I was sold on Rosemary McLoughlin’s Tyringham Park when it was compared to Downton Abbey. Have I mentioned how much I love Downton Abbey? It’s a lot. A friend commented that every episode of Downton is about making cups of tea. Perhaps, but such elegant cups of tea!
Anyway, the Downton reference was enough but when I read the blurb for Tyringham Park I felt there could have been a little of Ian McEwan’s Atonement in there as well. Hooray! Continue reading
Counting down my top five holiday drinks:
5. Belvoir Elderflower soft drink – so deliciously refreshing. Have already made inquiries about where to find it in Melbourne (apparently there’s a handful of stores that stock it).
It’s always a shame that holidays begin and end with airplane food because all the bits in-between are tops.
Here are my top five foodie favourites – Continue reading
A day trip. To Paris. As you do.
Here are my five highlights:
5. I now have the passport stamps to prove that I ‘popped over to Paris for lunch’. Continue reading
1. In a day or two, I’m going to write a whole bunch of self-indulgent posts about my holiday. Brace yourselves. In the meantime, this is all the other stuff that’s been going on.
2. Jet-lag. It really, really sucks (appreciate the fact that the flight from Melbourne to London is 23 hours. I ate breakfast eleventy billion times in row.) I feel like this:
3. Uni has started. Honestly, looking at parasitic-ridden horse blood under a microscope filled my heart with joy. In contrast, I felt my age when kids starting taking selfies while waiting in the lab queue. Continue reading
I’m back from London and The Continent. I really like the term ‘The Continent’ – far more Henry James than ‘Europe’ and it also reminds me of the eighties when people in Australia talked extensively about their ‘Continental holidays’ – they sounded so glamorous. Note that my two week trip included two visits to The Continent – a day-trip to Paris (as you do) and a few days in Berlin. As a result, I can now talk about ‘my most recent trip to The Continent’ (Berlin) and ‘my previous trip to The Continent’ (Paris). This makes me very happy indeed.
I’m sure I’ll bore you with holiday details in my next Bookish Thoughts post but in the meantime, I’ll share some quick thoughts on the books I read while I was away.
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt is a very long book (771 pages). So I’m going to write a short(ish) review. In fact, for every hundred pages that Tartt wrote, I’ll write just a thought or two.
1.Intimate. That’s the word I’d use to describe The Goldfinch. It might be considered an odd description for a book of almost 800 pages and a story that spans a few countries and a couple of decades. But whether it’s furniture restoration, the Strip in Vegas, baccarat, New York’s elite, pills or Ukrainian thugs, Tartt writes with intimate knowledge. This is the kind of writing that goes beyond having ‘just done the research’.
“What would Thoreau have made of Las Vegas: its lights and rackets, its trash and daydreams, its projections and hollow facades?”
In an early scene, Theo’s mother explains the intricacies of the Dutch Masters and in doing so, sums up precisely what Tartt has done on the page -
“‘Well the Dutch invented the microscope,’ she said. ‘They were jewelers, grinders of lenses. They want it all as detailed as possible because even the tiniest things mean something….’”
2. Pace. You know when you see the weather report and it says “It’s ten degrees but it feels like 5.” This book was 771 pages but it felt like 300. I couldn’t stop reading – I was squeezing in minutes here and there, going to sleep late, getting up early, all because of Theo and his painting. A true page-turner and Tartt didn’t drop the ball once. Continue reading
It’s tough to write a review of Jennifer Gilmore’s novel, The Mothers, without feeling emotionally compromised.
Babies have come to the people within my circle of family and friends in almost every way possible – through IVF and other assisted fertility treatments, through fostering, through Australian and overseas adoption and via sperm donation. My story is quite different and less fraught – we decided we wanted a baby and nine months later, my first was born. We repeated the exercise three more times. I never experienced longing for the seemingly unobtainable baby nor the disappointment of a negative pregnancy test. I felt incredibly blessed yet I was also keenly aware of the unfairness of the whole business of creating a family. Around me, friends and family members were struggling to have what had inexplicably come so easily to me. There was more than one occasion when I dreaded sharing our ‘happy’ news. Yet no matter how sensitive I was to the struggle others were having, I couldn’t exactly hide my pregnancies. And of course all I wanted for my friends who were struggling to get pregnant, was a baby but to say that (particularly when I was pregnant) sounded glib. In fact, even writing this sounds glib. I was anything but that. Continue reading
“‘Get out, you cunting, shitting, little fucking fucker!’ were the first words I ever heard. The midwife, a shiny-faced woman who learned entirely new turns of phrase that night, smoothed Ma’s hair.’
Is that not the most impressive opening line you’ve read? It’s certainly memorable. And so begins Tony Hogan Bought Me an Ice-Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma by Kerry Hudson.
It’s not just the opening line and the title that’s arresting about this story (incidentally, the title is the only thing I don’t like about this book – it’s too long to tweet). It’s a character-driven plot centred around Janie and her mother Iris, and their life in a succession of council flats, predominantly in Scotland. Regardless of where they are, the story is the same – there’s useless men, the dole queue, drink, drugs and violence to be had in any town. But loyalty and family bonds run deep and as you follow Janie’s rises and falls, you can’t help but become attached.
“…My eyes soaked in the our new neighbourhood. Graffiti and scorch-marks, echoes of small fires, decorated doorsteps. Golden Special Brew cans and crushed vodka bottles, bright as diamonds, collected in the gutters. Front gardens were filled with mouldy paddling pools and, occasionally, a rustburnished shell of a car. I had never seen anything so beautiful, so many colours, before in grey Aberdeen.” Continue reading
It seems that I’m making a bit of a habit of not choosing between the book and the film*. But I can’t help it if ‘they’ keep making film versions of my favourite books.
I cried for about two hours as I watched The Book Thief. So obviously, it was very, very good. They got the characters right. The actors didn’t overplay the German accents. The setting was largely how I imagined it. Only two things annoyed me, and they were so minor that I’m obviously being picky (but I bet you still want to know what they were**).
The reason I’m allowing a total cop-out on a critique of the film is simply because I went to a screening that included question-and-answer time with author Markus Zusak. And I think it’s far more interesting to report on his thoughts about the book and the movie than mine. Continue reading