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  2. Inga Simpson

    Inga Simpson is not an Aboriginal writer, but Where The Trees Went is a novel that engages very much with Aboriginal culture and heritage. This is a risky path to follow; it is easy to draw accusations of cultural appropriation or insensitivity. But it is important that some white Australian writers are willing to take this risk. It is important that white Australian readers be exposed not just to authentic Aboriginal voices telling stories of their own culture, but also get to hear perspectives on how Australians of European or other non-indigenous heritage should relate to the Traditional Owners. Where The Trees Went is a highly readable novel set in two interleaved times and locations. The first narrative features Jay, a tom-boyish girl hanging out with male friends by the river in the Lachlan Valley of small-town New South Wales. Jay’s family live on a huge station and the population is sparse; their part of the river is private property so it is quite conceivable that the collection of carved, dead trees is otherwise unknown. It becomes their personal playground; their gang hut, as it were. But one of the friends, Ian – whose family run the local service station – is Aboriginal and his mother tells them that the trees are a burial memorial and it is no place to be playing. The other narrative has an adult Jayne, an art historian at the national museum in Canberra, plotting to steal an arborglyph – an Aboriginal carved tree. She is horrified at the commodification of Aboriginal culture, the collection of sacred artefacts that simply remain in storage. Jayne is horrified, too, to find herself in a relationship with Sarah, an intelligence officer with (presumably) ASIO, hanging out in trendy cafes and worrying about home furnishings. Perhaps triggered by a bushfire that ravaged the trees around Canberra, Jayne feels the stirring of old memories and the need to make a difference. Both narratives are beautiful. The childhood, told in first person, is immediate and arresting. It is personal and bursting with emotions. It is a story of love and friendship; of childhood innocence in a harsh world where adults can crush dreams. The adult narrative reads at times like a psychological thriller: tense and terse. The third person narration creates a distance between Jayne and the reader. But like the best of the twin-track narratives, the reader is frustrated to move away from a compelling story every time it switches, only to become immediately engrossed in the story that had been on hold. Overall, this is a story of love and friendship, tragedy and loss. There are themes of honour, personal debt and reparation. The novel sets Aboriginal culture firmly in the 20th and 21st Century – not some ancient thing but part of the world we all inhabit and which is relevant to all of us, regardless of our own heritage. It presents questions about how we can share a space; how migrants and their descendants can live with an appreciation of the awesome culture around us, and how we can try to live with the atrocities committed by our (not very distant) ancestors. The answers are very tentative, leaving the reader plenty of space to fill in their own answers. Where The Trees Were is a really superb, measured piece of writing that will leave an impression. *****
  3. Ryan ONeill

    Their Brilliant Careers is a work of absolute genius. Right from the author’s previous publications, through the dedication, contents age, text, acknowledgements and index it never lets up. This is a pastiche of a serious study of influential Australian writers. Ryan O’Neill has creates a seamless world where these fictional writers rub shoulders with one another and with real writers and historical figures. They interact across biographies; some characters are ever-present: the luckless Sydney Steele is a constant fixture; Vivian Darkbloom’s parties are attended by the great and the good; all the writers grew up on a diet of Addison Tiller’s bucolic short stories. Now, I am no expert in Australian literature but I understand that some (all?) of the fictional writers are drawn from real life Australian writers. This may well explain how such a complex world has been able to hang together. But it also makes this a very sharp analysis of a pitifully poor literary tradition. Of the sixteen writers, there is at least one plagiarist, two frauds, two whose works have disappeared, and one who never existed. These top writers include one editor and one biographer; and at least a couple whose output seems to have been minimal in the extreme. Their works are unoriginal and derivative, titles punning on more illustrious works by European writers. At the same time as we are given this bleak analysis of Australian literature, so too we find a bleak analysis of Australian social history. All the writers are very Anglo – one especially so – and women are mostly decorative. There are some fascists and a communist (who embraced fascism when Stalin signed a non-aggression treaty with Hitler). It paints a picture of an unimaginative, safe and isolated society – one in which books were banned and genuine innovation spurned. It is a society with a few mediocre people running things for themselves, setting up petty little battles for territory, trying to win a larger share of the minuscule sales of literary magazines and journals, oblivious to a bigger, wider and more successful world beyond. There are Easter Eggs aplenty, whether in the form of titles, anagrams, acrostics or homophones (Donkey Hotel anyone?). Genuinely funny, laugh out loud moments in the middle of a deadpan journalese narrative. I had worried that Their Brilliant Careers might be a one-trick pony. That it might run out of steam quite quickly and be repetitive padding to fill out a novel length book (a feeling I got with Roberto Bolaño’s conceptually similar Nazi Literature in the Americas). I needn’t have worried; the concept got stronger, not weaker, for each additional biography. The characters became fuller and more three dimensional; details in earlier biographies only became truly meaningful when seen through the lens of a later biography. There is a story of sorts that emerges, and it is a pretty captivating one. And given the title and subject matter, it seems appropriate that Their Brilliant Careers has been longlisted for the 2017 Miles Franklin Prize. *****
  4. Today
  5. This is the book I picked from the list of 'feel good' books on the Goodreads list. And it certainly lived up to that description. Kate awakens after being asleep for a year, this took me by surprise until I realized that after the death of her husband she had figuratively been asleep for a year, almost in a state of suspended animation. She is living with her mother-in-law who is looking after both Kate and her small daughter Devin. While she is not totally out of touch it's as if she is just going through the motions of living. Once she's 'awake' she begins to take notice of what's been happening and her mother-in-law is making preparations for them all to move into a bigger house and has been making all the arrangements. Kate suddenly realizes that this isn't really what she wants to do and asks her daughter if she would like to go to visit Kate's aunt who lives in Lost Lake where she has cabins by the lake where the same visitors come each summer. Lost Lake is a four hour drive from Atlanta where they live. Devin is wildly excited and wants to know if she can bring her own special clothes. Devin is a charming little girl who loves to dress in costumes and lots of outfits which are different, sometimes topped by a bicycle helmet. Kate's Aunt Eby, who is from a family where money is everything and although she is not the beauty of the family she marries George who happens to have lots of money, much to the chagrin of the beautiful sister. Eby and George go on a honeymoon to Paris and have a madly wonderful time, then on to Amsterdam and Eby ignores the pleadings of her family to come home as she has been away too long - and they need money! While in Paris they save the life of a lovely young woman who tries to commit suicide by jumping from a bridge, this young woman becomes an integral part of the story. Eby and George finally return home but make the decision to separate themselves from George's fortune and instead use enough to buy the property at Lost Lake and start up the business of summer vacation cabins. By the time the now awakened Kate and daughter Devin travel to visit Aunt Eby, George has died, Eby is elderly but is continuing on with the business although everything is getting a bit run down. The young woman they saved in Paris has followed them to America and produces marvellous meals, a skill inherited from her restaurant owning father and she is immensely helpful in the running of the business. Aunt Eby is delighted to see her niece and everything from there flows seamlessly into a story with a bit of fantasy and mysticism involving an alligator who communicates with Devin. This is really different for me as I tend to read books with lots of realism but I was drawn into this and found it mysterious yet satisfying. I had set out to find a 'feel good' book and this one certainly did it for me.
  6. Yesterday
  7. Apparently forest bathing includes having picnics and just being under the trees. The idea is that you don't do anything while you're there. It's from this article forest bathing. My father is really taken with it so that makes it easy to get him out and about. Thank you Cherrypie and Dan for the compliments on the bluebells, we thought they were breath-taking and I did not think that the mobile phone would capture anything much of what they were like. We decided that the bluebells liked rain, shade and shelter since they were all under trees.
  8. Thank you to everyone for your kind thoughts and words of support. They are much appreciated. The pictures look lovely Luna. The bluebells seem to have been especially prolific this year. Maybe they like a mild dry winter and spring!!
  9. Thank you Luna :-)
  10. Thank you for the beautiful photos, Luna! That is a spectacular display of bluebells. In what way is "forest bathing" different from a nature walk?
  11. The Power that Preserves is the last book in the original trilogy, and, to my mind, the best one, although it is still tedious and repetitive in places, and way overlong. In this one Covenant is again summoned to the Land in hope that the wild magic of his white gold can defeat Lord Foul and his minions. Because things are looking bleak for the People of the Land! Foul has mustered another enormous army of horrid creatures, led by another Raver possessed Giant, has stormed across the Land laying waste to everything in sight, and is attacking Revelstone itself, Lord's Keep. And this time Covenant is summoned by Triock, Lena's fiancé before Covenant raped and impregnated her, the de facto stepfather to High Lord Elena, a man who has tried to kill Covenant before, but whose desperation in the face of seemingly insurmountable adversity and threat has led him to call on the man he hates the most. And Covenant himself has changed, and has decided, even in the face of his Unbelief in the reality of that world, that he must help the cause, and confront Lord Foul himself, if only to escape these delusions by confronting their origin. Covenant becomes almost sympathetic in this novel, wracked by guilt and enduring enormous pain, suffering and hardship.(Although one of the things that continued to irritate me in this book was Donaldson's propensity for making difficult but doable conditions life threatening, and insanely hazardous conditions survivable. If you go unshod in snow you get frostbite, and if you pass out in the snow you freeze to death. There is no real way around those things. Willpower is not the issue at hand). And the fact that he is finally trying to make some amends, is actually almost friendly to people, and is taking responsibility for his part in these situations, trying to justify the sacrifices others have made on his part, make it possible to care about him,to root for him, even outside of the desire to see Lord Foul vanquished. I had a laundry list of things I was going to complain about about these novels, but it really just boils down to something which is frequently off putting to me about fantasy novels; a tendency towards romantic and emotional explication of nature, rather than a scientific one based on biology and ecology. Once you anthropomorphize rock, then it's really outside my wheelhouse. But I have to admit that the end of this novel, as needlessly interminable as the journey to get there seemed to me, very nearly justifies the time I spent reading this. Donaldson wanders about for 1400 pages, over writing and overextending the plot lines, but when he decided to wrap it up he was brilliant! Much of the choice of Covenant, and the ideology of these books, was very well encapsulated in the final 40 pages. It all made sense, and was very satisfying to boot. If only he had done that after say 800 pages, then this would have merited all of the praise I have heard about it. But, if you make it this far, you will be rewarded for you efforts!
  12. Yes. In fact I finished it last night. Which is when I realized I hadn't posted on book 2. I'll post on the third book soon.
  13. The question is : are you going to read the third one in the trilogy?
  14. The Illearth War by Stephen R Donaldson is the second book in the original trilogy. In it we find Thomas Covenant summoned back to the land some 40 years later, although only a few months have elapsed in our world. Lord Foul has gotten up an enormous army of misbegotten creatures and marches on Lord's Keep. And his summoner is Covenant's daughter, Elena, the High Lord, and bastard child of his rape of Lena during the first summoning, who has not only forgiven Covenant, unlike her Grandfather and her de facto stepfather-figure, who mistrust and despise the Unbeliever, but evinces a great deal of fondness for his sorry ass. Enough so that while Hile Troy, (a blind strategic genius who has also been summoned from our world, albeit accidentally in an attempt to bring Covenant over), Warmark or general of their troops, and his army go off to battle Lord Foul, and another deputation of Lords and soldiers and Bloodguard, (a race of ninja like warriors who have sworn a Vow to protect the Land [which vow renders them ageless and without need for sleep]) go in an attempt to aid a race of Giants, she asks Covenant to accompany her in a search for powerful magic which she hopes to use against Lord Foul. And, of course, since these are not happy books, nothing goes according to plan, and much of it is disastrous. There is more explanation in this book of why Covenant acts the way he does. And while I never came to like him, or to even have much sympathy for him, this greater understanding of his psyche allowed me to accept him. But many parts of this book were tedious and overwritten, and I'd have liked it better if it had been 250 pages rather than 514. That said, I did come to care more for the overall story which, while far to serious, depressing, overblown, and frustrating to be entertaining, was compelling enough to keep me reading. And this novel benefitted greatly from much of it being told from the perspective of Hile Troy, a much more sympathetic and interesting, if not necessarily likable,character.
  15. Luna, loved the forest pictures, very nice, can imagine walking there. CP, so sorry that your daughter is having a rough time, I hope the specialist gets her problem fixed, pregnancy can be taxing without the extra burden of health problems. Sending good thoughts her way - and yours. Meg, you are an inspiration with the amount of energy you put into your gardening. It must give you great satisfaction. Dave (thought I'd just use his name) planted some peas yesterday, then he went today and bought some watermelon plants, he loves watermelon and I can't eat it as any type of melon gives me indigestion, but it is a great favourite of Canadians during barbecue time. I asked again about zucchini and yes, he had planted some the other day, so success for me. I laughed at your account of the mating of the gulls, lots of wild life entertainment. Finally have become disenchanted by police thrillers and mysteries and went on the Internet to find a 'nice' book. Goodreads has a whole list of them and I picked one called Lost Lake, I also ordered a book from the library, part of a series called The Mitford Years, so I'm hoping to have some relaxing reads and it might calm me down after being so involved in the White House carry on. At least I'll get away from dead bodies, serial killers and corrupt politicians.
  16. Last week
  17. Oh, CP, how worrying - and the increasing temperatures won't be helping. I hope the dermatologist is able to prescribe something to soothe the discomfort. I had a bitty sort of day, Out in the garden early to water the various containers, then a load in the washing machine followed by a trip to the Supermarket and then B&Q (Wednesday is pensioners discount day) to buy another big bag of multi-puropse compost, some bamboo canes and a couple of packs of bedding plants. I don't normally do bedding, but there are a couple of places still to have their permanent planting, and I decided that a few verbena plants would keep the weeds down for now. They didn't get planted today, as my back was already playing up from packing & unpacking the groceries, and it was getting a bit too hot - lovely for drying my washing 'though. In the afternoon I had to pick up my granddaughter from school as her mum had taken eldest grandson to a routine hospital appointment in London. Got given a lesson on the vascular system when the middle child (aged 12) got home from school all hot and sweaty, and cooled himself down by submerging his wrists in cold water. He does love to share these little nuggets of scientific information Later in the afternoon Mr meg and I were amused by the antics of a female herring gull on the roof of the house opposite. She drew my attention by her short, almost cooing call, as she attempted to seduce her mate, rubbing her beak or head against him. He put up with all the attention quite stoically, although he did move to another part of the roof a few times, but she didn't take 'no' for an answer and just followed to continue her invitations. Eventually he gave up his show of indifference, and obliged, so in due course there will be another screeching juvenile gull practicing take-offs and landings on the flat roof next door. (which is an entertainment in itself, as I can see them from my armchair and it is often more amusing than watching the TV)
  18. I slept beautifully CP so the hoovering did the trick. I'm sorry to hear about your daughter's distress and hope that she can find solace soon. You must be terribly worried. We managed a bit of forest bathing today - my father has embraced this wholehearedly, I'm glad to say - and it was truly breath-taking. We were only in the park nearest to us, Cathkin Braes for the locals, but under the trees were millions of bluebells and it was very beautiful. We took photos so I might post a few later. I did not think I had enough energy for much of a walk - it was very humid today and I never do well in humidity - but we discovered that we'd been out for half an hour. This article popped up in my FB page and I thought I'd post it here for a laugh, knowing at least one person who reads in bed : Reading in bed
  19. Gail Honeyman

    I just finished this book and liked it very much. It's very funny in places, but has some very touching and powerful parts as well. Thanks for reviewing it Mr. HG. I doubt I would ever have known about it if it weren't for your review.
  20. Glad you are feeling a bit brighter today Luna. Hopefully you will continue to sleep a bit better now that you have hoovered up your room a bit. Household dust is one of the worst things for allergies. I have had a bit of an unplanned day today. I went for my daily walk early this morning before going to midweek communion at church. After communion I turned my phone back on to find a text from my SIL asking me to go over to be with my daughter and go with her to the drop in clinic to see the midwife. I am very glad I did. Her eczema has not been so bad in years unfortunately. The midwife and health visitor were marvelous. As she was getting distressed her blood pressure had gone up too. The midwife made her an emergency doctors appointment suggesting that she be urgently referred to a dermatologist. I went the the GP with her, he has referred her and said she should see someone next week. She has been told to take the rest of the week off and has to go back to the clinic on Friday to have her blood pressure taken again. She is having a bit of a rough time so far I am just glad that she seems to be in such good hands!
  21. Me too, but I'm not a Bond fan. I preferred him as Ivanhoe, or better still, as The Saint.
  22. In my case sleep is everything. I feel better now, so onward and upward
  23. Really liked Roger Moore as James Bond, he was always so sophisticated and I saw him in other movies too and always enjoyed his acting. Hadn't realized he was nearly 90, it's amazing how you think of celebrities as staying the same, never aging, or maybe that's just my thinking.
  24. Sorry you are feeling under the weather Luna, maybe tomorrow will bring some breezes. Sounds like you soldiered on and did some housework, cutting down the dust will keep you less likely to cough and maybe get some sleep. Better days ahead.
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