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Posts from the ‘World From My Armchair’ Category


#Non-fiction City On Fire: Hong Kong

  • Title: City On Fire: The Fight for Hong Kong
  • Author: Antony Dapiran
  • Genre: non-fiction
  • Published: 2020
  • #NonficNov
  • Trivia: Long-listed for the Walkley Book Award 2020

UPDATE: 31.01.2021 – article in the Guardian

  1. Leave Hong Kong….before it’s too late!!

UPDATE:  25.11.2020 – article in The Guardian

  1. Carrie Lam praises new security law.
  2. Hong Kong is a gaping hole in the security of the mainland!
  3. NO OPPOSITION…can you imagine living there?


  1. Antony Dapiran is a Hong Kong-based writer and lawyer.
  2. His  book chronicles the Hong Kong protests of 2019.
  3. I am just curious what is going on in Hong Kong
  4. ….behind only  the TV images I have seen.


  1. Back round information about Hong Kong that
  2. passed me by while I was concentrating all my
  3. attention on USA  politics
  4. 2019 – impeachment Trump
  5. 2020 – elections USA.
  1. Strong point:
  2. reveals the the  strategy, tactics  of the protestors.
  3. Strong point:
  4. writing is concise....with important analysis:
  5. Remember:
  6. Beijing knows if it deploys troops to Hong Kong
  7. …that would mark THE DEATH
  8. of Hong Kong’s status as in international
  9. …financial hub!
  10. Chairman Xi would snuff out  hopes of his “China Dream”.
  1. Strong point:
  2. This book reveals the face of Chinese power to the world!
  3. It seems I have taken my eye off the ball during 2020
  4. …blinded by US politics.
  5. New rule:  read more about China!
  6. Don’t skip the headlines in the newspapers
  7. …because change is coming sooner than you think!
  8. #Taiwan is in China’s  cross-hairs!
  1. Read your newspapers.
  2. …and watch the slow and steady
  3. …squeeze as Beijing first isolates Hong Kong to weaken it
  4. …then pushes it towards integration with the mainland China.
  5. How long will this take?
  6. #MustRead non-fiction book
  7. …..history in the making!

Last thought:

  1. Do not  let ‘short lists’ influence your reading...
  2. I thought this book was 100 X better than
  3. the books designated as
  4. …potential winners Walkley Award 2020 on 20 November.
  5. Fallen by L. Morris-Marr
  6. We Can’t Say We Didn’t KnowS. McNeill
  1. Is the book a prize winner?
  2. No,  unfortunately it has not been shortlisted
  3. .but it should have been on the shortlist!! !
  4. This book will help you
  5. …follow the news into 2021 about Hong Kong!
  6. #ThisProblemIsNotOverYet

November HK News:   update

  1. What state power has been doing is to try and subdue
  2. the few organizations that remain independent.
  3. daring and professional. (free press)
  4. They really want to close down this environment of open information.
  5. July 2020:  draconian national security law
  6. 12 Aug 2020: Hong Kong tycoon Jimmy La arrested.
  7.  who is owner  of  …one of Hong Kong’s most-read newspapers.
  8. 12 November 2020: Hong Kong opposition resigns en masse
  9. after members ousted from parliament.
  10. The end of  “One State, Two Nations”

If your interested….my notes on the chapters


  1. A Death in Taipei
  2. ….very obvious ‘hook’ chapter
  3. …with ref to a gruesome murder!
  1. The March of One Million – 09 June 2019
  2. Protests over proposed legislation that could have
  3. allowed residents to be extradited to China
  4. where they could face possible torture and unfair trials.
  1. Blocking the Bill
  2. flashback 2014 the ‘Umbrella Movement’
  3. comparison with 12 June 2019 demonstration
  1. The March of Two Million – 16 June 2019
  2. Protesters have mainly focused their anger on Lam,
  3. who had little choice but to carry through dictates issued by Beijing,
  4. where President Xi Jinping has enforced increasingly authoritarian rule.
  1. Be Water!
  2. Ref:  Bruce Lee — philosophy”
  3. ‘Be like water making its way through cracks.
  4. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object,
  5. and you shall find a way around or through it.
  1. Storming the System “..the (extradition) bill is dead”..or is it?
  2. Reclaim Hong Kong! Revolution of Our Times!  – protest 21 July 2019
  3. The Right to the City – protests move to airport
  4. and shopping malls on 26 July 2019
  5. …protestors weaken urban infrastructure to service their protest!
  6. BloomingArt/graffiti  posed as much as
  7. challenge to Beijing’s authority in the city
  8. …as the black-clad youth in the streets.
  1. The Battle of Sheung Wan – 28 July 2019
  2. Upper Street (the English name for Sheung Wan)
  3. a peaceful and quiet neighborhood with hints of cosmopolitan
  4. London and a bit of Chinese grit.
  5. Protests shape shift into clashes in different districts
  6. …constantly changing the frontline!
  7. Protests  resemble  Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables!
  8. Act 1: build barricades
  9. Act 2: clash with police
  10. Act 3: protestors ‘being water’ and disappear
  11. Curtain falls: …police face an empty street.
  1. Strike! – 05 August 2019
  2. …..general strike compared with 1967 strike
  3. …was not very successful b/c of no support from the unions
  1. Things Fall Apart – bloody Sunday, 11 August 2019
  2. VERY GOOD CHAPTER…read carefully!
  3. police use new tactic: disguised as protestors …suddenly turned
  4. …without warning on their neighbours in the crowd
  5. …stoking suspicion and paranoia.
  6. More airport protests, but the movement starts falling apart
  7. …because of lack of discipline.
  1. A Protest of Enchantment – 23 August 2019
  2. Hong Kong protesters join hands in 30-mile human chain.
  3. …and just as the clock struck 9pm…the people quietly dispersed.
  4. …a fleeting moment, an important enchanting statement.

  1. The End of Summer –  31 August 2019
  2. Police shoot pepper spray as they try to detain protesters
  3. inside a train at Prince Edward metro Station.
  4. This is the final breakdown between city and its police force.
  5. Most disturbing trend in 2019:
  6. the appropriation of the Hong Kong Police Beijing.

  1. One State, Two Nations – 04 September protest
  1. Resist! – announcement of
  2. 04 October curfew and…
  3. anti-masking law and…
  4. criminal charges for revealing personal details of police online
  5. ..this is called  “doxxing”.
  6. Injunction: check people posting on internet (chat groups)
  7. …and service providers and server hosts.
  8. Many would now conclude…it was safer to stay silent.
  1. City on Fire –  01 October 2019
  2. A fire burns during an anti-government protest in
  3. Hong Kong on the 70th anniversary of the
  4. founding of the People’s Republic of China

  1. The Siege 19 November 2019
  2. Police assault the Polytechnic University of Hong Kong
  3. PolyU has been occupied by protesters for several days.
  4. Police warned protesters they had until 22:00 to leave the campus,
  5. saying they could use live ammunition if the attacks continued.
  6. There were daring escapes: students running across rooftops
  7. …crawling through sewer system. A girl was helped by a Whatsapp
  8. …sent to her to guide her through a little-known gap in PolyU perimeter.
  1. The Silent Majority – 24 November 2019
  2. Hong Kong goes to the polls.
  3. Hong Kong’s opposition pro-democracy
  4. movement has made unprecedented gains.
  5. Despite fears the vote could be disrupted or
  6. cancelled over the unrest, it went ahead peacefully.
  7. NOTE: ….where is the opposition now?
  8. …See news 12 Nov 2020
  1. A Way of Live….   VERY GOOD CHAPTER…read carefully
  2. The question is now “How does it end?”
  3. Violence has been normalized…both state and street violence
  4. HK’s reputation is damaged….not an example of good goverance
  5. Visible lasting impact of the protests:
  6. HK has become a security state.
  7. HK is a city on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

#Non-Fiction Surrender

  • Author:  Joanna Pocock
  • Title:  Surrender  (360 pg)
  • Published: 2019
  • Genre:  non-fiction (memoir)
  • List of Challenges 2020
  • Monthly plan
  • #WorldFromMyArmchair ( North American West)


  1. Joanna Pocock is writing realism in her essays
  2. about nature, environment and herself (memoir)
  3. ..but not in the traditional style.
  4. She details the the damage done to the environment (mining)
  5. ….that made me shudder.
  6. She details information about the people
  7. …in her life (family) and who she met in Missoula Montana
  8. …and on her road trips.
  9. Shock: Wolf trappers…Ms Pocock is on the side of the wolves!
  10. The Three Percenters…”3%-ers ” militia movements are growing.
  11. She shares her feelings during her adventure.
  12. “I was aware …that the land in the American West was not mine.”
  13. “…I felt at first lost and had no real concrete reason to be here.”
  14. But she did know that the West…had changed her.
  15. She would seek to give herself over to wilderness however she could.
  16. Best chapter:
  17. Joanna’s experience at the Ecosex Convergence in Washington state!
  18. Goal: make sex less shameful and environmetalism more sexy.
  19. Truly, this was a terrific section of the book.
  20. Ms Pocock stood among the other attendees, dressed in jeans and
  21. a warm fleece…surrounded by people
  22. in gauzy  “I Dream of Genie” numbers…!
  23. Joanna was open to the tribal approach at this jamboree
  24. …but ” I slipped out before the cuddle circle got going”.
  25. #Hilarious



  1. Montana has been the “last best place” for so many people.
  2. Ms Pocock’s book goes far beyond the pristine wilderness.
  3. She stands between youth and old age (52 yr.)
  4. There are moments Joanna does not want to be back in London
  5. …but does not know what to do about it.
  6. Marriage and children are ties that bind,
  7. …yet sometimes the ties can chafe – and strangle.
  8. Sometimes….all you can do is  Surrender
  9. …to your circumstances.
  10. #BrilliantWriting
  11. Chapeau au bas  for Joanna Pocock!


Feedback to Word By Word:

Claire, every memoir is different and it depends on the level of openness the writer dares to achieve especially concerning very personal thoughts. Joanna Pocock had the perfect balance: personal issues, feelings for nature and skepticism about some cultural practices in the American West. I learned so much from this book!


Feedback to WhatsNonFiction:

I’m sure you will love this book! Joanna Pocock has done her homework and she incudes many reference to the books she read about the American West, evironmentalism and essays by other authors she admires…for instance Rebecca Solnit “A Book of Migrations”. Trivia: Did you know the Appalachian Mountains is the second most biodiverse region in the world after the Amazon? I did not know that!



#AUSReadingMonth 2019 Sea People

Bora Bora

  • Author:  Christina Thompson
  • Title: Sea People: The Puzzle of Polynesia
  • Published: 2019
  • Genre: non-fiction
  • Rating: A
  • Trivia: 2019 NSW Premier’s History Award  General History
  • Trivia: 2020 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Nonfiction
  • List of Challenges 2020
  • Monthly plan



  1. Christina Thompson and her family (Maori husband and three sons)
  2. spent 8 weeks traveling across the Pacific, with stops in
  3. Tahiti, Ra’iatea, the Marquesas, the Tuamotu Archipelago, T
  4. onga, Hawai’i, New Zealand, and Vanuatu.
  5. They visited:
  • two points of the Polynesian triangle (Hawai’i and New Zealand);
  • a center of ancient Polynesian culture (Tahiti, Ra’iatea);
  • one of the earliest Polynesian settlements (Tonga);
  • and the most famous Lapita cemetery in the Western Pacific (Vanuatu).

Polynesian Triangle ( 10.000.000 square miles!)


What is the  CORE MESSAGE ?

  1. Problems of Polynesian origins – a great geographical mystery
  2. How did the Sea People spread themselves over the vast ocean (P.Triangle)
  3. The problem is that the events are pre-history, no written records
  4. .…open to interpretation.
  5. Christina Thompson does NOT just follow
  6. ….  James Cook’s three expeditions.
  7. She approaches the origin of the Polynesian ‘Sea People’  from a fresh angle:
  8. NOT what happened…
  9. ….but HOW WE KNOW what happened in the Pacific.
  10. In 20th C science delivers up whole new bodies of information.
  11. In 1970s an experimental voyaging movement emerged.
  12. Scientists used computer simulation the chance of
  13. settling Polynesia by drift voyagages alone was very small.
  14. There had to be some human decision making taken into account.
  15. This  was to show that the ancient Polynesians
  16. …could have purposefully settled the Polynesian Triangle
  17. in double-hulled, voyaging canoes.


What did the Polynesians use to navigate?

  1. Without the aid of sextants or compasses
  2. …the ancient Polynesians navigated their canoes by the
  3. stars and other signs that came from the ocean and sky
  4. for example clouds, swells.


When did the Polynesians explore?

  1. 1200 BC – Polynesians reached Samoa and Tonga 
  2. 300 AD they fanned out to the Marquesas
  3. 400-600 AD heading north to the Hawaiian Islands


Where did the Polynesians come from?

  1. One of the most famous people to investigate
  2. and write about  this was Abraham Fornander (1812 – 1887)
  3. He was a Swedish-born emigrant
  4. …who became an important Hawaiian journalist.
  5. He was committed to the Aryan thesis:
  6. ancestors of Polynesians were a chip of the same block
  7. from which the Hindu, Iranian and Indo-European family
  8. were fashioned.


Strong point:

  1. I knew NOTHING about James Cook’s expeditions
  2. …and this was a great overview of his three journeys.


Strong point:

  1. Thompson makes the book so interesting by discussing
  2. unexpected and closely related topics
  3. to explain the Polynesian Triangle
  4. …Part III, ch 1 “Drowned Continents”
  5. The Belgian voyager, scientist
  6. Jacques-Antoine Moerenhout (1796-1879)
  7. dedicated many years searching for
  8. the origin of the Polynesians and their culture.


Nuku Hiva, Marquesas Islands


Strong point:  structure

  1. This book was easy to follow…even if you need to
  2. take a break and read something else.
  3. Thompson has divided the book in 6 parts
  4. The Eyewitness (1521-1722)
  5. Connecting the Dots (1764-1778)  James Cook voyages
  6. Why Not Just Ask (1778-1920)
  7. The Rise of Science (1920-1959)
  8. Setting Sail (1947-1980)
  9. What We Know Now (1990-2018) DNA and Dates


Weak point:  (Part II, chapter 4)

  1. Discussions about the Indo-European language family
  2. that is related to the languages used in Polynesia were
  3. took some determination to get through…but i did it.
  4. But this is important to know to discover the origin of
  5. the ‘sea people’ in Polynesia…by means of linguistics.



  1. This book is not ONLY about the Polynesian mariners
  2. but also about the people who over the years have
  3. puzzled over their history
  4. …sailors, linguists, biologists, voyagers, geographers etc.
  5. I did not know Robert Lewis Stevenson visited the
  6. Marquesas Islands!
  7. This was a very interesting book…with some parts that
  8. were amazing
  9. …voyages and methods of
  10. …navigating without compass or sextant,
  11. …other parts a bit soporific (linguistics).
  12. This book is well worth your reading time!
  13. #NonFictionLovers


Last Thoughts:

  1. I recommend the audio book (11 hrs 40 min)
  2. A narrating voice brings life into this very
  3. interesting book.
  4. If you first want get into the Polynesian mood
  5. before you start this book
  6. …sit down (…with the kids) and watch
  7. Disney’s 2016 film Moana!



#Non-fiction A Time of Gifts




  1. If you are looking for a nice rambling
  2. …colorful travelogue this is not the book for you.
  3. The travel diaries (1933) have been combed through
  4. and embellished to create this book in 1976.
  5. The narrative lacks a spark of spontaneity because
  6. Fermor’s travel thoughts have been resting for many years
  7. and the book suffers from many rewrites before it was
  8. …finally published.
  9. In all fairness, the book was received with
  10. tremendous enthusiasm (1976).
  11. It won:
  12. Thomas Cook Travel Award
  13. International PEN/Time Life Silver Pen Award
  14. W.H. Smith Prize (1978)
  15. So…you may still like this book
  16. …but I did not.


Strong point:

  1. Nicest passages are during Fermor’s walks
  2. through the countryside from village to village.
  3. No history, no hangovers, no libraries, no castles with
  4. moat and polished wood floors
  5. …just nature.


Strong point:

  1. Book oozes a special kind of personalized disorder!
  2. Fermor blends history, literature, biography, myth
  3. with his visits to cathedrals, libraries, pubs  with or
  4. without a hangover!


Strong point:   ‘The Hook”…that kept me reading

  1. Ch 1: Low Countries: good…
  2. Vivid images of boat leaving the estuary of the Thames River
  3. …describing Dutch landscape and interiors with comparisons
  4. of great paintings Brueghelish
  5. ….skaters, hunters in the snow.
  6. Fermor keeps his writing centered on his travels
  7. …no long daydreams or history.


Weak point:

  1. Up the Rhine:
  2. The book does not flow
  3. ….gets bogged down
  4. in Fermor’s musings:
  5. Fermor interjects the travel narrative
  6. ….with memories, historical trivia:
  7. …going back fourteen years  (pg 43)
  8. …memories of school learning  (pg 82)
  9. …theater for so much history  (pg 92)
  10. …landsknechts in time of Emperor Max I  (pg 96-101)


  1. Winterreise:
  2. Fermor admits it himself
  3. …slowing the narrative down!
  4. “…I must try to convey, even if it slows things
  5. up for a couple of pages.” (pg 123-133)


  1. The Danube: Seasons and Castles
  2. Brooding over one’s ignorance of painting (pg 147-156)
  3. …again slowing down.
  4. The Danube: Approach to a Kaiserstadt
  5. …let us run quickly through
  6. ..the relevant part of the story (The Tempest)
  7. …again slowing down (pg 170-171)


Fermor fills Vienna (3 week visit)

  1. …with anecdotes
  2. …not much wandering around the town.
  3. Hangover after last days of Carnival
  4. …visit to Akademie Library…
  5. …more musings about history and maps.


The Edge of the Slav World = …all history



  1. Cathedrals are always important part of the narrative
  2. (Cologne, Vienna, Prague)
  3. …but we end up with …another hangover
  4. …another library in The Old University
  5. …more history.


Slovakia: A Step Forward at Last

  1. Sorry, my eyes glazed over during this chapter
  2. ??


Marches of Hungary

  1. Fermor …cites direct long passages of  his diary
  2. …perhaps he was too tired ( as I am now) to elucidate
  3. on this chapter.


Book ends…

  1. As a young man, the travel writer Patrick Leigh Fermor
  2. walked from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople in 1933/34.
  3. A Time of Gifts (vol 1) ends on the
  4. Maria Valeria Bridge in Slovakia.
  5. Fermor has difficulty leaving Slovakia
  6. and plunging into Hungry
  7. …but he must move on.


Last Thoughts:

  1. I’ve really lost interest (57%)
  2. I kept up with Fermor from
  3. December 1933 …leaving England
  4. and just lost interest in February 1934
  5. in the little village of Maidling Im Tal, Austria
  6. Just skimming to finish the book.
  7. The BEST travel book I’ve read  was
  8. Deep South (2015)  by Paul Theroux!
  9. Now, that was an excellent book
  10. …worth your reading time!







#Non-fiction: Indonesia ect.



  1. “Indonesia etc”….I know nothing about it.
  2. But Elizabeth Pisani’s book is the perfect place to start.
  3. She seamlessly blends her personal travelogue with fascinating facts
  4. about the most invisible country in the world.
  5. Indonesia occupies a unique place in among Asia’s major powers.
  6. The stronger Indonesia becomes, the more it could protect
  7. …other lands against China becoming THE dominant power in Asia.
  8. If it keeps its act together, will grow fast over the next few decades.
  9.  and become a serious strategic player in Asia in its own right.
  10. #InterestingRead



Non-fiction: Revolutionary Ride




  1. Pryce tells us that the idea to visit Shiraz, Iran  was
  2. …based on a message from ‘Habib’ clipped to her motorcycle.
  3. She probably had a book in mind from the outset
  4. and chose this destination  to see for herself
  5. where the myths and the truth
  6. overlapped in her knowledge of Iran.
  7. We follow her from Tabriz, Quzvin, Tehran, Isfahan
  8. …ending the trip in Yzad and Shiraz.



  1. Lois Pryce is a British journalist and a motorcycle traveler.
  2. Two qualities that enable her to write the book are:
  3. she is an established writer of non-fiction with a distinctive style and
  4. she approaches her travelogue as objective journalism.
  5. But any journey has a life of its own
  6. It is always defined by place, time and personality.


  1. Strong point:   Pryce highlights the perils
  2. a woman faces  traveling alone in Iran
  3. She succeeds in telling us about 
  4. …the reality of women’s lives in that country.


  1. Strong point: Pryce shows her strength  during
  2. a few nerve-wracking  experiences:
  3. being tailgated by cars/ trucks on deserted back roads
  4. or  attacked at a petrol station.
  5. Pryce learns that unease and anxiety are
  6. part of the process and cannot be rushed.


  1. Strong point: Pryce reports the conversations with
  2. ordinary Iranians as they explain the how the 1979
  3. Revolution and sanctions have impacted their lives.


  1. Tone: this changes according to Pryce’s mood.
  2. There were time she battled homesickness
  3. ….or was visibly shaken by a ‘fender bender’ in Tehran.
  4. At times Pryce felt a primal urge to
  5. …hide away for a while in a hotel.
  6. She needed some shelter.
  7. The hotel’s family invited her to the family for a meal
  8. …and after dinner opium smoke!
  9. For the first time all the tension in
  10. …her road-wary muscles was seeping away.
  11. A dreamy sense of well being washed over her.


Last Thoughts:

  1. Lois Pryce sums up her feelings:
  2. “I had been bracing myself for all
  3. the horrors predicted by the
  4. …doom-mongers back home.
  5. But instead I had been hit with a tidal wave of
  6. warmth and humanity to a degree
  7. that I have never experienced
  8. …anywhere in the world.
  9. Traveling is always an adventure
  10. but Lois Pryce has taken it to a new level:
  11. a woman on a solo motorcycle journey
  12. …through the Middel East, Iran.
  13. What will she come up against? How will she cope?
  14. This is an impressive piece of travel writing!
  15. #MustRead
  16. #WorldFromMyArmchair


Deep South: Shortlist Stanford Travel Book 2017


Finished: 16.06.2018
Genre: non-fiction travel writing
Rating: A+++


  1. Flyspecks on a map….
  2. …forgotten towns with a creek or running stream
  3. …they were all backwaters literally and figuratively.
  4. Deep South by P. Theroux surprises me with every page.
  5. From North Carolina through Georgia,
  6. Tennessee and Alabama to Mississippi and Arkansas….
  7. in his first book to focus on his homeland,
  8. the veteran travel writer and novelist finds segregation
  9. still thrives in the old Confederate states.


Strong point:

  1. Paul Theroux is more interested in
  2. conversationthan sightseeing
  3. …the heart an soul of family narratives…the human wealth.


Strong point:

  1. Theroux captures the essence of the Deep South.
  2. At the moment in The Netherlands ( where this ex-pat lives) the news is
  3. all about the elderly who are becoming  very lonely.
  4. People are living longer and must cope with a
  5. type of isolation due to physical health and mobility.
  6. NOT once in Theroux’s book is the word loneliness mentioned.
  7. Why?
  8. Because it is ‘the Southern way‘ to always be of
  9. assistance regardless of class, color or creed.
  10. …or  if you aree a stranger from the North taking notes (Paul Theroux)
  11. ” Kin Ah h’ep you….in inny way?  is the motto of the Deep South.



Last thoughts:

  1. Sometimes I don’t want a book to end….this is that kind of book!
  2. Theroux is a traveler but also a lover of literature.
  3. He explores Southern Fiction (especially Faulkner) to give the reader
  4. access to the reflective interior of southern states
  5. …so passive….so mute.
  6. #ExcellentRead



Jo Chandler: Feeling the Heat


Who is Jo Chandler?

  1. Chandler is a freelance journalist and author.
  2. She won the Walkely Award 2017 Freelancer of the Year
  3. I discovered Jo Chandler  in  The Best Australian Essays 2016



  1. In a attempt to understand what is happening to our planet,
  2. Chandler travels to climate science frontiers
  3. Antarctica, the Great Barrier Reef, the Wimmera and
  4. North Queensland’s tropical rainforests.
  5. Jo Chandler puts together some of the
  6. …pieces in the climate puzzle
  7. …meets many passionate and eccentric characters
  8. …discovers what makes them tick, and
  9. …learns a thing or two about herself.


What is Chandler’s goal in this book?

  1. The purpose of the book is to tell the authentic,
  2. raw story of science at the real-world climate frontiers.
  3. Narrator:  Chandler  is of a non-scientist and journalist
  4. ….a questioning observer.
  5. Chandler presents scientist’s evidence as clear as
  6. possible and then takes a step back as all scientists do.
  7. “Our leaders must define the path which will get
  8. us to where we need to go.” (pg 228, epilogue)


What did Chandler find personally?

  1. Chandler uses the metaphor
  2. …the difference between bearing and heading.
  3. Explorers note physical markers to register
  4. …their drift and shift against satellites.
  5. Heading is not always the
  6. …direction you are moving towards.
  7. Heading is the direction you are pointing.
  8. If we fail to define the
  9. …coordinates of our objective (…in life)
  10. …drift out of  course due to crosswinds
  11. …we plough blindly forward
  12. …without heed for perils along the way.
  13. It is important  to find your bearing.
  14. …your position with reference to a known (land)mark.
  15. “” feels like a revelation. A strategy to better find my way
  16. …when I return to earth.” (pg  40, ch 3)


Storm Front

  • Jo Chandler’s  departure from Hobart to Casey Antarctica:

Flight of the Albaross –  Arriving at Casey Base:

  1. 5 hr flight from Hobart
  2. 70 km (4 hrs rough riding from Wilkins Airport)
  3. 4000 km south of Perth
  4. Flight attendant Airbus landing at  Wilkens Inter Airport:
  5. ” Welcome to Antarctica…it’s not bad out there today
  6. ..mild mid-summer -6 C.”

Buried Treasure

  1. Fact: Antarctica holds 70% of the fresh water on the planet.
  2. Irony: Antarctica is the driest place on earth.
  3. Personal: Chandler experiences Antarctica
  4. …as more than an scientific platform.
  5. She felt moments of connection with nature
  6. …which ache so powerfully
  7. it is like the instant of finding love.
  8. Antarctica  divines or future….and archives our past.
  9. Reasearch: Ice samples pulled from Law Dome
  10. contain bubbles of the atmosphere
  11. ….dating back 90.000 years!
  12. Expert:  scroll down to see beautiful
  13. …video (3 min) of Antarctica with
  14. Dr. Tas van Ommen


Revisiting Gondwana

  1. Chandler now moves to the Wet Tropics of Australia.
  2. …the subtropical Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area
  3. Despite its small size these tropics host the highest biodiversity in the country.
  4. The forest throbs with life.
  5. Just take the time to LISTEN to the sounds of the rainforest….so relaxing!
  6. I listened…while reading!

  1. Some of the wettest areas on Earth where forests are so
  2. …often shrouded in cloud they truly are “cloud forests”.
  3. Clouds condense on leaves and drip to saturate soils below
  4. But the rainforests are deeply vulnerable
  5. …to human induced climate-change.
  6. Cyclones are a part of the north
  7. …they have always come…and they always will.
  8. But what happens when warmer oceans
  9. …feed the frequency and fury of the storms?
  10. Will the rainforest have the opportunity to recover between blasts?
  11. Cyclone Yasi  30.01.2011  CAT 5 ..most furious storm to visit east coast
  12. …of Australia in a century!
  13. Personal: Chandler feels unsettled in this place with a high ‘ick’ factor.
  14. It takes some days to come to terms with
  15. …the tight grasp of this menacing environment.

The Sleeping Giant:

  1. Climatic change is everywhere in the news.
  2. If you want to get the most out of this book
  3. …I would suggest while you are  reading
  4. …to google for images that will help you see what chandler is discussing.
  5. The Sleeping Giant refers to the East Antarctica ice sheets.
  6. They are now relatively stable.
  7. But Chandler explains that the character of the ice is changing.
  8. (warm current sweeping under the ice sheet)
  9. Without this image for instance …I would not have
  10. ..understood what Chandler meant.
  11. Antarctica is difficult to imagine!
  12. Personal: Chandler feels in Antarctica “..very isolated, very small,
  13. …very lucky and a little afraid.” (pg 112, ch 6)


Strong point:

  1. Explanations are clear and in accessible language.
  2. It is not academic book  but very strongly supported
  3. citing numerous articles in science magazines and research papers.
  4. The main topics that are being investigated in Antarcitca are:
  5. Ice sheets – ice melt – atmosphere (ozone hole) – ice cores (drilled to study the past)


Strong point:

  1. This is the first book I ever read about climatic change.
  2. Chandler’s perspective as a non-scientist observer
  3. …made me feel at ease.
  4. I was learning….as she was.
  5. Chandler helped me  with her journalistic style ‘here are the facts’  and
  6. …clever analogies (bathtub = hidden underbelly of the  Totten Glacier, ch 6).


Strong point: 

  1. You can read  all the chapters one after another
  2. …but I found I was
  3. drowning in information overload.
  4. You can also read the book as a series of essays
  5. …put the book down and let the information settle.


Strong point:

  1. Chandler’s book made me more aware of the consequences
  2. of climate change that I experience myself: 
  3. frequent storms,  diluvian cloudbursts and sweltering heatwaves.


Weak point: no illustrations!



  1. This book is a great read emphasizing that
  2. …the clock is ticking and issues like
  3. …ice melt and sea-level rise are urgent.
  4. If there is even the smallish risk
  5. …of a very big adverse outcome
  6. ..due to sea rise and ice-melt (Antarctica and Greenland)
  7. it would be wise to do something about it.
  8. Once the thaw starts the risk is that the
  9. …tipping point is tripped...” (pg 122, ch 6)
  10. But as we know action is blocked by
  11. Big Oil and Big Coal.
  12. I think one of the things I or any other citizen of the world
  13. …can do is #VoteThemOut
  14. Vote  out the politicians
  15. …and leaders of countries who are on the
  16. ..fossil fuel industries…payroll!


Last thoughts:

  1. Chandler’s mission:
  2. Explore and explain the dynamics of
  3. …the forces at work in a changing world.
  4. Personally..
  5. …I was most fascinated by the Antarctica.
  6. Jo Chandler’s  storytelling is
  7. ….personal (ch 6-7 and especially the epiloge)
  8. … mixed with scientific: for example…
  9. man-made ocean acidification ch 8
  10. Great Barrier Reef and Heron Island  ch 9-10-11-12
  11. Penguins Antarctic Adélies, elephant seals 
  12. …and mosses, the most advanced plants
  13. …on continental Antarctica! ch 13

  1. It is an amazing feat to
  2. …digest all this scientific information
  3. clarify all the jargon for the  readers
  4. …who just dabble in science, like me.
  5. One thing I DID LEARN...
  6. What caused the biting cold Polar Vortex
  7. …24 February – 01 March 2018 that brought
  8. ..The Netherlands  back to ice skating on the canals?
  9. There is more heat coming off the relatively ice-free Arctic  waters
  10. increasing air pressure and
  11. …pushing the polar cold air south …in my direction!
  12. #MustRead




Borders….where the fabric is thin.


Writing style: Kassabova has succeeded in writing ‘travel literature’.
I felt was reading art instead of social commentary about the Balkan region (Bulgaria, border with Greece and Turkey.)


Strong point: Instead of repeating the politics of the region, Kassabova focused on understanding what happened to the people and their heritage.                                                                                       “Rumour remained the preferred currency.” (pg 53)


Angst an Architecture: Kassabova stops by a gangster-baroque villa. (pg 44). She meets a whisky sipping local pensioner, a man of leisure, ex- state security, trophy wife in bikini, expensive swiss watch and a …very menacing message. “ In the old days we had methods for the likes of you.” Progressives….who go around asking questions.


Green border: 1960-1989
Kassabova takes the reader into the Bulgarian green border of Strandja Forest. Many tried to escape from Warsaw Pact side (Bulgaria) to the …NATO side (Greece or Turkey) because this green border seemed easier to cross than the Berlin Wall. Many…never reached their destination.


Tone:  Book oozes dark, sinister, mysterious stories in hushed tones about what happened in the Balkans.

Voice: Kassabova lets her personality show between the lines. She is playful, cheeky, personal and inspiring and in my opinion very brave to start on this adventure!



  • Sometime I just read a book
  • …but this time I lived in the book….Border.
  • Absolutely wonderful…!



Towards Mellbreak



  1. I started this book this morning
  2. ….and could not stop reading.
  3. It is absolutely magnificent!
  4. Émouvant….touching,
  5. Livre très attachant,
  6. C’est touchant à l’extrème.
  7. C’est d’une puissance rare!
  8. ..pastoral tone of hardworking country folk
  9. working in the fells with their sheep.
  10. Esther and Harold meet and Harold says:
  11. ‘”She might be right. Might be a fit”
  12. Esther’s life is a challenge.
  13. She raises a family, helps run the farm and
  14. ….still cares for mother who is slipping into dementia.
  15. Aey, she just needs settled. Likes the old memories best….We all do”.
  16. One on the most touching quotes about Esther was:
  17. The soil looked like how she felt half-done, half-lived.
  18. Marie-Elsa Bragg has written a breathtaking story of
  19. …pastoral life, struggles to survive on a farm
  20. …and trying to find strength to battle personal demons.
  21. Towards Mellbreak  is the place  where Harold finds peace.

It’s a winner in my opinion!
@MarieElsaBragg  @ChattoBooks



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