karen has things to say

Reading, thinking, writing …


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The Light Between Oceans – Review

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   Published July 31st 2012 by Scribner
   ISBN  1451681739 (ISBN13: 9781451681734)

This story, published in 2012, is a debut novel – I am impressed. It opens with On the day of the miracle, Isabel was kneeling at the cliff’s edge, tending the small, newly made driftwood cross.” In this first sentence, life and death arrive together and we are immediately set on a path of intricately bound conflicts, in an ever rising swell between past and present, husband and wife, right and wrong, light and darkness – between ‘oceans’ indeed. Even the setting on Janus Rock, Janus being the two-faced God looking both forward and backwards, indicates the duality of all things. 

Specifically, we have Tom Sherbourne, product of an emotionally scarred childhood and a survivor of WW1, trying to find some meaning and purpose to having fought and to still being alive. He is the light, the rock, honourable and steadfast, who finds other people baffling and disturbing. He finds ways to cope: “You don’t think ahead in years or months: you think about this hour, and maybe the next. Anything else is speculation.”  He just wants to forget the past, and keep his focus close. However, internal peace proves to be elusive, so he opts instead for a kind of external peace in the isolation of being a lighthouse keeper. He accepts an undesirable posting to the most remote lighthouse in the country, on Janus Rock, where he is to endure three year stints on the island, utterly alone for months at a time. The nearest landfall town is Partageuse, one hundred miles away. There he meets nineteen year old Isabel, his ‘Izzy’, a firecracker of a girl. Against all his expectations, she is the light in his darkness and they quickly marry and set about a simple, happy life on Janus Rock. Izzy wants children, lots of them, but after three miscarriages, the last of which is a perfectly formed little boy, Izzy’s light begins to fade and Tom is worried. 

Thus, with the backstory under our belts, the preciousness of life in the face of such loss, we can believe the turn of events that starts the story – a boat washes ashore carrying a dead man and a tiny, crying infant girl, only a couple of months old. Izzy is a grieving woman who desperately wants a child … and here is a child, delivered as if from the hand of God. 

And here too is the first shadow in the paradise of Tom and Izzy’s relationship. Izzy, immediately enraptured by the baby, is absolute in her conviction the child is theirs to keep. Thus we see how easily and well we deceive ourselves: “On the Offshore Lights you can live any story you want to tell yourself, and no one will say you’re wrong: not the seagulls, not the prisms, not the wind.” 

Tom is uncertain, aware there is a wrongness in what seems so right, but he wants Izzy to be happy. From this point onwards, we are swept back and forth, tide-like, between right and wrong, past and present, individual need and love of the other. We are made to feel every nuance in the tricky ethical landscape these characters inhabit, and we are made to feel every swell of joy and trough of despair. It’s impossible not to see very one’s point of view and feel sympathetic to everyone, except perhaps, the nasty policeman.

Matters become infinitely more complicated as the lie insinuates itself into the fibre of Izzy’s family, and into the local community. Then, the child’s real mother enters the picture and what was an understandable lie that might be forgivable, becomes an ongoing cruelty, that Tom cannot support. He is torn between his personal  Scylla and Charibdys – hurting Izzy and the child, Lucy, by doing the right and proper thing, or knowingly contributing to the terrible pain of others who have done nothing to deserve it. He searches for a way, seeking the advice of Ralph, who thinks he’s talking about the war; “… got me thinking about everything I’ve done wrong in my life, and how to put it right before I die’. He opened his mouth to go on, but an image of Isabel bathing their stillborn son silenced him, and he balked.” … “Jesus Christ I just want to do the right thing, Ralph! Tell me what the right fucking thing to do is! I – I just can’t stand this! I can’t do it any more!”

As Tom says, ”Can a right make good a wrong? Is there wrong in a greater good?’’

Which right is most right? Which wrong is most wrong? How do you protect those you love in an impossible situation like this, where, no matter what you do, someone innocent will suffer? Especially Lucy, the child wanted by everyone – who is her mother now? What is a mother, really? 

Whilst this might all sound like heavy going, Stedman’s pacing and writing, the question what happens next, the stakes high, makes this a page turner. In the end, this is a redemption story; the dilemma and all it’s ramifications are played out, right up to the point of life and death. What a journey! The emotional lives of Tom, Izzy and all the other characters are as deep and strong, as vast, as wild as any ocean. The risk of drowning is always close and hearts do break.

Stedman has done her homework – the details of life in a lighthouse are convincing, life on an isolated island is brilliantly rendered, and the portrait of life in a remote Western Australian town in the 1920’s is so sharply drawn I can just see the movie. There are many other moral issues woven into the story; the matter of war; the abuse of children; the mob mentality and it’s horrible effects, life in harsh and hard conditions, the things we do to get by.

I read this in one short and one long sitting; I was moved by it – to tears, in fact.


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Bitter Greens – Review

Review:  Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth

Bitter Greens

Bitter Greens (Paperback)

  Published March 20th 2012 by Vintage Australia
  Paperback, 576 pages
  ISBN: 174166845X  (ISBN13: 9781741668452)

I noticed this book because it is a reworking of the fairy tale Rapunzel and I’m interested in the power of fairy tales. So, I acquired a copy and began to read. When I got the first sexy bit, the “golden explosion” (p 54) had me worried, but the calibre of the writing is such that my fears of it being a lame old bodice ripper were soon put away. There is plenty of sex, but thankfully no steely blue eyes or quivering thighs amongst it pages. Kate Forsyth’s writing is good, sometimes lyrical, always lively and smooth in the telling of this tale of dark and difficult times. There is a good deal of terrible deeds, so it’s definitely not for children, and definitely not for the squeamish. It would make a terrific movie (providing Disney didn’t do it. Tangled, it is not.)

I think this book will please those who like historical fiction, fantasy, and probably romance too, so I’d like to have included it in all three categories for the Australian Women’s Writers Challenge, but I can choose only one, so historical fiction it is. 

The story centres around three characters – first we meet Charlotte Rose de Caumont de La Force,  a real person who lived from 1654-1724, and who wrote a version of Rapunzel named Le Persinette – “Little Parsley” –  in 1698. The Brothers Grimm later adapted it to become the tale we all know as Rapunzel. This book opens with Charlotte Rose having been banished to a nunnery, the Abbey de Gercy-en-Brie, a fate worse than death as far as she is concerned. She has drawn the displeasure of the Sun King, Louis XIV in whose court she has had a place in one role or another since she was sixteen, and where she learns that the King’s favour or lack of it makes the difference between life and death, and your friends change with his moods. She is in her late thirties by the time we meet her and despairing of ever finding security, i.e. a husband. Actually, she did find a husband, but you couldn’t marry whoever you liked in those days, and the families have the marriage annulled. It seems that in those good old days hie thee to the nunnery was a threat to be taken very seriously; it was imprisonment by any other name, and status and wealth provided no immunity and there was no means of escape, but the alternative was death or having to leave the country, if flight was possible or feasible. 

There is, as one might expect, a mean old nun who specialises in sadistic treatment of those under her authority, so Charlotte Rose has a miserable time for a while. She meets Soeur Seraphina, a calm and somewhat set apart nun, and we know straight away this woman will be important to the newly arrived Charlotte Rose. We don’t get to meet her again for some time, until eventually Sr Seraphina arranges for her to assist in the garden. There, she tells Charlotte Rose the tale of Margherita, a Venetian girl from a century earlier who is the Rapunzel proper of the story. Three versions of the fairy tale – Le Persinette by Charlotte Rose, Petrosinella (by Giambattista Basile, published in 1634) and Rapunzel (by the Bros Grimm, published in 1812)  – are woven together filled out, filled in and brought to life all over again by Kate Forsyth. Each of the three fairytales relates in some way to one of the three women – Charlotte Rose who writes the tale; Maria who is given the new, powerful name of Selena Leonelli when taken in by a witch, and who later becomes La Strega Bella (beautiful witch); and of course, Margherita or Petrosinella or Persinette or Rapunzel. In this version all three have long red or gold hair and they are all Rapunzels in their different ways, imprisoned by fate, culture, gender and general powerlessness excepting their one gift, be it words, magic or voice. All three are strong and fiery too – so, of course they get out of their towers, though not without a good measure of suffering, pain and loss. 

We also get a lot of history – of the Sun King and life at his court; the politics and culture of the time and the trials and tribulations of being a woman in those times. As is usually the case when I read historical fiction, I end up feeling fortunate to be alive now, in Australia, in a relatively gender equal culture (I know, I know, we aren’t there yet, but compared to then, I’ll have now!). The Sun King comes across as a massively self-indulgent, casually cruel, narcissistic monster, and the jostlings and backstabbings of the court make my head spin.  I guess our current day version might be celebrity culture (I Want To Marry Harry comes to mind), where the same jockeying for fame and fortune goes on, just with fewer clothes and more surgery. Which brings me to the observation that I love the details of life-back-then – how the placement of patches or ‘beauty spots’ meant particular things, the height of the heels of one’s chopines were socially delineated (richer = higher), one had to bring one’s own chamber pot to royal events, and the fragility of the all important social standing according to the grace and favours of those in power and so on. It brings the whole tale to vivid life, and renders it believable. 

Which is pretty good going given the historically accurate details of Charlotte Rose de Caumont de La Force’s life, Louis XIV, the history relating to court life, political machinations, religious persecutions and so on are nestled in a rich brew of conjecture and even better, within straight up fantasy – La Strega Bella has some pretty witchy powers that are not explained away or recast as clever medicinal knowledge or whatever. It’s magic, and its part of the fairy tale that is  woven through the stories of the three characters with equal weight to the ‘facts’. This story also has the very best explanation ever of how the famous braid comes to be – as a kid I always wondered why Rapunzel was locked away, and how her hair got to be so ridiculously long. Now, I know. 

I loved the backstory to La Strega Bella – even the wicked witch gets a fair hearing in this tale, and it’s entirely believable that someone who came from such harsh and traumatic a background as Maria would be a little … affected, and wish for a power so great that fear is held at bay. But, as we all know, we don’t always get what we want, and even she learns a thing or two along the way.

Kate Forsyth has let down Rapunzel’s hair for us; we all get to climb into the tower to have a good look at what’s up there and to see what it’s like to be there, to feel the longing, the despair, the thrill of escape, the cleverness of these women. The story has an ending that is very satisfactory – it’s true to the Rapunzel tale as we know it, but told in a way that is rich and ‘real’. We know what happens to Rapunzel; in this telling La Strega Bella and Charlotte Rose are left with the consequences of their actions, but not without hope, and ultimately – they are survivors. 

That’s a good ending!


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Questions of Travel – a big sprawling review

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Questions of Travel by Michelle de Krester
Published June 1st 2013 by Allen & Unwin (first published January 1st 2012)
ISBN
1743317336 (ISBN13: 9781743317334)
edition language
English

I read this great big book over a few weeks, interrupted by flu and finished in that slightly hallucinatory state that being ill can bring. The story takes place over several decades from the 1960s to December 2004, and follows the lives of Laura Fraser, Sydneysider and lifelong outsider, and Ravi Mendis, Sri Lankan and only son of a good but struggling family. The chapters loosely alternate between them, and sweep across years and contents in a rich tapestry of place, belonging, and travel. It’s full of liveliness and wandering – a bit like Laura Fraser. She is the outsider, too big, too independent, too wanting, altogether too much. She goes travelling young, full of wanderlust and searching. In fact Laura Fraser is fabulously lusty – for new places, for sex, for food, for experience. There aren’t too many places, geographical and otherwise, she won’t go to, but somehow she is never filled up, never satisfied, never much different, yet grows up matures, learns a thing or two.

Importantly she asks herself repeatedly Why am I here?a question I think we should all ask at frequent intervals. I wonder if it’s a question asked more often, more deeply, by the displaced, and the out of place amongst us. Questions of Travel distinguishes travel from tourism, from the hungry questing for novelty, for something to take us out of ourselves, perhaps beyond mundane reality. It’s made pretty clear that looking at a place or looking at a people does not mean you know a thing about them, no matter how thoroughly you might purloin their cultural memes or products. As someone says late in the novel, ‘travel never dies, just destinations do’  – ipso facto, the task of tourism is to keep novelty rolling, rolling, rolling. 

At another level, looking-at can never approach knowing, and has no hope of equating to the deep, in-your-cells experience of being-from. We see this through the experiences of Laura, who goes all over the planet and learns that travel is learning about yourself. Tourism, by contrast, is a homogenised, pasteurised, packaged and promoted product that has had most of the goodness leached out of it so you are never confronted by anything, least of all yourself. Even so, she ends up working in tourism – it’s what she can do. We learn this too from Ravi Mendis, the other main character, also an outsider, a refugee who’s need for asylum is created by an act of atrocity that sets him outside the everyday goings on of the rest of us, pretty much forever. Overlaid on this intractable trauma is the cultural displacement of being in Australia – poor old Ravi, conscientiously applying his own set of learned social codes and mores is never going to fit in as a ‘proper’ Aussie. Seeing Australia and Australians through his eyes allows us to see the familiar with the sharpness and lack of softening context of foreign sensibility – thus

‘They must grow in Sri Lanka?’ Ravi nodded: ‘Temple Flowers.’ ‘In Australia,’ said Helen, ‘They’re called frangipani.’

This tiny detail, freighted with loss, shows the known world is to be set aside, like an old pair of shoes, and this new world is to be squeezed into, as if it might someday fit.

We get a rendition of Australiania and ockerism in the good-hearted Hazel and her intellectually limited family who take in the homeless Ravi, set against the sharply highlighted complacency that is the well-fed underbelly of Australian life; for example, there is a self-congratulatory undertone in employing a refugee when Ravi is taken on at Ramsay Publications – followed by a muted, semi-conscious annoyance that Ravi is somehow deficient in his refugee status, voiced by the aptly monikered Crystal Bowles: 

…. ‘The thing is, I find him a bit creepy. Did I tell you about when I sprang him with this photo of a gorgeous little boy on his screen?’

Ravi Mendis hadn’t worked out quite as Tyler had hoped. He was a nice guy but not the right kind of person; could it be he just wasn’t the right kind of refugee? His coworkers had welcomed him with little bouquets of passion. But the films that were screening in their minds had shown long, dangerous journeys and cyclone wire. Invited to tell us something about yourself at his first general meeting, Ravi had spoken of working in aged care. The only person older than fifty five at Ramsay was Alan. The faces turned towards Ravi suggested that while not personally opposed to old people, his colleagues had expected to hear of suffering.”

The gorgeous little boy is of course,Ravi’s son, of whom Crystal, his co-worker, knows nothing. The job at the old people’s home is life after the atrocity. It’s what he can talk about. His associates at Ramsay, at this point in the story, have known him for a year, but none have bothered to get to know him

On reading this, one part of me wanted to slap them all, at the thoughtless expectation he would speak of his suffering to a group of unbruised folk who, to his eyes, live like kings and queens. As if.  At the same time another part of me recognises the perfectly ordinary, perfectly deadly, everyday indifference we have in our inadequate connections to each other in the midst of busy lives and commonplace stress. These aren’t bad people; these are ordinary people. 

I don’t think anyone comes to know anyone very well throughout the whole cast of characters, times and places. Perhaps this speaks to what we’re all looking for – one proper connection with another person (or place)? 

I think it’s brilliant writing.

The book is full of threads of observation – luminous little miniatures of humanity at large, whatever the culture, time, gender or aspirations, like an Ershuu painting, or a renaissance fresco.

Plots and subplots abound; woven throughout the depiction of Ramsay, under the guiding hand of Tyler Dean (doesn’t that name sound like a child of the 90s), we see it move from being a company concerned about publishing a good travel guide based on the experienced traveller’s writing, into being a company concerned with market presence, where travel becomes a commodity, it’s content. 

Several familiar stereotypes are given an outing in Questions of Travel, but with such a deft and sure hand they seem fresh, and they are hilarious. I love the skewering of the middle-class, socially mobile, spiritual aspirant Tracy Lacey, who might have stepped straight out of Kath & Kim, and Kim-like, names her unfortunate child Destiny. Once an art student with Laura Fraser, she morphs over the years into someone so … silicon … she becomes a thoroughly enjoyable love-to-hate character completely unaware of anything outside her own orbit of want. For example:

“… Destiny Lacey-Buck was bored but not allowed to be. Bored is childhood’s name for the formless, treeless, weather less place from whence it comes: a memory and a presage. But the b word was banned in Paddo. What were the piano lessons and conversazione and swimming classes and Free Expressive Movement for if not to maintain positive energy? As the flash went off, ‘Would you take Destiny up to the roof, darl?’ asked Tracy. ‘Go and look at the boats, gorgeous, big hug, Mummy’s working.’ “

And the poisonous result of all this PC living? This: 

” A long time later, when Tracy and Destiny were leaving, the child went unbidden to Laura. She pretended to kiss but placed her mouth very close to the large ear. Very softly and very distinctly, in her light, childish voice, she said ‘Everyone says you’re ugly.’ Destiny’s best friend had said this to her on the last day of school, and Destiny knew it’s power. At the gate, she turned her flower face to Laura and waved. “

Sex is another sub theme – the lusty Laura is readily sexual, in the same way as she is readily indulgent with food. It occurred to me late in the reading, that sex and tourism suffer the same fate in Laura’s life – they should be grand, could be grand, but somehow aren’t. The great loves of her life, such as they are, fail to even begin to meet the promise of soaring passion they could be/should be.  And, I had to wonder, what would happen if, instead of being perennially disappointing, one of these affairs did hit the mark? What  if the longed for sense of belonging, of being loved into being, did transpire? Then what? 

Why am I here? comes to mind.


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At last, a post and a review – Inherited!

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It’s three months since I last posted anything. In that time I have closed my practice, packed it up, packed up my worldly possessions into a container and having farewelled all my beloveds, hauled me and it to Melbourne, where I am now on week 3, day 3.

It’s quite a thing to do and has taken up all my time and energy. I have not read much and am just getting back into it now. Having said that, the review below has been languishing for about two months. Happily, I’m starting to feel less like I’m on an extended holiday and this is actually my new life, and writing, reading and reviewing are a central part of it. So, here it is, second review for this year – given I nominated for 10, I’d better crack on!

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       Inherited by Amanda Curtin

Published November 15th 2011 by University of Western Australia Press (first   published January 1st 2011)
ISBN  1742582931 (ISBN13: 9781742582931)
Anyone who has read my previous review of Amanda Curtin’s ‘The Sinkings’ will know I am a huge Amanda fan. After reading this collection of nineteen short stories, I still am, and all the more admiring of her brilliant wordsmithing. The stories are arranged into seven sections, titled Keeping, Wanting, Surviving, Remembering, Breaking, Leaving and Returning – this should give you some idea of the arc of what is explored in these stories. I read them one per night, so that each could be savoured, considered and felt. And lordy, did I do some feeling! These stories, even though they be brief, pack an emotional wallop, each and every one. That’s the skill in short story writing, shown in masterful abundance in Inherited – each story is a lightburst in the dark, illuminating a circumscribed slice of life, but doing so brilliantly and so fiercely it leaves you blinking and contemplating the after-image for quite some time.

The stories are stand-alone tales, tied together under a theme encapsulated neatly in the title “Inherited”. Each explores an aspect, a detail, an existential enquiry into going-on-being, whether that is in the form of material things, stuff, and what it means or stories, or lives or history both personal and public; as in the delightful Sarah’s Ark where the protagonist collects corks, or The Prospect of Grace where the ocean-set statue of C.Y. O’Connor is set against the history of the man and ranges across time, from 1902 to 2000. Once you have read this, that sculpture is no longer just a somewhat weird statue at a beach, nor can it be misunderstood as a “a romantic tragedy”. I used to swim my dogs there and could never understand why, of all the great scope of his being, suicide was the moment chosen to commemorate his life. Perhaps collective guilt. O’Connor’s suicide is juxtaposed against Michael Hutchence’s questionable death – and the wives of each are considered too, each wrestling with the pain of abandonment, of having not been enough, of having perhaps not done enough. 

What lies inside, behind, under, are repeating themes across the stories, along with experiences of pain, loss, terror, disillusionment, hope, everyday joys. How things both change and don’t change is beautifully captured in Live Forever in which a woman, Paige, is dying within the parameters of a neglectful relationship and a distracted, absent not-husband. She returns again and again to the museum, to take in (not just look at) the nineteenth century paintings of A Famous Politicians Wife asking “What is it that makes some things endure?” When she returns for the last time, the paintings, like her, are undone; taken out of their frames and exposed in all their ordinary, imperfect reality, bearing the marks and scars of their history, like Paige, like all of us. And of course, Paige knows it’s all about love. 

There are a few standout stories for me – Dove made me actually cry (no mean feat, I can tell you), in it’s exploration of what really matters, of wanting, not wanting, having too much, being misconstrued by loved ones, whilst others have barely enough or not enough, or a different sort of ‘other’ is dying in your empty house.

Rush was pure horror – the incomprehension when a young woman’s life hangs precariously in the balance and we readers get to figure out what is happening right along with her. The horrible experience of suffocating, of being trapped, was so well drawn it evoked a need to keep reading on, to see what happens, hoping for rescue. What happens made it necessary for me turn the light back on for a while before sleep, and then it worked into my dreams.  Amanda, how could you leave us where you did! (And as well, of course that’s where it had to end). That’s what I mean by emotional wallop!

The last story, Gratitude, is a study of grief and how it changes us. A mother has lost her son and sets up a vigil at the place by the road where he was killed by an unknown driver. A callous reporter, perfectly described as a “rude intrusion” and who refers to such bereaved people as “sadlings” (“no disrespect intended”)arrives to get the story. He is unmoved, exercising the correct social forms but feeling nothing other than a circumscribed revulsion against her raw, intense feelings, the lack of stimulation in the featureless surrounds (“Who’d live here? If you want rural, go live in the country, there’s plenty of it.”) and is impatient to be gone. Over the next few weeks the journalist passes by the spot again and again and each time notices a little more life there, more and more … he starts to go there deliberately and then  … well, you’ll just have to read it, won’t you?

 


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The Sinkings by Amanda Curtin (2008) – Review

The SinkingsThe Sinkings belongs in the historical fiction basket, one of my favourite sorts of stories in which “it could have been like this” – where bare facts, so far as they are known,  are imbued with the rich texture of living characters making their way through the hard stuff of real life, far more lively than ’facts’ can ever be.

This particular piece of historical fiction makes for a masterful, wonderful novel. Amanda Curtin depicts the grimmest of circumstances, but through all the grimy and bruised laminate of the hard lives of Little Jock in The Sinkings or Fish Meggie in Elemental, she somehow manages to let the light through so that what might be bleak is luminous with wisdom and richness and a sort of grounded joy. Her writing is gorgeous, enchanting, transporting, seductive; I found it difficult to put this book down (so I didn’t).

In The Sinkings two stories from different times interweave and mirror each other – that of Little Jock, an Irish intersex person (we still do not have an acceptable non-gendered pronoun), a lost child surviving the Irish famine, scratching along in the slums of Glasgow until one prison sentence too many sees him sent to the West Australian colony in the late 1800’s where his life comes to baffling and brutal end at The Sinkings; and the story of  Willa in the present time, researching Little Jock for complicated reasons of her own. Willa is a guilt-wracked and grieving mother who’s own child is lost to her because of impossible choices made early on, with terrible ramifications.

The two worlds are mirrored in a beautifully rendered examination of identity, family, choice, belonging (and not), that which we inherit and what we make of the life we land in. Little Jock and Willa both come to understand something of the complexities of becoming who we are – each ends up with a name chosen to be different to that they were given, each has to reckon with the lot of the outsider and find their ‘voice’, their way of being, a liveable life, some sort of love. Willa’s introspective examination of her own motives in dealing with her child help us understand the mystery of Jock’s savage death, or how it might have happened and within that, how decisions do and do not get made and the long runnels of consequence that shape life thereafter. Both Willa and Jock are ordinary, and in their ways, heroic. Each comes a long way, literally and metaphorically, out of the margins of life to find something  worth having – until it is taken from them and something else is found.

This is an intelligent, immensely satisfying book of wide and deep sweep; if you hadn’t picked it up yet, I loved it – 5 stars! Now, I’m going to further immerse myself in this wonderful author’s work by reading Inherited!


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To begin …

I’ve made this blog so that I can participate in the Australian Women Writers Challenge of 2014. I’ve never had a blog before now, so I’ll be cutting my teeth on the first few posts. This might be the first one you can see, but (many) hours after sitting down thinking ‘how hard can this be,‘ I can tell you it isn’t the first post I’ve lost/reposted/tried to move but couldn’t/and so on… anyway

… my first book for the AWW 2014 Challenge is The Sinkings by Amanda Curtin. I read Elemental last year and it was my Book of The Year by a long country mile. Having restrained my self from immediately rushing out to buy this next book the minute I had finished it, and keeping a weather eye on the one copy in New Editions Bookshop, unsubtle hinting brought it to me for Christmas (thank you Audrey), I have just started it – ok, I’m up to page 136 already because, as was the case with Elemental, I can’t put it down! It’s an earlier work (2008), and so far every bit as good as Elemental. However, I won’t do a half way review – you’ll have to wait for it 🙂