Kate DiCamillo will surely go down in history as one of the great children's authors of the late 20th/early 21st century. This perfect short novel capKate DiCamillo will surely go down in history as one of the great children's authors of the late 20th/early 21st century. This perfect short novel captures both the deepest fears and the surprising wonders of childhood, embodied in the characters of three young girls, unlikely friends, who meet at exactly the moment they most need each other. At times, this curious, fey, prickly, fierce and vulnerable trio reminded me of the friendship of Beth Ellen, Janie and Harriet from Louise Fitzhugh's under-rated The Long Secret, but each (Raymie, Louisiana and Beverly) are also their own glorious creation.
Set in 1975, before mobile phones and helicopter parenting ruined a kid's chances to have adventures, Raymie Nightingale is unsentimental and unflinching in its insistence that sometimes everything doesn't work out the way we want, but that other things, and people—and sometimes minor miracles bordering on the magical—can still happen (although the latter probably only when you're 10). I loved this book, I love these girls, and the author's note at the end made me cry. Oh so very recommended....more
Like many others, I came to this book after having watched, and loved, the TV adaptation. I wasn't expecting it to be structured as a series of connecLike many others, I came to this book after having watched, and loved, the TV adaptation. I wasn't expecting it to be structured as a series of connected (some more strongly than others) short stories, but once I knew what I was dealing with, this enhanced my pleasure.
Olive is a remarkable achievement; perhaps one of the most superficially difficult to like characters you're likely to meet, she nevertheless is drawn with such skill, tenderness and insight by Strout, that I came to deeply care for her. I suspect the book will resonate strongly with older readers who have reached a point in life where one is simultaneously puzzled as to how one got here, and coming to terms disappointments and regret. It is a melancholy book in many respects, but profoundly beautiful in both its prose and its compassion....more
Newly short-listed by the CBCA, this is very fine, measured and at times beautiful writing in a kind of dystopian mode for older children and youngerNewly short-listed by the CBCA, this is very fine, measured and at times beautiful writing in a kind of dystopian mode for older children and younger teens. It offers a great deal to think about in terms of belief and how a desire for social order and safety can lead to dangerous choices and the sacrifice of ethics. Am also in PhD mode very interested in the function of landscape in the story (although it's not fantasy so doesn't really fit my criteria) and in feminist mode am intrigued by gender roles in the society it depicts. ...more
Years ago, when I was writing an article about the great Bidjigal warrior Pemulwuy for The School Magazine, a fellow from the Aboriginal education uniYears ago, when I was writing an article about the great Bidjigal warrior Pemulwuy for The School Magazine, a fellow from the Aboriginal education unit told me—well, he told me many things, but the one that stayed with me was the idea that the Land will always remain true to itself. It must have been about exactly 20 years ago, because it was after the Port Arthur massacre, and he told me how that Land had always been a place of blood to its original people, and that it had come as no surprise to them that, if such a thing were to happen in Tasmania, that is where they would expect it to be.
The Land that we Sydney folk call the Botanical Gardens was, he also told me, a place of ceremony, and so sacred that even the blundering white invaders instinctively felt its power and left it untouched, and undeveloped, despite its prime Harbourside location that would make someone beyond a fortune if it were ever sold off.
I don't know if Patricia Wrightson was ever told this, but if she wasn't, then she too was clearly sensitive to its significance: at the heart of An Older Kind of Magic is the intention of a wealthy man, who owns department stores and newspapers and television stations (but not, it is true, a casino), to reclaim the Gardens for car parks, for in his estimation, the City will die without cars.
One of the things I have been discussing with my supervisor Brooke (she is my co-supervisor and an Aboriginal woman) is how, for Australia's First Nations people, time is not a line, but a cloth that folds in and over upon itself.
I feel a little like I was folded into that cloth today, reading a novel I last read probably 40 or more years ago, and finding how much I remembered of it, and mapping it over a city I know so well, and remembering the stories and knowledge my Aboriginal friends and colleagues have been so generous in sharing with me over the years.
This is why literature is my heart, and why, when I remember it, I love study and research so much....more
This was my first taste of Amy Bloom, after hearing wonderful things about her novel Lucky Us (currently reading). I enjoy short stories a lot, but haThis was my first taste of Amy Bloom, after hearing wonderful things about her novel Lucky Us (currently reading). I enjoy short stories a lot, but have become used to a more elusive, open-ended and incidental, if I may slightly misuse the word, style of short-story writing that seems to be common, at least among Australian writers of the literary short story. Bloom's stories are narratively and structurally reasonably straightforward and conventional, but the stories and characters are anything but. There's depth and guts to these stories of grief, death, sex, adultery, passion and love—and not all those apparent dualities always go together—of parents and children, thwarted dreams and ageing. But they're not all high drama, either—there's a lightness to Bloom's hand, and a wry humour lurking that at times belies (in a good way) the darkness at heart. A number of the stories are grouped, or cycles, such as the four stories dedicated to the adulterous love affair of William and Clare.
Perhaps my favourites of the collection (most of these stories have been published elsewhere) is the one with the least humour—the penultimate story in the collection, a stand-alone story of unbearable grief and loss called By-and-by—and the final story, a bittersweet reflection on what-might-have-been, called Where the God of Love Hangs Out. But then, I did love William and Clare's stories (or rather, I came to love them, and was surprised by how deeply affected I was by the final instalment of their love affair), and the clearly, to this reader, angrily feminist When the Year Grows Old. Bloom's characters often startle—just when you think you have a clear sense of a given character, something new and surprising, yet always true, is revealed, through speech or thought or deed. These are stories I will want to go back and re-read (so I'll have to buy a copy—this was a library book), not just for their craft (her prose is lucid, her pacing and narrative tension pitch perfect, her story arcs masterful), but to spend time again with these richly drawn, intensely human characters.
I may at some point in the near future be rational enough of mind to write a review of this book, but right now, I am just too overwhelmed with its beI may at some point in the near future be rational enough of mind to write a review of this book, but right now, I am just too overwhelmed with its beauty and honesty to do little more than mewl my adoration and thanks....more