Skip to content

Recent Articles


The Best Australian Essays 2016

  • Editor: G. Williamson
  • Title: The Best Australian Essays 2016
  • Published: 2016


Geordie Williamson (editor)

  1. He was for several years chief literary critic of he former chief literary critic of the Australian.
  2. He is now the Publisher at Picador Australia.
  3. Geordie Williamson won the 2011 Pascall Prize for Criticism.
  4. He edited the 2015 and 2016 editions of The Best Australian Essays.



  1. Australia has much to celebrate in its non-fiction writing.
  2. This is a collection of personal experiences, culture and politics.
  3. The writing is very good!
  4. Strongest point of this book:
  5. Introduced me to some extraordinary writers!
  6. …that I would never have discovered!
  7. The essays I liked the most were ‘personal essays’.
  8. Essays are more real than fiction….
  9. The personal essay is like an offering, a hand
  10. ….reaching out in a gesture of connection.
  11. Maggie MackellarWillie Wagtail…..that help with Mackellar’s grief!
  12. Tegan Bennett Daylight – clever metaphor…is the  solution to the problem!
  13. Anna Spargo-Ryan: – heartwarming essay that gave me a ‘good feeling’ !


Other essays……

  1. Rebecca Giggs: I’ll never look at a whale in the same way.
  2. Melinda Harvey – insights about…the E. Ferrante novels.
  3. Helen Garner – interesting fragments from iconic writer.
  4. Jennifer Millswell-researched…environment warning to us all
  5. Ashley Hayweather has the power to change people’s lives.
  6. M. de Kretser – my first introduction to Randolph Stow
  7. Jo Chandler – …amazing Great Barrier Coral Reef!
  8. Gregory Day and Peter Goldsworthy – review of poem collections
  9. J.M. Coetzee (Nobel Prize winner 2003) ‘ introduction to book The Good Soldier.
  10. James Bradley – essay David Bowie
  11. music is the way we remember ourselves
  12. ……to the connection to the people we once were.”
  13. Julian Burnsidebarrister…...was “no holds barred” !
  14. His essay:  “What Kind of a Country are We?”

Female Bodies on the American Stage


Finish date: 10 December 2017
Genre: non-fiction (2014)
Rating: B


Review: Ms Jennifer Scott-Mobley  is Assistant Professor – Theatre History & Dramaturgy at East Carolina University. She highlights and thus alters deeply ingrained attitudes about fat.
Ms Scott-Mobley takes the reader through ‘fat actress’ performances across stage, screen and television.


Strong point: the author makes clear that American audiences have become so accustomed to slender beauties as the standard…..that any body that strays outside the parameter interferes with the viewer’s notion of what is believable or what is realistic.


Strong point: Scott-Mobley reveals what many in society feel…
a woman’s body is associated with the base and material….her body is her identity. Man’s identity is connected to his soul and intellect.


Strong point: The book is filled with statements that made me stop and think:
1. As civil rights and freedoms for women increased
in the US.…the acceptable dress-size….decreased!
2. The media capitalizes on cultural fears, at times
obscuring facts and data in order to get
the results a public must hear: fat is bad and dangerous!
3. Those last 10 pounds which have NO significant
health consequences drive a multibillion-dollar diet industry!


Last thoughts:
I enjoyed this book…even though Ms Scott-Mobley
goes down several rabbit holes which were of no interest to me whatsoever. My interest lay in the analysis of plays  by Tennessee Williams. He created female characters that used ‘fat behavior’ to disrupt the stasis (balance in the play) with their immoderate behavior
….driving the plot forward.
I will read plays The Rose Tattoo, Small Craft Warning and The Night of the Ignuana with
these new insights!

UPDATE: 10.12.2017

I just read in the news that a Dutch super model walked down the  catwalk in New York City. No, it isn’t  our famous ex-Victoria Secret Doutzen Kroes …but Daniëlle Grondelle. Finally the barriers are being broken….. height 1,80 m  80 kg!





Quick Reads 5-7 December

Finish date: 05 December 2017
Genre: fiction
Rating: A
Review:   Short listed for Miles Franklin Award 2017…
I read this book in 24 hours. I was fascinated by the profiles of Australian authors I never heard of! The story of Matilda Young (poet)…touched a heartstring and Stephen Pennington’s life long struggle to write A. Fernsby’s biography was a page-turner. This is an excellent book…that engaged and entertained me. That is what good books do!

  1. Update: 05 December 2017 (Carol on Goodreads)
  2. Sounds great – I’m looking forward to it. But this book is fiction.
  3. These are not real writers so
  4. ….it’s not surprising you’ve never heard of them.
  5. Not that that really matters, I guess.
  6. I’m assuming it’s all an elaborate joke?
  7. Update: 06 December 2017
  8. I really thought these writers were real! OMG
  9. Thank you Carol….for setting me straight.
  10. The joke is on me!


Finish date: 07 December 2017
Genre: fiction
Rating: C+
Review: This book is yet another ‘fin de siècle’ novel about the marriage in England. It describes two couples of ‘good people’ living according to codes maintained by their class.
The tone is tragic and I closed this book with a feeling of relief. The characters keep ‘doing the right thing’ but end up bitter (Leonora) mad (Nancy), dead (Florence and Edward) or bemused (narrator) without finding a drop of redemption along the way.
This is on the Modern Library 100 Best Novels list and deservedly so.
The book just could not charm this reader but others may get value out of it.



Finish date: 06 December 2017
Genre: Crime fiction
Rating: B
Review: Poirot has method in his madness.
Who handed Mrs. Ingelthorp the coffee on the fatal night?
One must find the missing ‘other’ coffee cup!
Smoking gun? Last will and testament found destroyed
in the grate of Mrs. Ingelthorp’s fireplace.
Poiroit knows someone is guilty
but he has to have the evidence
Until he finds the last link in the chain
….he must stay behind the scenes.
Agatha Christie is…


Power Without Glory




  1. Frank Hardy wanted to expose poverty and
  2. the extent of political corruption in various aspects of Australian life.
  3. Hardy also wanted to make the case for the Communist Party.
  4. A novel aimed at a popular readership
  5. …about prominent figures in Australian politics
  6.  and Catholic Church could do real damage.
  7. Weak point: Explosive at the time of publication (1950)
  8. ….the book loses some punch if you are not familiar
  9. ….with Australian politics 1920 – 1950.
  10. Archbishop Malone = Archbishop of  Melbourne Daniel Mannix
  11. John West = John Wren
  12. John Wren was not a gangster, but a big city boss who
  13. excelled at machine politics, and even funded the Catholic Church.

  1. Title: reference pg 390:
  2. “He (Wren) did not want glory — he wanted  power without glory.”
  3. The title of Hardy’s novel is
  4. ….derived from the the end of the Lord’s Prayer (Pater Noster).
  5. “…For thine is the kingdom, and the power and the glory, for ever.”


  1. I had the luck having read the biography about  Mannix by
  2. Brenda Niall … so the puzzle pieces all fell into place!
  3. Hardy does embellish the novel with claims of adultery.
  4. In 1951 Hardy was slapped with a libal suit.
  5. He had implied that John Wren’s wife Ellen had an affair by having her
  6. …“character”, Nellie West, bear another man’s child.
  7. Frank Hardy was found not guilty.


  1. Last thoughts:
  2. Coined as the most influential novel published in Australia in the 20th C
  3. you have to read it taking into account
  4. the political climate in Melbourne at the time.
  5. It is and remains an…
  6. #AustralianClassic.


  • Title: Cardinal: The Rise and Fall of George Pell
  • Author: Louise Milligan
  • Published: 2017
  • Trivia: #AWW  (Australian Women Writers)
  • Trivia: Awarded Walkley Book of Year 2017 ( Australian journalism prizes)




  1. The winner of the 2017 Walkley Book Award is Louise Milligan.
  2. This her explosive book about…. “Cardinal: The rise and fall of George Pell”.
  3. Louise Milligan’s book examines Australia’s
  4. most senior Catholic through the lens of the child abuse saga
  5. …which has dogged the Catholic Church.
  6. She tells how George Pell rose from Ballarat boy to Oxford.
  7. He rose through the ranks to become the Vatican’s indispensable “treasurer”.
  8. Louise Milligan  is an excellent investigative journalist
  9. …who has followed the story doggedly
  10. She pieced together the story with sensitivity and care
  11. ….from thousands of pages of historical documents
  12. ….and interviews with hundreds of people.
  13. The book has had an enormous impact.
  14. Last thoughts:
  15. I discovered this book by accident:
  16. …winner of the Walkley Book of the Year Award 2017
  17. The investigation is ongoing….
  18. …Cardinal Pell will appear in court on 05 March 2018.
  19. This book is groundbreaking
  20. ….and nerve wracking for the Vatican.
  21. It is impossible to add anything else to this review.
  22. My mind is exhausted and I am stunned and speechless 
  23. …about  the cover-ups concerning  George Pell and child abuse by the
  24. …Catholic Church.
  25. #MustRead






#AusReadingMonth Wrap Up

Summer in Australia…..


  1. Life happens….when you made other plans.
  2. I don’t know who said that but  this adage is so true.
  3. That is what happened to Brona
  4. ….during her fifth #AusReadingMonth challenge.
  5. A family loss, arrangements to be made comforting others while you need
  6. …so much comfort yourself.
  7. And then trying to pull yourself together and  get on with life.
  8. But that is sometimes easier said than done.


  1. I discovered #AusReadingMonth 4 years ago.
  2. I progressed from one book, to 1 massive Australian classic, to 6 books
  3. …and this year 16 books!
  4. I read short stories , crime fiction, classics, non-fiction, fiction
  5. …and even a paranormal/speculative fiction (1)!
  6. I was in the Tanami Desert and on the Silk Road (dark web) searching for drugs.
  7. I was in WA with the most lovable families the Lambs and the Pickles.
  8. I saw ghosts! I rode with the Kelly gang,
  9. …wrote political satire poems with C.J. Dennis.
  10. I solved a murder…finally found Tasmania on the map.
  11. My finest moments were learning more about the aboriginals
  12. …and meeting some old friends, Thea Astley and Nevil Shute.
  13. I pushed myself….to read, read and read some more.
  14. Why?
  15. I did it for Brona.
  16. When a friend stumbles you support them in any way you can.
  17. I’m not close to Australia….actually on the other side of the world.
  18. But I had to be there for Brona, that’s what ‘reading friends’ are for.
  19. I had energy for two….and I read for both of us.


  1. There will come a time in 2018  when I stumble
  2. ....a reading ‘burn out’.
  3. I know I will get an encouraging  ‘twitter’  message that will comfort me.
  4. Brona,  November….
  5. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”
  6. …as Dickens would say.
  7. I had the BEST  #AusReadingMonth….ever,  thanks.





Position Doubtful

Tanami Desert Australian Sunset



  1. The book is named after a term Mahood came across
  2. …in her father’s account of his expedition
  3. across the Tanami Desert in 1962.
  4. He observed that the only landmark marked anywhere near his route
  5. was marked Position Doubtful.


Kim Mahood:


Kim, daughter of a Tanami rancher…

  1. grew up in the region of Tanami Desert
  2. …on a cattle station  in East Kimberley.
  3. She was raised in part by Aboriginal people.
  4. She has a distinctly different and deeper relationship
  5. with the community here…
  6. living and working in Mulan for three months out of the year.
  7. Mahood has been painting a set of very large canvases
  8. that are at first simple topographical maps of the land.
  9. The maps are both works of art, but also
  10. documents that can help influence politics and policies.

In this book Mahood takes us with her as she returned for

  1. 20 years to a remote pocket of inland Australia that extends
  2. across the Tanami Desert to the edge of East Kimberley.
  3. A one time pilgrimage to the country of her late childhood has
  4. morphed into yearly field trips with her artist friend Pam Lofts.
  5. We were like migratory birds, driven to return year after year.” (pg 290)


There were very arcane chapters in which Manhood explains

  1. how she uses archaeological grids as an intermediary between
  2. her map making project and observance of aboriginal paintings.
  3. She learns to read the desert landscape with skill.
  4. Mahood uses these skills to give her maps and paintings  the
  5. visual shimmer of the desert breathing the Aboriginal essence into her works.


On a personal note….Mahood touchingly reveals her grief for

  1. friend Pam Lofts as she dies from MND (Lou Gehrig’s disease).
  2. She describes the map of their friendship.
  3. Mahood’s also makes peace with dog ghosts
  4. Old Sam who made the first pilgrimage,
  5. Slippers for seven trips and now her pal Pirate.


The best chapters are the last 3:

  1. Requiem
  2. Unstable Horizons 
  3. Undertow
  4. …just because they are so personal. (pg 286 – 339)


Last thoughts:

  1. This was a very informative but more importantly moving book.
  2. Kim Mahood  can PAINT  and WRITE !
  3. It is a combination of Jung and Geography
  4. It confirms what I also feel
  5. ….place, memory and emotion are  inextricably linked.
  6. Bravo…Kim Mahood
  7. #MustRead  or #MustListen  audiobook.
  8. PS: For @Brona’s Books
  9. …I learned another word that pops into my head
  10. ….when I think of Australia: “the cockroach bush!”



A Town Like Alice

Author: Nevil Shute (1899-1960)
Title: A Town Like Alice (1950)
Genre: fiction (Australian classic)
Trivia: (NT)  #AusReadingMonth @Brona’s Books

BINGO COMPLETED!!  I went ‘the whole hog’ !!

  • If you’re feeling a little touched by the sun, then
  • …the Whole Hog may be for you.
  • Read NINE books this November from all of the 8 states and territories
  • …plus one freebie.
  • The FREEBIE can be any book by an Australian author or
  • or a   book written by an overseas author but set entirely in Australia.



  1. Noel Strachan, an ageing and widowed solicitor,
  2. …had almost forgotten his client Douglas Macfadden
  3. …when in 1948 he received a telegram announcing his death.
  4. Strachan becomes trustee to McFadden’s niece Jean Paget
  5. who has inherited quite substantial sum from her uncle.
  6. The real story swings into action:
  7. Jean’s WW II experiences in Malaya and
  8. what takes her to Australia is as much a
  9. …surprise for her as it is for the reader.



  1. This was a delightful story.   
  2. Jean’s work in England as a typist, her hardships during the
  3. WWII and most of all her adventures in Australia.
  4. It is a war story, a love story and how one person can change a town.
  5. I followed Jean Paget’s journeys on a map…
  6. flying from Darwin to Alice Springs to Carins and back in a Dragon!

  1. Reading A Town Like Alice felt like a road trip ‘in a road trip’
  2. Title: the only reference to it is in chapter 10.
  3. A book should whisk the reader on a ‘magic carpet’ to far off places.
  4. After reading  A Town Like Alice I would love to visit Brisbane.
  5. Carins, Alice Springs and if I really could dream….
  6. visit Green Island where Jean and Joe
  7. …finally pledged their love for each other.

Last thoughts:

  1. I’ve read 3 books by Nevil Shute… (all during past.. #AusReadingMonth )
  2. On the Beach (1957)
  3. Trustee from the Toolroom (1960) and
  4. A Town Like Alice (1950).
  5. I saved the best for last!
  6. #GreatAussieRead
  7. #Inspiring

A Boat Load of Home Folk

Winslow Homer


  • Author: Thea Astley  (1925-2004)
  • Title: A Boat Load of Home Folk
  • Published: 1968
  • Genre: social satire
  • Setting: Coral Sea Island
  • “…it was Maugham country”  (tropical setting)
  • “…Everything was  Gauguinesqe.”
  • Timeline: 48 hours
  • Weather: “ rained hammers of wet.”
  • Trivia:  (free space) #AusReadingMonth   @Brona’s Books
  • Trivia: #AWW    @AusWomenWriters
  • Trivia: List of Challenges 2017



  1. The book recounts the effect of a  hurricane on a group of Australians
  2. …stranded on a Coral Island.
  3. Love, infidelity, passion and prejudice
  4. …all come together in the ‘eye of a hurricane’.
  5. The plot is cleverly set within the saying of the Mass by a local Catholic Bishop.
  6. The characters are overwhelmed by their sinful unworthiness.
  7. Domine, non sum dignus…” (Lord, I am not worthy…).
  8. Astley left the Catholic Church…..but she is not without God.
  9. She show us how her characters (…as well as Astley)
  10. found God outside of Christian practice.
  11. Thea Astley is blessed with a ‘nose for the lurking detail’.
  12. That is what makes her writing so exceptional in my opinion.
  13. What is unique about Astley was her readiness to take a side track.
  14. Her satire about the ‘steamy’ side of the Catholic clergy’s sexual urges
  15. ….that we now know more of… is bold!
  16. Priest Father Lake is just bout to ‘crack’ under the oppressive heat and his vocation.
  17. “…he could observe tantalizingly the brown John Terope (house boy)
  18. …padding between the lime trees towards the water tanks behind the school.” (pg 27)
  19. Even in the 1960’s Astley could see how it all
  20. tied up and was not afraid to publish it in her books!
  21. Tone:  biting satire
  22. Astley criticizes the Catholic belief system…yet again!
  23. She exposes the weaknesses of the church adherents and the
  24. bishop is very unsympathetic
  25. …and there is nothing ‘divine’ about him!
  26. #MustRead
  27. … Astley is a master writer!


Don’t you wish you could write like this?


  1. The bliss flaked off within months and there they were…
  2. the contestants, one battered, one victor
  3. and the ropes sagging all around the ring.” (pg 60)


  1. Taking a lover was no more to her than…
  2. …an after work gin …” (pg 75)


PS:  One of my favorite images:

  • Miss Paradise and Miss Trump..
  • …genteel ladies trying to graciously climb into a dinghy to go ashore.
  • Astely captures this perfectly!
  • “…the orgy of leg and thigh and overbalance…” (pg 16)



C.J. Dennis


Author: P. Butterss
Title: The Life and Works of C.J. Dennis
Published: 2014
Trivia: (SA) #AusReadingMonth @Brona’s Books
Trivia: Winner National Biography Award 2015
Trivia: #NonFicNov
Trivia: List Reading Challenges 2017


Who was this man?

  1. C.J. Dennis (1876-1938)   was an Australian poet known for his
  2. humorous poems and also his politically tinted verse about topical subjects.
  3. He is considered among Australia’s most famous poets. (…with H. Lawson and B. Paterson)


What are the main characteristics of his writing?

The essential ingredient was the reader’s emotional response.
His poetry was easy to understand and beneath the slangy twang
1. rolling rythm – rhyme
2. street slang
3. stage cockney
4. phonetic spellings


Best chapter:

  1. Best chapter 6:
  2. In this chapter we learn more about the poet’s,  subtle meanings …..very insightful.
  3. Other chapters are awash with names of Dennis’s
  4. literary circles ( Sunnyside, Melbourne).


  1. Dennis wrote about a ‘sentimental bloke’…but he wasn’t sentimental at all.
  2. Throughout his career he was  a hard-nosed business man.
  3. He does not want to advertise his change of political views
  4. ….it may annoy his readers/sales.
  5. The author  everything to make sure  his books were a ‘marketing success’.
  6. He asked the popular H. Lawson to write a foreward.
  7. He made his publisher agree to print his book BEFORE Christmas (sales?) and
  8. …publish a small pocket edition  of ‘The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke
  9. …so that families could send it to the troops fighting at the front WWI.
  10. The book would boost the soldier’s morale….and earnings for Dennis!


Timeline: 1920’s – 1930’s:

  1. Author started to drink heavily again
  2. suffered from periods of depression an asthma.
  3. C.J. Dennis  was the unofficial poet laureate of Australia!
  4. But slang an dialect were becoming unfashionable.
  5. light topical verse (politically tinted) that filled newspapers
  6. was in decline.



  1. I enjoyed this book….and it is a shame that  C.J. Dennis is practically
  2. …an unknown by a large reading public outside of Australia.
  3. His books are on Kindle for a mere  1 or 2 euro’s….
  4. I bought them all!


Major works:

  1. Major work:  The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke
  2. Dennis acknowledges class division
  3. and then goes on to minimize it in his  poems.
  4. “…how life and love can be splendid for
  5. …the common bloke as for the cultured (pg 113)
  6. Dennis used the archetypal Australian male values of the
  7. bushman…and channeled unruliness into hard work for his family.


  1. Major work:  The Moods of Ginger Mick
  2. Dennis brings the bush values into a city setting
  3. ‘Mick’ was also important helping a nation (Australia)
  4. grieve after losing so many soldiers in WWI.
  5. Dennis used the archetypal Australian male values of the
  6. bushman…and channeled a backstreet fighter (larrikin) into an Anzac soldier.


  1. Major work: Poem:  Comin’ Ome Frum Shearin’
  2. Conflict:
  3. Man’s domestic duty to provide for his family VS
  4. The delights of a wilder and freer masculine life
  5. Attraction of drinking VS destructiveness
  6. Major work: Poem: The Play
  7. Humorous parody recognizable to anyone with the minimun
  8. knowledge of Romeo & Juliet…
  9. …don’t forget Mick Curio !