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Archive for October, 2012

A Journey Where Geography Is Beside the Point

Questions of Travel by Michelle de Kretser (Allen & Unwin, 2012)
Reviewed by Ruth Brassington

Questions of Travel is a journey where “geography was beside the point”, mirroring the feelings expressed in the late Elizabeth Bishop’s 1960s poem of the same title.

Tourism, terrorism, the words sound similar and here the one is interwoven with the other. Against a backdrop of mainly Australian and Sri Lankan politics, Australian-based Sri-Lankan-born Michelle de Kretser has written, at over 500 pages, her longest book yet. It’s probably a good thing this wasn’t her first book; reviewers may not have had time to read it. There was nothing but well-merited praise for her earlier, more concise, works, The Rose Grower, The Hamilton Case and The Lost Dog.
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Girlhood Memories

Country Girl
By Edna O’Brien. Faber and Faber

Reviewed by Ruth Brassington
Irish-born novelist, biographer, playwright and short-story writer Edna O’Brien offers her memoir after a 50-year award-winning writing career that includes novels, short stories and biography. Shocking Ireland with her 1960s cluster of novels The Country Girls, The Girl with Green Eyes and Girls in their Married Bliss, O’Brien was an early political feminist, even if she didn’t see herself in that light. Hers was a brave exposure of the societal hypocrisy of the time – in particular, the Irish Catholic society she grew up in – and of the happy-ever-after myth. Before marriage, girls and women were meant not only to remain virgins, they were meant to be entirely without sexual feelings. After marriage, they were meant to be contented drudges and perpetually sexually available to their husbands.
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A Big Novel About the Small Details

Telegraph Avenue
by Michael Chabon Published by Fourth Estate (Allen & Unwin in New Zealand,) October 2012

Reviewed by C P Howe

Michael Chabon, with his contemporaries Don DeLillo, David Foster Wallace and Jonathan Franzen, has an astonishing knack for writing about American lives in a way that makes you feel you know personally the places and people behind the stories.

Chabon once found, at his parents house, a box of old comics he’d put away as a child, and was reminded how much he loved them. That led to his most widely acclaimed work, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, a book that takes in Houdini, the Holocaust, and the golden age of comic books, through Sammy and Joe’s invention, a hero called The Escapist. To read Chabon is to be in an alternate universe, where the characters and story arcs are utterly familiar, totally convincing, yet completely fictional. Read more »

When the Floods Came – Pleng’s Song

Pleng’s Song by Patrick Maher

Reviewed by Sophie Robinson, age 10 (with a bit of a hand from her dad Jim)

Pleng’s Song is set in Thailand. Pleng is the 11-year-old daughter of an alcoholic mum and a father who is often away. Her adventures start when she finds out that floods threaten where she lives and her parents leave her at home alone.

(Dad adds: In 2011, schoolteacher Patrick Maher was trapped in Thai floods. Afterwards, back to teaching, he realized his students had their own flood adventures to tell. They began writing a story, which led to this easy-to-read children’s novel. The book was initially printed with Maher’s students in mind, but it was picked up in media and is now being enjoyed far beyond Thailand.) Read more »