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Posts from the ‘non-fiction’ Category


#AWW2019 Lesley Williams

  • Author:  Lesley and Tammy Williams
  • Title: Not Just Black and White
  • Published: 2015
  • Genre: indigenous issues non-fiction
  • Trivia: 2016 Queensland Premier’s Award work of State Significance
  • Trivia  2014 David Unaipon Award Winner
  • List of Challenges 2019
  • Monthly plan
  • #AWW2019
  • @AusWomenWriters



  1. This is a writing collaboration between
  2. mother (Lesley) and daughter (Tammy).
  3. Lesley Williams was forced to leave the
  4. Cherbourg Aboriginal Settlement
  5. …at a young age to work as a domestic servant.
  6. Lesley never saw her wages.
  7. They were kept ‘safe’ by the government.
  8. This book relates her nine-year journey for answers:
  9. where is all that money she earned?
  10. Lesley confronts the government
  11. …in a judicial wrestling match!



  1. Mrs Williams describes her youth
  2. while giving the reader a clear mental image
  3. of the backdrop Cherbourg settlement.
  4. It was difficult to read about her life
  5. under  cruel Protection Act that uprooted
  6. thousands of Aboriginal people.
  7. because of her strong character and vision
  8. she was able overcome many hardships.


  1. There were several messages in the book that
  2. resonated to me:
  3. Williams feels a strong sense of Aboriginal community. (safety network)
  4. Williams struggles to fight injustice (racial, financial)
  5. Williams reminds all people who suffer racism…


  1. Best quote:
  2. “There are two ways to fight racism:
  3. — fight with your fists
  4. — fight with your talents and achievements”
  5. Nothing hurts a racist more
  6. …when they see you achieving


Last thoughts

  1. Good literature unnerves you…..
  2. …or takes you somewhere to consider things
  3. ….things that you might not have considered
  4. thinking about before.
  5. This book took me into the Cherbourg Settlement.
  6. It showed me the strength of family…
  7. that remained unbroken for Lesley Williams.
  8. It has only been in the last generations
  9. …that Aboriginal writers have been published.
  10. They now are  able to tell their stories, their truths.
  11. #ReadDiversity



#NSW Premier’s 2019 Special Award B. Boochani

  • Author: B. Boochani
  • Title: No Friend But The Moutains
  • Published: 2018
  • Genre: non-fiction
  • List of Challenges 2019
  • Monthly plan
  • @MacmillianAus
  • @Picadorbooks
  • Trivia:
  • A special award of $10,000 was made to
  • Manus Island refugee Behrooz Boochani
  • for his book No Friend but the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison.
  • Boochani’s book was ineligible for the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards
  • which require authors to be Australian citizens.
  • Trivia:
  • The book won the top prize at the
  • Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards in January 2019.
  • This year was an exception made to the eligibility requirements.



  1. Prison literature is always a difficult read.
  2. For instance the Pulitzer Prize Winner History 2017
  3. Blood in the Water  by H. Thompson (worth your reading time!)
  4. But it is necessary to know the disturbing truths
  5. ….that are not always in the news.
  6. Boochani’s book was not a pleasure to read.
  7. I persevered to force myself out of my comfort zone.
  8. My review is in fragments.
  9. I could not add any commentary to this
  10. confrontational book.
  11. According to PEN International
  12. “Manus Island has become notorious for its
  13. …ill-treatment of detainees where violence,
  14. sexual abuse and self-harm are reportedly common.
  15. No Friend But the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison
  16. is an autobiographical account
  17. …of Boochani’s  perilous journey
  18. from Indonesia to Christmas Island and thence to Manus.
  19. He  tells of what life is like for the detained men.
  20. #LiteratureDoesHavePower



The trip to Manus (ch 1-4)
Boochani enters Manus Prison (ch 5-6)

25% – 60%:

  1. Once a concept is mentioned
  2. it is repeated over and over
  3. …again for several paragraphs:
  4. stench of hairy man’s breath (ch 7)
  5. smell of putrid soil
  6. fans
  7. mosquitos
  8. rooms
  9. pissing
  10. filthy toilets
  11. distress caused by saying ‘hi’
  12. bellowing of profanities
  13. prison becomes hive of killer bees
  14. prisoners become wolves…threat to everyone else
  15. Generator (cuts off water and electricity)
  16. ….manipulates minds


Queuing for food (ch 8)

  1. everything is micromanaged and mechanical
  2. meat is like pieces of car tyre
  3. guards like shepherds guiding a herd of sheep
  4. Nicknames: the Cow…first one entering dining area
  5. starvation has a smell…
  6. officers and cooks work 2 week shifts
  7. …then leave the island to be replaced
  8. answer to all the prisoners question:
  9. …”The Boss has given orders.”
  10. queue in the telephone room


Father’s Day…men struggle for the telephone (ch 9)

  1. …this leads to bruises and bodily harm.
  2. power of biceps can determine many situations
  3. distributing cakes….devoured right off the cardboard
  4. …mayhem but Boochiani does not move.
  5. …he knows “I am an animal that has already lost the game.”



  1. I am a child of war. (ch 10)
  2. Boochani describes the guards crushing a unruly prisoner.
  3. This chapter reminds me of a mind becoming unhinged.


It’s hard to discern a genuine smile…  (ch 11)

  1. Toothache…terrible pain…worse treatment!
  2. Self-harm in the prison becomes a cultural practice.
  3. When prisonor spills his blood he appears to enter into ecstasy.
  4. It is a moment emitting the scent of death.
  5. According to Boochani every prisoner must
  6. …look out for the prisoner standing next to him.
  7. The most important thing is they must challenge the
  8. Kyriarchal System of the prison.
  9. …Kyriarchy is a system that creates webs of privilege and exclusion.


Revolt in Mike Prison…August 2014. (ch 12)

  1. Death of Reza…the gentle giant.


Last thoughts:

  1. Despite winning the prestigious
  2. New South Wales Special Literary Award 2019
  3. with a prize worth $10.000 dollars
  4. Boochani may not leave Manus Island
  5. …and his future is unknown.



#NSW Premier’s Award shortlist Billy Griffiths (NF)







  1. Deep Time Dreaming is  a history of Australia
  2. …told in stones and bones.
  3. Griffiths highlights in several anecdotal chapters
  4. ….about many illustrative archeologists (male and female)
  5. the basic conflict in this discipline:
  6. How to view the past?
  7. critical deep time perspective vs  the past as a living heritage.
  8. This is a complex question of ownership and belonging.
  9. Strong point: The book reveals in a conversational tone
  10. …easy to read for a novice like me…
  11. the slow slow shift  to deep time dreaming.



  1. What is Deep Time Dreaming?
  2. The term was coined by B. Spencer and F. Gillen (Introduction)
  3. It is NOT to dig in search of treasure.
  4. It is to seek, understand a place from fragments
  5. …that have survived for thousands of years.
  6. It is an act of wonder.



  1. I decided to read this book and listen to the audio. (11 hr 27 min)
  2. Listen to a sample of the book!
  3. Strong point: narrator Tom Griffiths is a delight to listen to!
  4. At times I was swept away by deep and profound
  5. sacredness of the Aboriginal people’s cultural life.
  6. Archeologist R.A. Gould published information/images that he promised
  7. ….would not be shared in his book Yiwara (1969)
  8. The author was on a  Aboriginal ‘hit-list’ for his betrayal.


  1. At another time I  read about the Franklin River dispute in Tasmania
  2. The Franklin  was ‘not just a river
  3. …it has the epitome of a lost forest.
  4. The photo by Peter Dombrovskis
  5. …  was the poster image during the
  6. explosive ecological and political debacle. (read chapter 9)
  7. The photo is impressive.
  8. …and takes me halfway across the world in
  9. my thoughts.

Morning Mist Rock Island Bend


Last thoughts:

  1. This book taught me more about Australia
  2. …and the rise of Aboriginal awareness by the nation,
  3. …it’s dedicated team of archeologists starting in 1950s
  4. with John Mulvaney than any other non-fiction I’ve read.
  5. I would highly recommend reading and listening to this book.
  6. With the help of Wikipedia (biographical info about archeologists)
  7. …and Google images this book is a magic carpet to
  8. …ancient Australia!
  9. I’ve read ALL the non-fictions shortlisted books
  10. …with the exception of The Erratics (not available in Netherlands).
  11. Deep Time Dreaming is MY CHOICE 
  12. as winner of  the non-fiction
  13. Douglas Stewart Prize ( NSW Literary Awards 2019)





#AWW 2019 Ashleigh Young






  1. This would not have been my choice to start an essay collection.
  2. Topic was not a good hook...not funny or emotional
  3. …just a bit strange.



  1. Story took me back to the carefree summer days on a beach.
  2. I can’t remember the last time
  3. …I jumped into the ocean….how sad is that?


The Te Kūiti Underground

  1. Absolutely enchanting…author’s memories of her father.
  2. “…he became in my eyes more and more eccentric,
  3. …and I became  more narrow-minded.”



  1. Just a story that leaves the reader
  2. with a message from an eccentric French postman:
  3. “ …how wonderful it is if we just keep going
  4. …a simple stumbling block…can change
  5. the entire story of out lives and deaths.”
  6. #SmileOnMyFace


On Any Walk

  1. Once I start a walk…I never turn back.
  2. I just remember how far I’ve come
  3. .How much distance would be wasted
  4. …if I turn back?
  5. Once I’m home …the coffee tastes so special!
  6. Ashleigh Young will…
  7. #NeverGiveUp


Big Red

  1. I’m speechless….
  2. We are introduced tp author’s family
  3. …mom, dad and 2 brothers.
  4. Ashleigh Young is an amazing talent
  5. … of the BEST essays.


Window Seat

  1. We’ve all been there
  2. …on a plane with a talkative passenger next to us.
  3. Only this passenger….could she be and angel?
  4. #Spooky


Black Dog Book

  1. What you possess…you loose.
  2. Happy family dog story….but sometimes 
  3. Mom has to make the difficult decision
  4. …and call the vet.
  5. #HardToSayGoodbye


Katherine Would Approve

  1. Anecdotes about the period when
  2. Ashleigh Young was director of 
  3. Katherine Mansfield Birthplace House
  4. …in Wellington, New Zealand.
  5. #Job



  1. What to do when a harmless comment stings?
  2. #ThinkBeforeYouSpeak


Can You Tolerate This?

  1. After reading this essay I had to close my Kindle
  2. take off my glasses and close my eyes.
  3. #PowerfulWriting
  4. …one of the BEST essays


Seas of Trees

  1. Eye-opener about a disturbing
  2. …social trend in Japan: hikikomori.
  3. Creative young people becoming modern-day hermits.
  4. #PTSS


Bikram’s Knee

  1. If you are determined to find a way back to strength
  2. nothing is unfix-able.
  3. This is a very, very personal essay about Ashleigh’s
  4. Struggle to accept the awkwardness of her body.
  5. She keeps waiting on the  gym bench, elbows on her knees
  6. head in her hand
  7. .…waiting for transformation.
  8. #Yoga #Running
  9. .one of the BEST essays.



  1. The author visits a Maori ritual
  2. …unveiling a headstone of a family member.
  3. She will write a story to
  4. accompany the photographs her friend is taking.


On Breathing

  1. So funny about a simple decision
  2. ,,,author decides to breath noisily
  3. …when she feels puffed 
  4. during a taxing bike ride.
  5. #Quirky


On Going Away

  1. Insightful look at relationships…
  2. Going away and then coming back together
  3. …this surge of
  4. anger and relief is toxic.
  5. Solution:  compress it into one moment
  6. …like stepping into a manhole.
  7. A sharp, pure accident with a beginning and an end.
  8. #Insightful



  1. Heartwrenching…to try to reach into the past
  2. and hold on to some one…
  3. …to try and stop time.
  4. #Depression



  1. Heartwarming observations and anecdotes
  2. about a woman who decides
  3. …to write a book  about her life.
  4. The story is clearly referring to
  5. Ashleigh Young’s mother.
  6. #Hysterical
  7. of the BEST essays.



Last thoughts:

  1. Extremely well-written set of essays
  2. …in quiet, elegant joy-to-read prose.
  3. External circumstances
  4. …family, job, body shape or where you live..
  5. cannot determine your happiness.
  6. Ashleigh Young shows us
  7. happiness depends on what we are given.
  8. This a book  best read ‘slowly’…
  9. I was not ready to say goodbye…
  10. Ashleigh Young’s beautiful writing.
  11. I’m anxiously waiting for her next book!
  12. #MustRead



#AWW 2019 Fiona Wright



  1. Wright examines her own anorexia and the significance of hunger.
  2. She  writes frankly and movingly about a
  3. …difficult and very personal subject.
  4. She provides insights into her reading,
  5. travels and her interactions with others.
  6. In several essays Wright relates
  7. …her experience to that of characters.
  8. In novels  there are characters who starve themselves:
  9. For Love Alone by Christina Stead,
  10. Cloudstreet by Tim Winton and
  11. The Bluebird Cafe by Carmel Bird.


In Colombo    …malnutrition, she misses it

  1. First sentence: I’ll always remember the
  2. …particular intensity that malnutrition brings on,
  3. …I know that I miss it still.
  4. Reaction:  Hunger keeps the author separate from
  5. the rituals of society not only in Colombo.
  6. 70% impressions of the writer’s apprenticeship at a newspaper
  7. ….30% about her illness.


In Hospital   …sickest

  1. First Sentence: At my sickest, a lover once folded a
  2. blanket over my shoulderblade before curling against my back to sleep.
  3. Reaction: Hunger is a mediator, it stands between the author and the world. Hunger is addictive. Hunger is support, it is scaffolding. Hunger became my safest state.
  4. 100%….very powerful, personal and disturbing.


In Berlin     …interesting facts

  1. First sentence: I felt smaller in Berlin than I ever had before;
  2. the Northern Germans are, by and large, a big-boned people,
  3. …the shanks of their legs are particularly impressive.
  4. Reaction:  The author visits a labour camp, Sachsenhausen.
  5. The body never forgets starvation. 
  6. Sad…the author bought food to give her
  7. …pantry shelves an appearance of normality.
  8. “I didn’t choose my hunger. That no one ever does.”
  9. Wright describes returning to a family she
  10. …lived with during her studies 10 years ago.
  11. She had been well then.
  12. She did not know what lay ahead.


In Miniature  …presenting a paradox

  1. First sentence: It seems a strange place to start writing about the miniature,
  2. but I want to begin on the internet, because I found there,
  3. for a time, a thing I could hardly have conceived would have existed,
  4. a community of illness, specifically for the kinds of illnesses that
  5. …we often keep silent and hidden within ourselves.
  6. Reaction: Breathtakingly  beautiful…how Fiona Wright sees her
  7. …fascination with miniature reflected in her illness.
  8. This essay was poetic!


In Increments   …sickness personified “gnawing”

  1. I’ll never know the point where my physical illness
  2. ..gave way to something different,
  3. something more complex, but more and more I think
  4. …now that hunger was always with me, always
  5. …gnawing away somewhere in me, and my illness
  6. …just allowed this hunger to assert itself in the only
  7. …way that could possibly have been acceptable to me.


In Books I    …analogy in books

  1. The year that I first became ill, when my physical condition first developed,
  2. …was the first year that I studied Australian Literature.


In Books II    …analogy in books

  1. There are books I have had with me in
  2. …hospital waiting rooms that I can never re-read without re-reading, too,
  3. …the traces that they carry of the spaces that I took them into.


In Group  ….mother vs daughter

  1. There are some conversation that you shouldn’t have with your mother,
  2. especially if you are a poet, and especially if you are a
  3. …poet four months into you third stint of group therapy.


In Passing   …sad news

  1. I received the news digitally, in a text
  2. …from my old housemate, Kat.


In Hindsight  …looking back


  1. I resisted, for a long time, reading any anorexia memoirs,
  2. …even though I’d been reading about
  3. ..the condition in fiction and textbooks.



  1. The cover of Fiona Wright’s book keeps catching my eye.
  2. What kind of story is behind those eyes.
  3. Fiona Wright (born 1983) is an Australian poet and critic.
  4. Small Acts of Disappearance: Essays in Hunger (2015)
  5. is a collection of ten essays that detail the author’s
  6. own experience with anorexia.
  7. The longest essay is ‘In Group’
  8. the shortest is ‘In Passing’.
  9. The best?  I loved them all.
  10. I wrote down a few words about the first few essays.
  11. Each one  draws me in with the first sentence.
  12. After reading one essay
  13. ….I have to get up and do something else
  14. …I must let my thoughts settle.
  15. Fiona Wright has shared her life
  16. stripped bare and gray as sheet-iron.
  17. The more Fiona thinks about her body
  18. the more she knows it is no longer her own.
  19. Her body tries to fold up at the first sign of danger
  20. …as if disappearing into a shell.
  21. #MustRead

#Prix Fémina 2018 Phillipe Lançon



  1. January 7  2015  during a editorial meeting at  Charlie Hebdo
  2. terrorists entered the room and killed 12 people and injuring 11.
  3. Phillipe Lançon, journalist, was shot in the face left in critical condition.
  4. Lançon reveals that he did not write the book in order to surivive.
  5. He wrote it years later when he felt his life was settled.
  6. The surgeon adviced him to  ‘revenir à la normale’
  7. ….but that is easier said than done.
  8. The title says it all: Le Lambeau
  9. All that is left of me is shreds”



  1. 30% of the book is a description of the days before the attack
  2. …the attack itself and how his brother took charge and
  3. helped him pick up the pieces.
  4. 30 % is about the long and painful
  5. reconstruction of his face.
  6. 40% is about Lançon’s physical and mental decline
  7. …balanced between healing and hope.
  8. The first 8 chapters are gripping.
  9. It is surreal to read the dream like quality of if
  10. Lançon’s first impressions after the attack as he
  11. …lay in a swamp of blood.
  12. The text is so emotional.
  13. The second half of the book concentrates on
  14. the reconstruction of the author’s jaw
  15. …and the close connection he feels for his surgeon Cholé.
  16. An important part of the book is Lançon’s  style of
  17. interlacing his life after the attack with literature.
  18. He often refers to Proust, Kafka and Shakespeare
  19. …and several books that are important for him.


Last thoughts:

  1. This book reminded me of
  2. Dante’s journey into the inferno:
  3. “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”
  4. I wouldn’t say a hospital is comparable to Hell
  5. …but no one likes going there.
  6. The book is draining because you follow
  7. the author in a labryinth of his PTSS mind.
  8. There is a mixture of facts, hallucinations and dreams.
  9. He sees his parents suffer
  10. …but he does not suffer.
  11. He is the suffering.
  12. very existential at times.
  13. Because Lançon  shares so much with the reader
  14. ..the book is long.
  15. You have to persevere to finish it.
  16. The epilogue….was confronting.
  17. The Bataclan attack occured only 10 months
  18. …after Charlie Hebdo on 13 November 2015
  19. This event shook Lançon to the core.
  20. #IntenseReadingExperience


Phillipe Lançon.…after the trauma of the attack and jaw recontruction.


#AWW 2019: Robin Dalton



  1. Aunts up the Cross is about Daltons’s childhood with her
  2. eccentric extended family in Sydney’s Kings Cross.
  3. Her father was an open-all-hours doctor, known affectionately as “the gun doc”.
  4. Dr Eakin,  Mrs. Eakin,  Nana….and the close relationship the author had
  5. …with Aunt Bertie and  Aunt Juliet.
  6. Robin Dalton  is now 99…and still going strong!
  7. I loved this quote I found…
  8. Being old is not a problem, and the future not really a consideration:
  9. “I haven’t got a future, I’m practically tottering off the edge …”



  1. I haven’t laughed so much about a book in years!
  2. This is an absolute gem!
  3. Tears of laughter while reading the theatrics the Eakin’s supper table.
  4. Tony ‘the bookmaker’ McGill is seated next to Mrs. Eakin’s aged governess Sally.
  5. Suddenly Tony unabashedly makes Sally ‘an offer she can’t refuse’! (…read the book!)
  6. Robin Dalton’s father was a tease
  7. .….and the book if filled with his practical jokes!
  8. But nothing, no nothing can compare to
  9. …the laughter I enjoyed while reading
  10. Mrs. Eakin killed the plumber and
  11. ..the best joke about a fish  I have heard in YEARS!
  12. All can be found in …chapter 3…and much more!
  13. No spoilers….just a enthusiastic recommendation
  14. Aunts Up the Cross!
  15. Light, funny memoir…perfect book
  16. to lazily sit in the garden with a G&T…and laugh!
  17. You can read it in a few hours, just 142 pages!
  18. #Hysterical!

#Non-fiction: The Art of Time Travel


  1. The book contains 14 chapters
  2. …some more interesting than others.
  3. My favorite historians after reading this book are:
  4. Eleanor Dark: (1901-1985)  (novelist).
  5. Eleanor Dark has been seen to be neglected
  6. as a female writer, social critic, Australian novelist and
  7. also as an historian.
  8. I want to read her book The Timeless Land.

  1. Greg Dening (1931-2008)  just captured my heart.
  2. He demanded that his students take risks  and and at times even fail.
  3. History is a discipline without a discipline. 
  4. Nothing is discovered finally.
  5. This chapter gave me skin shivers when I read the last words.

  1. Henry Reynolds: (1938)  This chapter was an eye-opener for me.
  2. I learned ..about the ‘forgotten war’ and aboriginal lawyer, historian Noel Pearson.
  3. Reynolds has always been a ‘just-do-it’ historian.
  4. His style is lean, linear and logical.
  5. Reynolds does not depend on the lyrical language
  6. used by Australian histories to evoke the brutality of the past.
  7. He is straightforward.
  8.  Forgotten War by H. Reynolds   is on my TBR.

  1. Eric Rolls:  A Million Wild Acres
  2. Tom Griffiths said this would  be THE book about Australia he
  3. …would put in the hands of any visitor to his country to help them understand  it.
  4. I just ordered Rolls’ book all the way from Australia!…can’t wait to read it.
  5. Griffiths considers this book the BEST environmental history written of Australia!


  1. This was a wonderful read
  2. …I learned so much about Australia!
  3. #GreatNonFiction





#Ireland John McGahern



  1. The Observer hailed John McGahern  as
  2. “the greatest living Irish novelist” before his death in 2006.
  3. The Guardian described him as
  4. arguably the most important Irish novelist since Samuel Beckett”.
  5. I never heard of John McGahern! (1934-2006)
  6. McGahern had a very challenging life, moving schools repeatedly
  7. – often for no good reason
  8. – losing his mother to cancer when he was 10 yrs old (1944)
  9. — growing up with an absentee father
  10. — enduring physical, emotional, psychological abuse
  11. at the hands of his policeman father.


  1. Memoir is an autobiographical account of
  2. the childhood of Irish writer John McGahern.
  3. It recalls his formative years in Leitrim, Ireland
  4. …,the death of his beloved mother Susan and
  5. …his relationship with his dark and enigmatic father.


  1. McGahern’s father visited the family
  2. from the  Garda barracks only once a month.
  3. All 7 children were afraid of him.
  4. His father was very mercurial.
  5. He would go from ignoring a child…to beating him.
  6. McGahern while writing this book kept farther from himself
  7. …and closer to what happened.
  8. This was at times difficult to read
  9. …how a parent could be so cruel.


  1. The turning point in McGahern’s life was the death of his mother.
  2. “She was gone to where I could not follow.
  3. Early childhood (3-15 yr)  is described for the first 60% of the book.
  4. Once McGahern reaches the age of 19….and could stand up
  5. to his father physically…the book  took on a combustive tone.
  6. The father’s  domination of the family was now being challenged.
  7. Best quote: page  273
  8. Father speaking to McGahern: “What is your aim?”
  9. McGahern: “To write well, to write truly and well about
  10. …fellows like yourself.”


Last thoughts:

  1. This book has a rhythm that connects the images in the prose.
  2. It is well written with intelligence and feeling.
  3. There are sections of the book filled with emotional intensity.
  4. The writer takes you into his private world.
  5. The Irish rural country lanes
  6. …gave McGahern a sense of peace
  7. So the memoir begins with a 3 year old boy
  8. …walking with his beloved mother.
  9. So the memoir ends the man reflecting
  10. on those rare moments of childhood security.
  11. “…I know she has been with me all my life.”
  12. I was surprised how much I liked this book!
  13. John McGahern is an Irish novelist that deserves
  14. …to be on more reading lists.
  15. #VeryTouching



#Ireland Essays on Modern Irish Writing



Gerard Dawe is a retired (2017) Professor in English from Trinity College Dublin and a poet.
Born in Belfast and started is family life in the west of Ireland, Galway.

Series of 14 essay on modern Irish writing from from WB Yeats onwards.

The epigraph is by Hugo Hamilton’s The Speckled People and
reflects Irish writers and their writing for me….excellent choice of words by G. Dawe!

“…You can’t be afraid of saying the opposite,
even if you look like a fool and everybody thinks you’re
in the wrong country, speaking the wrong language.

The book is also dedicated to an Irish poet who passed away in 2017, Gerard Fanning.
I have never heard of him.
His poem collections are difficult to find in The Netherlands.
I ordered his collection Water & Power.
I was the last book before his death.
I’m curious what he has to say.

The essays are in the form of invited lectures or contributions given by G. Dawe.
Tone is conversational and because it is a lecture it takes random turns.
I had to read carefully and ask myself “what did I really learn from this lecture?

I read about the author on Wikipedia before starting Dawe’s writing.
It gives a helicopter view of the writer before I start an essay.


Some of the writers discussed in the essays:

W.B. Yeats (1865-1939) Nobel Prize 1923 and
Samuel Beckett (1906-1989) Nobel Prize Literature 1969
Seamus Heaney (1939-2013) Nobel Prize 1995

  • Note: …it is quite exceptional to have  3 Nobel Prize winners
  • emerge from an Irish Protestant Group in literature!

James Plunkett, John Hewitt, Eavan Boland, Dorothy Molloy,
Michelle O’Sullivan, Leontia Flynn, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, Ethna Carbery
Elizabeth Bowen, Mary Lavin, Kate O’Brien, John McGahern, Brendan Behan, JP Donleavy, Patrick Kavanagh, Seamus Deane, Derek Mahon, Medbh McGuckian, Stewart Parker.

  1. Read Eavan Boland’s  The Poet’s Dublin....beautiful
  2. Reading Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin‘s
  3. The Boys of Bluehill (40 poems published 2015)
  4. Read an essay by Seamus Heaney about Patrick Kavanaugh.
  5. Read Seamus Heaney Poetry
  6. Read Elizabeth Bowen The Death of the Heart
  7. Reading Medbh McGuckian Selected Poems 1978-1994



  1. Early years: 1913 – 1939: Lockout Dublin, WW I, Easter 1916
  2. 1940s – 1950s: Tragic writing lives of American and Irish generations
  3. 1950s: Emigration of young Irish women to Britain
  4. 1960s: Boozy literary Dublin
  5. ….and onwards 2010s.


My notes on 7 essays:


Hearing Things: W.B. Yeats – S. Beckett

Beckett and Yeats had similar social, educational, Irish Protestantism backrounds. Beckett would create in his drama testimonials to Yeats.  Beckett and Yeats met only once . 1933 Beckett went through extremely difficult tragic year: death cousin (TB) May 1933 and loss of his father (heart attack) June 1933. This marked the real beginnings of his life as a writer. He was 27 years old.


Plunkett’s City: James Plunkett
James Plunkett was an Irish writer (1920-2003) He was educated by The Christian Brothers in Dublin.

Plunkett grew up among the Dublin working class, petty bourgeoisie and lower intelligentsia.

Strumpet City is a 1969 historical novel by James Plunkett set in Dublin, Ireland, around the time of the 1913 Dublin Lock-out.
Strumpet City is movement between Dublin, Kingstown and the coastline of Dublin. Characters talk to one another as they observe the city around them. This is the long tradition of perambulation in Irish writing. The book starts in 1907 and ends 1914 with a troop ship leaving Dublin Bay for WW I. In the seven years the 1913 Lockout, struggles for social justice and democracy in Ireland revolve around Dublin.

Dawe introduces met to a poem which I read and listened to: Easter 1916 by W.B. Yeats.

This is a nice read/listen on Easter Morning….and remember what happened en changed Ireland forever.


Border Crossings:

John Harold Hewitt (1907 – 1987), who was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, was the most significant Belfast poet to emerge before the 1960s generation of Northern Irish poets
that included Seamus Heaney, Derek Mahon and Michael Longley.
Hewitt’s verse expresses the
damage done by political division and nostalgia for a different past.
John Hewitt was a father figure for young Northern poets like Heaney and Longely.

I read Dawe’s essay and did not learn very much. I kept searching on the internet for a better image of this poet.I listened to readings of his poems “The Watchers” and “The Local Poet.” In this poem you can sense Hewitt’s modesty and shyness between the lines. Beautiful.
On Culture Northern Ireland website I found a concise introduction to John Hewitt that appealed to me more than Dawe’s essay.

We need Hewitt now more than ever to remind us that we have a tradition and a definable, colourful, multi-layered Ulsterness. That Ulster has a cultural and cultured mind that has nothing to do with universities. Now that we have, at least for political reasons, ceased to kill each other, Hewitt can teach us how to write poetry again in the peace of who we really are.


From The Ginger Man to Kitty Stobling

This is going to be an interesting essay because I HATED The Ginger Man by P J Donleavy. It was listed on Modern Library’s list of Best 100 novels of 20th C. Perhaps Gerard Dawe can tell me what I was not ‘getting’ in Donleavy’s book!

60% of the essay was a Dawe’s attempt to put Irish literature in the historical context of the 1950s (social,political) Donleavy was mentioned in two sentences! No analysis. 40% of the essay was about Patrick Kavanaugh. He produced an Irish classic “The Great Hunger” (poem) and fought tirelessly against the establishment in Dublin. Ireland 1950s was an age of innocence but also full of dark secrets (difficult (patriarchy) conditions for women, child abuse in the Catholic Church, Magdalene laundries).


The Passionate Transitory: John McGahern  – REAL DISCOVERY!!

The Observer hailed him as “the greatest living Irish novelist” before his death in 2006  and in its obituary the Guardian described him as ‘arguably the most important Irish novelist since Samuel Beckett’. I never heard of John McGahern! (1934-2006)

Dawe’s essay was not very enlightening. I learned more while reading McGahern’s Wikipedia page!

McGahern had a very challenging life, moving schools repeatedly – often for no good reason – losing his mother to cancer when he was 10 yrs old…growing up with an absentee father and enduring physical, emotional, psychological abuse at the hands of his policeman father.

One of the preeminent Irish writers of our time, John McGahern has captivated readers with such poignant and heart-wrenching novels as Amongst Women and The Dark. Moving between tragedy and savage comedy, desperation and joy. John McGahern….all his books reflect his hard life experiences. Characters, events, attitudes are all peeled back to reveal reality. Sounds like a good author to add to reading lists!

I bought his first novel….The Barracks (1963) and his last book before he died…Memoir (2005).

Elizabeth Reegan (represents McGahern’s marries into the enclosed Irish village of her upbringing. The children are not her own; her husband is straining to break free from the servile security of the police force; and her own life, threatened by illness, seems to be losing the last vestiges of its purpose.


The Barracks (1963) AE Memorial Award, McCauley Fellowship.
The Dark (1965)
The Leavetaking (1975)
The Pornographer (1979)
Amongst Women (1990), Irish Times Literary Award (1991), nominated for the Booker Prize (1990).
That They May Face the Rising Sun (2001), Irish Novel of the Year (2003), nominated for the International Dublin Literary Award.

Non-Fiction: Memoir (2005)


Fatal Attractions: John Berryman in Dubiin
John Allyn McAlpin Berryman (1914 – 1972) was an American poet and scholar…not Irish but visited in Dublin. I wonder why Dawe added this essay to his book? This essay feels out of place…#JustSaying


History Lessons: Derek Mahon and Seamus Deane
Derek Mahon (1941) is an Irish poet. He was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland child of Ulster Protestant working class parents. Derek Mahon is regarded with Heaney and Longley as the leader of the resurgence of Irish poetry from the late 60s onwards. He writes lyric poetry of enormous wit, elegance and scepticism

Seamus Deane (1940) is an Irish poet, novelist, critic and intellectual historian. Born in Derry, Northern Ireland, Deane was brought up as part of a Catholic nationalist family. Of all the writers I’ve read about in the first 7 essays….Deane is the least interesting. Sorry, Seamus.


Last thoughts:

  1. I’ll let you discover the last 7 essays yourself.
  2. The purpose of reading this book was to broaden
  3. my Irish reading horizons.
  4. #MissionAccomplished