The Green Bell by Paula Keogh

Sometimes when I’m reading a book I find that a particular element of the story resonates very deeply. It’s usually an element that isn’t the main theme of the story and therefore catches me off-guard.

Such was the case with Paula Keogh’s memoir, The Green Bell. It’s essentially a story about Keogh’s experience in a psychiatric unit of the Canberra Hospital in the 1970s. The events leading up to her admission (notably the death of a very close friend), what happens when she is there (she meets and falls in love with poet, Michael Dransfield who is being treated for drug addiction), and her life after hospital is the guts of Keogh’s story.

There’s no way out after all. I turn around and make my way back to M Ward. I’m worthless, pared down to nothing. I’ve come to the very end of possibility. Continue reading


Six Degrees of Separation – from The Beauty Myth to The Accidental Billionaires

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 a book that generated a lot of debate when it was published in 1990 – The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf. My friends were discussing it over pots of beer at The Clyde in Carlton, while we should have been at lectures… Continue reading

In My Mother’s Hands by Biff Ward

I have fiddled around with this review for weeks and it’s only today that I realised what was bothering me – other reviews (settle down, I won’t name names).

Biff Ward’s memoir, In My Mother’s Hands, describes her life growing up in the 40s and 50s. Biff has a younger brother, Mark, but there was also baby Alison, who drowned in her bath before Biff was born. The drowning occurred because Biff’s mother was ‘distracted’  – it was an event that would have a deep effect on their lives in many ways and would continue to haunt Biff for decades. Biff’s father, historian Russel Ward, was charismatic, strong and outspoken. He was also short-tempered and frequently unfaithful to his wife.

We may not have had ideas we could voice but we breathed it in, the irrational in her, the grief in him and the unpredictability all around. Continue reading

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

I do sometimes read non-fiction…

I’ve done more non-fiction reading this year than I have in previous years. Partly stuff associated with uni, partly stuff about dementia (particularly relevant to my family at present), and of course I continue to be a sucker for a memoir.

I’ve jotted down a few thoughts on some of the books I’ve read recently – not reviews as such, just a record. Continue reading

My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff

New York, 1995, and newly graduated 23-year-old Joanna Rakoff has deserted her ‘nice college boyfriend’ and has moved into a slope-floored, unheated apartment in New York with domineering Don – a Marxist, aspiring writer, and everyday arsehole.

Although she dreams of becoming a poet, Rakoff takes a job as an assistant at the literary agency that represents J. D. Salinger. The ‘Agency’ is from another era – plush wood-panelled offices complete with Dictaphones and typewriters; old-time agents doing business their way, including martini lunches and afternoon naps; and a boss (‘swathed in a whiskey mink, her eyes covered with enormous dark glasses, her head with a silk scarf in an equestrian pattern’) who keeps track of her authors on specially printed index cards. Her boss notes –

‘…agents used to be upstanding. None of these multiple submissions…no auctions, with publishers bidding against each other. It’s uncouth. That’s not the Agency way. We send things out to one editor at a time. We match writers with editors. We have morals.’ Continue reading