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

Flesh Wounds by Richard Glover

Recently, one of my counselling colleagues wailed, “Why are we always talking about mothers?!”

Because it’s our first ‘relationship’, and through it we learn how to get attention from others, and how to get the things we need. It’s fairly simple (and fairly easy to stuff up for a whole bunch of reasons).

I like memoirs, particularly those about mothers, which is why I picked up Richard Glover’s Flesh Wounds.   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

Turning by Jessica J. Lee

Sometimes, all the things you love combine in one perfect story. Such was the case with Turning by Jessica J. Lee. If you appreciate swimming, Berlin, hydrology (specifically limnology), the nuances in the German language, and memoirs, then read on (it’s not a niche audience, is it?!). Continue reading

Nonfiction November – New to My TBR

It’s the final week of Nonfiction November, hosted by Katie @ Doing Dewey.

So what’s the damage? I’ve added quite a few books to the TBR stack. 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