An interesting read. Not the kind of book I'm usually into but interesting nonetheless. Split into two parts it chronicles the story of Jean as a prisAn interesting read. Not the kind of book I'm usually into but interesting nonetheless. Split into two parts it chronicles the story of Jean as a prisoner of war in Malaya where she meets an Australian soldier and then her life after the war when she finds that the soldier is still alive and travels to Australia to find him. It's a story about survival and endurance and making a better life....more
This book is what a Melina Marchetta book would be like if she decided to go punk. Set in Melbourne, Frankie follows Francesca 'Frankie' Vega, who hasThis book is what a Melina Marchetta book would be like if she decided to go punk. Set in Melbourne, Frankie follows Francesca 'Frankie' Vega, who has anger management issues and a not so stable home life. Her mother abandoned her when she was four years old, and she's never quite managed to move past that. Living with her aunt above their kebab shop, this book starts with an incident at school, and the possibility of Frankie expanding her family to include a brother she didn't know she had.
There's lots to like about the book; the strong sense of place, the kickass character that is Frankie, who is all wit and anger, and the mysteries in the heart of the novel. There are nods to the immigrant community in Melbourne, from Frankie's own Italian family, to the occasional other character who turns up, cursing in Italian. And there is also the fact that the romance in the book actually builds, and does not fall into the common young adult trope of love at first sight, which is overdone and infuriating, and honestly, will turn me off completely if it's mentioned in the blurb. By the end of the book, Frankie and her love interest, Nate, have actually interacted in a way that's not just flirting.
When it comes to the tension in the book, I think it could've been a lot better. Xavier, Frankie's brother, goes missing. He owes a lot of people a lot of money and he disappears off the grid after Frankie's only met him a few times. And yet, she worries about him constantly. Ordinarily, I might think that it's a bit quick, a bit implausible for her to feel so strongly about someone she's just met, but the more you read, the more you understand what family means to Frankie, and it's not unbelievable, but in fact, almost heartbreaking. However, while she's desperate to find him, and it's obvious in her actions, the emotion doesn't come through much. I really think the tension leading up to the discovery at the end of the book could have been so much more than it was.
Add to this that Xavier bought Frankie a Joy Division record which gets stolen from her, and you really think she ought to be more heartbroken. After all, the record is part of the reason for Xavier's financial issues, plus it's incredibly rare, and Frankie's favourite band. Where the book fails a bit is in its emotional integrity. From the way Frankie reacts when she gets it, you'd believe she'd be more heartbroken about losing it.
But overall, strong characterisation and a fairly interesting plot keep this book going. It's definitely worth reading if you're after some decent Aussie young adult fiction....more
If Ned V**spoiler alert** Trigger warnings: suicide, depression, anxiety, physical abuse, alcoholism
Disclaimer: There are spoilers below. Major ones.
If Ned Vizzini lived in Sydney, The Pause might look a lot like one of his books. It's refreshing to have a young adult novel set in Sydney about a teenager battling depression.
Declan carries around the secret of his past, a shard of darkness buried so deep in his psyche that he little recognises its existence. When he meets Lisa, a girl who catches the same train as him on her way to school, Declan has a taste of true happiness. But when Lisa's mother finds out that she's been seeing Declan, things go south, and her mother ships her off to Hong Kong, leaving Declan with a gaping hole in his life.
So he kills himself. Jumps right in front of an incoming train.
And that's where the story really starts.
Larkin chooses to use this book as an opportunity to explore the possibilities of living or dying. It's a narrative that gives us a story, one that we, the reader think is untrue, since it only begins at the end, with Declan's body smeared across the train tracks. But it chronicles what might've been, if only Declan had "paused".
It's an interesting take on a difficult subject. Like many books confronting the same sort of issues, it brings up the fact that the pain is momentary, something that will pass, and that there will be many good moments after it to make up for the bad moments preceding. But Larkin does it by removing the protagonist from the story. Declan is still there, he's the narrator; he tells his story as though he were still in it, picking out one thread of possibilities from the thousands that could emerge from his continued existence. But we are also reminded, through various interspersed chapters, that Declan is dead, and his entire narrative is a mighty 'could've been'.
Which makes the book structurally fascinating. Each chapter comes into the story at a different time, mostly not chronological. This allows Larkin to navigate his narrative through the shadows and jagged rocks of spoilers without giving anything away too early in the book. But the lack of chronology is somewhat disorienting. Apart from convenience, there seems to be no pattern and no real reason that the timing of each chapter is all over the place. It's not as difficult to keep track of in the later half of the novel, but it is in the first half, where the events haven't quite rooted themselves in order yet. It's not too difficult to read, but it also seems a tad unnecessary to have them skip back and forth in time the way they do.
I do think the chapters at the end needed restructuing. There is a point about three quarters of the way through the novel that feels like an ending, which is strange when you're reading and you realise that there are still quite a number of pages left. The revelation about Declan's aunt, probably could've come earlier, and the "Eight Years Later" chapters seemed a little out of place in the greater context of the novel, but they did do the thing readers always hope an author will do, and give an insight into what the future might hold for the characters they care so much about, so I did appreciate that about them.
The "Non-Space" chapters are particularly fascinating. These are the bits where Declan pulls the reader out of the story and into the reality of his death. Where he's speaking from, no one knows. It doesn't matter. What does matter is what he says. These are some of the most interesting chapters; I particularly loved the one about the mathematical probability of our existence. It's uplifting to read, even if all the numbers disrupt sentence flow just a little.
The novel does a good job in dealing addressing the lasting impact of childhood trauma, and physical abuse and suicide. Sometimes it's a little heavy handed; the early portion of the book used "ruptured nerve endings" far, far too much, so it began losing its effectiveness after the third time. Also the continued attempt to drive home the idea of Declan's life as it could've been if only he hadn't killed himself was a bit much. The reader understands it. And while I suppose the book is supposed to get through to kids who might also be experiencing the same kind of tendencies, it gets a bit much.
Declan's death scene, about a third of the way into the book, is over detailed and gory and one of the most horrible things I've ever read. Larkin probably could've pulled the reigns back a bit on that one too.
The story itself though is fantastic. Larkin built a very believable world (though there could've been more about Sydney, in my opinion), with well fleshed out characters who were distinct and not reduced to a single trait. The exploration of a might've been is great, with a lot of effort put into depicting how someone reconstructs their life after it falls apart, and how things really do get better, albeit with a lot of effort and the want for it to get better.
Larkin is also very clear that his Sydney, just like the Sydney of reality is diverse, and even makes a point of bringing up that the International School in Hong Kong is racially diverse. There is also a couple of queer characters, who, though background characters, add another layer of richness to the world that Larkin created.
In all, this is a fantastic novel. I'm particularly fond of the fact that it's set in Sydney, since so few novels are, particularly young adult ones. It has a great handle on tough issues like mental health and suicide, realistic enough that it conveys a real sense of what it's like to go through these things. My one concern is that it might be too triggering for someone who actually suffers from depression or mental illness, or who is suicidal, to actually read.
So on that note, a huge shout out to whoever decided to include a list of organisations to look to for help at the end of the book.
And one last thing: you spend the whole book thinking that he really did it, that he jumped in front of that train, but he didn't. Declan didn't really die....more
Beautiful. Not the cheeriest book, but beautiful, a homage to Virginia Woolf's "The Waves" but set in Sydney. And as someone who lives in Sydney, it wBeautiful. Not the cheeriest book, but beautiful, a homage to Virginia Woolf's "The Waves" but set in Sydney. And as someone who lives in Sydney, it was nice to see my city represented in this light.
This book tells the story of four people whose lives intersect one Saturday in summer, each of them spending part of the day in Circular Quay. Each of them carries a history, a heartache, and a hope. This is the kind of book that reminds you that everyone you ever pass on the street has a story too.
I hadn't known what to expect going into this book - yes, the blurb summarised the novel, but not nearly enoA wonderful book by an Australian author.
I hadn't known what to expect going into this book - yes, the blurb summarised the novel, but not nearly enough to tell me what to expect - and it turned out to be one great adventure. It's the kind of book that somehow has things in common with both the Chronicles of Narnia, and the novels of Anne Rice. It blends the fantastic with this grotesque horror that tangles all the characters and attempts to trip them up.
My only criticism is that it is sometimes overwritten. There's a lot of imagery and description that sometimes becomes dense and difficult to read. But other than that, it's fantastic....more
On the one hand, it's beautiful and heartbreaking. After dedicating himself to fixing up a house in IrelI'm torn between loving and hating this book.
On the one hand, it's beautiful and heartbreaking. After dedicating himself to fixing up a house in Ireland that he and his wife bought, Scully is left stranded when his wife does not arrive at the airport on the allotted date. With his daughter in tow, Scully embarks on a European adventure, visiting all the place that he and his wife lived, in the hopes that someone, somewhere, will know what happened to her. Along the way, Scully deteriorates. He becomes a paranoid madman, sinking into alcoholism born of his frustration. Winton pulls the reader into this, and we experience Scully's deterioration as if it were our own.
On the other hand, there are bits that don't make much sense. The chapters from the points of view of other characters seem out of place, particularly since a few of them are the only time that we see things from that character's perspective.
There is also the problem that the book feels like it's always going somewhere without actually getting there.
In any case, it's worth reading. Winton is a fantastic writer, and although plot is not his strong point, he is stylistically fabulous....more