Forecast: Turbulence by Janette Turner Hospital

March 7, 2012 - 7:44 am No Comments

Forecast: Turbulence by Janette Turner Hospital

There are nine short stories in this collection, plus “Moon River” a moving memoir of the death of the author’s mother.

Typically of Hospital’s work, there are other considerations in “Moon River” than just the central story. For instance, the author entwines her family history with the history of the Brisbane River since European settlement, and there is a graceful meditation on the precarious nature of memory, something Hospital has pondered in earlier works.

In the Wesley Hospital, Hospital’s mother has difficulty remembering a Sunday lunch cruise down the Brisbane River which occurred only a few months before. There are also whole decades of valuable family time missing, unable to be recalled. Yet, towards the end of her life, when her whole tribe gathers from all over Australia, and, in Hospital’s case, South Carolina, to say goodbye, the old lady is so elated that she adds her voice to a spontaneous family singsong. Hospital says, “My mother sang lustily, words and melody alighting on her like a flock of doves from the top hat of a magician.”

Hospital’s work can be read viscerally but it should never be underestimated. For underneath the seduction of the story there are layers of  meaning waiting to be excavated. No fare for the intellectually lazy, Hospital’s texts expect her readers to take nothing for granted, and may even expect personal decisions to be made about how a story should end. Who is Joshua in that disturbing tale, “Afterlife of a Stolen Child,” which is told from the point of view of all the main players? Don’t expect to be told, dear readers, for it’s up to you to decide.

Read Hospital’s work with due care and consideration and you will be richly rewarded.

The Wicked Nix by Rachel Claire

March 1, 2012 - 12:49 pm 2 Comments

Brisbane author and artist, Rachel Claire, has written and illustrated a book for children which will enchant the child in all of us. Paying homage to the verse of Hilaire Belloc and Lewis Carroll, this book also has a serious environmental message, so is very much a tale for the 21st century.

Watch this space for a reading of this delightful little book, or, if you’d prefer, you could go to

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt (with a brief meditation on Deadwood).

February 27, 2012 - 8:45 pm No Comments

The Sisters Brothers
by Patrick DeWitt.

The Booker Prize is usually controversial and last year was no exception with the appointment of the former MI5 Director General, as chairwoman of the judging panel.

There was the usual conjecture about the quality of the work, and why other titles did not make it to the short list. Reading the winning novel, The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes, I have to admit that I was disappointed in it because I had previously read Patrick de Witt’s rather wonderful story, The Sisters Brothers, and much preferred it. (more…)

Manhood for Amateurs by Michael Chabon

February 27, 2012 - 12:35 pm No Comments

Manhood for Amateurs: The Pleasures and Regrets of a Husband, Father, and Son.

Michael Chabon

More than just  very satisfying, it is probably essential to have a good book to read in the hiatus between Christmas and New Year and even a little beyond, before we go back to our normal lives working or studying. Something that we can reflect upon while doing those other necessary things. At  year’s end I read the latest Peter Corris crime fiction, Torn Apart and  a nonfiction by PD James, Talking About Crime Fiction, which didn’t teach me anything I didn’t already know about this particular genre and did not compare at all favourably with Kate Summerscale’s wonderful nonfiction, The Suspicions of Mr Whicher (which I have also reviewed), that also gives us a history of the detective novel. But then I picked up something completely different in Michael Chabon’s Manhood for Amateurs: The Pleasures and Regrets of a Husband, Father, and Son, and was  immediately charmed by the wisdom, the wit and the lucid writing style employed to display these qualities.

Manhood for Amateurs is a memoir of the masculine roles Chabon has played and continues to play in his life. It is offered as a series of essays – 39 of them – featuring many of the nagging little worries  we  have  all experienced – men and women – in our own roles as children, spouses and parents. The essays are divided into ten parts which have words like Techniques, Strategies, Exercises, Styles, Elements, Patterns, Studies, Elements, and Tactics in their headings, but feature completely personal and therefore identifiable conundrums which most of us have stumbled over but probably did not have the time to analyse as we struggled to get back on our feet. That’s why this book is so valuable. It is a kind of navigation marker to our own lives and attempts as parents, lovers, dutiful sons and daughters.


Waiting for Robert Capa by Susana Fortes

February 27, 2012 - 11:09 am No Comments

Waiting for Robert Capa

by Susana Fortes, translated by Adriana V. Lopez.

“Robert Capa” is the name and persona invented by Gerda Taro to successfully market photographs taken by herself and Endre Friedmann in Paris in 1935.

Gerda was born Gerta Pohorylle in Stuttgart, a Jewish citizen who fled the Nazis to Paris where she met Hungarian Endre Friedmann, also Jewish. He was taking photographs and developing them in the bathroom of his tiny flat with red cellophane wrapped around the light, as he had been shown by another emerging artist, Henri Cartier-Bresson.

Gerta changed her name to “Gerda” because it sounded less Jewish, Endre became Robert Capa, Gerda’s creation of the successful American photographer who was rich, talented, and a womaniser. Gerda established herself as Capa’s agent, managing to get commissions for newspaper stories and  advertisements.

Robert Capa was sent to Spain to cover the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. While he was away, Gerda developed her own distinct style of photography, but sold her pictures as Capa’s work without ever getting acknowledgement for them.

Prior to conjuring Robert Capa from thin air, Gerta had been sharing an attic in the Latin Quarter with her friend, Ruth Cerf. Multilingual Gerta had easily been able to pick up poorly-paid work typing up scientific journals, but felt the need to do something more satisfying. Returning to her flat one evening, she found that the door had been forced, and stepping inside, that their living space and possessions had been trashed. Captain Flint, their pet parrot, was floating in a pot of boiling water, his neck broken. Racist slogans had been painted on the walls.

Shocked and frightened, Gerta briefly gave way to tears, but then, realising that she was reacting as her tormentors wanted her to respond, she took the Leica camera that she had slung over her shoulder on her way home from work, and started photographing. She had found her profession: she would become an important witness to the cowardice and brutality of such thuggish behaviour. (more…)

The First Fleet: The Real Story

July 7, 2011 - 11:10 am No Comments

The First Fleet: The Real Story

Alan Frost

Black Inc: $29.95

Australians have been led to believe for many decades that The First Fleet’s primary aim was to cleanse British society of its convict population by dumping it on these shores. Furthermore, it was believed the voyage itself was poorly planned and haphazardly equipped.

Emeritus Professor of History at La Trobe University, Alan Frost, has recently published evidence to the contrary. In The First Fleet: The Real Story, Frost proves the venture was meticulously planned, well-provisioned, and, considering the fact that this was a long voyage of eight months and one week, amazingly safe. (more…)

Death and the Virgin by Chris Skidmore

November 2, 2010 - 2:23 pm 1 Comment

Death and the Virgin

Chris Skidmore

Orion; Approximately $40.00

It is hardly mere prurience wondering if the Virgin Queen, Elizabeth I of England, was, in fact, a virgin during her reign; it is key to  Britain’s most brilliant  monarch.

It would seem, for instance, that she was besotted with Robert Dudley, on whom she showered precious gifts and favours. She made him the Earl of Leicester to the disapproval of much of her court. Its censure was understandable  because both Dudley’s father and his grandfather were executed as traitors. For many years Elizabeth also allowed Dudley to hope that he might be the one taken in marriage to her royal self. (more…)

The Same Man by David Lebedoff

November 2, 2010 - 12:09 pm No Comments

Cheryl reviews “The Same Man” by David Lebedoff

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

November 2, 2010 - 12:04 pm 1 Comment

Cheryl reviews “The Red Tent” by Anita Diamant

Night Street

October 8, 2010 - 11:17 am 1 Comment

Night Street by  Kristel Thornell

Allen & Unwin; $23.99

This is a fictionalised account of part of the life of Clarice Majoribanks Beckett  (1887-1935), a Melbourne artist who created hundreds of evocative landscapes and seascapes.

Clarice Beckett has probably always been much underestimated, even neglected. But  go online, and you will get an idea of her stunning work which seems to be always and primarily  a meditation on the light.

Kristel Thornell brings this wonderful woman to life in Night Street which was a co-winner of 2009’s Vogel Award for young writers.  (more…)