possible endings I imagined for her. But by the end of the novel, Fan as an individual was less important than her story, which itself became secondary to the language used in writing it.
And yet, while elements of the story are recognisable and familiar, it’s never comfortable. Fan is not a superhero and her ordinariness (in some aspects) is more unsettling than some of the challenges she meets during her travel. It’s hard to categorise this novel: it was an interesting journey but I’m not at all comfortable with its conclusion.
‘Now if we let Grizwall tell the whole story we would get lost in a timeless world, with no future or past..’
In this delightful book, written in memor ‘Now if we let Grizwall tell the whole story we would get lost in a timeless world, with no future or past..’
In this delightful book, written in memory of his dog Grizwall, Randy Dingwall alternates his own perspective of different events of a period of close to fourteen years with those of Grizwall. It’s easy to follow who is talking; Grizwall’s contribution is in an italic font accompanied by a photograph of him.
Grizwall was adopted from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) in Salmon Arm, British Columbia. From the photograph on the cover of the book, and Randy Dingwall’s description of him, Grizwall was a handsome looking big dog: ‘a lion’s mane protecting his throat and a white coat that took on a creamy color along his back.’
Randy and Grizwall have a series of adventures: from helicopter travel to exploring porcupines, Grizwall is a very curious dog and a very special companion. It’s not hard to imagine Randy Dingwall and Grizwall as a team.
Now they are elderly, my own dogs are less adventurous than Grizwall – for which I am grateful.
I enjoyed this book, and I think anyone who loves pets and especially those who have had a special dog (or two) in their lives would really enjoy Grizwall’s stories. This book brought a smile to my face on almost every page, and I felt like I knew Grizwall well before the end.
Yes, the presentation of the book would have benefitted from more careful proof reading. But the typos and occasional incorrect homophones didn’t really interfere with the flow of the story. In this collection of stories, meaning is more important than language.
By the end of the book, I wanted to know more about Grizwall. I’m hoping that Randy Dingwall will publish some more of his and Grizwall’s adventures.
Note: I was offered, and accepted, a copy of this book for review purposes. I am glad that I did.
‘Knowledge is power and now I just need to manage it.’
In this memoir, Tanya writes of both her childhood and adult experiences, neatly weaving both na‘Knowledge is power and now I just need to manage it.’
In this memoir, Tanya writes of both her childhood and adult experiences, neatly weaving both narratives together. Tanya is the eldest of three girls. She was born and raised in regional New South Wales where she and her family lived next door to her fraternal grandparents. Tanya and her sisters played piano at eisteddfods, were competitive swimmers with Olympic aspirations, worked at the family’s shoe stores and helped out on their grandparents’ farm.
One of the most significant events in her childhood occurred in 1990 when, just after the Lebanese Civil War ended, Tanya and her family spent three months in Lebanon visiting relatives.
At the age of thirty in 2008, Tanya Saad tested positive for BRCA1. This meant that she had inherited a gene which had greatly increased her risk of developing aggressive breast and (or) ovarian cancer.
In the period immediately before her diagnosis, Tanya lived in Canberra. She was pursuing both a career in the public sector and competitive bicycle road racing. Tanya had undertaken genetic testing as part of an hereditary cancer project after it was discovered that her father was a carrier of the faulty BRCA1 gene. Her family history revealed that a number of women, some aged in their early twenties, across several generations had died of breast or ovarian cancer. Both Tanya and her sister Paula had inherited the gene.
Tanya shares her thoughts and emotions as she comes to terms with the reality of being BRCA1 positive. Preventative options include a bilateral mastectomy and either a complete or partial salpingo-oophorectomy (the removal of the uterine tubes and ovaries). While this could reduce Tanya’s risk of developing cancer by up to ninety percent, it is a very confronting decision to make for a young and childless woman.
There’s a lot that is interesting and thought-provoking in this memoir. While I was reading the memoir primarily to learn more about Tanya’s life as a consequence of carrying the BRCA1 breast and ovarian cancer gene, I was interested in her experiences of ‘otherness’, of growing up in regional Australia where being of Lebanese heritage would ensure she stood out, and later of being a gay woman. And I was especially interested in reading how she took control of both the options she had and the decisions she needed to make.
Being confronted by BRAC1 and its consequences would be difficult for anyone. The choices are daunting, and the timeframes are often tight. I’d recommend Tanya Saad’s memoir to anyone facing these choices, but also to anyone interested in reading a thoughtful memoir by a young Australian woman who has had to make some difficult choices and who has done so with courage and grace.
Nathan Price is a college professor in Chicago, looking forward to a year’s sabbatical and uninterrupted research. Nathan‘You can only save so many.’
Nathan Price is a college professor in Chicago, looking forward to a year’s sabbatical and uninterrupted research. Nathan seeks escape in historical research, the past is free from personal problems, or so he thinks. As he opens a package of seventeenth century documents from an old Salem trading family, he finds a letter written by his best friend Jamie, who disappeared six months ago. The letter is dated 1692, contains a reference to Carthage in Wisconsin. How can this this be?
Nathan travels to Carthage in search of Jamie, meets Alanna and finds a refuge for himself. But all is not well in Carthage, which has some mysteries of its own. Some Carthaginians are missing, and as Nathan becomes more attracted to Alanna, he wants to know more about the mysteries of Carthage. Could Simon, the town elder, be involved in the mystery of those missing? Is Alanna safe? And what is the significance of 1692?
‘For someone who claimed to like her solitude, she had an awful lot of threads tying her to life.’
It is difficult to categorise this novel: it is mostly set in the present in Chicago and Wisconsin, but some aspects are set in the seventeenth century around the time of the Salem Witch Trials. Nathan and Alanna are the principal characters, each carrying their own demons and scars from the past. There are elements of mystery and time travel, of the blight that mental illness can cast over lives, of the redemptive power of love, and of the difficulties of choice. Christopher Zenos almost lost me early in the book, with talk of the slayage of trees and the fryage (of food), but I was intrigued by Nathan and wanted to know more about the mysterious people of Carthage. The story builds gradually and held my attention – through slayage and fryage and some improbabilities. And the ending? Well, it worked for me.
‘You have to live while you still have days of sunshine ahead of you.’
Note: I was offered and accepted a copy of this book for review purposes.
‘We should have been suspicious but he was beyond suspicion because of his collar.’
If anyone wonders about the need for the current (Australian) Royal‘We should have been suspicious but he was beyond suspicion because of his collar.’
If anyone wonders about the need for the current (Australian) Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, which was established in January 2013, reading this book will certainly help answer that question.
The role of the Royal Commission is to investigate how institutions like schools, churches, sports clubs and government organisations have responded to allegations and instances of child sexual abuse. It’s a big investigation.
‘The hierarchy had so many chances to do the right thing.’
Chrissie Foster’s focus in this book (published in 2010) is on justice for her family. Chrissie and Anthony Foster had three daughters: Emma, Katie and Aimee. Chrissie, a Catholic, and Anthony were committed to bringing their children up in the Catholic faith, which included intending Catholic schools. Unfortunately for the Foster family, the presbytery attached to the girls’ school was occupied by an active paedophile, Father Kevin O’Donnell. Apparently, Father O’Donnell’s proclivities were known to the church: he had been moved from parish to parish to avoid negative publicity for the church. I wonder how many additional children were abused as a consequence of the church’s actions? How many lives have been destroyed, lost or scarred?
‘We view the Church hierarchy as we do the paedophile – as cruel and possessing a heart of stone.’
Two of the Foster daughters fell victim to O’Donnell, and Chrissie and Anthony Foster began a battle to find out what had happened. Unfortunately, the Fosters were to discover that the church was more interested in protecting its own, and itself, than the children it had promised to love and protect.
This book is the story of the Foster’s struggle. It is heartbreaking to read, and hard to reconcile this vision of an uncaring institution with Christianity as espoused by Christ. Once can only hope that the Royal Commission, with all its power and resources, will be able to help all victims, and make the institutions responsible accountable for the actions of their representatives.
This is not an easy book to read: the subject matter is confronting and the presentation is sometimes patchy. But I admire Chrissie and Anthony Foster immensely for continuing their fight for justice, and I’m glad that the Commonwealth Government established a Royal Commission. The Catholic Church is not the only institution that needs to be investigated, sadly there will be many similar stories of how powerless, innocent children were abused and not protected.
‘Children: our joy, our future and our greatest yet most vulnerable treasure.’
‘In seeking to understand death, we are seeking to understand life.’
Bianca Nogrady, an accomplished science journalist, began this book partly as a qu‘In seeking to understand death, we are seeking to understand life.’
Bianca Nogrady, an accomplished science journalist, began this book partly as a quest to try to find answers she had to some questions about her grandmother’s experience of death. Ms Nogrady’s investigation has led her to investigate culture, ethics, history, medicine, philosophy and science. Her assumption is that the more we know about death and the process of dying, the less we will have to fear from it. The question ‘Why do we have to die?’ is one which Ms Nogrady sees as having two parts: ‘Why can’t we live forever?’ and ‘Why don’t we live forever?’
‘It would be easy if we could pinpoint a single, universal moment that delineates the point of transition between life and death, but the reality is quite the opposite.’
The book examines some of the myths associated with popular ideas about death, includes some accounts from those who returned from the brink of death, and notes that there can be no firsthand experience of death. One of the big challenges is defining death, which Ms Nogrady illustrates by recounting the ancient parable of how six blind men each have different experiences of their encounter with an elephant. One elephant, six very different experiences. Medical advances, especially in the field of intensive care, over the past one hundred and fifty years have complicated the business of dying by altering the parameters seen as defining life. Death is better described as a process than as an event.
‘In modern medicine, death is the enemy, and if a patient dies it’s tantamount to failure.’
Ms Nogrady explains complex processes (such as whole brain death versus brain stem death, and the importance of each) clearly. The issues around defining death now have a medico-legal significance that can complicate an individual’s choices and preferences immeasurably.
Thinking about death is, for many of us, difficult. We have our own notions about what constitutes ‘a good death’, our own beliefs about what will happen afterwards. In this book, Ms Nogrady explores our understanding of death from a number of different aspects, including opinions from medical experts, from those who have survived near-death experiences, from those who counsel and support the dying and their families. It’s a well written book which provides both a lot of worthwhile information and plenty of food for thought. I’m glad I read it.
‘This book began partly as a quest to find answers to the questions I had about my nan’s experience of death. At the end of this process, I believe I have found some of those answers.’
‘That’s not the way life works. You don’t get warning of the things that will change you.’
Shortly after 9.30am on the 18th of April 2011, a young man‘That’s not the way life works. You don’t get warning of the things that will change you.’
Shortly after 9.30am on the 18th of April 2011, a young man walked into a shopping centre in Bondi. No one pays him much attention, until he starts to run. This novel, written some time later from the point of view of Father Paul Doherty (a former priest and police chaplain), tells us about that day and the events that led to it.
Father Paul tells the story of Ali Khan, and how he came to be locked in a lingerie store with four other people with a bomb chained around his neck. We learn about Ali through the stories of those whose lives touched his: including the aid worker who took pity on him in Tanzania, and the self-righteous home stay volunteer who ‘rescued’ him from immigration detention. We also learn something about the lives of the other four people locked in the store.
What does Ali want? He seems either unable or unwilling to speak making it is difficult for the police to negotiate. Time is passing by, and while the police (with the aid of technology) work out who is in the store, they are still no closer to resolving the situation. And then, one of the people trapped in the store tries to reach out to Ali. What will happen next?
The tension has built throughout the story; each new piece of information casts new light on Ali. Is he a villain, or a victim?
I found this a challenging novel to read. While I felt moved by the terrible situation that Ali Khan was in, I felt manipulated by some aspects of the story. Still, the treatment of refugees (and those seeking refugee status) is a topical issue in Australia at present, and thinking more about the people and issues involved cannot be a bad thing. The other characters who have a part in this story represent a broad spectrum of what is good and bad in our society, as well as the barely visible spaces occupied by those who speak no (or little) English.
This is Caroline Overington’s fifth novel: I’ve yet to read the others.
‘This is a story about life and death, a memoir based on a part of my history about which I never imagined writing.‘
In this memoir, Mary Coustas takes‘This is a story about life and death, a memoir based on a part of my history about which I never imagined writing.‘
In this memoir, Mary Coustas takes us on a journey through three significant deaths that have shaped her life. This memoir incorporates Mary’s memories of those who died and celebrates the lives of those who have been part of her life’s journey so far.
‘But loss has driven me to find answers in what remains, to airlift myself to a place that serves me better than helplessness and misery. To reach out. This is my love letter to what lives on beyond the devastation.’
Mary’s journey is at times heartbreaking, but it is also filled with observation, gentle humour and is ultimately uplifting. While losses are acknowledged and remembered, the future holds its own promise. Mary recounts her childhood in Collingwood and Doncaster, knowing that her beloved father had already suffered heart attacks and could die at any time. And when he did die, she missed him terribly.
‘The death of my father had left a void that hadn’t been filled by the birth of anything new.’
Mary writes of her choice to be an actor, of the success of her character Effie in ‘Acropolis Now’, of personal expectations, of visiting her maternal grandmother in Greece with her mother. There’s a beautiful scene with her grandmother and mother, and a growing sense of the importance of family connections and heritage. By the time that she dies, her grandmother has lived in the same house for over seventy years. She may not have travelled much in any physical sense, but her influence is enormous.
‘Letting go is an even bigger sign of love than begging for more when time won’t allow it.’
But the main focus of Mary’s memoir is on her meeting, then in 2005 marrying, George Betsis, and six weeks later discovering that she is infertile. Much of the remainder of the memoir talks of the challenges of undergoing IVF treatment, of disappointment followed by pregnancy, of the difficulties of that pregnancy and the stillbirth of her daughter, Stevie, and of the support of family and friends.
‘I know that death is only ever a breath away and having witnessed that myself has only awakened me to living more fully.’
It’s important to me to mention that since writing this book Mary and George have become parents: their daughter Jamie was born on 28 November 2013. I knew this when I read the book, but I had little idea of the difficulties Mary and George had encountered along the way.
This book made me laugh, and cry, and I would recommend it to anyone interested either in Mary Coustas specifically, or IVF experiences and life more generally.
‘Fantasy comes with a very thin façade that disappointment often hides behind.’
‘The Department of External Affairs was an ephemeral creature before 1935.’
The Department of External Affairs was reconstituted in 1935, re-named the ‘The Department of External Affairs was an ephemeral creature before 1935.’
The Department of External Affairs was reconstituted in 1935, re-named the Department of Foreign Affairs in 1970, and re-named the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in 1986 following an amalgamation with the Department of Trade.
This book contains a number of first-hand accounts of the lives and times of women who sometimes accompanied (but often followed) their husbands on overseas posting during the period between the 1940s and the 1960s. The book also includes accounts from some of the women who worked within the Department. It also contains insights into Australian history, Australia’s participation in world affairs and public sector employment-related gender issues during the first six decades of the twentieth century.
It’s an interesting read. The women whose accounts are included often faced many challenges just to get to a particular post: travel (especially during the 1940s) was not easy, and it seems that little official support (physical or financial) was provided to families.
While I enjoyed reading the accounts of travel to and from posts, and adapting to life overseas, I was most interested in Tonia Shand and Beatrice Scobie’s account of the removal of the marriage bar in 1966.
When I joined the Australian Public Service in 1979, the removal of the marriage bar was still a topical issue. Many women had sacrificed their careers in order to marry, while others had remained single in order to remain permanently employed.
I’d recommend this book to anyone interested in the role of women in both the diplomatic service and in the Australian public service more generally. I can’t resist including these quotes from a Commonwealth of Australia Minute dated 13 March 1963, which is an appendix to the book. The topic is ‘Women Trade Commissioners?’ and the opening sentence reads:
‘Even after some deliberation, it is difficult to find reasons to support the appointment of women Trade Commissioners.’
There are nine points (in roman numerals of course) – ‘It is much easier to find difficulties, some of which spring to mind are:-
‘ (viii) A spinster lady can, and often does turn into something of a battleaxe with the passing years. A man usually mellows; (1963)’
I’d like to think that we’ve come a long way since 1963!
The author, Rachel Miller, accompanied her husband on seven postings over four decades and collaborated with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in researching and writing this book.
‘Zakka, which translates to “many things”, refers to objects that improve your home, life or appearance.’‘Colorful Zakka projects to stitch and give.’
‘Zakka, which translates to “many things”, refers to objects that improve your home, life or appearance.’ This book contains nineteen small patchwork projects, things that can be made from scraps of fabric - those tempting, gorgeous small pieces of fabric that have too much potential to discard - and assorted fat quarters. I was drawn to the book by the cute pincushions on the cover, but there are at least four other projects I’d like to make.
In a very helpful, cheerful chapter on tools and materials, the author advises that only a basic sewing machine is required. All you really need is a machine that can do straight stitch with an adjustable stitch length, and a zigzag stitch. A walking foot for quilting will be handy (although I suspect a number of quilters would like to do some of these projects by hand). The other items – including a rotary cutter and mat – would be part of any patch worker or quilter’s inventory of supplies.
There’s a wonderful chapter on techniques, and paper-piecing is well explained. There are diagrams and templates for the applique and quilt pieces, and the projects detail the order of assembly. A possible drawback for some may be the need to enlarge the templates –especially if you don’t have easy access to a copier.
Many of these projects would appeal to those new to patchwork and quilting, and would be a great way to practice cutting and piecing skills.
I’ve fallen in love with the ‘You’ve Got Mail Wall Pocket’ (a wall hanging measuring 52 by 70 cm) and the ‘Swedish Bloom-Time Lap Quilt’, while the ‘Yum Yum Apple Bib’ and the ‘Prettified Pincushion’ would make great presents. Hmm. Where to start? I’ll let my fabric decide.
In 1909, Ruth Adele (‘Dellie’) Standard has to make a choice. She’s torn between a promise she made to her mother to le‘You have an accent now, soul.’
In 1909, Ruth Adele (‘Dellie’) Standard has to make a choice. She’s torn between a promise she made to her mother to leave Barbados, and her loyalty to her younger brothers and sisters. Dellie is torn between the unknown – the promise of a better life in America, and the known - the hard work associated with the sugar cane crop. Dellie, already unsettled by her mother’s death and the fact that her boyfriend Pendril Stoute is planning to go to sea, has a horrifying encounter with the master of the sugar plantation on which her family are tenants. Dellie , hoping to find employment as a seamstress, packs her sewing basket and follows her sister Lillian to Brooklyn, New York.
Life in New York is not easy. Dellie is made welcome by Lillian and her husband, Coleridge, and their friend Winnie, but their landlady Mrs Cumberbatch is difficult. Initially, Dellie has difficulty finding work, and is made very aware of inequality in America but eventually she finds her own way. Along the way, despite never forgetting Pendril Stoute, Dellie marries Owen Gibson, an African American Pullman porter with his own dreams of advancement. It seems to be a marriage of convenience for Dellie rather than a love match. What does the future hold for Dellie and Owen? Can they achieve their dreams? Will she ever see Pendril again?
In this, her debut novel, Ms Carey reconstructs her grandmother’s life, bringing both her hardships and dreams to life. Early twentieth century history provides the structure, memories of her grandmother and her grandmother’s precious possessions (letters and treasures kept in an old black leather handbag) provide the personal dimension and connection to Dellie’s world.
I enjoyed this novel, felt drawn into Dellie’s world with its joys, hardships, tragedies and setbacks, and kept hoping for Dellie to find lasting happiness. There is more to Dellie’s story, and I hope that Ms Carey writes it for us. It’s a reminder of recent history, of earlier waves of migration, of discrimination and hardships suffered in search of hope.
‘Not all of what I have written is factual. But all of it is true.’
Note: I was offered, and accepted, a copy of this book for review purposes.
Footnoote: In an interview, published on her website (http://nearthehope.com/about-the-author/), Jennifer Davis Carey writes that this book was loosely based on her grandmother’s life as an immigrant from the small island of Barbados. Her grandmother had saved the correspondence between her and her father, and the author still has those letters. The letters from her father all bear the address ‘Taborvilla, Near the Hope’. To Jennifer Davis Carey, the phrase ‘near the hope’ resonated not just as an address or district in Barbados buts as a metaphor for her grandmother’s longings as well as those of the millions of other immigrants who came to America. ...more
‘You got to play the game with the uniform God done give you.’
In 1946 Precious Anne Sprately is a young woman isolated within the black community in w‘You got to play the game with the uniform God done give you.’
In 1946 Precious Anne Sprately is a young woman isolated within the black community in which she lives in Virginia. Precious is a child born of rape, a mulatto in a community in which blacks and whites live separate lives. Precious is mostly unwanted and unloved: her mother pays her little attention, her mother’s husband can’t stand looking at her, and the black community taunts her because of her lighter coloured skin. When her brother Dred, her only ally, is found hanging from a tree, Precious looks for a way to escape.
‘At all costs, she had to feel free.’
Precious decides to take advantage of her lighter coloured skin, and moves to a distant town where she passes as a white woman. Here, while fitting into the white community, Precious learns how badly African Americans are treated. Here, Precious learns conclusively that there are those who are oppressed, and those that do the oppressing. Can Precious have her own safe and happy place in the world? Is it possible?
‘Desolate, angry Negro people who sat there pondering everything and nothing at the same time.’
I read this book quickly, hoping that Precious could find happiness and anxious to see how she would live her life. I was drawn in by the story, and wanted more – until almost the end of the story. I was thrown out of the story part way through Chapter 12, angered by a choice Precious made. And, while I am still angered by Precious’s choice, the story itself seems stronger as a consequence. There were no easy choices in the world of this novel, and certainly no choices without consequences.
This novel made me think, about the inequities of life where the colour of a person’s skin (or some other racial characteristic) defines the options people have and the choices they can make. It made me wonder how much, really, the world has changed since 1946.
Note: I was offered, and accepted, a copy of this book for review purposes.