Tuesday, April 3, 2012

20/100: Dodie Smith - I Capture The Castle

20/100: Dodie Smith - I Capture The Castle
(First published 1948, this edition 2004 by Vintage)
(Book 20/100 for 2012)

This was an utterly gorgeous book - a classic which I'd somehow managed to not read until now.  I like it because it's funny, silly and sweet, and the hero of the book has a beard, even though he's made to shave it off.  I like beards.

19/100: John Ajvide Lindqvist - Let The Right One In

19/100: John Ajvide Lindqvist - Let The Right One In
(2007, Quercus)
(Book 19/100 for 2012)

Confession: I ordered Let The Right One In from the library not knowing what it was about.  I saw "a vampire love story" on the cover and nearly put it back.

It's a love story, sure, but it's also grisly and gory and really not very nice.  Great, though.

18/100: Kate Grenville - The Secret River

18/100: Kate Grenville - The Secret River
(2005, Text Publishing)
(Book 18/100 for 2012)

It's been a while since I updated this blog and since I read this book - over a whole month in fact!  My apologies - I started uni (coincidentally) a month ago and my life has been far too hectic for blogging.  But I have been reading, and there's a lot to catch up on.  I'm sick in bed today so I'm going to do my best to get back on track.

The Secret River was a pretty easy read, but definitely worthy.  If you have convict ancestry, I'd recommend it - I'm in the queue at the library for the sequel, Sarah Thornhill, and I am looking forward to reading it.    My mother's family has been Australian since Owen McBranty arrived in Sydney from Ireland 203 years ago; for a country only 224 years old that's a pretty impressive pedigree! 

The bits that deal with the English treatment of the local Aborigines make for difficult reading, though.  I've studied a lot of Tasmanian colonial history (though I don't know much about Sydney) and I'm sure what Grenville describes is all based on fact.  It's all pretty horrible.

I know Australia used to be ashamed of its convict past.  The Secret River goes a long way to show that our ancestors weren't thugs or hardened criminals - like William Thornhill, they were mostly good people who made mistakes and were redeemed in their new homeland.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

17/100: Chloe Hooper - The Tall Man

17/100: Chloe Hooper - The Tall Man: Death and Life on Palm Island
(2008, Hamish Hamilton)
(Book 17/100 for 2012)

On Skype, tonight.

[9:23:51 PM] Elizabeth Clark: I just finished reading a book about the Palm Island death in custody trial.
[9:23:59 PM] Jennifer Clark: Tall man?
[9:24:08 PM] Elizabeth Clark: Yes.  It was very good.
[9:24:13 PM] Elizabeth Clark: Have you read it?
[9:24:39 PM] Jennifer Clark: No but i followed the story in the press.  There was a very bad smell around the whole thing!
[9:24:54 PM] Elizabeth Clark: Definitely.  He got off but I really think he did do it.
[9:25:00 PM] Elizabeth Clark: But of course he was always going to get off.
[9:25:15 PM] Jennifer Clark: Me too, and yes he was.
[9:25:49 PM] Elizabeth Clark: It's horrible what it's like up there.  I am so sheltered down here in the south.
[9:26:11 PM] Elizabeth Clark: It's a whole different country almost.
[9:26:28 PM] Jennifer Clark: If you were up there you would still be sheltered.  You are the wrong colour to be in trouble.
[9:26:53 PM] Elizabeth Clark: I know, but I'd like to think I'd be aware of it and do my best to help.
[9:27:21 PM] Jennifer Clark: I know darling.  It's a horrid dilemma.  I'm going now.  xxx
[9:27:30 PM] Elizabeth Clark: I don't know, perhaps they don't want white help.
[9:27:36 PM] Elizabeth Clark: Anyway, goodnight.  We can talk more tomorrow.
[9:28:01 PM] Jennifer Clark: No they don't.  They want self determination, independence and dignity.
[9:28:12 PM] Jennifer Clark: Night.
[9:28:15 PM] Elizabeth Clark: xxx

Coincidentally, Tony Krawitz's award-winning documentary, also called The Tall Man, is showing on SBS On Demand until the 6th of March.  You can watch it here - I'd say it's essential viewing.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

16/100: Richard Llewellyn - How Green Was My Valley

Richard Llewellyn - How Green Was My Valley
(1939, Michael Joseph)
(Book 16/100 for 2012)

(Image source)

I would really like for Rob Brydon to record an audiobook of How Green Was My Valley.  

Or perhaps John Cale.

Yes, these are the only Welsh people I can think of.

How Green Was My Valley is a bit waffly and a bit long, but it's so beautifully written that you hardly notice.. although I did skim a bit towards the end.  The Welsh grammar makes it lyrical and musical and the words just flow.  Is this how all Welsh people talk?  I'll have to go there to find out.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

15/100: Neville Shute - A Town Like Alice

Neville Shute - A Town Like Alice 
(First published 1950.  This edition 2004, Redwood Editions)
(Book 15/100 for 2012)

A Town Like Alice makes me think a bit of my Uncle Dave - my grandfather's older brother.  Dave was a prisoner-of-war in camps in South-East Asia and Japan during the Second World War.  A family story is that Dave celebrated his 21st birthday in the prison camp, and received an orange and a tin of condensed milk!  

I never really spoke to Uncle Dave about his war experiences, and it's too late to ask him now as he died a couple of years ago.  But I know that he never harboured any ill-feelings towards the Japanese for his imprisonment.  Reading about Jean and Joe's experiences in Malaya (now Malaysia) gave me a better picture of what Uncle Dave might have gone through, and it's made me want to know more about Australia's part in the Second World War.

A Town Like Alice also makes me think of my own travels through outback Australia.  Admittedly, that was nearly 20 years ago, and I was eight years old at the time, but I can still remember bits!  I wonder how Willstown (presumably named after this bloke) fared later on?  Did it stay a prosperous town, or decline a second time?  In our travels we passed through ghost towns and small hamlets with usually just a pub, a shop and a petrol pump - if that.  We also went to Green Island, off Cairns, and I have this cinematic scene in my head of Jean and Joe on that beach in the sunset, the music swelling as they realise they're madly in love with each other.

One small criticism of A Town Like Alice is that the language used made me feel a bit uncomfortable - referring to Aborigines as "boongs" and so forth.  I know, though, that it is a product of its time, and Shute doesn't write with any malice.  It's just the way it was back then.

A Town Like Alice has made me want to travel!  I want to visit all the places I went to all those years ago, and see what's changed, and see what's stayed the same.  I'd better learn to drive, and start saving..

Want to read more about this book?  
Roger Bourke - 'Cultural depth-charges': Traditional meaning and prisoner-of-war fiction

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

14/100: Jon Richardson - It's Not Me, It's You

Jon Richardson - It's Not Me, It's You (2011, Harper Collins)
(Book 14/100 for 2012)

Jeremy, my boyfriend, is away at the moment in Darwin, setting up an experiment.  He's been gone two weeks and it's wonderful.  Wonderful, of course, because it means I get to have the house exactly as I want it.  This means that if I tidy up the loungeroom, it stays tidy.  If I put the last slice of pizza in the fridge so I can take it to work for lunch the next day - lo and behold, the next morning, the last slice of pizza is still in the fridge.  I've rearranged the kitchen and tidied the cookbooks in order from smallest to largest, I've cleared all the random scraps of paper off the computer desk, and I've taken the liberty of folding and sorting all of Jeremy's clothes.

Don't get me wrong, I'm madly in love with Jem and I love our life together, but it's been so relaxing without him around.  He's back on Thursday though and I'm really looking forward to seeing him again!  He's not perfect, but he's perfect enough that the imperfections aren't important.  And he's handsome, too.

This is the basic gist of the book.  Jon Richardson is searching for his "significantly tidy other" but, unlike me, he's not willing to compromise.  He's happy to stay single until he finds the ultimate woman.  I think this is rather a shame, because life is awesome, and it's nice to share it with someone, even if they do keep forgetting to hang the bath mat up.