Sunday, August 18, 2013


Another Australian novel for the Aussie Author Challenge; I recently finished Batavia by Peter Fitzsimons. I am a fan of Peter's writing - he makes history very accessible and turns the historical figures into three-dimensional (living and breathing) characters. This novel about the ship wrecked Batavia was no different.

This story is truly horrific, and hard to believe that it could actually happen. But they do say that real life is often stranger than fiction. I know that Peter will have taken some liberties in developing character traits, but they can't have been too much of a stretch, since true evil must have existed for these events to have occurred.
   So in the 1600s, a huge ship, travelling for the Dutch East India Company from the Netherlands to Indonesia on a spice run (and carrying a huge fortune of bullion) hit a reef off Geraldton in WEstern Australia and sunk. It was the ship's maiden voyage. The survivors got themselves into low islands along the belt of reefs. The captain of the ship took one of the long boats and got themselves up to Indonesia to return with another ship to rescue those stranded.
   In the meantime, the survivors became divided by the scheming of the 2IC on the Batavia. Gratuitous murder began, along with rape, the division and isolation of groups, bribery and captivity. Of the original 341 people on board the Batavia, only 68 survived!
   Peter's writing brings the history to life in an extremely readable, page-turning form. It is well researched, but presented in such a way that is not just listing facts.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Chain of Hearts

Another novel for the Aussie Author Challenge, but it is a repeat author for this year - I read Chain of Hearts by Maureen McCarthy.

Like Rose By Any Other Name, the central character is a teenage girl with issues. Maureen McCarthy can capture the inner turmoil very well, and the story really takes you into the girl's heard.
   After suffering a trauma that she hasn't dealt with, Sophie has become a problem teenager for her perfect parents, and is shipped off to live with her Aunt in a peaceful outback Australian town. She feels ditched and rejected, but has nothing else to do but get to know her Aunt and other towns people. She learns empathy and the ability to put herself in someone else's shoes.
   The pace is really good, and each character is gradually built up. There are a number of different narrators, with each building their own story, jumping backwards to past events and then back to present time.
   A simple, yet wonderful story - it is about family, friendships, learning to forgive and tolerate others despite differences. I really enjoyed it.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Bush Studies

As part of my goal to complete the 2013 Aussie Author Challenge, I read Barbara Baynton's Bush Studies. It is a collection of short Australian stories, published in 1902.

In some ways, I think the writing in these short stories is very modern. It is abstract. And in some cases, very hard to follow.
   The stories also deal with abuse of women, and the treatment of women in isolated colonies. It depicts a hard life, and I wonder about Bayton's own existence, and the women she met who influenced her stories.
   "Squeaker's Mater" would be her best story, particularly the beginning, how Baynton uses such short sentences to describe such a strong and capable woman being struck down.
   The "Bush Church" story, I found, held a lot of black humour. Baynton is able to paint a picture of these people in such a short time, and they are very vivid.
   Her ability to portray a scene vividly is doubly true in the short story "The Chosen Vessel", where an isolated woman's terror is depicted and then realised!
   I think I'll have to read these short stories again, so that I fully understand them, because I think I missed the gist of a couple of them. They are not easy to read, but I think I admire Baynton a lot.