Recently, one of my counselling colleagues wailed, “Why are we always talking about mothers?!”
Because it’s our first ‘relationship’, and through it we learn how to get attention from others, and how to get the things we need. It’s fairly simple (and fairly easy to stuff up for a whole bunch of reasons).
I like memoirs, particularly those about mothers, which is why I picked up Richard Glover’s Flesh Wounds. Continue reading
I’m not usually one for the forced tone and repetitive structure of epistolary novels, however, I was hooked on Ceridwen Dovey’s In the Garden of the Fugitives from the very beginning.
Almost twenty years after forbidding contact, Vita receives a letter from Royce, who was once her benefactor. Vita, a film and ethnography student in her youth, was one of his brightest protégées. Continue reading
I am painfully behind in my reviews – the longer they go unwritten, the less likely it is to happen. These reviews hardly do justice to some of the books I’ve read (sorry Magda) but at the very least provide me with a record. Continue reading
On February 7, 2009 – a day that would become known as Black Saturday – bushfires burned vast areas of Victoria (my home state). Extreme heat, high winds, low humidity, and severe drought combined to create the worst bushfire conditions in Australia’s recorded history (the heat from the fires was equivalent to 500 atomic bombs exploding).
Black Saturday resulted in Australia’s highest ever loss of life from a bush-fire event. Across Victoria, 173 people died; more than one million animals (pets, wildlife and stock) perished; over 2,000 houses and 3,500 structures were completely destroyed; and whole towns were razed (Kinglake, Marysville, Narbethong, Strathewen, and Flowerdale). The total area burnt was approximately half a million square kilomentres – to put that in perspective, the size of Spain.
The trauma can’t be measured.
Some of the fires were deliberately lit and the man responsible for starting the Central Gippsland fires is the topic of Chloe Hooper’s enthralling book, The Arsonist. Hooper gives a detailed account of the fires, the arson investigation, the arrest of a socially vulnerable man who had not previously been known to police, and his trial. Continue reading
Fraud, sham, or the definition of ‘reinvention’? I’ll get to that…
Florence Broadhurst: Her Secret & Extraordinary Lives by Helen O’Neill is unquestionably a beautiful book. I’d go so far as saying it’s one of the loveliest books I own. Continue reading
There’s no shortage of Holocaust literature, and yet every so often one story rises to the top of the best-seller lists – why is one story more ‘appealing’ than another? I don’t know. Why does one story capture attention over others? I don’t know. The current critics’ favourite is The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris.
Morris has recorded the true story of Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew who was transported to Auschwitz-Birkenau in April 1942. When the guards at the camp discovered that Lale spoke several languages, he was put to work as a Tätowierer (tattooist), tasked with ‘numbering’ his fellow prisoners.
Day has become night, and still men line up to be numbered for life, be it short or long. Continue reading
Sorry in advance – The Shepherd’s Hut by Tim Winton is one of those books that I can’t say much about, for fear of spoilers.
It’s the story of teenager, Jaxie Clackton. Jaxie’s mum died and his relationship with his dad is violent.
…when everyone went home after the funeral and I finished putting all them casseroles in the freezer I stood in the lounge in my good duds and the Captain sat out on the back patio drinking homebrew and rum. Arm over arm. Neither one of us said nothing. We both knew there was never gunna be anything good again.
Jaxie decides to leave, taking off across the vast saltlands of Western Australia. There he meets Fintan MacGillis, an old Irishman, on his own for very different reasons than Jaxie. What happens next changes both their lives. Continue reading
17% of Australian women aged 15 years and over will experience sexual assault.
1 in 6 assaults reported to police result in a conviction (so this says nothing about all the cases that are not reported).
In a legal system where the accused perpetrator may choose to say nothing and the victim must relive their trauma over and over and over again in the witness-box; be cross-examined; and have their ‘story’ judged by a jury, you can only think, “Why would you go through it?”.
Bri Lee did. Eggshell Skull is her harrowing story. Continue reading
To be perfectly frank, the Australian gold rush history I learnt at school was dull. We suffered through it for the excursion to Sovereign Hill, of which the highlights were having personalised ‘Wanted’ posters printed and spending a vast amount of money on boiled lollies. I’m sure we covered stuff about living conditions, the growth of Ballarat, and the far-reaching effects of the miners’ protests about compulsory licences… I probably filed it under ‘Oh yeah, that was the Eureka Stockade‘, and moved on to Sovereign Hill’s chief attraction – panning for gold.
Imagine if I’d been taught from Clare Wright’s The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka? It’s a spectacular, riveting book that gives an account of the events leading up to the Eureka Stockade from the perspective of individual women on the gold fields. Until Wright’s book, women had been left out of the Gold Rush and Eureka story, despite the fact that they played a significant role and in turn shaped Victorian history. Continue reading
I saw author Jenny Valentish speak at last year’s Melbourne Writers Festival. At the time, I hadn’t read her memoir, Woman of Substances – I often wonder how much my thoughts about a book are influenced by hearing the author speak before I’ve read it. Invariably their passion and post-publication reflections rub-off, and I go into the reading experience ‘looking out’ for certain things, which is why I left Woman of Substances almost a year before picking it up.
Woman of Substances is a memoir-research hybrid. Valentish uses her own experience of drugs and alcohol to explore how women deal with addiction and treatment. There are two main threads in the book – firstly, Valentish examines how trauma and self-destructive behaviours – such as eating disorders and high-risk sex – complicate substance use for women.
There’s an illusion of power in being as sexually aggressive as men are allowed to be, but it can sometimes take a stupefying blood-alcohol level to override the misgivings. Continue reading