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#ThursdayTravels: Leeuwarden The Netherlands


  1. My world is close to home.
  2. This is a photo of the park where I have a morning coffee.
  3. Prinsentuin (Pleasure Garden of the Princes)
  4. Just look at the light….it looks like Renoir painted it!



The Prinsentuin was once part of the Princessehof, (court)  the former palace of Maria Louise van Hessen-Kassel, and served as her pleasure garden.

Maria Louise, married to Johan Willem Friso Nassau-Dietz and was the mother of Stadtholder Willem IV, making her the direct ancestress of the current Dutch royal family.

The Prinsentuin is one of the many traces of the Nassaus left in Leeuwarden and is nowadays the city’s beautiful, centrally located park.



#RIPXIII Classic: E.A. Poe “The Raven”

Author: Edgar Allan Poe
Genre: poem
Title: The Raven
Published: (1845)
Table of Contents: 18 six-line stanzas (108 lines)
Published by Penguin Books
Theme: remembrance vs forgetting


Just   LISTEN  to the poem…..goosebumps!


“The Raven” is a narrative poem by the American writer and poet Edgar Allan Poe.
It was published for the first time on January 29, 1845, in the New York Evening Mirror
Noted for its musicality, stylized language and supernatural atmosphere,
This is one of Poe’s best known and most reviewed poems.
I hope to find something interesting to mention about this classic!


The poem describes the tale of a student, desolated by the death of his beloved,
He is visitied on a stormy `bleak December´ night by an ominous bird´.
It traces the student´s slow descent into madness.


Strong point: Alliteration: is the repetition of the initial sounds of adjacent words.
While I nodded nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortals ever dared to dream before
Followed fast and followed faster….
On this home by horror haunted…
And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting.


Strong point: Rhythm
Repetition of words to give the poem a ‘throbbing’ rhythm….like a heart
“rapping, rapping”- tell me, tell me – “still is sitting, still is sitting”


Strong point: Rhyme
The structure of the poem is based on: A-B-C-B-B-B
Every 2nd – 4th lines rhyme – the 4th – 5th and 6th lines rhyme


  1. Line 1: Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary, A
  2. Line 2: Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore – B
  3. Line 3: While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping, C
  4. Line 4: As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door – B
  5. Line 5:”‘Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door – B
  6. Line 6: Only this and nothing more.” B


Strong point: meter with surprises!
In this poem Poe has used ‘meter’ in 3 different ways:
lines 1st – 3rd lines of evey stanza have 16 syllables
lines 2nd – 4th – 5th of every stanza have 15 syllables
line 6 of every stanza has only 7 syllables


Symbol: The Raven
There are some very subtle hidden meanings in the poem about the raven.
Finding these words is the most difficult part of reading poetry.
Line 38-40: The Raven enters the room. He is ‘stately’ and has a ‘mien of lord or lady’ – this suggests an image of a king.
Line 45: The Raven is not ‘craven’ ( cowardly).
The allusion to ‘crest be shorn and shaven’ refers to medieval tradition of head shaving of a coward.
Line 48: The Raven ‘quoth the Raven, Nevermore’ –
The student ‘marvelled’ (line 49) to hear the bird speak.
After 10 x repetitions of this utterance the narrator slides into a maddend, frenzied state.
Line 85: The narrator call the raven a ‘prophet’ believing he foretells the future.
Line 105 – 108: Final image of the bird is a ‘demon that is dreaming’
casting a ‘shadow that lies floating on the floor’.
Narrator is terrified


Symbol: bust of Pallas (line 42 and 105): –
symbol of wisdom meant to imply the narrator is a student
Symbol: Night’s Plutonian shore (line 48 and 98) –
allusion to the Roman god of the underworld
Symbol: nepenthe ( line 83-84)
allusion to a mythological drug that you might take to forget your grief and sadness.
Symbol: chamber door is repeated 11x
This refers to room and the chamber of the heart ( feelings)


This is a poem for people who don’t like poetry!
It is one of my favorites and was FUN to ready and analyse.
The student “shrieked’ ‘take thy beak from out of my heart’.
But the bird ‘still is sitting, still is sitting’.
The beak keeps pecking at the heart repeating ‘Nevermore’
Theme: those we have loved and who become lost to us…
…can never be forgotten.
It may be painful to remember them….but it is more painful to give them up.


Last thoughts:    Depressing stories can be uplifting.
It all depends on the writing skills…
Edgar Allan Poe is a master of words and chilling images.


Clive James: poem ‘The River in the Sky’




  1. Genre: autobiographical epic poem
  2. Topic: meditation on aging…lost golden age…now inaccessible
  3. Tone:  We find Clive James in ill-health but high spirits
  4. ….clear impassioned wisdom alwys quietly carving sage words.
  5. Form: dramatic monologue (epic poem with Clive as the hero)
  6. Language: unadorned, forceful with many flyaway cultural observations
  7. …and allusions that should  be investigated!
  8. Trauma: Father’s death
  9. “I was there to watch my mother take the news.
  10. It still now deprives me of speech,”
  11. James said his life’s works “ springs from that one dreadful moment”.
  12. First line: “All is not lost….out past the journey’s edge.” (repeated line: 77)
  13. It is a reference to Milton’s poem Paradise Lost.


How did Clive James write this book?

  1. I think the writer sat in his kitchen/library and
  2. just starred at the walls
  3. ..his thoughts take us on an autobiographical journey.
  4. Books are beautiful.
  5. He compares his wall of books
  6. …to the painted colorful frescoes in a Pharaoh’s tomb.
  7. James mentions his daughters:
  8. “…of this tomb when you helped me weed my books”.
  9. These are the walls he sees first thing in the morning.
  10. It is a work of art, with all of the
  11. different size books and their color bindings.
  12. Clive James is a master at creating images:
  13. “.. (I am) ..but the living god (Pharaoh)
  14. in the departure lounge (tomb/kitchen-library) surrounded
  15. …by his glistering aftermath–. (books)


What does Clive James want to achieve in this book?

  1. James is dying….and he has know this for many years.
  2. He is: “Planning last strategies…employ these closing hours
  3. to write its seedlings down“. (seedlings of poetry)
  4. “This is a river song linking vivd foci where
  5. once my mind was formed that now must fall apart.”
  6. The turning point in the writer’s  life was
  7. the death of his father in a plane crash. (1945)
  8. The flight was to return this  prisoner of war WW II to his wife and son
  9. ….10 days after the war ended.
  10. We read “…strength ebbs from my limbs” but James wants to…
  11. “…my fragile treasures link together in review.”


What is the structure of the book?

  1. This is an epic poem with Clive James as the hero.
  2. He shifts constantly….from the ancient past with
  3. Egyptian, Greek mythology to his childhood
  4. …Jannali in the summer heat, Clifton  Gardens, Botany Bay;
  5. college days (dedicated book May Week was in June (1990)
  6. …to Tom Weiskel.…college friend who died;
  7. life in Australia with memories about
  8. Keith Miller  (cricket player, war pilot) and
  9. Kim Bonython (war pilot, lover of jazz, race cars and art)
  10. Darcy Dugan (Australian bank robber)
  11. and of course the Hill at the SCG, Sydney Cricket Ground.
  12. There are many overlaps  between
  13. …events and states as presented by the text.
  14. This requires some dedication from the reader
  15. to investigate items mentioned by Clive James.
  16. If you take the time to do this
  17. …it will enrich the reading experience.


What was the sentence(s) – image that impressed me the most?

  1. QUOTE:
  2. Gliding is what I do, here at the finish, in the final hour.”
  3. Note: This can also be a reference to the title
  4. The River in the Sky.
  5. The writer tells us he will be gliding…
  6. “in the star clusters, in the gulf between the galaxies.” (pg 4)
  7. IMAGE:
  8. Clive James  compares himself to the Sun Voyager.
  9. The Sun Voyager in Reykjavik Iceland was
  10. …essentially envisaged as being a dreamboat
  11. …an ode to the sun symbolizing light and hope.


  1. If you read this book be prepared to follow Clive James
  2. through a maze of memories.
  3. He backtracks, looks forward and stands still amazed that he is still alive!
  4. He’s danced the tango in  Rio with a beautiful blind woman.
  5. He’s met the love of his life while listening to Maria Callas
  6. He’s pampered by two beautiful daughters.
  7. James is a  poet and some of his insights took my breath away:
  8. “Time, it is thereby proven, is the sea 
  9. …whose artifacts are joined by separateness.”
  10. Strong point:  James shows us  his spirit of youth.
  11. Even in old age, and his  refusal to resign and face life passively.
  12. “If my ashes end up in an hour-glass….I can go on working.”
  13. Note: I’m reading this poem slowly, carefully line for line
  14. this my be the last time I can enjoy
  15. ….Clive James while he is still with us.
  16. I don’t want to read his books in grief…but in joy.
  17. #MustRead  
  18. #MustReflect





Non fiction: Worst book 2018!



I cannot for the life of me understand the high
scores this booked has accrued on

Reading books that numb my soul
teach me to appreciate how
a good book can change a life!

This books wins the prize.
Worst non-fiction I read in 2018
and here is why…


  • If you have the time….here are my notes.
  • If you decide to skip this review
  • …I understand completely!


At Table In Paris:

  1. Liebling studied in Paris 1925-1926 and
  2. traveled around Normandy etc.
  3. The stories are filled with references
  4. to buildings and streets he knows well.


Paris the First:

  1. Liebling describes his visit to Paris with his parents in 1911
  2. He was 7 years old…and I wonder if a child is a reliable narrator.
  3. While Liebling’s parents dine on French food and wine “en ville’
  4. …he was firmly in the care of a dreaded nanny ‘fraulëin”
  5. This chapter was quaint but awful.
  6. It was an overblown narrative about childhood memories and
  7. fantasies with nanny and family in Paris.
  8. I lost interest about half way through the story.
  9. I hope the dispatches from the WW II years will be better.


The War and After:

  1. Unfortunately the reports written during Liebling’s time in Europe
  2. during WW II were disappointing to say the least.
  3. He is still gushing about food and wine and not
  4. enough storytelling about the people. Unbalanced.


Letter From Paris June 1940:

  1. Clinical tone…I expected more emotion describing the dread of
  2. invasion of Paris after Holland and Belgium’s swift collapse.
  3. The images I remember from Suite Française (I. Némirovsky)
  4. …are still vivd in my mind.
  5. Liebling did not come close to
  6. describing the angst the Parisians felt with the
  7. Germans standing ready to pounce on the city.


Westbound Tanker:

  1. Trip from England in convoy sailing to
  2. …Port Arthur Texas during WW II.
  3. This story was just pointless
  4. …waste of my reading time.


Quest for Mollie:

  1. This was not a WW II dispatch… was a novella!
  2. I just cannot understand the praise given to
  3. Liebling’s WW II correspondance.
  4. His stories are too long…and I cannot find a moment
  5. the hook ” that captures my attention.
  6. This is yet another chapter that I have started in good faith
  7. …and ended up being disappointed.


Days with the Daydaybay:

  1. Long description of Liebling’s
  2. ….walk around the streets of the Sorbonne.
  3. He recalls his student days there.
  4. Long description of Liebling’s entry into liberated Paris.
  5. The narrative includes his fellow reporters from other
  6. newspapers: Jack Roach and A. Morrison.
  7. This was one of the better stories….but still too, too long.
  8. Details, details and more details that numbed this reader.


The Hounds with Sad Voices:

  1. Liebling returns to Normandy (1957) and is
  2. searching for a chateau. All he can remember is
  3. the sound of hounds with sad voices near the building.
  4. But as always Liebling’s days end in restaurants.
  5. This is yet anothr gastronomic exposition….ho-hum.
  6. It is no surprise that Liebling loved his food and drink.
  7. He drank and ate excessively and reached a weight of 250 lbs.
  8. He sufferd gout in the later years of his life.
  9. He died at the young age of 59 yr.


City Life: The Jollity Building …and the rest of the stories

  1. The last half of the book describes
  2. …colorful promoters, boxers, trips to the
  3. ….Place Bar & Grill.
  4. Liebling loved the horses so we also
  5. read about the Turf & Field Club and Belmont Racetrack.
  6. Eating again…



  1. Libeling wrote for The New Yorker magazine so
  2. we can assume he was a good writer.
  3. But in my opinion the stories were too long and
  4. the pace was slow because of downpour of
  5. details that inundated this reader.
  6. Liebling’s vivid descriptions of boxing matches
  7. and other sporting events are of a bygone era.
  8. It did not interest me at all.
  9. In truth…I read 60% of the book…then skimmed the rest.
  10. I was glad when I could close the book.
  11. #SoDisappointed
  12. Reading books that numb my soul
  13. teache me to appreciate how
  14. a good book can change a life!
  15. This books wins the prize.
  16. Worst non-fiction I read in 2018….so far!

Canadian Book Challenge 2018

Canadian Book Challenge:
  • The aim to read and review minimum 13 or more Canadian books.
  • Start: 01 July 201 (my reading starts 18 Sept 2018)
  • End: 30 June 2019
  • Reviews must be posted online. 
  • Participants are asked to share links to their reviews with other participants.
  • Hashtag:  #CanBookChallenge



Washington Black

  1. Esi Edugyan – READ (shortlist Man Booker 2018 / Giller Prize 2018)

Finished: 21.09.2018
Genre: novel
Rating: C
This book is shortlisted for two prestigious literary prizes:
Man Booker Prize and Giller Prize (Canadian fiction)
I’m sorry to say….I don’t think it will win either awards.
I’m not a prof book reviewer and if a book is on the shortlist
I don’t want to sway readers with my personal feelings.
Because this is an opinion…not a review.
The book was good…that’s it. There was a soft smile…no sharp bite
It was sensitive….but not tough.

Give this book a chance…and see what you think!

  1. Rawi Hage –  novel Beirut Hellfire Society
  2. Sheila Heti – novel Motherhood
  3. Emma Hooper – novel Our Homesick Songs
  4. Thea Lim – novel An Ocean of Minutes
  5. Lisa Moore – story collection Something for Everyone
  6. Tanya Tagaq – novel Split Tooth
  7. Kim Thúy –  novel Vi,
  8. Joshua Whitehead –  novel Jonny Appleseed
  9. Kim Thúy –  novel Man,
  10. Norman Levine – story collection I Don’t Want to Know Anyone Too Well
  11. Paige Cooper – story collection Zolitude,
  12. Patrick DeWitt  – novel French Exit
  13. Eric Dupont  – novel Songs for the Cold of Heart,


How to join:
  • Send email to:
  • Subject line: “Sign Me Up for the Canadian Book Challenge!”
  • She will add you to the participant list on the sidebar of this blog
  • For more information you can  look HERE



The New Yorker: 10 Sept 2018 “excellent short story”

  • Author: Saīd Sayrafiezadeh
  • Title: Audition
  • Published: 10  September 2018  The New Yorker
  • Trivia:  Sayrafiezadeh was a finalist for PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize
  • and he won a 2010 Whiting Writers’ Award for his memoir.
  • List Challenges 2018
  • Monthly planning
  • #DealMeIn2018  Jay’s  Bibliophilopolis


What is the hook?

  1. Well it has to be the first sentence:
  2. “The first time I smoked crack cocaine was  the Spring
  3. … I worked construction for my father on his new subdivision Moonlight Heights.”
  4. But no, this is not going to be all about drugs,
  5. Sayarfiezadeh tells us in the second line what he wants to achieve.
  6. I quote him because I could not have said it better….in a nutshell.
  7. “…jotting down details about the poeple I observe so I can
  8.   replicate  the human condition on screen  with nuance and veracity.”




1.Explain the title. In what way is it suitable to the story?
Audition refers to the main characters desire to become a stage actor.


2. What is the predominant element in the story?
a. 90 % Inner dialogue: the speech of a the narrator to himself.
b. He hears it and the reader hears it, but other
c. characters have no idea what’s going on in his head
d. 10% dialogue


3. Who is the single main character about?
a. Nameless narrator
b. boss’s son forced to learn life the hard way
c…..working at Dad’s construction subdivision.
d.”…just another working man in wet overalls.”


4. What sort of conflict confronts the leading character or characters?
a.external – a self made-father vs son “dreaming of fame, art and exhault” as actor
b.internal – an outsider seeking friendship.


5. How is the conflict resolved?
a. External – a real job carrying 60 pound drywall across
b.“damp floors and up banisterless staircases”
c. is better than being a carbon copy actor with no talent.
d. Internal – befriending Duncan Dioguardi
e. same age…19 years older but looks 10 years older
f. from a down and out working class neighbourhood.


6. How does the author handle characterization ?
a. Description by narrator (unreliable?) about himself and others.
b. Narrator: American teenage voice with adult voice behind it
c. Language is conversational, simple
d. Not defined by famliy (tension between father and son)
e. 19 yr, out of shape, gone to best schools,
c. at 15yr attending weekend acting lessons.
c. Duncan Dioguardi: 19 yr but looks 10 years older
d. at 15 yr chipping bricks at a demolition site for a nickel a brick.
e. Father: in powder blue Mercedes,
f. just another big shot in 3 piece suit and safety vest.


7. Who tells the story? What point of view is used?
a.1st person narration captures my attention
b. narrator is an unnamed 19 year old spoiled smart-ass.


8. Where does the primary action take place?
a. Subdivision building site Moonlight Heights
b. working class neighborhood of weather beaten 2-story red brick homes
c. basement/bedroom ‘theater’


9. What is the time setting for the action?
a. Spring 1990’s


10. How does the story get started? What is the initial incident?
Narrator recounts is on-the-job training at his father’s building subdivision.


11. Briefly describe the rising action of the story.
a. Narrator describes the difference between himself and the labourers.
b. “ My problems were not their problems but I wish they were.
c. Their problems were “immediate, distinct, resolvable.”
d. My problems were “long term, existential and impossible.”


12. What is the high point, or climax, of the story?
a. Epiphany – The author keeps the reader waiting
b. until the last paragraph…..builds tension!
c. ”I knew I was traversing some essential but unstated boundary,
d. but I traversed it anyway.


13. Discuss the falling action or close of the story.
a. Narrator realizes he still has time
b. to make new life decisions
c. that have nothing to do with the theatre.
d. ” It was midnight. Midnight was still young”.


14. Does this story create any special mood?
a. There is a mood of pathos created in the story.
b. Experiences that stir up emotions of pity, sympathy, and sorrow.
For Duncan it was job that is going no where.
d. Stacked in the corner were some carpentry manuals for beginners.
e. ”I dabble with those sometimes,” he said ”
f. but they won’t give a guy like me a chance.”
g. This evokes feelings of sympathy in readers.


15. Did you identify with any of the characters?
a. Of course, you can identify with the narrator and Duncan
b. Who has never wanted to make  a dream a reality
c….only to have their bubble burst?


16. Does this story contain any of the following elements?
a. Motif: –
There are many subtle and obvious references
b. to the theater and acting roles.
c. Father vs Son: “we played roles that  were generic superfical and true”.
d. Repetition, alliteration, contrasts, platitudes euphemisms
e…they are all there!
You have to pay your dues…
It takes as long as it takes…
It is mind over matter…
Whatever you set your mind to…
f. This makes the story a memorable experience of language.
g. Bravo, Saīd Zayarfiezadeh!
h. Irony: Duncan Dioguardi is bossy.
i. ”Put this here, put that there. He enjoys the power while the narrator
j. ”enjoys the cold comfort that I could burst his bubble by
k. telling him who my dad was.
l. But a good actor never breaks character.” (motif)


17. Can you find any examples of figurative language?

a. Images: Duncan:
b. He had a tattoo of a
c. ”…snake coiling around his bicep crawling up toward his neck
d. en route to devour his face…”
e. Images: nameless narrator
f. “…never get a tattoo
g. a performer must always remain a blank slate.
h. So here I was playing
i. …the role of general laborer with flawless skin.”(motif)


18.  Does the story have a thematic message?
After reading the story I had to think of the
b. lyrics of Eminem’s song “Nowhere Fast”.
c. This  song (…it is really a poem) expresses the feeling
d. I got reading about two boys from different
e. points on the economic spectrum
f….yet they bond and come together
g. …because they are so alike.

“Wasted youth, always on the road
Never lookin’ back and we’re never gettin’ old
‘Cause the skies are black
But our heart’s made of gold.”


19. What was the sentence that impressed you the most?
a. Duncan: “He’d lived twice the life that I’d lived,
b. while having none of my advantages.
c. He was what my father had been before he hit it big.
d. But Duncan Dioguardi was most likely never going to hit it big.
c. His trajectory seemed already established.”
e. This reminds me of the fatalism that oozes from this story.
f. Events are predetermined and Duncan
g….is powerless to change them.



  1. Strong point:  quite funny, and emotionally engaging
  2. Ending: an inevitable surprise
  3. satisfying but without neatly tied up conclusions.
  4. Depth: goes beyond the surface,
  5. goes beyond what characters are wearing.


  1. Strong point: The story felt like a bildungsroman
  2. …novel of maturation
  3. but compressed in a short story!


  1. Note:  I listened to the fiction podcast on The New Yorker wesite
  2. then I re-read the magazine copy.
  3. The podcast was the best!
  4. I can hear the rhythm of language, the alliteration, the contrasts.


  1. Message:
  2. “Who is the fool who agrees to move
  3. …thru space without saying a word?”
  4. #MustRead
  5. #MustListen


Last thoughts:

  1. After reading this story…I couldn’t go to sleep.
  2. I kept thinking and pondering this narrative.
  3. Two young men and
  4. “This was an outsized struggle in a midsized city.”
  5. That is impressive because not many novels
  6. affect me that way!
  7. The next morning I just sat at the laptop
  8. …and this review ‘wrote itself’.
  9. I may just concentrate only on short stories
  10. …for the coming weeks.
  11. Short stories are much harder  to write
  12. because the author has to do so much with so few words.
  13. Every word packs a punch.
  14. Writing short stories is truly a skill!
  15. Bravo, Saīd Zayarfiezadeh!



#Classic: Patrick Kavanagh Irish poet

P.  Kavanagh

  • This lifelike statue of him seated on a bench
  • on the bank or the Grand Canal in Dublin.




  1. This is a poem of greater emotional complexity
  2. The tone is sombre even meditative.
  3. The poem attempts to renew in the face of experience
  4. light-hearted attitude that has disappeared.
  5. The poet Kavanagh lived in a boarding house on
  6. Raglan Road between autumn 1944 – October 1945.
  7. The poem records his unrequited romance with Hilda Moriarty,
  8. a twenty-two years old medical student at University College Dublin.
  9. Hilda was acclaimed as one of the most beautiful women in the city.
  10. Kavanagh was infatuated with her and often stalked her.
  11. From early 1945 she was desperately trying to escape his obsessive attention.

  1. One day in May 1945 Patrick and Hilda arrived at the railway station in Drumree
  2. …a couple of miles from Dunsany castle.
  3. Every May, serried ranks of bluebells nod their heads.
  4. That first image of walking through the bluebells
  5. made a profound impression on the poet.


The bluebells are withered now under the beech trees

The bluebells are withered now under the beech trees
And I am there – the ghost of myselfalone
Trying to remember a truth I once had known
Poking among the weeds on bare knees
Praying, praying poetic incantation
To call back life to that once-green plantation.

A score of grey ungrowthy stumps stand up
Like an old graveyard in my mind: Dingle, Cooleen
A shadowed corner of Saint Stephen’s Green
A noisy corner of the Country Shop
All chilly thoughts that bring no exaltation
No green leaf love to the beautiful plantation.

I dreamt it in my heart, it was not real
I should have known that love is but a season
Like spring. The flowers fade. Reason
Knows it cannot find its old ideal
And yet her breath still blows some undulation
Of leaf and flower to charm my dream plantation.


Last thoughts:

  1. I am very impressed with Kavanagh’s poetry.
  2. He did not have the posh education at Blackrock College in Dublin
  3. as did his friend Flann O’ Brian.
  4. But still Kavanagh produced some wonderful
  5. works based on his rural backround and
  6. determination to educate himself.


#AWW 2018 The Enigmatic Mr. Deakin



  1. This is a  book about the history, politics and philosophy
  2. of Australian liberals.
  3. It is Australian politics leading up to Deakin Government
  4. and his years as Prime Minister 1903-1908.
  5. As a brilliant speaker Deakin became one of the kind of people
  6. who are very good at playing the political game.
  7. Judtih Brett has done almost the impossible
  8. …make a shy, studious, religious man seem interesting.
  9. Remember this is not a literary biography but a political biography.
  10. It’s going to be full of elections, and policy making.
  11. So if you are not really interested in this topic
  12. ….the book will be a tough read.


Last thoughts:

  1. It is not easy to write a political biography
  2. It is not easy to condense an entire life into the form of a book
  3. …an interesting book.
  4. You have to find the right balance between
  5. historical fact and emotion to give the subject a pulse.
  6. I felt only a regular missed heartbeat.
  7. The author did not punch me with enough
  8. little details that make the character relatable.
  9. It is difficult to read the book you are writing
  10. as if you were the reader…instead of a writer.
  11. Perhaps that may have improved this book.



#AWW 2018 Atomic Thunder (NF)


Who is  Elizabeth Tynan?

  1. Elizabeth Tynan is a science writer and academic
  2. at the James Cook University  in Queensland, Australia.
  3. She completed a PhD on aspects of British nuclear testing in Australia.


What is Atomic Thunder about?

  1. Britain wanted to join the nuclear club.
  2. Britain needed Australia’s geographic assets (testing ground)
  3. …and its distance from the British electorate.
  4. Britain conducted three atomic explosions at
  5. the Monte Bello Islands off the coast of Western Australia
  6. …and nine at Maralinga and Emu.
  7. This book chronicles the scandals that ensued:
  8. 1950 Australian prime minister Robert Menzies
  9. agreed to atomic tests without informing his government
  10. the overall levels and distribution of radioactivity
  11. …that wreaked havoc on Indigenous communities
  12. …and turned the land into a radioactive wasteland
  13. the uncovering of the extensive secrecy around British testing
  14. This book is the most comprehensive account of the whole saga.
  15.  After the British departed they left an unholy mess behind.




Strong point:

  1. Mw Tynan shows in the last chapters
  2. the transformation Australia society has endured.
  3. What a difference a generation makes
  4. …layers of secrecy and inertia are lifted!
  5. Investigative journalists and media are not
  6. ….interested in comforting the powerful
  7. No more stonewalling….
  8. The people of Australia demand accountability!

Quote: pg 290

  • “Britain knew in the 1960’s that radioactivity at its former nucelar
  • test site in Australia was worse than first thought.
  • But it did not tell the Australians.

Quote: pg 300

  • Australia in the 1950s and early 1960s was essentially
  • ….an atomic banana republic
  • useful only for its resources…especially uranium and land.”
  • Chilling and selfish attitude of Britain
  • treating Australia as a lackey. Disgraceful


Last thoughts:

  1. The whole story is shocking but while I was reading
  2. chapter 9 Clean-ups and Cover-ups I  put my hands
  3. over my lips in absolute horror.
  4. Clean up crews were working 12-hr shifts scooping
  5. up topsoil that was liberally
  6. …dotted with plutonium-contaminated fragments.
  7. No-one says any thing about this to George Owen (British Army recruit).
  8. After 5 months working at Maralinga he is discharged.
  9. Soon after he notices strange growths on his hands.
  10. This is plutonium-239….
  11. 1 millionth of a gram may be sufficient to
  12. cause lung cancer if inhaled.
  13. How much dust did Owen inhale?
  14. Speechless….
  15. #MustRead
  16. PS…I read it in one day…could NOT put it own!






#AWW 2018: Anna Jackson



  1. The Bed-Making Competition  is an
  2. ….imaginatively realized and moving story.
  3. We follow the sisters  Hillary and Bridgid as they manage
  4. abandonment, motherhood, illness and the
  5. connections that keep families together.
  6. Each section will surprise you
  7. …make you laugh…make you reflect.
  8. Structure: five sections (1991-1994-1996-2000-2011)
  9. Characters:  not great heights, no great depths
  10. ….just ordinary people.
  11. Voice:  reveals the writer’s personality
  12. Anna Jackson is chatty, reflective, serious, funny
  13. ….and so much subtle emotion.
  14. This coming of age story of Hillary and Bridgid
  15. took my breath away.
  16. I had a sister….and know the bonds that held us together
  17. …and the things that kept us apart.
  18. #MustRead….Bravo!
  19. This is truly worthy of the  2018 Viva La Novella Prize!