Archives for Australia

Book review: Rush Oh!

I didn’t know what to expect from Rush Oh! Whaling is frowned on these days and somewhat gory. But I am so pleased I read it. Shirley Barrett has drawn a setting which comes alive. Australia, New South Wales, 1908. It is the story of Mary Davidson, the daughter of a whaler, it is her memoir of one year in her family’s rural life at Eden. It is not simply a story about whaling. The historical context is so rich, so believable. The first page introduces the vivid setting: Mary’s home with its scent of boiling blubber for five months of the year, the rib cage of a 90ft blue whale sits in the front garden surrounded by jonquils, and a footpath laid with the pulverised vertebrae of whales. In this house in Eden lives Mary with siblings and their widowed father, the famous whaler George Davidson. During the whaling season her father’s whaling crew also live with the family and Mary and her sister cook meals and do the laundry. It is a hard life, harder when the whales do not appear in the bay and the general store will not further extend the credit line. Into this scene
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: Amnesia

I am sorry to say I was hugely disappointed by this book, and I’ve never felt let down by a Peter Carey book before. At first I thought it was my fault – I started reading it when I had the flu so perhaps I wasn’t concentrating, not following the plot – as I read on my flu disappeared but the Amnesia problems continued. Now, a couple of days after finishing it, I can re-arrange the story in my mind. Washed-out journalist Felix Moore is commissioned to write the biography of Gaby Baillieux, accused of cybercrime: releasing a virus into Australia’s prison system which also affected the US prison system.  Felix is kidnapped – this is where I started to get confused – and abandoned in a swamp with a typewriter, catering size packs of red wine, and boxes of cassettes and diaries from Gaby and from her mother Celine. Celine and Felix knew each other as youths. The guy funding the biography is Woody Townes, who has bailed Felix out of trouble in the past. Woody’s motivation was unclear. You can tell I’m still confused, can’t you? I was drawn to this book by the promise of Gaby’s cybercrime
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Categories: Book Love.

From idea to research to novel, how Kate Grenville writes

I gulped this book down. For any novelist, whose work involves an element of historical research, this is a fascinating account of how an idea makes it to the printed page. The journalist is me followed the search for facts about Kate Grenville’s great-great-great grandfather Solomon Wiseman, the novelist in me was on the edge of my seat wanting to see how Kate Grenville turned the truth of family history into her award-winning novel The Secret River. The trigger for her research happens on May 28, 2000 on Sydney Harbour Bridge. Grenville [below] was there for the Reconciliation Walk, in support of the reconciliation between black and white Australians. She makes eye contact with an Aboriginal woman on the bridge that day, a moment of revelation for Grenville: that her ancestor Solomon Wiseman arrived on a boat from Britain twenty years after the first settlers, but this Aboriginal woman’s ancestors had lived here for 60,000 years. “And what if my great-great-great grandfather had glanced up, and seen her great-great-great grandfather standing on a rock watching the new arrivals?” At this point in time, Grenville’s fifth novel The Idea of Perfection was just published and she had not started the next.
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Categories: Book Love, On Researching and On Writing.