The 2019 Stella Prize Longlist

I was at a school information night tonight, surreptitiously looking at Twitter for the announcement of the 2019 Stella Prize longlist.

And as the books were announced I had to focus on VCE assessment and ‘good study habits’ rather than sending congratulations messages to lovely authors (go Jenny, you little ripper!); hitting my library’s online reservation system; and marking books on Goodreads… I’m home now and I’m ready to start reading. Continue reading

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The Stella Prize 2019 – longlist predictions

The Stella Prize 2019 longlist will be announced tonight.

The longlist is made up of twelve books, usually a mix of fiction and non-fiction, memoirs and short stories (all must have been published in 2018). Continue reading

In the Garden of the Fugitives by Ceridwen Dovey

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

A bunch of short reviews

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

The Arsonist by Chloe Hooper

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

Florence Broadhurst: Her Secret & Extraordinary Lives by Helen O’Neill

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

Reading Challenges 2018

Sure, I might squeeze in another couple of books before midnight on December 31, 2018 but I think I can safely draw a line under the reading challenges for the year.

I participated in six challenges this year – finished four; one is ongoing; and I failed one – not miserably but I didn’t complete the target number of books. Continue reading

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

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

Eggshell Skull by Bri Lee

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