Reading Challenges 2017

Sure, I might squeeze in another couple of books before midnight on December 31, 2017 but I think I can safely draw a line under the reading challenges for the year.

I participated in five challenges this year – finished three; one is ongoing (I made a solid start); and I failed one – not miserably but I didn’t complete the target number of books. Continue reading

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Unbearable Lightness by Portia de Rossi

Unbearable Lightness is de Rossi’s story of her eating disorder (she suffered both bulimia and anorexia). Much of the book is focused on the ‘physical’ elements of her experience – dieting to fit into the modelling world that she became a part of from age 12, constantly under the scrutiny of a camera, the stress of wardrobe fittings. She goes into great detail about her exercise regime and what she ate (and vomited). The details are horrifying –

Continue reading

The Near Miss by Fran Cusworth

Fran Cusworth’s domestic-drama, The Near Miss, tells the story of three strangers, brought together by an ‘almost’ accident (hence the title).

Grace is an exhausted mother, who is plagued by a ‘…smorgasbord of worries’, from money, work, and her temperamental daughter to her husband who spends more time inventing things than focused on his job.

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The Trauma Cleaner by Sarah Krasnostein

This book. Wow.

Harrowing. Courageous. Repulsive. Compelling. Heartbreaking. Uplifting. Fascinating.

The Trauma Cleaner, like its star, Sandra Pankhurst, is genre-defying. Author Sarah Krasnostein shadowed Sandra over a number of years, observing her day-to-day activities and recording the story of her life before she was a cleaner. And that story is remarkable – Sandra was a husband and father, drag queen, sex reassignment patient, sex worker, businesswoman, and trophy wife. As a ‘trauma cleaner’, Sandra cleans places others dare not go – homicide, suicide and death scenes; meth labs; homes of hoarders; and places ravaged by water, mould and filth.

Sandra knows her clients as well as they know themselves; she airs out their smells, throws out their weird porn, their photos, their letters, the last traces of their DNA entombed in soaps and toothbrushes. She does not, however, erase these people. She couldn’t. She has experienced their same sorrows. Continue reading

Melbourne Writers Festival 2017 – Day 3

 

Second Generation Narratives

My third day at MWF started with an incredibly impressive panel – Randa Abdel-Fattah, Maxine Beneba Clarke, AS Patrić and Alice Pung (chaired by Arnold Zable) – discussing the second-generation Australian experience and how it’s reflected in literature. Continue reading

Melbourne Writers Festival 2017 – Day 1

I’m going to events over three days of the ten-day 2017 Melbourne Writers Festival (so there’ll be two more posts like this one). Today, the focus of the sessions I attended were on health.

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Our Magic Hour by Jennifer Down

There’s grief-lit aplenty at the moment. Honestly, you can’t scan a bookshelf without YA novels about parents or best friends dying; memoirs about cancer battles; suicide stories; and generally just loss, loss and more loss. But if you only read one bit of grief-lit this year, make it Our Magic Hour by Jennifer Down.

Audrey, Katy and Adam have been friends since high school—a shared history of inside jokes, sneaky cigarettes, ‘D&Ms’ and looking out for each other –

Katy’s family ate dinner together every single night. Her parents umpired at weekend netball matches, took orange quarters for the girls in their pleated skirts. Audrey’s parents destroyed each other.

Now in their twenties, they juggle the pressures of adulthood – relationships, work, their families. When Katy takes her own life (within the first few pages), Audrey and Adam are left to deal with their grief. The story explores the ripple-effect of Katy’s death rather than the reasons why she took her own life. Continue reading

Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks

Here’s the thing about Geraldine Brooks (because I’m totally qualified to comment on Geraldine Brooks, obvs) and Caleb’s Crossing (which, according to many aggrieved Goodreads members, should be called Bethia’s Crossing) –

01. Stating the obvious but she knows how to write historical fiction. I reckon Brooks tests every single word for authenticity – it’s meticulous.

02. Even the emotions her characters are feeling are ‘historically appropriate’ (tricky, right?) and yet, she manages to create these wonderfully strong females who both make a mark on their time and offer something for the present.

Is it ever thus, at the end of things? Does any woman ever count the grains of her harvest and say: Good enough? Or does one always think of what more one might have laid in, had the labor been harder, the ambition more vast, the choices more sage? Continue reading

Berlin Syndrome by Melanie Joosten

Melanie Joosten’s fresh-to-the-big-screen thriller, Berlin Syndrome, is a story about Stockholm Syndrome. Set in Berlin, obvs.

Australian photographer (with an interest in former Eastern Bloc architecture), Clare, meets native Berliner and English teacher, Andi.

He was not really following her, he told himself, he was just curious to see where she was going. An anthropological study of a foreigner in Berlin.

There is an instant attraction and suddenly a holiday fling turns into something more sinister than Clare could have anticipated. Within days, Clare realises that she is trapped in Andi’s apartment and although she initially tries to escape, her attitude changes and she becomes a compliant prisoner. Continue reading