Sunday, July 28, 2013

Rose By Any Other Name

Another Australian author, I read Maureen McCarthy's Rose By Any Other Name. I really enjoyed it, as a light-hearted, quick read. There was a lot of teenage angst (which was probably more suited to a thirteen or fourteen year-old than a nineteen year old), but it was still convincing.


With good character development, the story is fairly simple and believable - it's just about families, and the various members of the family going through various crises. It was good not to read about perfect characters.
   The pace was really good - the timeline kept jumping from the present to events 12 months prior, which kept the story moving forward. The narrator jumped around, and gave very little away in the present-day narration, which was why the story kept jumping back to memories. The narrator wasn't reliable - the story was very tainted with emotion, but the narrator eventually became empathetic to the other characters, which symbolised the growth of the main character.
   For a good summer read on the beach, or a rainy weekend in bed, this is perfect.

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Virgin's Lover

I had some fun and read Philippa Gregory's The Virgin's Lover. I really enjoy her books - they bring history to life.

   This novel is about the first years of Elizabeth's reign. It's before she decides to never marry, and there are lots of suitors and scandal.

Saturday, July 20, 2013


This book, 1788, is by Watkin Tench, written during his time as a marine office on the First Fleet and his experience of the arrival and his first four years in the Australian colony. Whilst originally published in 1789, and later parts published subsequently, this version has been edited by Tim Flannery.

Clearly, this book was a non-fiction, but it was written in a style that followed well and was very captivating. Either the language of 1788 translates very well, or Tim Flannery has done a great job in editing.
   I enjoyed this book a lot. Watkin Tench was, I think, a very studious observer and liberal thinker. His observations focus a lot on the environment and the Aboriginals. It was interesting to read and the real characters after which many of the Sydney landmarks are named - Bennelong (the site of the Sydney Opera House) and Barangaroo (the newest and most controversial Sydney harbour development) were in fact lovers, with Bennelong being one of the most approachable Aboriginals who learnt the language and customs of the whites the quickest, and then merged in and out of each culture as he chose.
   This book has actually left a very profound effect on me - I always thought that the first settlors were stumbling fools and quite ignorant. Watkin Tench has changed this for me, and in a way, I think he is now one of my heros. I just wish that more of our founders were like him.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Finnikin of the Rock

A young-adult fantasy novel by Australian author Melina Marchetta. I was hoping that this would have the beautiful character development and emotional connection that her other young adult novels evoke. But it didn't.

I didn't like it. Not much else to say. I think I didn't like it because the characters didn't appeal to me - I didn't love them, or get invested in their mission, nor did I even dislike them. The characters evoked on feelings in me, and nor did the purpose of the characters. I will return to reading Melina's books that are not fantasy stories, because they really are wonderful.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Remembering Babylon

This short novel by David Malouf reminded me of That Deadman Dance by Kim Scott, though it was much shorter and left more gaps for the reader's imagination to fill. Written in 1993, Remembering Babylon won the IMPAC Award, and was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin award and the Man Booker Prize.

The reason that it reminds me of That Deadman Dance is probably because it is about a pioneer settlement on the fringes of other early Australian settlements, and it involves Aboriginals. In That Deadman Dance, it was an Aboriginal that was cared for and became part of the white society, and then didn't fit in with either communities. Remembering Babylon is the reverse - it is about a young white boy who gets thrown off a ship whilst ill, and lives among remote Aboriginals in Northern Queensland for half his life. Once white settlement starts moving as far north as the tribe he is with, he ventures back to his own kind. But he has nearly completely lost the English language, and most of the English body language as well. It is about isolation, racism, and community. His very presence in the community divides it into two: those who will tolerate and in time love him, and those that are determined to drive him away (from fear of something different).
   The voice of the narrator is very stable and removed, which distinguishes this novel even further from That Deadman Dance. Despite being distant (allowing quite lovely descriptive prose), the narrator often has quite profound insight into the characters (which is the only way that you get to know them well, because their description is not focused on). Having such a detached narrator really allows your own feelings to guide you, inside of being guided by a main character's feelings. I suppose this allows for a very broad range of responses to the novel, based on a reader's own background and sensitivities.
   The narrator does take on some traits of the race of characters that the story is focusing on. The description of the landscape is very different when the characters are white (it is always a very hot, stark and feeling of being crowded-in by the bush) and when they are Aboriginal (there seems to be magic in the bush, as well as a peaceful silence). The only time that the whites seem to be clam in their surroundings is when they are at the house of the lady bee-keeper.
   As well as describing the landscape magically, David Malouf also has some beautiful prose describing some of the cultural and spiritual aspects of the Aboriginal people. I have never read anything that expressed and explained another races' culture so well.
   The only downfall with this short novel is that it just short of dribbles off into a nothing ending ...