writereaderly

writing of readerly reviews of writings

Month: January, 2013

Review: Larissa Behrendt’s “Home”

larissa behrendt homeI’d thought this was a reread, but I was feeling particularly guilt-ridden/animated by the Global Women of Colour Challenge so I grabbed it again from the library’s abandonment shelves. It came back to me as I read: (clearly autobiographical) contemporary indigenous woman lawyer researching her past, as a pretext for historical fiction on the dispossession of Australian Aboriginals. An axe to grind, indeed, as Behrendt doesn’t fail to implement in the extremely painful framing-story intro (so badly written! so heavy handed! so infuriating!). Thankfully for all concerned, including the unfortunate audience to my reading experience, the body of the book is better written, and Behrendt learnt the valuable maxim “Don’t tell, show.” The stories of Garibooli’s kidnapping from her family in the early 1900s, and the trajectories of her children and grandchildren, are diverse, well-informed and emotive without being overly emotional. A recommended book, although I do suspect it was such a successful prize-winner because of a wee bit of white-man guilt. Never mind, at least the awards got more people to read this novel. Enjoy.

Where it came from: Opshop
Time and manner of reading:
Various bed and train reads
Where it went: MM?
Reminds me of/that: Give a book at least 50pp, no matter how much it hurts
Who I’d recommend it to:

Also reading: Rabbit #4; How to Read a Poem by Edward Hirsch; The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon; Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; The Light between Oceans by M.L. Stedman; Jacob’s Room by Virginia Woolf

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Review: Antigone Kefala’s “Summer Visit: Three Novellas”

antigone kefala summer visitAustralian poet, three very brief “novellas” as one of her multiple fictional offerings. The whole book was only 122pp, but even that seemed too long. Remotely fictional and uninteresting in any case.

Where it came from: Opshop
Time and manner of reading:
Bed reads with a train finale
Where it went: Flung under a train seat on a cross-Brisbane service
Reminds me of/that:
Who I’d recommend it to:

Also reading: Rabbit #4; How to Read a Poem by Edward Hirsch; The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon; Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; The Light between Oceans by M.L. Stedman; Jacob’s Room by Virginia Woolf; Home by Larissa Behrendt

Review: Ruth Park’s “The Harp in the South”

ruth park harp in the southLoaned by DC when I was last near her bookshelf, and due – any month now, so they say – to come up for Bookclub, I cracked it and decided to pull this off the Don’t Touch Pile. This is the first volume of the Darcy family’s life in the post-WWII slum of Surry Hills – Roie’s romances, Hughie’s adventures with the drink and the lottery, Mumma’s relationship with Grandma, Dolour’s school excursion to the beach as funded by the local bordello mistress. Excellent to read in terms of Sydney’s industrial history, and absorbing in that it reminded me that Australia too has (and has had) poor white folk (compared to our contemporary image of ourselves a bourgeois, urban and professional), and slum community stories from anywhere around the world have the same gutsy flavour of tough love and struggle. No modern Australian family would want to be heard slagging off at each other with the smart-arsey love of the Darcys, we’re too bloody proper nowadays — and our turns of phrase are nowhere near as picturesque. A damned good read, recommended.

Where it came from: DC’s Bookshelf
Time and manner of reading:
Armchair and bed reads, long overdue
Where it went: Home
Reminds me of/that: Cloudstreet, of course, but this is both grittier and pithier
Who I’d recommend it to:
Readers looking for mid-20th-century Aussie life
Also reading: Rabbit #4; How to Read a Poem by Edward Hirsch; The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon; Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; The Light between Oceans by M.L. Stedman; Jacob’s Room by Virginia Woolf

Review: Byambasuren Davaa & Lisa Reisch’s “The Cave of the Yellow Dog”

b. davaa cave of the yellow dogWritten to accompany the film of the same name, The Cave of the Yellow Dog shows a few days in the life of the Batchuluun family from the steppes of Mongolia. The film was made by Mongolian woman filmmaker, Byambasuren Davaa, with German funding and assistance, and the stills included in the book are both lovely and informative. As a book, the narrative is a bit thin, but it’s easy to imagine that grand cinescapes must have filled those gaps onscreen. A good and picturesque taster of ger living and traditions. Recommended.

Where it came from: KS’s Bookshelf
Time and manner of reading:
A couple of time-filling reads
Where it went: Home
Reminds me of/that: Global blue-jean monoculture
Who I’d recommend it to:
Those curious about other worlds
Also reading: Rabbit #4; How to Read a Poem by Edward Hirsch; The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon; Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; The Light between Oceans by M.L. Stedman; Jacob’s Room by Virginia Woolf; The Harp in the South by Ruth Park

Review: Ian McEwan’s “Sweet Tooth”

ian mcewan sweet toothAn ultimately annoying read. Serena Frome is a baby MI5 spy fresh up from an average university career at Cambridge. Asked to run an author as part of a cultural espionage program, Serena (yawn) falls in love with him (name already forgotten), (yawn) sets off some childish sexual jealousy in the “Five” office and (double yawn) isn’t who she really seems at the end of the novel. The “shocking” plot device McEwan uses is unoriginal and smug, the resulting narrative little more than shallow romantic drama, and – although the novel is easy to read – the results are uninspiring and unrecommended. As with Solar, I’m disappointed McEwan wasted his considerable talents on such facile endeavours. Willingness to read further McEwans eroded, but I will try Amsterdam as it is already lurking on the To-Read Shelf.

Post-post-lectoral rant: The more I think about this book, the more it irritates me. The heroine’s so vapid and blondely flouncy. She pingpongs around between the three idiot men in her life, and that’s the sum total of her being. Her career is rocketed by a jilted non-lover, she’s blamed for it, and takes it as her due. Her reading taste is rocketed by her terribly well-informed author-boy. The whole novel’s so sneery and pompous, and I’m hard pressed to tell whether that’s the work of author-boy or author-McEwan. Infuriating, even more so given the smarmy praise this book received just because McEwan wrote it. Ook and rant.

Where it came from: AJ’s Bookshelf
Time and manner of reading:
One bed-read, in which I nearly gave up in tedium 30pp from the end
Where it went: Home
Reminds me of/that:
Who I’d recommend it to:

Also reading: Rabbit #4; How to Read a Poem by Edward Hirsch; The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon; Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; The Light between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

Review: W.G. Sebald’s “The Rings of Saturn”

w.g. sebald rings of saturnMOD can’t speak highly enough of this author, and, based on her recommendation, this was the second of his writings that I have snaffled up in some bibliophilic byway (don’t ask me what the other one was, it’s returned to the mists whence it came). Ostensibly a travelogue of Sebald’s walking tour through Anglia (south-eastern England), but more accurately it is a sequence historical and philosophical rhapsodies on places, people and objects somehow related to destinations on Sebald’s journey. The topics are so wide-ranging – e.g., train carriages made for Chinese emperors, silk policies in Europe in the 17th century, Joseph Conrad’s maritime history leading to his authorship of Heart of Darkness – their exploration so well researched and erudite, the writing so fluid and lyrical (*excellent* translation), that I often lost my sense of where and when and what on earth I was reading, and had to do some assiduous page-flicking. The text is beautiful, strange, informed and poetic, accompanied by (sometimes loosely) related photos and images, a mindstream of historical anecdotes thematically linked in that they explore decay, decadence, (self)destruction. The passing away that is life. Recommended for the contemplative.

Where it came from: Market bookstall
Time and manner of reading:
Various couchy, beddy, waity reads, normally only a chapter at a time
Where it went: HG
Reminds me of/that: Wanderlust: A History of Walking by Rebecca Solnit; Herzog’s long walks (Berlin to Paris, etc.)
Who I’d recommend it to:
MOD
Also reading: Rabbit #4; How to Read a Poem by Edward Hirsch; The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon; Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; The Light between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

Review: Andrew Miller’s “Pure”

andrew miller pureLoaned by AJ, this prize-winning novel tells of Ingénieur Jean-Baptiste Baratte’s mission to dismantle les Innocents cemetery in Paris in the late 18th century. Well crafted, interesting, a commendable read. I’m not dazzled, but will continue to read Miller’s work.

Where it came from: AJ’s Bookshelf
Time and manner of reading:
Couchy, beddy reads yesterday and today
Where it went: Home
Reminds me of/that: Pantaleón and the Visitors by Mario Vargas Llosa; also Rose Tremain’s Restoration
Who I’d recommend it to:

Also reading: Rabbit #4; How to Read a Poem by Edward Hirsch; The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon; Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; The Light between Oceans by M.L. Stedman; The Rings of Saturn by W.G. Sebald