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Showing posts from March 21, 2021

“She imagined her life in time lapse, shadows moving in circles away from the sun, the stars scattered like glass from a broken window, flowers wilting..."

  Never again. Brooke St, Hobart. March 2021. Kokomo by Victoria Hannan Since finishing this book, I've held off writing this review to let my thoughts on the novel distil and settle. Alas, I still hate it. I have no problem with flawed characters (I love 'em). Yet, when the entire story revolves around the arc of two people you neither like, believe or understand, we have trouble. Let's start with the central character of Mina. She comes across as incredibly immature and childlike. I struggled to connect her with the supposed capacities she has in the workplace. I found her immaturity baffling, whether the opening (clumsy) ode to a 'perfect penis' (on a supreme dick), through to her nightlife habits, childish avoidance of conflict or a complete incapacity to connect in-depth with those around her, I kept waiting for the narrative arc to swing around with some form of revelation or resolution that explained events. [SPOILER] It would make sense that Mina's inter

"You either feel you belong or you don't. And once that sense is there it can't be given up, willed away or reasoned out of existence."

  One of many. Davey Street, Hobart. March 2021. Why Weren't We Told? by Henry Reynolds This is an essential read for any Australian who still holds (what they perceive as) the benign view that Australia's foundation was a case of gritty settlement of an unoccupied land against the odds. Moreover, it challenges the notion that the fate of its Aboriginal occupants (however tragic) is primarily due to their primitivism rather than any specific colonial policy or action. Why Weren't We Told?  is an exciting and accessible history. The book serves as Reynolds' literary memoir of a journey from 'innocence' (believing the comfortable myth of Australia as one of heroic settlement) to understand the true horrors of invasion, dispossession and ongoing racism. While I thought of myself as being quite across the realities of the Australian story, Reynolds has done a fabulous and thorough job in unpacking and interpreting the trends in historiography and highlight the disti

“Her mother believed that love, in its most noble and worthy form, was sacrifice. To love her was to love purgatory.”

FDR 310. Pilchers Hill, Geilston Bay, March 2021. The Coconut Children by Vivian Pham It strikes me that this is the first novel that I have read by (and about) the Vietnamese diaspora in Australia. This strikes me as absurd, given the size and potential fodder for literature. Given that author Vivian Pham is just 19 (and wrote the first draft of this at 16!), we may have plenty to look forward to in the future. Given her relative youth, I'll forgive Pham for the odd anachronism of language and life in the heady years of the late-1990s. Similarly, while there's a touch more melodrama than I usually go for in dialogue, the ages and sensibilities of our central characters can reasonably account for that. These details aside, I found  The Coconut Children  an impressive and enjoyable read. Given the intergenerational trauma at the heart of our key cast - Vietnamese 'boat people' set adrift in a foreign land - and the setting during the massive heroin glut of late-90s Cabr

"She closed the door behind her, and then it was quite silent, quite dark."

A fallen tree. Pilchers Hill, Geilston Bay. March 2021. In the Springtime of the Year   by Susan Hill There is some wonderful writing here, and Hill has done an excellent job in fashioning the numbness and insularity of a world that has been overtaken by grief. This is a small life story, almost timeless in its setting (it could be 1920, it could be 1970) in isolated Yorkshire. After a brief year of a rich and fulfilling marriage to well-regarded forrester Ben, Ruth - the character within which our central narrative swirls - is suddenly widowed at 21. From here, she is plunged into a deep and dark depression. She finds herself unable to leave home and increasingly self-isolates. Her only visitor is Ben's 14-year-brother, the wonderful Jo. Jo is a beautifully-realised character, one of those fictional people that you just want the best for. In his own way, Jo cares for Ruth through her darkest moments, all the while he himself stumbling through his own grief. Hill does such a fantas