Avalanche by Julia Leigh

There’s all sorts of reasons why I don’t feel I’m in a position to comment on Julia Leigh’s Avalanche, an account of her experience with IVF. However, Leigh makes a statement early in her memoir that made me pause and think –

“In the public imagination – as I perceive it – there’s a qualified sympathy for IVF patients, not unlike that shown to smokers who get lung cancer. Unspoken: ‘You signed up for it, so what do you expect…?'”

“Qualified sympathy” – it’s an interesting phrase. Have I ever been guilty of qualified sympathy? Probably, although certainly not in relation to someone’s desire to have a baby. It’s these kind of gritty bits that lodged as I was reading Avalanche. Continue reading

Lola Bensky by Lily Brett

My first encounter with Lily Brett was in 1986 when my mum, who had never censored my reading in any way, gently took The Auschwitz Poems from my hands and said, “Enough.” I’d been on a long Holocaust reading binge and Brett’s collection of poems had me in tatters.

Lola Bensky is a different Brett. It’s the story of nineteen-year-old Lola, an Australian rock journalist who is sent to London in 1967 to interview Hendrix, Jagger and Joplin, to name a few.  It sounds fanciful, but Lola Bensky is rooted in Brett’s own experience and although it may be difficult to sort fact from fiction in this novel, a glance through Brett’s bio suggests that Lola is almost a memoir. Almost. Continue reading

Antarctica on a Plate by Alexa Thomson

If you’re looking for a memoir about exploring, ice and braving the extremities of Antarctica, then Alexa Thomson’s Antarctica on a Plate is not for you. Yes, there’s ice but the focus is on the challenge of cooking large quantities of food on a small stove, and the fact that in Antarctica you never run out of freezer space. Continue reading

Surrender by Sonya Hartnett

Sonya Hartnett’s Surrender is a story split in half – alternating chapters are told from the perspective of 20-year-old Gabriel, dying of an unnamed illness, and from Finnigan, the town wild-child and Gabriel’s only friend.

When the boys first meet, they make an unusual pact. Finnigan makes Gabriel swear not to do ‘bad things’ –

“I’ll do the bad things for you. Then you won’t have to. You can just do good things.” Continue reading

Bookish (and not so bookish) Thoughts

hetty-mckinnon-neighbourhood

01. A couple of years ago I had a salad epiphany (I’m not overstating it). I realised that there was no such thing as a ‘tasty, simple salad that you could throw together at the last minute’. Instead, all the best salads appear simple but are actually quite complex and/or take time to prepare. I bought a book that became my Salad Bible. Truly, it’s the best. So I was excited to discover that the author, Hetty McKinnon, has a new book out – Neighbourhood. Continue reading

Our Tiny, Useless Hearts by Toni Jordan

Caroline is married to Henry.
Henry is having an affair with Martha.
Caroline and Henry’s neighbours are Lesley and Craig.
Caroline is having an affair with Craig.
Janice is Caroline’s sister.
Alec is Janice’s ex-husband. Janice still loves him, it seems.
Alec springs Janice and Craig in bed together (nothing happened).
Lesley has had enough of Craig.
Lesley announces she’s sleeping with Alec.
And then things descend from there. Continue reading

The Good People by Hannah Kent

The Good People, Hannah Kent’s second novel, tells the story of three women living in a remote Irish valley in 1825. Nora Leahy, a widow, is burdened with the care of her grandson, Michael. The boy cannot walk or speak and Nora has kept him hidden from neighbours, fearing they will believe him a ‘changeling’ (someone who has been abducted by fairies). Nora employs a young girl, Mary, to care for Michael but as the child becomes increasingly difficult to manage, Nora seeks the help of Nance Roche, an old woman known as a doctress –

“The keener. The handy woman… She was both the woman who brought babies to safe harbour in the world, and the siren that cut boats free of their anchors and sent them into the dark.
…she stood in for that which was not and could not be understood. She was the gatekeeper at the edge of the world. The final human hymn before all fell to wind and shadow and the strange creaking of stars. Continue reading