The Stella Prize 2019 winner in conversation

Last night I had the great pleasure of hearing Stella Prize 2019 winner, Vicki Laveau-Harvie, talk about her memoir, The Erratics.

Vicki was in conversation with Louise Swinn, chair of the 2019 judging panel. They began by discussing the broad themes of the novel – dysfunction and mental health in families, and sibling rivalries. The response from readers was overwhelmingly “This is my story.” Continue reading

Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris

Because I am in #campold, a dinner party conversation I had last weekend was about colonoscopies. More specifically, the person who brought it up was talking about their anxiety – they’ve never had a colonoscopy. Neither have I*, which is probably why I gleefully suggested they should read the hilarious chapter on colonoscopies in David Sedaris’s eighth collection of essays, Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls. Continue reading

Axiomatic by Maria Tumarkin

Time heals all wounds… Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it… History repeats itself… Give me a child before the age of seven and I’ll give you the woman… You can’t enter the same river twice…

The sayings might be familiar but everything Maria Tumarkin does in Axiomatic to explore them, is not. In five loosely linked chapters, Turmarkin uses stories about suicide, a child’s kidnapping, Holocaust survival, crime, and past relationships to challenge our understanding of these well-worn axioms.  Continue reading

Three reviews from Mount TBR

I am really, really trying to finish the Mount TBR reading challenge this year. I generally hit a road block in March as I read the Stella Prize lists, and again in August when the Melbourne Writers Festival provides a lovely distraction and lots of new books. At my current rate, I’ll need to read five books per month from my TBR stack in order to hit the target. It’s doable…

So, three old-school Twitter* reviews of Mount TBR books I’ve read over the last month – Continue reading

Sample Saturday – Wellcome Book Prize selections

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 have been shortlisted in the past for the Wellcome Book Prize. 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

The Erratics by Vicki Laveau-Harvie

One of the things I’ve learnt in counselling is to pay attention to my judgements, to examine very closely what’s behind my assessment of another person. In particular, what does a ‘judgement’ say about me (as opposed to my client)? To be clear, 95% of my time counselling is free of judgement – I listen, I try to understand and that’s it. But 5% of the time, someone will say something that triggers an immediate personal reaction, and it’s in that 5% where counsellors do their own work. Vicki Laveau-Harvie’s memoir, The Erratics, was a whole book of 5% for me.

Laveau-Harvie is Canadian-born and raised but has lived much of her life in Australia (hence this book being longlisted for the Stella Prize). The Erratics captures a short time in her life when, along with her Canadian-based sister, they moved their elderly mother into permanent care, and made arrangements for their father to stay in the relatively remote prairie home he loved. This sounds straight-forward, however, the blurb hints at something more dramatic – the mother is mentally unstable, hostile and delusional, and has systematically starved her father and kept him a hostage in his own home.

One of the few coherent messages my mother repeated to me and to my sister as we grew up, a message she sometimes delivered with deceptive gentleness and a touch of sadness that we weren’t more worthy prey, was this one, and I quote: I’ll get you and you won’t even know I’m doing it. Continue reading

Six Degrees of Separation – from The Arsonist to Tin Man

It’s time for #6degrees. Start at the same place as other wonderful readers, add six books, and see where you end up!

This month we begin with The Arsonist by Chloe Hooper. It’s a fascinating account of the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires. One of the themes Hooper explores is remorse. Continue reading