Peter Carey's usual mix of something a little bit mysterious and criminal, and something ironically funny, His Illegal Self is a great little comical...morePeter Carey's usual mix of something a little bit mysterious and criminal, and something ironically funny, His Illegal Self is a great little comical romp involving an inadvertent kidnapping. Che (He insists on being called "Chay" whereas his grandparents call him "Jay") is snatched from his wealthy grapndparents' custody by a friend of his outlaw mother ostensibly for a short visit. When the mother unexpectantly dies, the friend, an Ivy League student from Australia named "Dial", panics and takes him back to Australia to live in a commune. It's the '70's and they refer to themselves as "hippies" even though the Australian outback is not exactly as angstful about Vietnam as America. Still, the "anything goes" atmosphere is an eye-opener for Che, mostly a negative one, though having never lived with a Father he does get some hard-as-nails advice from Dial's somewhat-boyfriend who manages to keep a sort of sanity at the commune, despite the efforts of the handful of other members who want to structure things (with rules such as "no cats"). A very darkly comical view of the world emerges and even after finishing, I still wonder about the darkness that Che will take with him into adulthood.(less)
Interesting biography of William Robinson, a true-to-life Victorian/Edwardian-era magician/illusionist who lived a life of deception, on and off stage...moreInteresting biography of William Robinson, a true-to-life Victorian/Edwardian-era magician/illusionist who lived a life of deception, on and off stage. Great side stories concerning the other magician/illusionists of his day -- The Great Lafeyette, Houdini, and Ching Ling Foo who became his greatest enemy in the competetive world of magicians after "Rob" took on the persona of "Chung Ling Soo" in England (together with an overwhenlmingly succesful tour to Australia).(less)
For 300 Pages of "Dark Places" the reader takes a comic journey through the bourgeois grotesque of middle class 20th century Australia. It reminded me...moreFor 300 Pages of "Dark Places" the reader takes a comic journey through the bourgeois grotesque of middle class 20th century Australia. It reminded me of the Southern American grotesques of Eudora Welty, misshapen characters with a comic flair, only transplanted to the land down under. The lead character, Albion Gidley Singer, is the epitome of corrupt patriarchy in a bourgeois society, and seems to be completely indifferent to it, even innocent -- a big, overblown beach ball of a man drifting (or lazily bouncing) through life.
But as the last pages turn dark, we see that Albion is anything but innocent. And, in reality, we've read that about him that all along. He gropes through one sexual escapade after another with seeming indifference, only rising to genuine feeling in the two episodes in which he relates to other men.
That should be telling enough for how he mistreats the women in his life. It's as if he falls into situations with them, a complete innocent, and then completely abandons any sense of morals for a devil-may-care attitude. Or maybe it's just a complacency -- "Now-I-have-to-get-through-this." At any rate, it's an attitude which turns bad, monstrously bad, in all cases.
I gave it four stars because it's not perfect. The author paints her story as a gothic portrayal of how a monstrous man turns monstrous while maintaining an unkowing innocence. But the comic nature of most of the book masks that horrible side and that, though wonderfully ambiguous, makes the storytelling a little uneven. But it's a story that definitely makes a reader think about how 20th century society could create, and even applaud, a monster such as Kate Grenville has created here.(less)
Im not much for longwinded series, and this second installment continues the longwindedness that "Watergivers #1" set up. But I like the desert world...moreIm not much for longwinded series, and this second installment continues the longwindedness that "Watergivers #1" set up. But I like the desert world that Larke has created. I like knowing that she's Australian and that the world she creates has some similarities to that desolate continent. Comparisons will inevitably made between this fantasy world and the novel series "Dune" -- but whereas these books are much more consistent in quality, none of them have the punch of the original Dune. This is fantasy rather than sci-fi though, and that could lend to the ho-hum quality I felt, which is just a personal thing. For this second book, I liked all the time spent in the "white desert" after certain characters escaped the holocaust of the first book -- it was a unique environment. And the "water magic" continues to fascinate.(less)
Absolutely excellent telling of a Maritime disaster by a first-time bookwriter who was an adventure storytelling journalist in the 1950's. With its de...moreAbsolutely excellent telling of a Maritime disaster by a first-time bookwriter who was an adventure storytelling journalist in the 1950's. With its detailed description of the heroism of these band of Antarctic adventurers, you forget the foolhardiness of their original goal, to traverse the Anterctic continent by land -- as they got icebound before ever setting foot on Antarctica. Their tale of survival and how Shackleton pushed them towards a seemingly impossible rescue abolutely fascinates!(less)