Skip to content

Recent Articles

19
Nov

L’ami

 

What could I find about the author Gao Xingjian?

  1. Gao Xingjian is a Chinese émigré novelist, playwright, and critic .
  2. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature 2000.
  3. He is also a noted translator screenwriter, stage director, and a celebrated painter.
  4. In 1998, Gao was granted French citizenship.

 

Conclusion:

  1. I’m careful about embarking on a long book by a Chinese writer.
  2. Sometimes I’m lucky, sometimes I’m not.
  3. I read L’Ami to give myself a ‘taste’ of Gao Xingjian’s writing.
  4. I want to read more of Xingjian’s books….but in English!
  5. This book  is written in such a simple style
  6. …..it feels complex.
  7. Tone:  nostalgic – two old friends (60+) meet again after 13 years.

 

I knew it was you…your hair is white.
Why didn’t you write?’
Tell me exactly what happened that day.
Are you oke?’

 

Last thoughts:

  1. I enjoyed reading this very simple story
  2. …and must admit it lingered in my mind longer than
  3. some 500+ page novels!

 

 

17
Nov

My Place

 

What do we know about Sally Morgan?

  1. I knew nothing about Sally Morgan until I read
  2. Brona’s Books post in 2016 about her children’s book Sister Heart.
  3. Then I stumbled upon her  simple poem Janey Told Me.
  4. In just a few words you feel something hidden…a stigma no one must know!
  5. During  my weeks searching for books for #AusReadingMonth @Brona’s Books
  6. …I found myself curious about the plight of the Aboriginal race in Australia.
  7. So I decided to read My Place (memoir) by Ms Morgan.
  8. Brona tells us in her post:
  9. “Sally Morgan’s autobiography, My Place was
  10. one of the publishing super stories of the late 1980’s.
  11. Her story was fascinating but has since been
  12. …surrounded by various controversies and academic debates.”

 

Introduction:

  1. Sally Morgan tell us how she learned  of her Indigenous Australian heritage.
  2. Morgan visits family, old acquaintances  in the land of her ancestors.
  3. She tape-recorded the monologues of her relatives and they take over the narration.

 

Quote:  pg 192

  1. Sally: I found out that there was a lot to be ashamed of.
  2. Mum: You mean we should feel ashamed?
  3. Sally: No, I mean Australia should.

 

Conclusion:

  1. This is one one of the first books written from the Aboriginal point of view.
  2. “No one knows what it was like for us.” (pg 208)
  3. People must realize  that identity is a complex thing.
  4. Identity is often not fully dependent on
  5. …your culture or the way you look.
  6. Morgan’s family shame…
  7. was so strong that she had not been told she was indigenous.
  8. She was well into her teens when her mother admitted the truth. (pg 170-71)
  9. Sally Morgan’s book  My Place was written  30 years ago.
  10. But is is still a very relevant
  11. She is an excellent storyteller…and her family history will touch a heart string.
  12. It touched mine!

 

Last thoughts:

  1. I started this book My Place yesterday in the train
  2. I never looked out the window because
  3. this story was very moving.
  4. The book really picks up steam in chapter ‘Owning up’ (pg 165).
  5. Pages 7-164 deal with Morgan’s childhood.
  6. Basic info…but not overly interesting.
  7. So you must decide is ‘skimming’ in the beginning
  8. …of the book is a good idea,
  9. Despite the slow start… the book engaged and entertained me
  10. ….that is what good books do!
16
Nov

The Hands

 

What do we know about Stephen Orr?

  1. Stephen Orr studied ecology at university before starting to write fiction.
  2. He has taught Biology, Agriculture, and English.
  3. His most recent novel, The Hands (2015),
  4. describes a farming family trying to scratch a living from
  5. drought affected grazing country.
  6. Orr is a skilled analyst of small towns…vanishing part of Australian life.

 

Introduction:

  1. Setting: Australian cattle station
  2. 7 characters – 3 generations
  3. Structure: 3 parts
  4. Timeline: 3 years
  5. Grandfather: Murray, holder of the deed…no intention of selling his property
  6. Father: Trevor Wilkie, working cattle station… future he no longer believes in.
  7. Sons: Harry and Aiden, struggling to  deal with their father.

 

Central question:

  1. Can these characters  arise from  a bad situation
  2. …to find the silver lining in the cloud that is  death, drought, debt ?

 

Cover:

  1. The first thing I noticed on the cover is ‘An Australian Pastoral’.
  2. I don’t know what a ‘pastoral’ really means in literature.
  3. In this book a pastoral is simply and escape…place of retreat.
  4. Physical retreat (bush)  for a simple way of life.
  5. Emotional retreat with 3 generations of men who have difficulty
  6. …communicating  their feelings.
  7. Retreat: a place where on can explore the past (Murray the grandfather)
  8. …an imagine an alternative future (Trevor and his sons)

 

Theme:

  1. This is a redemptive story of men  whose failures,
  2. accidental or intended, seem insurmountable
  3. ….but are resolved.
  4. Grandfather,  son and grandsons  grieve for the
  5. the loss of  life (a grandfather, wife, mother)
  6. the loss of the rural working life
  7. the loss of the land.
  8. …and the difficulties of putting a self back together.

 

Conclusion:  

  1. This was a good book…but not great.
  2. It did not sweep me off my feet.
  3. Perhaps other readers have a  different reaction to this book.
  4. It was shortlisted for Miles Franklin 2016
  5. …so Stephen Orr must be doing something right!

 

 

 

15
Nov

Into the Heart of Tasmania

Title: Into the Heart of  Tasmania (2017)
Author: Rebe Taylor
Genre: non-fiction; history
Trivia:  (TAS)  #AusReadingMonth  @Brona’s Books
Trivia: #WorldFromMyArmchair Challenge (Tasmania)

Trivia: #NonFicNov

Trivia:   #AWW    @AustralianWomenWriters

 

Introduction:

  1. Into the Heart of Tasmania is a new history of Aboriginal Tasmania
  2. …the eccentric Englishman Ernest Westlake (geologist)
  3. ….and  his  hunt for man’s origins.

 

Who was Ernest Westlake?   (1855-1922)

  1. English amateur scientist Ernest Westlake from about 1870 to 1920.
  2. The man who loved stones and the history they revealed!
  3. Westlake was officially a geologist… unofficially a self taught anthropologist
  4. The story of Ernest Westlake his collections is brought to life  this book.
  5. I was most interested in what I could learn about Tasmania by reading Rebe Talylor’s book.

 

What did Westlake do?

  1. In 1908 E. Westlake packed a tent, a bicycle and forty tins of food and
  2. sailed from Liverpool to Port Melbourne Australia.
  3. He believed he found on the island of Tasmania the remnants (stone tools)
  4. …of an extinct race the Tasmanian Aboriginals.
  5. In the remotest corners of the island
  6. Westlake did encounter via interviews
  7. ….the living indigenous communities.

 

Why were the Tasmanians so important for anthropology?

  1. The Tasmanians are believed to have been the most isolated race on earth.
  2. Their importance is their status as a cultural beginning.
  3. Because of their isolation and slow transformation
  4. …the Tasmanians ‘may have gone on little changed from early ages’ (pg 100)

 

What evidence do we have that the Tasmanian Aboriginals first human beings?

  1. Edward B. Tylor, ‘the father of anthropology’ after viewing an aboriginal stones
  2. …’the Taunton Scraper’  declared the Tasmanian Aboriginals as the ‘dawn of humanity.’

 

What was Westlake’s goal?

  1. Westlake wanted to rewrite history.
  2. In the process he  finds and documents a living culture
  3. ...that had been declared extinct, Tasmanian Aboriginals.

 

 

Conclusion:

  1. I knew NOTHING about the Aboriginals or Tasmania!
  2. Strong point:  Westlake lets the frontier violence done to the Aborigines
  3. seep through his  anthropological journey.
  4. …(Risdon Cove Massacre,  The Black War in Tasmania)
  5. I have never read about the injustice done to this race. #Shameful
  6. All in all did discover Tasmania….following Westlake’s journey on a digital map.
  7. Warning: Be prepared to  ‘push’ through the first 50% of the book.
  8. I had to…. at times Westlake’s  life  back in England
  9. …was not so interesting after his return from Tasmania.

Structure:

  1. 1-8% – introduction to the man Ernest Westlake and his family and education
  2. 9-32% – described Westlake’s 1,5 year trip to Tasmania
  3. …Flinder Island and Cape Barren Island.
  4. 42-45% – Westlake’s return to England and his  studies…and his death in 1922.
  5. 46-48% – Westlake’s Tasmanian stone collection and notes were now open to
  6. Rhys Jones, University of Sydney earning his PhD in Tasmanian archeology (1966).
  7. 49-   57%   The book gathers steam with the very interesting
  8. …escavations by R. Jones and his team (1965)
  9. Finally Dr. Rebe Taylor shines as she pulls all the diverse theories
  10. …together of past explorers into a  ‘page turning’ last few pages!
  11. 57-100% – notes and other resource

Last thoughts:

  1. Rhys Jones the ‘cowboy archeologist’ once said:
  2. “Australian archaeological treasure is not gold or silver
  3. …it is time itself.”
  4. I thoroughly enjoyed this book despite a ‘few slow pages’.
  5. Dr. Rebe Taylor deserves
  6. University of Southern Queensland History Book Award 2017
  7. Tasmania, the heart-shaped island, takes on a new meaning for me!

Dr. Rebe Taylor:

 

BTW:

I visited new museum websites:

  1. Tasmanian Museum
  2. National Museum Melbourne
13
Nov

Classics Club Spin #16

” I can’t look…..what is the number for #16 CC spin?”

 

What is the spin?

  1. Before next Friday, November 17th, create a post to list your choice of any
  2. twenty books that remain “to be read” on your Classics Club list.
  3. Try to challenge yourself.
  4. This is your Spin List. 
  5. On Friday, November 17th, we’ll post a number from 1 through 20.
  6. The challenge: read whatever book falls under that number
  7. on your Spin List by December 31, 2017.
  8. Check is in here in January!

 

  • I have selected 20 classic plays…..on my TBR.
  • Here is the list:

 

1.  Death of a Salesman (1949) by Arthur Miller

2. A Streetcar Named Desire (1947) by Tennessee Williams

3. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?: (1962) by Edward Albee

4. Long Day’s Journey into Night (1956) by Eugene O’Neill –   READING !!

5. Fences (1985) by August Wilson

6. The Lieutenant of Inishmore (2001) by Martin McDonagh

7. Waiting for Godot: A Tragicomedy in Two Acts (1953) by Samuel Beckett

8. Pygmalion (1913) by George Bernard Shaw

9. A Raisin in the Sun (1959) by Lorraine Hansberry

10. Our Town (1938) by Thornton Wilder

11. Present Laughter (1942) by Noel Coward

12. The Glass Menagerie (1944) by Tennessee Williams

13. Glengarry Glen Ross(1984) by David Mamet

14. August: Osage County (2007) by Tracy Letts

15. Ruined (2008) by Lynn Nottage

16. The Iceman Cometh (1946) by Eugene O’Neill

17. Look Back in Anger (1956) by John Osborne

18. Master Harold and the Boys (1982) by Athol Fugard

19. The Little Foxes. (1939) by Lillian Hellman

20. The Real Thing (1982) by Tom Stoppard

13
Nov

The Grief Hole

 

  1. Introduction:
  2. Theresa helps to place abused clients in a safe house.
  3. She can see ghosts around the clients
  4. ….and the clients will probably die by their hands.
  5. She watches the ghosts...and she sometimes intervenes.
  6. Sometimes she does NOT intervene .
  7. …but makes small choices, small changes…..hoping  it was enough.
  8. After an intervention Theresa
  9. ….suffers physical pain, headaches, boils, vomiting.

 

  1. Style: Novel’s most frightening elements remain
  2. unspoken…they lay beneath the surface.
  3. This is similar to the style of Shirley Jackson.
  4. Jackson said:
  5. “A story must have a surface tension which can be stretched
  6. ….but not shattered.” ( pg 483, Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life)

 

  1. Cover: One of Amber’s sketches is  the book’s cover
  2. what secrets does it contain?
  3. I see eyelashes (stripe lines) = sketch is Amber’s vision….what she sees.
  4. I stared long and hard….with a little extra distance and I saw
  5. Amber’s face!
  6. long open door in middle = bridge of her nose
  7. left: sweeping lines = eyelashes
  8. right: if you look there is a short white band that resembles an underlid of the eye
  9. pupils:  use your imagination to visualize the white spaces about lids….as eye pupils
  10. black shadows  = are coloring for eye sockets
  11. ….and the shadows  take human forms
  12. ….  as menacing ghosts tormenting Amber.
  13. …and IF YOU TURN THE COVER UPSIDE DOWN
  14. …do you see what I see?
  15. Fish: small fish can be seen in the ‘open space’ in bridge of the nose
  16. …this must be a connection to the sea, beach or drowning.
  17. This is just a guess ….!

 

  1. Questions: Warren uses the classic technique to
  2. keep the reader gripping the book….a page turner.
  3. Warren drops clues…and we MUST know the answers.
  4. Warren makes us ask questions…
  5. Paranormal skills….is this a family ‘curse’ ? (Amber, Theresa, Prudence)
  6. …and the paranormal world
  7. Amber’s paintings changed radically a year ago
  8. …after Aunt Prudence has contact with Amber.
  9. what happened to Amber?

 

  1. Clues: Aunt Prudence uses cryptic messages
  2. ….to make Theresa and the reader think and
  3. ….try to solve the puzzle.
  4.  — Each monster has one way to die
  5.  — Not all death can be seen
  6.  — I see the victims…you see the monsters…her mother sees the shadows.
  7.  — Every killing lays a curse

 

  1. Symbol: Balloons....what does Prudence mean to do with them?
  2. Aunt Prudence has grey ash….on her cheek….on her balloon
  3. …what does this mean?
  4. Sol Evictus ( Sun latin…or homonym for ‘soul’ )
  5. (Evictus = latin conquered)
  6. ….has something to do with the strange things in this book.
  7. Art Collection done by Amber….disappears!

 

Conclusion:

  1. I am not going to write more about this book
  2. ….you must discover it yourself.
  3. What I can say is…
  4. …this book is very good and the ‘bloody horror’ is NOT
  5. over emphasized.
  6. Thank goodness from this faint-at-heart reader!
  7. The book is good enough to convince me
  8. to read more  paranormal/horror fiction!
  9. That in itself is an achievement!
  10. I never gave this genre a chance.
  11. Kaaron Warren  has a ‘position’ in paranormal/horror writing world.
  12. But I must admit Shirley Jackson still has  a ‘presence’.
  13. Jackson is still queen of ‘shivers down your spine’
  14. Kaaron Warren won Best Novella Shirley Jackson Awards 2012
  15. she is definitely a rising star!

 

Last thoughts:

  1. I’m not very much into junior fiction or YA or paranormal...but I just finished
  2. The Grief Hole (K. Warren) and am tempted to read more.
  3. At the moment I’m starting (…really going out of my comfort zone)
  4. Controlling the Elements (The Manipulator Series Book 1) by N.R. Spratlin.
  5. What does this book have that sends its readers into list of superlatives and ‘wow’s’?
  6. I aim to find out!
  7. #TakeAChance

 

10
Nov

True History of the Kelly Gang

 

Introduction:

  1. The book opens during the
  2. …famous shoot-out between Ned Kelly and the law
  3. that finally ended his years on the run.
  4. Told in first-person, from Kelly’s perspective,
  5. …the fictional work draws from historical accounts
  6. of the gang’s movements across the Australian bush.

 

Conclusion:

  1. The story is one long letter to Ned Kelly’s unborn daughter.
  2. Instead of  a sequence of dated letters
  3. …Carey has divided the book into 13 parcels of manuscripts.
  4. Ned tells his story in his own distinctive style.
  5. There is little in the way of punctuation or grammar:
  6. “I said I were”… “effing,  eff, “
  7. Weak point: It took time to get used to reading this!
  8. The language shows Ned’s lack of education and his Irish heritage.
  9. The narrative is fragmented jumping from one episode to another:
  10. highway robbery, horse theft, slaughter calf,
  11. ….buying dresses for  sweetheart  Mary Hearn.
  12. Strong point: Carey recreates the gritty realism of Australia.
  13. He fictionalizes the  legendary,  traditional story that concerns
  14. …the infamous bushranger  Ned Kelly.
  15. A fun read for anyone who enjoys a lovable outlaw,
  16. …..or wants to learn more about Australia’s “Robin Hood.”
9
Nov

Lord of the Flies

 

Conclusion:

  1. This is not a story that is scary because of plot twists or original characters.
  2. It is scary because it will frighten anyone in the deepest way to see
  3. what happens when man loses his sense of  civility.
  4. The plot is simple.
  5. School boys crash land on a remote island with no adults.
  6. The boys set up their own government, with Ralph in charge.
  7. But things start to fall apart very quickly.
  8. The book it provokes fear on a most basic level.

 

What was the  inspiration for the book ?

  1. Golding was tremendously affected by the WW II.
  2. The war had done something to him.
  3. Golding was involved as a marine officer.
  4. He was aboard the destroyer chasing the German battleship Bismarck.
  5. …he participated in the Normandy invasion.
  6. In Lord of the Flies  Golding had shown
  7. …how cruel authorities are able to act.
  8. There are always people who follow them,
  9. …nevertheless, obediently.
  10. Examples: Hitler in  Germany — Stalin in  Russia

 

What are the reasons for its enduring legacy ?

  1. We are still fascinated by the central theme of the book:
  2. intelligence (Ralph, democratic leader) VS
  3. irrationality (Jack, totalitarian leader)
  4. The conch and Piggy´s glasses …become damaged.
  5. They are the symbols of the collapse of a democratic society.

 

Last thoughts:

  1. I read Lord of the Flies in high-school
  2. During this re-reading  I finally understood  the allegory.
  3. It has to do with my own development.
  4. I now understand more about
  5. …the ‘powers that be’  who ruled (rule) the world.
  6. #Classic

 

 

 

 

8
Nov

AusReadingMonth 2017 week 2

 

Where are you reading your books?

  1. I took a long weekend to the Frisian Island Vlieland
  2. …and read my Australian books there!
  3. I took the boat trip (1,5 hrs) from Harlingen to Vlieland.

 

  1. The boat makes 3 trips a day to the island….
  2. Here is the boat arriving at Vlieland under a rainbow!

It was a chilly day at the beach….but a wonderful time to contemplate….how good life is!

Weather on the North Sea  is at times…..dazzling!

…but we all know…the sun will come out again!

 

No island is without a lighthouse!

 

 

7
Nov

Cloudstreet

Finished: 07.11.2017
Score: 5 +++++
Title: Cloudstreet (1991)
Author: Tim Winton
Genre: fiction [Australian classic]
Trivia:  (WA) AusReadingMonth @Brona’s Books
Trivia: Winner of 1992 Miles Franklin Award
The Miles Franklin Literary Award is an annual literary prize
awarded to a novel which is of
the highest literary merit and presents
Australian life in any of its phases.

 

Introduction:
I found this book on Jean Gleeson’s Top 50
Australian books in the last 200 years.
I have discovered so much by reading
Australian classics and that is all because of
Brona’s Books blog! (have a look!)

 

Plot:
The book chronicles the lives of two
working class Australian families,
…the Pickles and the Lambs.
They come to live together in a large house
called Cloudstreet in Perth 1943-1963.

 

Conclusion:
Don’t read this book!
If you REALLY  want to appreciate the twang and jingle of Winton’s writing
you MUST listen to the audio book.
You can always….re-read the book version!
I was mesmerized by the voices and dialect.
My imagination ran wild envisioning the big house Cloudstreet
a big sagging joint
was boarded up and held its breath
heaved and sighed around them
he listened to the house cracking its knuckles
…hugging inwards, sucking in air…
the house seems to laugh at him…
the house breathes its first painless breath in half a century…

Winton weaves a paranormal feeling throughout the book
by introducing the nameless black man
that seems to pop up here and there in the life of
the main character ‘Quick’ Lamb.
He feels like a ‘black guardian angel’ that
guides Quick in the right direction.

 

Winton’s cast of characters are unforgettable.

Pickles: Sam and Dolly
He is always waiting for ‘Lady Luck’.
His luck had waxed and waned.
Like a gambler…he was on a lifelong losing streak.”
She realizes she’s had her chances
….beauty fades and suddenly you’re 60 yrs old
with secrets she has never revealed.

Lambs: Lester and Oriel:
He is a lovable father who bears the cross
of a terrible accident that left his son ‘a bit slow’.
He entertains the family “ the knife never lies!” and
comes to the aid of his neighbour, Sam.
He’s a real life saver.
She is god fearing, inflexible ready to
take command in a difficult family situation type of woman
…and is usually always right.
She is the backbone of the entire house Cloudstreet.

The love interest: Quick Lamb and Rose Pickles
Fifteen years they have been living under the same roof but never really noticed one another.
Yet once their orbital paths cross….it was love at first sight.

 

All these characters have one thing in common…their dreams.
We all turn into the same thing, don’t we?
Memoires, shadows, worries, dreams.
We all join up somewhere in the end.” (pg 445)

 

Last thoughts:
I have enjoyed this audio book  while….
waiting for a train that never came on Tuesday
quenching my thirst with a Heineken at lunch on Wednesday
recovering from the aches and pains of a fitness session on Friday
planting the last tulip bulbs on Saturday.
Now is is Sunday I have no more Pickles and Lambs to look forward to.
I was sad when this book ended.
It made me laugh.
It dazzled me with clever metaphors and similes.
It it made me stop and ponder some life questions
about family, love, commitment and death.
This is the BEST book I read this year!
#MustMustREAD