The Bridge by Enza Gandolfo

There would be few Melbournians who cross the West Gate Bridge without a slightly heavy heart – the 1970 bridge collapse and the horrific tragedy of Darcey Freeman in 2009 weighs on us collectively. It is perhaps why Enza Gandolfo’s novel, The Bridge, resonates so deeply.

There are two stories in this book, linked by the Bridge. The first tells of 22-year-old Italian migrant Antonello, newly married and working as a rigger on the West Gate Bridge in 1970. When the Bridge collapses one October morning, killing 35 of his workmates, Antonello’s world crashes down on him.

Another jolt; the span was almost vertical now. A stiff-legged derrick loosed from its mooring catapulted toward the river, its long metal arms flaying violently, a giant possessed. And now the men: the men were falling, falling off, falling through the air and into the river below. They were screaming, but their cries were muffled by the bridge’s own deathly groans. Continue reading

Small Wrongs by Kate Rossmanith

When an author gets the balance between memoir and journalism* just right, it makes for brilliant reading. Kate Rossmanith has done it with Small Wrongs, a book that explores how we say ‘sorry’.

Rossmanith looks at what constitutes remorse from many angles – the ‘theatre’ of courtroom appearances; how judges make their decisions; prison, parole and rehabilitation and how these systems create opportunities for offenders to show remorse; and retribution for victims of crime.

In the justice system…the act of forgiveness was unrelated to the duty of punishment; it was not the role of the courts to forgive a person…only the victims can forgive. Continue reading

Sample Saturday – a dog, a scandal, and motherhood

Sample Saturday is when I wade through the eleventy billion samples I have downloaded on my Kindle. I’m slowly chipping away and deciding whether it’s buy or bye.

This week, all three books are ones I’m seeing everywhere – thought I’d try a sample rather than simply succumbing to the hype. Continue reading

Heart Berries: A Memoir by Terese Marie Mailhot

I have a weak point when reading – the loss of a child. Stories about losing a child – through death, family separation, to addiction, to crime – hurt my heart more than any other. I’ve mentioned a passage in Yanagihara’s A Little Life that haunts me because it gets to the very core of the issue.

When the loss of a child was revealed at the beginning of Terese Marie Mailhot’s memoir, Heart Berries, I prepared myself for a tough read.

You asked me for my secret. I told you about the son who didn’t live with me. I told you I lock myself in the bathroom to cry when I remember his milk breath… You said you’d be on the other side of the door. That’s how perfect love is at first. Solutions are simple, and problems are laid out simply. Continue reading

Bookish (and not so bookish) Thoughts

01. Woohoo! Can’t wait to start trying recipes from Hetty McKinnon’s new book, Family (her first book, Community, is one of my most-used cookbooks and her roasted beetroot, turnip, edamame, radish and wasabi mayonnaise salad is life-changing). Continue reading

Mary & O’Neil by Justin Cronin

I was recently asked what sort of books I liked. I replied “Contemporary relationship stories.” I think that made sense to the person who had asked the question!

I like stories that explore relationships, particularly families. I like stories that examine regular feelings – grief, love, loneliness, joy and so forth – in a new way, that puts fresh words around the familiar. Some authors are able to articulate particular emotions with astounding clarity (most recently, Jessie Cole’s memoir Staying took my breath away, and earlier this year Paula Keogh’s The Green Bell did the same) – these are the book I enjoy most.

That’s a long introduction to Justin Cronin’s short debut novel, Mary & O’Neil. The story traces the lives of two characters, Mary Olson and O’Neil Burke. When they meet, both have suffered profound losses (all is revealed in the blurb but if you intend to read this book based on my flimsy review, just dive straight in). Continue reading

The Rich Part of Life by Jim Kokoris

Fairly certain that everyone has a ‘what would I do if I won the lottery’ list. Sometimes it’s multiple lists, adjusted by the size of the prize. I have such a list, which is interesting given that I don’t buy lottery tickets. My list is –

  1. Hire an island and take all my friends on a beach holiday.
  2. Take a world trip that includes Iceland, the Bahamas and the Maldives.
  3. Choose some charities that a big contribution would make a massive difference to (I already have some that are close to my heart).
  4. Buy a seaside shack in the place where I spend summer (McCrae) – nothing fancy because there will always be sand on the floor.

Given the existence of these lists, it’s intriguing when lotteries go unclaimed (as happened in Melbourne this week) – and this is the topic of Jim Kokoris’s novel, The Rich Part of Life. Continue reading

Madame Verona Comes Down the Hill by Dimitri Verhulst

A dense forest; a house on a hill; a beautiful woman pining for her husband and the music they once shared; her story simply told… Madame Verona Comes Down the Hill by Dimitri Verhulst has the hallmarks of a fairy-tale, however, what transpires is a delicate and surprising reflection on grief and the things we do to go on living after losing the person we love most.

Madame Verona and her husband built a home for themselves, tucked away on forested hill slopes above a small village. There they lived in isolation, practising their music, and chopping enough wood to see them through the freezing winters.

Fire was the primary fruit of these trees and warmth was the harvest. After three years’ seasoning, the wood gave them the smell that all gods undoubtedly use as a perfume and heat that makes anything produced by electric devices look like a joke. Continue reading