I thought The Italian Romance would be good to have on my shelf when I needed a bit of chick-lit or roman...moreDon't let the title of this book put you off.
I thought The Italian Romance would be good to have on my shelf when I needed a bit of chick-lit or romance, but when I came to read it I realised it was not as light-hearted as that.
A romance, yes, but I found it a deep and moving story. During World War II a young woman falls in love with an Italian prisioner of war at one of the POW camps near the small Australian country town where she lives. She's married, her husband goes to war and she tries to forge a writing career for herself at the local paper - in the "women's news" section, of course.
The Italian is also a writer, and this brings them together. He however is also married, with a wife and son back in Italy, though his wife is Jewish and he does not know if they have survived. The story taking place in Australia is accompanied by the tragic story of what may have happened to this woman and her son on the other side of the world. At the end of the novel however the two stories are brought together beautifully.
It is a good while since reading this book, so I hope I have been accurate in my description of it - I do definitely remember The Italian Romance as a great, absorbing read and highly recommend it!(less)
I’d only read one of Sonya Hartnett’s books previously, Shadows of the Side-Step Wolf, which is a young adult novel I read in high school. I was curio...moreI’d only read one of Sonya Hartnett’s books previously, Shadows of the Side-Step Wolf, which is a young adult novel I read in high school. I was curious to read more and with my track record with book covers to go by there was no way I could go past this one given it's lovely illustrations.
I’m so pleased to say the book lived up to its gorgeous cover by being an eerily beautiful story. I love how Sonya Hartnett turns the Australian bush and beach into a fairytale setting - unique and strange but no less magical than those forests of European fables. And I love that the story and the characters are somewhere between the real world and fantasy. I think The Ghost's Child is such a charming little story, sad but happy and with a lovely ending.
‘It is one thing to converse with aquatic life, but another to address a wind’(less)
I’ve read the stories (fictional and non-fictional) of migrants to Australia before, but mostly from the Italian or Greek perspective, not from that o...moreI’ve read the stories (fictional and non-fictional) of migrants to Australia before, but mostly from the Italian or Greek perspective, not from that of the more recent Asian migrants. This is Alice Pung’s account of her parents journey from Cambodia, as refugees and how they made life in Australia, and how she grows up somewhere in the middle. Although this is nothing like my story, I somehow seemed to relate to her.
I found her account very personal, especially in the final chapters, and I found myself feeling really grateful to her for sharing so much with the reader. I enjoyed it immensly.(less)
In this book I found the same creative, descriptive writin...moreAfter reading Gould's Book of Fish I was eager to discover more of Richard Flanagan's work.
In this book I found the same creative, descriptive writing style as in Gould's. And despite there being instances where the writing style blends the past and present, magic and memories and borders on the surreal, the story itself comes through as clear and real as anything, without any of the eccentricities that made the plot of Gould's rather bizarre and confused at times.
The Sound of One Hand Clapping is a beautifully told, touching and often heartbreaking story of a father and daughter, and a mother who packed a small suitcase one night and walked out into the snow.
It is also the tale of how refugees sought a free life in Australia, their challenges in living with a past of atrocities they could not forget witnessing and a new, different land they could not always understand.
I adored the description of how Sonja, the daughter, having seen lunch served at her neighbour's house, proudly makes her father baked beans on toast for dinner - an Aussie meal. Her father eats it politely "all the while inwardly cursing the infernal, comic backwardness of Australians and all the awful things they mistook for food" (p201).
I would highly reccommend this book, just don't approach it as a light read, it is afterall a sad, and for some characters, an incredibly tragic story.(less)
Just about every book club in Melbourne, if not Australia, must have dissected this book by now. Everyone in Melbourne was talking about it and it see...moreJust about every book club in Melbourne, if not Australia, must have dissected this book by now. Everyone in Melbourne was talking about it and it seems the consensus is that you’ll hate it but it’s important to read.
Although I always find it enjoyable to read a story set in my own city - the characters walking along the same shopping strips I have, recognising same train stations and the same suburbs that are part of daily life - it wasn’t enjoyable to think that Tsiolkas’ characters are anything like the fellow Melbournians’ I’m passing on the streets. (Also am I the only person in this city not on drugs?)
The book for me was hard to get through because I disliked the characters so much, even though I loved the way their stories were intertwined and how the progression of events stemming from that now famous slap at a backyard BBQ was narrated through the various viewpoints of those involved. Through none of these insights however did I find a character I could relate to, feel something for or care about enough to want to know where they ended up by the end of the book. I know fictional characters, like people, don’t have to be perfect and lovable but for me this, coupled with the way in which many characters thought in such obscene language, just didn’t make The Slap a book I wanted keep picking up.
You do however have to admire it as an unflinching, uncompromising portrait of suburban family life, of how some different clans of Melbourne intersect and attempt to live together or in some cases perhaps despite each other; the skips and bogans, 1st, 2nd and 3rd generation migrants, Muslims, Aboriginals, the rich, the poor, the single, the married, the old and young, even those who are divided by the blue and yellow of the public transport zones. I think most Melbournians would recognise in The Slap both the things that separate us and those that keep us together. (less)
I stumbled upon this book on a display shelf a bit ironically at the City Library. Its size too hides the enormity and challenge of the journey inside...moreI stumbled upon this book on a display shelf a bit ironically at the City Library. Its size too hides the enormity and challenge of the journey inside as Janette and Andrew head of from Cairns to cycle around Australia - in the wrong direction, as the headwinds of the book's title constantly remind them.
At first you think such a trip insane - most people think doing it by car is adventure enough - but Bain quickly shows on two wheels is the better way to appreciate the best and worst of this country. The amount of detail taken in during such a ride could have made for a much longer book however I think Bain manages a nice balance between the challenges and practicalities of the journey itself, the towns, places and natural wonders they see as well as the history and stories of places they pass through. The maps at the start of each section are also a great addition.
I also enjoyed the excerpts detailing the adventure of Arthur Richardson, the first person either brave and/or crazy enough to cycle around Australia, about 100 years before this couple accomplished it. I loved too the amazing kind of mobile community I never knew was out there that is revealed through the couple's encounters with fellow cycle tourists and motorists (at least the ones who didn't try to run them off the road or throw cans at them) with the bush telegraph carrying their news of each other across the distances.
I'd always thought it would be good to drive around Australia one day, but this book makes me feel like you'd be really missing something doing it by four wheels instead of two. (less)
I have been wanting to read this book for so long, and am so glad I did. Although narrated by Death and set in one of the most unfortunate times in re...moreI have been wanting to read this book for so long, and am so glad I did. Although narrated by Death and set in one of the most unfortunate times in recent human history it is such a pleasure to read. Perfect reading - you're invited into a story and you digest the words as they come, deliciously.(less)
I think I somehow missed reading this classic Australian children’s book when I was little, but the image of the rather contemptuous plump little pudd...moreI think I somehow missed reading this classic Australian children’s book when I was little, but the image of the rather contemptuous plump little pudding propped up by his long spindly legs and wearing a basin for a hat is certainly one I’ve always been familiar with.
Written nearly 100 years ago now I don’t know how appropriate this would be considered for children today – it’s age shown in the regular bouts of violence, lack of female characters, slightly un-PC references to ‘natives’ and Jews, the sharing of tobacco and characters being pictured smoking. It also contains the kind of Australian slang that you don’t hear so much these days but it’s the creativity and humour in the language that adds so much character to the book, not to mention the quite unique plot:
A quite respectably-dressed koala by the name of Bunyip Bluegum befriends Bill Barnacle, a sailor, and his companion Sam Sawnoff, penguin bold, who are in possession of this mysterious, magical ‘cut-an’come-again Puddin’’ who never runs out, can become any flavor you like and (despite his ‘rough and ready way’) takes great pleasure in being eaten.
This band of ‘professional puddin’-owners’ then set out to, it seems, wander about the place but in doing so must also defend their precious pudding against the devious acts of treachery continually plotted against them by ‘professional puddin’-thieves’, the Possum and Wombat. While Bill and Sam have no hesitation in dealing out a ‘clip clap clouting and a flip flap flouting’ to these scoundrels it’s often Bunyip’s ‘notable actin’’ and much less violent schemes that restore the puddin’ to its apparently rightful owners.
The recounting of these adventures is also frequently interspersed with verse and song as the characters entertain themselves with Bill’s sea-shanties or rejoice or despair in rhyme. Some of these verses beg to be read aloud while others are rather optimistically rhymed but overall add to the larrikin nature of the characters’ exploits.
Lindsay, was also a renowned artist and while perhaps more famous for nudes his imaginative, humorous illustrations that accompany his story are delightful: kangaroos and koalas in fine attire tipping their hats, the offended expressions of uptight judge and usher of the court, the determined little puddin’ pinching the pompous mayor. These sketches beautifully depict the characters and all the quite ridiculous situations they find themselves in, helping to capture the time of campfires, billies and swags and to conjure up the atmosphere of this classic story – a great yarn for both kids and grown-ups. (less)