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#AWW2020 Fiona McFarlane



  1. Fiona McFarlane is the winner of  £30,000 Dylan Thomas Prize 2017.
  2. The prize is open to writers in the English language aged 39 and under.
  3. NOTE: Longlist for Dylan Thomas Prize 2020 will be announced
  4. at the Jaipur Literature Festival  @JaipurLitFest
  5. 24 Jan 2020   0800 GMT (0900 CET) 1900 Sydney Australia



  1. Here are a few more stories  I tried to summarize.
  2. Short stories are a joy to read….
  3. …but a chore to review!
  4. I’m always searching for the right template for a
  5. short story collection blogpost.
  6. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.
  7. Everyone will have their own favorites stories
  8. …but mine are:
  9. Mycenae (Janet….I loved her!)
  10. Man and Bird ( …shortest story in collection…but packs a punch!)
  11. Violet, Violet (enchanting, had to laugh out-loud!)
  12. The High Places (reveals the meaning of the title!)
  13. #MustRead  Fiona McFarlane



Exotic Animal Medicine

  1. POV:  3rd-person narrative focused on one character Sarah.
  2. Plot: Sarah: animal veterinarian who specializes in exotic animal medicine.
  3. On her wedding day the newly-weds are involved in a car crash
  4. on their way to her surgery job…an accident on a dark country road.
  5. My Question:  Sarah cares for victim of car accident
  6. ..but had Sarah had too much to drink?
  7. Conflict: Sarah’s inner struggle accident, no witnesses, old man dies.
  8. Theme: Burden of guilt is heavy….hard feeling to handle. What should I do?
  9. Ending: is satisfying but not a neatly tied up conclusion.


First reading:

I read the story too quickly. I formed an ‘ending’ in my thoughts before I even  finished the story. I was taking the easy way out and assumed this would be a cut and dry story about the burden of guilt. I missed the essential role played by  the cat Queen of Sheba!

Second reading:

I knew this story had more to offer than meets the eye. It won a very prestigious literary prize in 2009 at th school where McFarlane was studying: University of Texas in Austin. Also having read an article by Joe Morgan in The Guardian about reflection and quiet absorption…the art of slow reading. I decided to take it slowly.

The story took on a whole new dimension.

….the parallel between the cat Sheba and Mr. Ronald!  It felt that Sarah the main character had a telepathic connection with the cat in the surgery.

Mr. Ronald….dying in the car moaned as did the cat in its cage many miles away.

This gave the story a ‘spooky’ feeling.




  1. POV: First Person Janet tells the story and interacts in the story as well.
  2. Plot: 2 couples (60+) (college friends) on a reunion holiday in Greece
  3. Characters: Janet – Murray (live in AUS)  Amy – Eric (live in USA)
  4. Theme: marriage
  5. Timeline: 1 week
  6. Clever play on words: Cornwall is south westernmost point of England
    It is where the couples as young students spent a holiday.
    Relationships were tested.
    “Marriage is like that, isn’t it, …It reaches a point.”
  7. Strong point: Feeling of pathos
    I can relate to Janet because I understand what it feels like to have a girlfriend
    who runs the show, steals the spotlight with no care of what others may feel!


Art Appreciation:

  1. POV: Third Person narrator is in a “god-like” position
    in which he can see into the minds of the characters.
  2. Plot:  Henry is a gambling man. He likes to weigh his odds and options
  3. He likes a little profit…a little loss.
  4. But what happens when he discovers  love does not work this way!
  5. Characters: Henry (28 yr) – Ellie (fiancé)  Kath (mistress)
  6. Theme: marriage; loneliness
  7. Timeline: 1,5 year
  8. Strong point: Character development (Henry)
    Henry utilizes the emotions of others to his own ends.
    Machiavellian…he is motivated out of pure, calculating self-interest.


Man and Bird:

  1. POV: 3rd person
  2. Plot: fall of a local preacher when he doubts his faith
  3. Characters: preacher and white parrot
  4. Theme: faith
  5. Timeline: unspecified in story
  6. Strong point: symbol of a parrot seen as a messenger from God
    …but the preacher feels he is “mindlessly mimicking” God’s message
    …as a parrot mimics speech!
  7. Strong point: McFarlane ‘bookends’ her story.
    The imagery that introduced the story…ends the story.
    This gives the reader a feeling that loose ends are tis up
    …. of coming full circle.
  8. NOTE: story contains no dialogue an is shortest story in the collection


Unnecessary Gifts

  1. POV: First Person Philip (father)  tells the story and interacts in the story as well
  2. Plot:
  3. Grandparents provide Phil and Glenda state-of-the are devices….see
  4. Title:  “Unnecessary Gifts” to  attach to James and Greg to track their movements.
  5. …to keep their grandchildren safe. But the parents did not keep up the surveillance.
  6. Boys disappear from neighbourhood….where are they?
  7. Characters:
  8. Philip – Glenda – Greg – James ( father/mother/sons)
  9. Tony (playmate of James and Greg)
  10. Tony’s brother (security guard in store at the mall)
  11. Theme:  parenting
  12. ….grandparents are savvy of dangers that their own children do not see!
  13. Timeline: 1 day (…with flashbacks to provide background family info)
  14. Strong point: tension…mention of police report,
  15. security tapes and Tony’s brother’s statement on
  16. …2nd page is foreshadowing that something is going to go wrong!
  17. Weak point:  the aforementioned ‘tension …where did it go?
  18. The story fizzles out completely! Deflates like a cold soufflé!
  19. I’m very disappointed with this selection…it had so much potential.
  20. It feels like Mcfalrlane’s heart and concentration are not really in
  21. this story: “she phoned it in.”


Those Americans Falling From the Sky

  1. POV: First Person Jeanie tells the story and interacts in the story as well
  2. Plot: pastoral description of life @home for Jeanie en Nora
  3. ….and the impact of US airmen in the town of Merrigool.
  4. But the story enters around 8 dead airmen whose
  5. plane crashed behind their farm and one missing parachutist.
  6. Their souls began to cause trouble in the area.
  7. Characters:
  8. Edith (60+) neighbor
  9. Nora – Jeanie (sisters)
  10. Maggie (mother) – Frank (stepfather of sisters)
  11. Theme: nostalgia
  12. Weak point: the story felt a bit pointless
  13. Memories of life on a farm during WW II in Australia
  14. …nothing else.
  15. “Their souls began to cause trouble in the area”
  16. …sounded like an excellent opportunity to write some great
  17. …subplots but McFarlane did not flesh this out.

#AWW2020 Wild Sea: a history of the southern ocean

  • Author:  Joy McCann
  • Title: Wild Sea: a history of the southern ocean  (258 pg)
  • Published: 2018
  • Genre: non-fiction
  • Rating: A+++
  • Trivia:  2019 Australian Book Industry Awards (ABIA) longlist
  • List of Challenges 2020
  • Monthly plan
  • #AWW2020   @AusWomenWriter


The Southern Ocean:

  1. Solo sailors call it ‘the South’, as if to emphasize its alien difference.
  2. The Southern Ocean is a place most of us have never been to
  3. …and never wish to visit.
  4. It is a realm of cold grey skies and raging winds
  5. …that eternally circulate round the bottom of the world.


Antartic Circumpolar Ocean Current:



Ch 1 Ocean – continental drift

  1. Pangaea –> current pattern of continents –> creation of oceans
  2. The continents  don’t change or move independently
  3. …but are transported by the shifting tectonic plates.




Ch 2  Winds

Clipper Route…. took advantage of the Roaring Forties and Furious Fifties winds….92 days London — Sydney 1862.




Ch 3  Coast

Located in the southern Indian Ocean off the eastern coast of Africa and just north of Antarctica are the Kerguelen Islands. A French territory, this island group (known as Îles de la Desolation in French) is considered to be one of the most isolated places on Earth.  (…2 little white dots!)



Ch 4  Ice     

  1. To sail from the Southern Ocean towards the open waters of the Ross Sea you have  to push through the ice a number of times….an ice barrier 100 miles wide.
  2. As the Southern Ocean is dominated by strong westerly winds it encourages a clockwise route.
  3. Antartica is only accessible for a few weeks in summer (January-February).
  4. By March ships risk being trapped in sea ice until the next spring.
  5. The ice begins to close in trapping you for the winter
  6. ….an experience no one is likely to survive.



Ch 5  Deep

  1. The ‘twilight zone is formally known as the dysphotic zone.
  2. Below 1000 meters lies the midnight zone…complete darkness.



Ch 6  Current

  1. ANIMATION of Antarctic Bottom Water
  2. A remarkably detailed animation of the movement of the
  3. …densest and coldest water in the world around Antarctica.
  4. The whale  is the totem of the Mirning people (Ngargangurie)



Ch 7   Convergence

  1. The Southern Ocean is no longer simply a remote space devoid of human habitation.
  2. The Earth is dependent upon the ocean’s heartbeat of seasonal ice
  3. …its carbon-filled lungs and slow circulation of its deep currents.
  4. Ocean covers 80 per cent of the Southern Hemisphere.
  5. Australia sits at an ocean cross-roads.
  6. Changes in the southern oceans may also alter the
  7. ….climate processes that control rainfall over Australia.
  8. We need to understand the influence of the
  9. …southern oceans on climate and sea levels.
  10. This book is a good place to start!
  11. #Bravo Joy McCann



  1. Detailing a mysterious realm that’s as vital to our existence as the air we breathe.
  2. Wild Sea: a history of the southern ocean
  3. is instructive, covering an area of knowledge that receives very little press.
  4. As the title says …it is a history
  5. …and Joy McCann uses many 19th C references.
  6. I must applaud the author because in her NOTES
  7. …she also  includes many links to websites
  8. …(Kindle edition) with a trove of information.
  9. The only weak point in the book is
  10. ….I was  always tempted to leave the text to often and explore
  11. the links  she provided!
  12. PS:  book contains some beautiful illustrations
  13. ….perfect viewing with Kindle!
  14. (…I never knew an albatross could be so big!! …see foto)
  15. Reading tips:
  16. Roving Mariners: Australian Aboriginal Whalers and Sealers in the Southern Oceans (2012)
  17. Slicing the Silence: Voyaging to Antarctica T. Griffiths (2010)

#Non-Fiction The Moth Snowstorm



Finished: 19.01.202
Genre: non-fiction
Rating: C



  1. You can’t say M. McCarthy does not have a creative style.
  2. You will find Adam and Eve, Neil Armstrong, Prospero and Ariel from
  3. The Tempest….all on one page.
  4. Birds and butterflies swoop through the paragraphs.
  5. The estuary of the Dee is Elysium for McCarthy
  6. …..but not for me.
  7. This book is not my cup of tea!
  8. If you want to take a journey into nature
  9. …my recommendations are:
  10. Foxes Unearthed: A Story of Love and Loathing in Modern Britain by Lucy Jones
  11. The Shepherd’s Life: A People’s History of the Lake District by James Rebanks.

#AWW2020 sign-up post read: 0/40


  1. Goal: READ 40  books
  2. Start: 19 January 2020
  3. End challenge:  31 December 2020


READ:   0/40

  1. Death of Noah Glass – Gail Jones
  2. I, Clodia and Other Portraits – A. Jackson*
  3. King of the Air: The turbulent life of Charles Kingsford Smith – Ann Blainey*
  4. The Choke – S. Laguna*
  5. Lenny’s Book of Everything – Karen Foxlee (YA) shortlist PM award 2019*
  6. The Body Horror Book – C. Fitzpatrick   2017 Aus Shadows Award NF/Criticism*
  7. Icefall – S. Gunn –  2018 Aurealis Award Best SF novella*
  8. Remembered Presences – Alison Croggon*
  9. Stop Being Reasonable – Eleanor Gordon-Smith*
  10. The World Was Whole – Fiona Wright
  11. Wild Sea: history of the southern ocean – J. McCann READING    #WorldFromMyArmchair
  12. Finding Eliza – L. Behrendt
  13. Accidental Feminists – J. Caro*
  14. The Dead Still Cry Out  – H. Lewis 2018 (Waverly Library) NIB*
  15. Honor – Joanna Murray-Smith  (play)
  16. The Man on the Headland – Kylie Tennant
  17. The Timeless Land – E. Dark*
  18. Say No To Death – D. Cusack*
  19. The Rest is Weight (short stories) – Jennifer Mills
  20. Heat and Light (short stories) – Ellen van Neerven
  21. Pulse Points (short stories) – Jennifer Down
  22. The Circle and the Equator (short stories) – Kyra Giogri
  23. Marriages  (short stories) Amy Witting*
  24. A Baker’s Dozen (short stories) Dorothy Hewett*
  25. The High Places (short stories) F. McFarlane – QLD Australian Collection 2016*
  26. Fragments – Antigone Kefala – 2017 winner Queensland Poetry Collection
  27. Interval – Judith Bishop (2018) poetry
  28. Rainforest – Eileen Chong  poetry
  29. The Berry Man – Patricia Cornelius (play)*
  30. The Call – Patricia Cornelius  (play)*
  31. Stories From the Warm Zone –  (short stories) Jessica Anderson*
  32. Highway of Lost Hearts – Mary Anne Butler #AWW2020 (play)*
  33. Transparency – Suzie Miller (play)*
  34. Jump For Jordan – D. Abela   2013 Griffin Award (play)*
  35. Danger Music – E. Ayres Shortlist People’s Choice QLD Award 2018*
  36. Her Mother’s Daughter: A Memoir – Nadia Wheatly
  37. Imperfect – Lee Kofman 
  38. The Yield – Tara June Winch
  39. The Torrents – O. Gray (play)*
  40. Kill the Messenger – Nakkaih Lui (play)*

#Non-Fiction The Irish Writer and the World

  • Author:  Declan Kiberd
  • Title: The Irish Writer and the World (331 pg)
  • Published: 2005
  • Genre:  non-fiction
  • List of Challenges 2020
  • Monthly plan
  • #ReadIrelandMonth20
  • #Begorrathon20


Ch 1 Introduction

Central theme – cultural forces which appear opposites often turn out to have common ground on which they can meet!
Goal – zone of free debate to allow an intelligent savouring of differences as well as similarities
Error – leaders ignore the ‘cultural domain and are led by mere politics.
James Joyce – perfect example….a writer who made himself European without ceasing to be Irish.


Ch 2 The fall of the Stage Irishman


Stage Irishman (19th C)
Caricature of an Irish stage drunk, clowning his way with stories between bars
He wears an Irish mask: exploiting the quaint Irish peasantry
for the amusement of a ‘superior’ foreign audience.
The stage Irishman was generally “garrulous, boastful,
…unreliable, hard-drinking, belligerent (though cowardly).

Anti-Stage Irishman
Caricature of an holier-than-thou Irishman
refusing any taint of the Stage Irishness.

Stage Gael
Caricature of the long suffering suffering peasantry of the west of Ireland
ignoring the awful poverty.
“Gaelic morons here with their bicycle clips and handball medals” (Flann O’Brien)

Stage Writer:
Stage Irishman is a thing of the past.
Ireland is in danger of replacing it with the Stage Writer:
…legendary drinking of Brendan Behan (died 41 yr)
Flann O’ Brien (died 54 yr) and Patrick Kavanagh (died 63 yr).

Irish Literary Modernism (20th C)
Seamus Heaney, Martin O’Cadhain and Sean O’ Riordain are
masters who brought Irish writing into the 20th C.
They gave their countrymen a true image of themselves.

19th C
Rejection on romantic Irish novelists (C. Wickham 1826-1882)
— dealing sympathetically with Irish life, manners, quaint customs
and the insuppressible humor of the peasantry.

20th C
Acceptance of new generation of writers
–“…which the people would be shown in all their naked hideousness” (Yeats)
That author was Flann O’ Brien (aka Brian O’Nolan). Novel An Béal Bocht
The Irish expression “to put on the poor mouth” is mildly pejorative.
Peasant farmers would exaggerate the direness of one’s situation
to evoke sympathy, charity of creditors and landlords or generosity of customers.


Ch 3  Storytelling: the Gaelic tradition

  1. “The best things come in small packages.”   (Anne Enright)
  2. The short story…
  3. has been the most popular literary form with readers.
  4. permits intense self-expression.
  5. author selects a single aspect of life to reveal his personality.
  6. is credible, written in private for the critical solitary reader.
  7. exploits minor triumphs, sadness  of the commonplace man.



  1. I was looking for insights into Irish writers and their works.
  2. I enjoyed the introduction, ch 1 about Irish stereotypes and
  3. ch 2 about Irish and short stories.
  4. Liked: ch 1-2-3 (15%)
  5. Disliked: ch 4-19
  6. The rest of the book was centered around
  7. nationalism, multiculturalism,
  8. do you write in Gaelic or in English….which is preferred?
  9. ..75th commemoration of the Easter Uprising,
  10. museums, colonialism, poets Synge vs Yeats etc.
  11. All are scholarly discussions worth reading
  12. ….but was not what I was looking for.
  13. #CherryPickWhatYouLike



  1. I concede defeat.
  2. I cast my shield and sword  on the ground and beg for release.
  3. If release is granted I will leave the battlefield alive.
  4. I hope my fellow fighters (readers) will give me support in the
  5. form on a ‘thumbs-up’ gesture.
  6. …1 year only reading non-fiction?
  7. at least I tried!



#Non-Fiction Irish Theatre

Set Design by Francis O’Connor  for  play “The Big House” (Abbey Theatre)




  1. There is so much to learn from Helen Lojek’s essays.
  2. I have selected a few ideas to share with you.
  3. I learned to think more about the title of a play.
  4. You would be surprised what the author had hidden in it!
  5. I learned to look carefully at the setting.
  6. Who knew you could compare a bar (pub) with purgatory!


The Gates of Gold by Frank McGuinnes

  1. Setting: the domestic interior
  2. Stage: divided in “living room” and bedroom (“dying room) – EMPHASIS ON THEMES
  3. Title: explore meaning ‘The Gate’ is the theatre the partners founded in Dublin.
  4. On a metaphysical level the title frames Gabriel’s looming death.
  5. Stage directions: Silence: there is a definite significance of silence and lack of action
  6. Silence and lack of motion can be just as powerful as dialogue and action
  7. Irony: characters… Conrad  is teaching Gabriel how to die
  8. …and Gabriel is teaching  his partner how to live!!
  9. Dialogue: overlapping it is a
  10. …challenge to read or follow but provides a reflective commentary.
  11. Major threat: inescapable biological reality of death
  12. Ireland: the Irish future has arrived with
  13. …neither priest nor colleen nor greenfield in sight.




The Weir by C. McPherson

  1. Setting: local bar
  2. Bar = sacred place or even purgatorial where people
  3. can tell the truth b/c no one will return here.
  4. People ease their loneliness by sharing their interior lives.
  5. Stage: aging photos on the wall, barflys are male, the fire is peat and
  6. …the preferred drink is Guinness.
  7. Titel: is a metaphor The Wier for damned up emotion/feelings
  8. that will spill out in their stories…
  9. “on one side it is quite calm on the other side water is being squeezed through.”
  10. Lots under the surface is coming out.
  11. Stage directions: Silence: TV and radio are present but not turned on.
  12. Patrons  would rather tell stories.
  13. Irony: Valerie….the ‘intruder’ is  leaving the city for rural Irish landscape
  14. ….while other characters are rushing to the city!
  15. Dialogue: no indication that is bar has a window so exterior space
  16. …is only what the characters describe.
  17. Major threat: never-seen-but-often-discussed toerists (modernity)
  18. Ireland: rural area…a place for lonely bachelors and nonworking bathrooms
  19. …where Valerie comes to heal.






Nancy @ The Movies “Messiah” (Netflix)




  1. For a change I’ll give you a NETFLIX review instead of a book.
  2. Well, I had nothing to do yesterday so I watched MESSIAH on Netflix.
  3. The action is driven by the enterance of an outsider….a Messiah.
  4. Messiah season two hasn’t been confirmed, but surely it’s only a matter of time.
  5. Messiah could run for years.
  6. Now this is great news if you are an evangelical
  7. ….but if you like a strong plot, dramatic dialogue
  8. ( …all the CIA agent says when asked what the problem is: “It’s nothing”
  9. …this doesn’t move the narrativie along!)
  10. ……you will be sorely disappointed.
  11. IMDB gave it a 7.9 score…that must be a misprint.
  12. So, if you want to be bored for hours
  13. …..I highly recommend it!

#Non-fiction From Russia With Blood


Finished: 15.01.2020
Genre: non-fiction
Rating: D-


If you want REAL investigative journalism
read Luke Harding
A Very Expensive Poison

If you want to read a REAL Putin scholar
read Dr. Fiona Hill
Mr Putin: Operative in the Kremlin

Last thoughts:
Honest opinion? This book was a waste of time.
“old news” …if you have been reading the newspapers
since 2000!
I can’t imagine this as a page turner, except when I was turning
a dozen pages at a time hoping it would get better.




#Non-Fiction Nixon at the Movies



  1. This book was a delight to read.
  2. I love politics and the movies!
  3. The author uses movies Nixon choose to see
  4. …some multiple times…to expose the character of Nixon.
  5. It is a combination of a psychological biography and cinematic history.
  6. Nixon was in The White House  for 67 months.
  7. He screened no less than 500 movies!
  8. Nixon hated meeting people.
  9. But Nixon loved the movies
  10. Movies had all the vividness and pageantry of life
  11. —without any of the human complications.
  12. The movies were not only larger than life
  13. …they were safer than life.
  14. This quote in the epilogue sums it all up:
  15. “Where a Lincoln appeals to our aspirations,
  16. …a Kennedy to our fantasies
  17. …Nixon just is.”
  18. Trump spends his time on the golf course
  19. Obama romps on the basketball court and
  20. Nixon at the Movies!
  21. #MustRead



  1. Favorite movie: Patton
  2. Favorite actor(s): John Wayne and Clint Eastwood
  3. Favorite genre:  westerns
  4. Favorite director: John Ford



Mark Feeney (1957) is an arts critic for The Boston Globe.
  1. Feeney graduated from Harvard in 1979.
  2. He and worked for the paper ever since, as a researcher, writer, and editor.
  3. A finalist for the 1994 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing.
  4. He he won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Criticism.