All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Top 10 Tuesday 2nd June

Hello and welcome back to another edition of Top 10 Tuesday! Originally created and hosted by The Broke & the Bookish, Top 10 Tuesday now lives with Jana @ That Artsy Reader Girl. It features a different literary theme each week and this week we are talking about…..

Books That Give Winter Vibes!

I am in the Southern Hemisphere, so we welcomed winter yesterday, unfortunately. I’m not a winter person, I don’t like cold weather at all and I feel the cold a lot. A lot of people would probably feel our winter isn’t really that bad – and it isn’t really, I guess! It doesn’t snow where I live, rarely gets below 0 and usually only at night time, but it’s what you’re used to, isn’t it? And I grew up 1500km (about 1000 miles) north of here, where it’s quite tropical and the winters are much warmer. It’s taken me a long time to acclimatise but I still don’t like it.

I do like reading wintery books though! Some of my favourite settings are places like Antarctica and Alaska, places that are really different to me weather wise. I always feel like places where you get snowed in are such great settings for a book. So here are some books that I think give some winter vibes….some I’ve read, some I just got the vibes from the cover.

The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel. This book’s cover gives me really strong winter vibes. The hotel in the title is a massive structure on a secluded island accessible only by boat somewhere in Vancouver. It seems like the sort of place where the winters would be long – very The Shining type of thing.

The Christmas Lights by Karen Swan. I read this recently as well and it’s very wintery! It revolves around the desire of a couple to winter in Norway on a secluded farm, where you can either get a boat across, be lifted in via chopper or reach it via snowmobile. Karen Swan’s books seem to have either winter vibes, like this one and be set somewhere snowy and isolated or they’re very summery and set in places like on a Greek island or in Rome in summer. They’re amazing for escape, no matter which one floats your boat.

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey. I’ve owned this book for so long and I haven’t read it yet! I’m not sure why, it’s set in Alaska – one of my favourite places. There are some truly stunning covers, this is the one I have and it definitely feels very wintery and I’m sure the story is as well!

The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. Probably the first book I ever read that gave off ‘winter vibes’. I remember reading this, watching the BBC {I think?} mini series when I was about 10 and being in awe of all the snow when Lucy first steps through into Narnia.

The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley. Set mostly in a castle atop a cliff in Scotland, this book has loads of winter vibes! Scotland has some brutal winters (actually, to be honest, their summers seem pretty brutal as well, to this Aussie. I keep reading about how the average high in some places in summer is about 16*C) and those rugged cliffs looking out to grey, savage seas probably have a winter vibe most of the year!

My Last Continent by Midge Raymond. I honestly don’t know anything about this book other than the fact that it’s set in Antarctica and revolves around two people who study penguins. But the cover is amazing. Looks like Aurora australis at it’s most beautiful. This has two of my favourite things – Antarctica and penguins, so I feel like it should go on my TBR asap.

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater. It’s been a long time since I’ve read this…..*checks notes* 2010 actually! So almost 10 years. But when I saw this prompt, it was actually one of the first books that popped into my head, so the cover and it’s overall atmosphere has definitely stayed with me!

Into The Wild by Jon Krakauer. I have been meaning to read this for a while now – ever since I watched a movie about a disastrous Everest climb, which Krakauer has also written a book about, called Into Thin Air. I looked him up then and discovered this book, about a man who hitchhiked to Alaska and then walked alone into the wilderness to start a new life.

Dash & Lily’s Book Of Dares by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan. I read this one a long time ago as well but it’s also a book that springs to mind when I think of winter. It’s a sweet story with a real NY winter vibe to it. Because I’m in Australia, Christmas for me is a summer thing – I’ve never known any other way. We are used to the beach, BBQs, salads, swimming etc as our Christmas thing but most of the Christmas books I read are set in the Northern Hemisphere, so are full of snow and eggnog.

Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak. I haven’t read this either but I’ve owned it for a number of years. It’s Russian, and basically anything Russian gives me winter vibes because when you think cold, Russia is one of the places that comes to mind.  So many Russian novels seem to be about suffering, whilst in the middle of one of the harshest climates in the world. It’s the sort of winter I don’t want to experience!

Got anything else you think I should read to add to my winter vibe feel, now that it is actually winter here? Let me know!

 

 

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Review: The Cake Maker’s Wish by Josephine Moon

The Cake Maker’s Wish
Josephine Moon
Penguin Random House AUS
2020, 384p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Life in the village isn’t always sweet and simple . . .

When single mum Olivia uproots her young son Darcy from their life in Tasmania for a new start in the English Cotswolds, she isn’t exactly expecting a bed of roses – but nor is she prepared for the challenges that life in the picturesque village throws her way.

The Renaissance Project hopes to bring the dwindling community back to life – to welcome migrants from around the world and to boost the failing economy – but not everyone is so pleased about the initiative.

For cake maker Olivia, it’s a chance for Darcy to finally meet his Norwegian father, and for her to trace the last blurry lines on what remains of her family tree. It’s also an opportunity to move on from the traumatic event that tore her loved ones apart.

After seven years on her own, she has all but given up on romance, until life dishes up some delicious new options she didn’t even know she was craving.

With everything that has been going on in the world lately, I have been gravitating towards a certain type of read. Books that make me feel warm and fuzzy, better about the world at large. To be honest, if I want a dose of reality or “hard-hitting”, I can turn on the news for five seconds. Reading lately, has become about escape. And this book was absolutely perfect for that.

Olivia has always been a single mother to her son Darcy. His father is from Norway and went back there before Darcy’s birth, meaning the two have never met but have established a relationship via video calls and the like. For help, Olivia had her grandmother, but with her death, Olivia finds herself alone. Her grandmother was from a small village in England and googling it one day leads her to the Renaissance Project – they want descendants of people formerly from the town to come back to it, open a business and help the town thrive again. It’s been slowly dying and there are a few passionate people who want to see it flourish. On a whim Olivia, a patissier, applies. This will give her a chance to get to know more about where her grandmother came from and also, for Darcy to be much closer to his father in Norway.

This is a lovely story! I really enjoyed the idea of the Renaissance Project and trying to regenerate a once thriving town that had slowly fallen in popularity. People had moved away, to bigger towns for more work or like Olivia’s grandmother, emigrated to other countries. The Renaissance Project welcomes people from all over the globe – as well as Olivia from Tasmania, there are people from New Zealand, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, other parts of England as well. A lot of them open businesses related to food, such as bakeries, pizza shops and cheese specialities. There are also nurses and farmers as well. Any kids get enrolled at the small, local school as the families integrate into the community. But not everyone in the village is happy about the project – there are people that would do anything to shut it down, as some of the newcomers find out, in the most distressing of ways.

Olivia has other reasons for wanting to leave Tasmania, which are revealed over the course of the novel. I really felt connected to her actually, as she relayed stories of Darcy and how he’d been treated for being a bit ‘different’ to how boys are expected to be. I also have a more sensitive boy, who always preferred playing with girls in kinder, who wasn’t into rough and tumble games and who feels things deeply. He likes soft toys, went through a huge Frozen phase and I’ve had several comments that I need to ‘toughen him up’ for life…..which I don’t agree with. Why does he need to be “tough”? Why can’t he just be who he is? It’s that kind of thinking that creates situations that Olivia and Darcy found themselves in, in Tasmania. I applauded Olivia for her parenting style and my heart broke for both of them with what happened to them. This part of the story really resonated with me and I felt so happy for them that they found themselves a place they could relax and just…..enjoy living, when they moved to England. Darcy made a friend, enjoyed school….Olivia made friends too. The people who came formed a close community and there were people that really accepted them as well.

There’s other things going on in the plot as well…..a famous couple decide to have their wedding close to the local village, using only local products and it’s a great way for those in favour of the Renaissance Project to showcase its value. Olivia is closer to her former flame and then there’s a local man who provides another option, one that she hadn’t been looking for. Also being in the village gives Olivia a chance to ask about her grandmother and find out things about herself, give herself and Darcy some real family roots. It’s a place where they’ve found a home, but if the Renaissance Project fails, like some want it to, they’ll be forced to leave. Everything all ties together very well though, the multiple plots weaving in and out of each other and all centring on the project to build the village back up again to a thriving place where people want to live.

This had serious undertones but was also fun and feel good. I really liked it.

8/10

Book #104 of 2020

The Cake Maker’s Wish is book #33 of The Australian Women Writers Challenge for 2020

I’m also using this book to tick off a prompt in my Reading Women Challenge, hosted by the Reading Women Podcast. I’m going to put it towards #21 – A book about food. The main character Olivia has a cake shop and makes amazing cakes, including wedding cakes, celebration cakes and also even a cake for a dog. As well as that, there are also other businesses that talk about bread, cheese, pizza and a dairy farmer who makes his own products. There’s a lot of food throughout the entire novel. It’s the 11th book finished for the challenge.

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May Reading Wrap Up

Total Books Read: 20
Fiction: 17
Non-Fiction: 3
Library Books: 9
Books On My TBR List: 4
Books in a Series: 8
Authors I’d Never Read Before: 12
Male/Female Authors: 2/18
Kindle Books: 11
Books I Owned or Bought: 4
Favourite Book(s): Hidden Victims by LynDee Walker & Something To Talk About by Rachael Johns
Least Favourite Books: Jacinda Ardern by Michelle Duff
Books That Qualify For Challenges: 9

May followed in April’s footsteps for pretty much everything. My kids “learned from home” for the entire month, although it’s been announced that they will both return to school next week, on June 9th. I’m in two minds about them going back. I’m happy for it to happen, because I think there’s probably only so far they can progress at home in this way, doing the tasks they are set in each day without interacting with their teacher and their fellow students. They are happy to return, so that’s good. Their school is large, so it will run four separate timetables to prevent a lot of students (there’s about 2000) pouring in and out of the gates at once, plus parents etc. Thankfully both of mine have the same beginning and end times. They’ll start and finish a little later than normal.

I ventured out a few times to run errands and was surprised by the sheer volume of people out and about – and how much I didn’t like it. I had to go to a local shopping centre to get something my kids needed for school and it was incredibly crowded, despite only department stores, supermarkets and take away food places being open. No one was respectful of your personal space either – normally shopping is something I enjoy but honestly? I couldn’t wait to get out of there. And get home.

In terms of reading, I read 20 books in May, which was down a bit on the two previous months but considering one of those books was Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, which took me a long time by my standards, I still feel I got a lot done! I also struggled at times with my mood – I knew what I wanted to read, finding it was a different story. I found that I had little desire for anything that felt too heavy or with a depressing subject matter, particularly in the second half of the month. I began borrowing a lot of books from my local library electronically so that I could read the lighter, contemporary romance-style books that I was really craving. And you can see that my library count is much higher than in recent months.

Challenge check in!

Australian Women Writers Challenge: 34/50

Read Non Fiction Challenge: 6/12 {technically complete, upgraded the challenge to the top level and trying for all 12}

Reading Women Challenge: 11/26

Progress made in all challenges this month!

Here’s my June TBR pile:

The six lying horizontally are books received by review from the publisher. I am part of a blog tour for Sticks And Stones and my review will be up on the 6th of June. Quite a few of the other books look like they fit the bill of the sort of books that I’ve been wanting to read lately.

The two on the side upright are the 2 books I purchased for myself in May. After finishing Wolf Hall, I had to pick up the next book in the trilogy. I was going to buy both of them, but the third book, The Mirror And The Light was a ginormous hardback which did not match either of my others. The two I have don’t match anyway, because one is large format and one is small. I’m going to have to either wait for the third to be released in paperback (which means waiting) or suck it up and buy it as a hardback I guess. #readerproblems I also bought The Year The Maps Changed by Danielle Binks. Danielle is also a book blogger (these days she wears many hats: agent, book blogger, author, editor, youth fiction advocate) that I have known almost since I began my own book blogging journey. I’m looking forward to reading her book – and also hoping that my older son might read it too.

The weather is starting to change here….this week is going to feel well and truly like winter. I’m not a cold-weather person but I have to admit, if we are to keep staying inside, then winter is probably a good time to do it. It’s good reading weather.

I hope you all had a great May. Next time I do one of these, the dumpster fire that is 2020 will be half over!

 

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Review: Navigating The Stars by Maria V. Snyder

Navigating The Stars (Sentinels Of The Galaxy #1)
Maria V. Snyder
Harlequin AUS
2018, 464p
Read via my local library/Borrow Box

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Terra Cotta Warriors have been discovered on other planets in the Milky Way Galaxy. And Lyra Daniels’ parents are the archaeological Experts (yes with a capital E) on the Warriors and have dragged her to the various planets to study them despite the time dilation causing havoc with her social life.

When one of the many Warrior planets goes silent, and looters attack her research base, Lyra becomes involved in discovering why the Warriors were placed on these planets. And, more importantly, by who.

Isolation is been nothing if not good for my productivity as a blogger. With little else to do (I have left my house twice in almost two months) I’ve been getting a lot of reading done and I’m actually quite ahead in scheduling reviews. So I actually read this book a couple of weeks ago when I was woken by some Melbourne winds at about 5am. I knew it was one of those times that I wouldn’t be able to get back to sleep so I thought I’d start a book. Because I seem to have made it my mission to read everything Maria V. Snyder has ever written in a short amount of time, I chose this because I had clicked borrow on it the previous night on one of the apps my library uses after hearing Maria talk about it in a Facebook live video.

I’m much more into fantasy than I am science fiction but this has a lovely cover and a really interesting premise so I was keen to give it a go.

Lyra is 17 and has lived her life in space, with her parents, who are both archeologists. It’s set a few hundred years into the future where technological advancements have made it so that it is possible to “jump” through space, cutting down the distance it takes to travel to far flung, newly discovered planets. However, when you leave a planet and “jump through” space, it might take 90 days for the people on board the ship to get to their new destination, but for the people on the planet they just left, it could be decades. Lyra has tried not to get attached to people because inevitably when her parents get another job and they have to move on, by the time she reaches her new destination, her friends will be middle-aged.

Her parents study terracotta warriors, legions of which have been found on other planets in the Milky Way. Little is known about them, other than they are constructed and arranged in similar ways on each planet. There are strange symbols. Lyra’s parents seem in disagreement about whether they were constructed on Earth or on the planets where they were found. Lyra had expected to be able to stay where she was, on the planet where they were currently researching, long enough to be able to turn 18 and take agency of her own life, go to university. But her parents have news for her – she’ll have to leave again and head to another planet with another terracotta discovery. And leave behind people again.

The terracotta armies are based on this – but in space on a lot of planets. I actually had not heard of this before (I freely admit a lot of my history knowledge is lacking – I only did history for 2 semesters in high school in grades 7&8 and it all focused on Australian history from the point of 1788 onwards…) so I find the idea of it quite fascinating and the idea of it being replicated on multiple planets is really interesting. When Lyra and her parents arrive at their new planet, it’s to the sad news that the planet they just left has ‘gone dark’ meaning there’s been no communication from there for some years. Lyra has another reason to grieve the people she left behind, as there’s generally only one reason for such a thing. She discovers some messages her friend sent her at various stages of her “planet life”, which has passed by whilst Lyra has being travelling to her new planet and it seems that something very strange is going on with the armies.

Despite a lot of the scientific stuff kind of going over my head (I think I understand the time jump logistics but it’s still difficult to wrap your head around people on planets living entire lives whilst the people on spaceships spend 3 months travelling to another planet) I quite enjoyed this. I found a lot of the archeological stuff really interesting and Lyra’s parents seem to have very fascinating jobs. There’s the mystery of what happened on the planet they left coupled with the fact that looters arrive on the same planet as Lyra and her family do, almost at the same time. Someone is trying to collect or steal some of the armies but the who and the why remain a mystery. But the longer they spend on the new planet, unearthing the army that has been just as precisely arranged as all the others, the more information they uncover – and the more dangerous it becomes. A lot of questions get raised in this book but not all of them get answered (understandable as it’s the first in a series!).

There’s also a romance because….of course there is! Which was quite a bit of fun….I liked Niall and found the character of his father really interesting as well. Lyra has a lot of skill with the Q-Net (sort of like the internet on a million steroids) and she is able to uncover a lot of information and shows some potential as a future navigator for spaceships, etc. It’s funny, Lyra often says that she has no interest in archeology and the tedious busy work her parents often give her to keep her occupied probably contributes to that. But the more she says it’s not for her, the more she uncovers snippets of information or connects to the story of what they’re trying to research, like when she’s given the job of reconstructing the General. She has good intuition for a lot of things and has obviously absorbed a lot of by sheer proximity of her parents and the various jobs they’ve given her over the years. If I had a criticism, it was that a lot of the details felt a bit too convenient at times – a lot of the planets they’ve discovered replicate, or close to replicate, Earth’s atmosphere so they can mostly wander around it without needing to maintain a special hub with pumped in air. It seems unlikely that so many little Earth replicas are out there, surely some of the planets must be inhospitable but that would make the archeologists work much harder, excavating pits! Also at one stage it mentions that Earth is “tapped out” for resources but a character has also chosen to go and live there, so I’m not sure how that works, I’d like to know more about the Earth in the book’s timeline. Also I don’t know how anyone dates anything, Lyra spends a few years on a planet and then 90 days in a spaceship but on the planet she just left, they’re decades ahead, time/date wise. Also I don’t know how they grow/obtain food, clothing, basic needs etc, either on the ships or on the new planets. In the planet they move to when Lyra is 17, they’re the only ones there.

Unfortunately, my library only has the audio version of book 2 available online and audiobooks and I just don’t go well. I zone out so much when listening to them and end up missing huge chunks so I’m going to have to wait a bit before I can move on with the series…..probably end up having to buy copies, given I have most of Maria V. Snyder’s other books! Can’t have gaps in the collection! But while I’m waiting until I can read 2, I might backtrack to two I already have on my shelf: Inside Out and Outside In.

7/10

Book 91 of 2020

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Review: The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

The Glass Hotel 
Emily St. John Mandel
Picador
2020, 320p
Purchased personal copy

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Vincent is the beautiful bartender at the Hotel Caicette, a five-star glass-and-cedar palace on the northernmost tip of Vancouver Island. New York financier Jonathan Alkaitis owns the hotel. When he passes her his card with a tip, it’s the beginning of their life together. That same day, a hooded figure scrawls a note on the windowed wall of the hotel: ‘Why don’t you swallow broken glass.’ Leon Prevant, a shipping executive for a company called Neptune-Avramidis, sees the note from the hotel bar and is shaken to his core. Thirteen years later, Vincent mysteriously disappears from the deck of a Neptune-Avramidis ship.

Weaving together the lives of these characters, Emily St. John Mandel’s The Glass Hotel moves between the ship, the towers of Manhattan, and the wilderness of remote British Columbia, painting a breathtaking picture of greed and guilt, fantasy and delusion, art and the ghost of our pasts. 

This was an intriguing read.

I’ve heard a lot of good things about Emily St. John Mandel, in particular, Station Eleven which was her book before this one. I haven’t had a chance to read that yet but recently we went to a bookstore to pick up some new reads for our boys and I grabbed this. I really like the cover and I figured it was a good place to start and see if I enjoy the author and then I can go back and read more. And because I’ve been trying to mix up my reads with review books, new acquisitions, library eBook borrows and books I’ve had on my TBR for a while, it wasn’t long before I picked it up.

For the first part of the book, I was wondering what was going on. It starts with Vincent and the ship before going back in time to Vincent’s brother Paul and then moves around a bit in time and place, introducing Vincent, Paul and their backgrounds as well as the Hotel Caicette, the financier who owns the hotel and a businessman who happens to be sitting in the bar at the time of the graffiti. All of them will be bound together in different ways – and almost all of them will face ruin and downfall as well.

The book has a lot of time jumps, often without explaining what has happened in the meantime and you’re kind of left to just figure it out – for example it picks up with one of the characters sentenced to 170 years in jail but it’s a long time before the book actually confirms why they are in jail and how that came about. It’s pretty obvious why the character goes to jail and some of the descriptions for certain editions even mention it in the blurb but this one doesn’t and I feel as though it’s better that it doesn’t warn you and that you watch it unfold through the perspective of various people throughout the story. I feel as though the book did an excellent job of showcasing this sort of thing from a variety of people: the smallest, through to the middle, the people behind it, the ones at the top. It gave an excellent overall picture and made the aftermath even more devastating.

There’s a lot in this book that feels unconnected and there were times when I was wondering where it was going and how everything was going to tie together but then the author begins to knot the threads together and it all comes together with amazing cohesion and impressive storytelling. I became invested in some of the lesser characters in ways that I could not predict when they first appeared. And it was easy to put myself in the shoes of some of them as well, to imagine how they must’ve felt at certain points in the story as everything came crashing down. It’s the sort of thing that people never recover from.

The hotel, for being the title, is sort of it in only briefly in a way, but it’s the catalyst for so many of the people being together at the same time on that one night and how that one night changes the lives of each of them, for the years to come. For Vincent, it’s a ticket out of her bartending job and entry to the highest levels of society…although it comes at a cost. Paul has been deeply troubled for a long time. He has a history of drug abuse and has drifted around, often reconnecting with his half-sister Vincent at different points in their lives. Leon is a business executive working for a shipping company but he’s also approaching the end of his useful working life – in his 50s he’s senior enough to command a big salary and knows it’s only a matter of time before he’s pushed out for someone younger, with fresh ideas but who is also cheaper. Leon is looking to get all his ducks in a row before that happens so that he and his wife might have a comfortable retirement. Tying them all together is Jonathan, a wealthy New York financier who always seems to have the answers, even if they sound too good to be true.

I really enjoyed this – even before the author started tying everything together and I was wondering where it was going, I was really liking the writing and the story, although it hadn’t started to make sense yet. I just really appreciated the way new characters were introduced, the way backstories were told, the descriptions of buildings and surroundings and also the way that the story melded together as I got further into it. Generally I’m not a huge fan of jumps back and forth in time, but I thought it worked here. I will definitely look for Station Eleven (which is apparently about a pandemic? So maybe it might pay to wait just a little, before diving into that one) and anything else Emily St. John Mandel has written as well. This was really cleverly done.

8/10

Book #97 of 2020

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Review: The Satapur Moonstone by Sujata Massey

The Satapur Moonstone (Perveen Mistry #2)
Sujata Massey
Allen & Unwin
2020, 384p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

India, 1922: It is rainy season in the lush, remote Satara mountains southeast of Bombay, where the kingdom of Satapur is tucked away. A curse seems to have fallen upon Satapur’s royal family, whose maharaja died of a sudden illness shortly before his teenage son was struck down in a tragic accident. The kingdom is now ruled by an agent of the British Raj on behalf of Satapur’s two maharanis, the dowager queen and the maharaja’s widow. 

The royal ladies are in dispute over the education of the young crown prince, and a lawyer’s council is required—but the maharanis live in purdah and do not speak to men. Just one person can help them: Perveen Mistry, India’s only female lawyer.  Perveen is determined to bring peace to the royal house and make a sound recommendation for the young prince’s future, but knows she is breaking a rule by traveling alone as a woman into the remote countryside. And she arrives to find that the Satapur palace is full of cold-blooded power plays and ancient vendettas. Too late, she realizes she has walked into a trap. But whose? And how can she protect the royal children from the palace’s deadly curse?

This is the second book in this series and I have to say I am enjoying the experience. I haven’t read a lot of books set in India at all and most of what I have read is either present day or has been during Victorian times. This is post-Victorian but India is still very firmly under British rule. In this book, Perveen’s unique situation as the only female lawyer in India is called to be of use again as she is the only person who can travel to the kingdom of Satapur to speak to two women who keep purdah, which means they do not admit any men into their presence. The two women are both maharani or queens, one a dowager and one the widow of a recently deceased maharajah whose son will assume the rule when he turns eighteen, which is still some eight years away. The two women disagree on the path his education should take and are at a stalemate.

This book takes Perveen away from all that is familiar to her, including her friends and family as she travels to quite a remote location. She must overnight with a British agent, Colin Sandringham and then travel by palanquin to the castle, a trip of several hours over rough and difficult terrain that is often seemingly cut off when the weather is bad. Perveen immediately finds herself embroiled in not only the politics of the two castles (the older being the domain of the Dowager maharani and the newer the home of the younger mother of the maharaja) but also an even deeper mystery and element of danger that suggests that everyone in line to the ruling throne is in danger. The current maharaja, a child of just ten, has lost a father and brother in recent times and his mother has a fear that if he remains, he will not reach his majority. A fear that, the longer Perveen spends there, the more she realises is not without foundation.

I really liked the way that this built both the tension between the two maharani and also the overall threat of something greater. Perveen has a lot to figure out in quite a short time and she must also make a recommendation to the British regarding the young maharaja’s welfare and future. She’s well aware that her decision will not please everyone and that each of the women have very strong ideas on how they want the boy to be educated and raised to assume his duties. Perveen is also of a different background and seemingly continually makes mistakes in her interactions with the Dowager maharani in particular, which puts her on the back foot a lot and leads to her feeling chastised and embarrassed. There are seemingly a lot of rules of etiquette, some of which Perveen forgets or is unfamiliar with, especially in regards to the child maharajah who is treated with difference and revered even though he is also still just a child who still requires parenting with all that entails.

There’s a few interesting developments for Perveen in this book, namely Colin Sandringham. It’s a complicated situation, as people who have read the first book will know well. Perveen has many limitations on her interactions both because of circumstance and also custom/etiquette. I am hoping that the seeds sewn here are something that continues to develop in the books to come as I really think it adds a very appealing element and gives Perveen a lot of room to experience new things and grow in her personal as well as her professional life. The situation that Perveen is in at the moment is hopefully not the one she must remain in for the rest of her life.

This did have a slightly slow start but I ended up enjoying it as much as I did the first book. I hope there’s another instalment soon so that I can see what is next for Perveen and her unusual cases as India’s only 1920s female lawyer.

8/10

Book #96 of 2020

 

 

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Review: Kathleen Folbigg by Matthew Benns

Kathleen Folbigg: Australia’s Worst Female Serial Killer
Matthew Benns
Penguin Random House AUS
2019, 368p
Read via my local library/Borrow Box

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

This revised and updated edition of WHEN THE BOUGH BREAKS is the true story of Australia’s worst convicted female serial killer, Kathleen Folbigg. She killed her four children over 10 years.

This is the true story of Australia’s worst convicted female serial killer, Kathleen Folbigg. Kathleen’s children, Caleb, Patrick, Sarah and Laura Folbigg, died one by one over a 10-year period in similar circumstances — suddenly, unexpectedly and while sleeping. Each time, it was Kathleen who raised the alarm to her husband, Craig.

When the Folbiggs’ marriage fell apart after the death of their fourth child, Craig was devastated. He discovered Kathleen’s diary in her bedside drawer, filled with ramblings about losing control with the children and her ‘terrible thoughts’. The diary was the crucial evidence detectives had been searching for and in 2003 Kathleen Folbigg was jailed for forty years.

After her conviction she and her supporters fought hard, protesting her innocence. At her trial she’d allowed her diaries to speak for her. They did, damningly. But what if she were able to explain her entries? Medical and legal experts brought pressure on the NSW attorney-general to order a judicial inquiry into her conviction. Finally, in 2019, Folbigg had the chance to speak for herself.

This updated book takes us from the discovery of each of her children’s bodies, through Folbigg’s own tragic past, to her long-awaited explanation of what happened to Caleb, Patrick, Sarah and Laura. The outcome is a searing look into the mind of Australia’s worst female serial killer.

I always knew that when picking a true crime book for my participation in Shelleyrae @ Book’d Out’s 2020 NonFiction Reader Challenge, it was probably going to be a tough read. But this was disturbing on so many levels.

Most Australians with even a passing interest in the news probably recognise if not the name Kathleen Folbigg, then the case. During a 10 year period, she and her husband Craig buried four babies – sons Caleb and Patrick followed by daughters Sarah and Laura. For a long time, it seemed like they were the most unlucky of couples. Their first son Caleb was ruled a death by SIDS – sudden infant death syndrome, when an infant dies with no discernible cause, of suffocation or asphyxiation. When Caleb was born, SIDS was probably only just becoming something that there were developing guidelines for, in order to help prevent it. When they introduced things like always placing your baby on its back to sleep, not covering it with anything that could be pulled over its face, reducing smoking in the home, not co-sleeping, no bumpers in cots (this is an Australian guideline, but doesn’t exist in other countries like the US), the deaths dropped dramatically. And it wasn’t known to have any genetic or family factors so the Folbiggs would try again, welcoming baby Patrick. But then…..Patrick suffered not one, but two episodes of being found unresponsive by his mother. The first time, attending ambulance officers were able to revive him, although he would suffer brain damage and ongoing seizures from the lack of oxygen to his brain. The second time, he could not be revived. For one death of SIDS in a family, would be tragic. Two? That would be incredibly unlucky. So when baby Sarah arrived, surely….surely…..it could not happen again.

Except it did. And then again, to Laura, their final child, who was 18 months when she too was found unresponsive by her mother during an afternoon nap. However a detective following up on the death was suspicious – and he began looking into the previous deaths, eventually coming to the incredible and shocking decision that the Folbiggs had struck these monstrous odds of losing four children not by chance, but because the children’s own mother was smothering them in their sleep. Kathleen Folbigg was charged with four counts of murder, one count of manslaughter on the first baby and charges of grievous bodily harm for the failed attempt on Patrick, that rendered him brain damaged. She would eventually be found guilty of the manslaughter of Caleb, the murder of Patrick, Sarah and Laura and guilty of the GBH charge on Patrick.

Crucial to the conviction of Kathleen Folbigg were the diaries she kept when her children were born, which seem to contain somewhat chilling admissions that she was the reason the previous babies were no longer with them. After the death of Laura, their fourth child, the marriage of Craig and Kathleen broke down and Craig found one of the diaries that she’d left in the house. Grief stricken and confused, he took it to the same detective that already had his suspicions about the deaths. For that detective, the diaries just confirmed what he already believed. That unable to cope with the babies, Kathleen had smothered each of them.

Disturbingly, it can be very difficult to tell the difference between babies who do die of SIDS – an unexplained death in their sleep and babies who are smothered. In fact you’ll find all sorts of experts who disagree over cases, including this one. For experts for the prosecution that analysed autopsy reports and claimed there were no other mitigating factors in their deaths to ones for the defense that pointed out this thing or that thing that could’ve been. An expert calculated the odds of the one family having four babies die in their sleep in this way and it came back at 1 in 1 trillion – a number so big you might as well make up any random number. There were several things that didn’t fit the SIDS profile – a lot of the babies were outside the parameters of when SIDS mostly strikes which is between 3-6 months. Caleb was 19 days old. Sarah was between 10 and 11 months – not outside the realms of possibility but again, quite unlikely. Laura was almost 19 months old. In each case, they were always found unresponsive by their mother, who raised the alarm. On several occasions, her story changed. On at least one occasion, her story didn’t match her husband’s story of what had been happening at a certain time.

I have two children and both were excellent sleepers on the whole, but also had their moments. I remember a day when my eldest was probably about 4 months old maybe? I was alone, my husband was at work for about 12 hours and he would not feed or sleep and he screamed most of the day. I was at my wits end and remember thinking to myself I have to take a break. I put him in his cot with nothing else in there and went out the front of the house and took I don’t know, somewhere between 5-10 minutes to regroup and regather myself before I went back in and got him and tried again. Babies can test you mentally in many ways and there’s a reason sleep deprivation is a form of torture. And it seemed like the bulk of the care was left to Kathleen as a lot of the time Craig was working and he was a heavy overnight sleeper who did not wake when the babies cried. But there were definitely other factors at play too.

Kathleen required very strict routines and she disliked it when Craig upset them, wanting to play with the children or rile them up at bedtime (with Sarah and Laura, who were both older when they died). Look in some ways I can sympathise with that. Caring for a baby all day is exhausting and demanding and sometimes, what gets you through the day is the thought of bedtime. Knowing that they’ll go to bed and silence will reign and you can have a shower or eat a hot meal or just….sit down. And do nothing. Having someone come in and disrupt that, even their own father, can be infuriating. But Kathleen took routines to the extreme and often saw the babies as restricting her ability to go out and see her friends or go to the gym and there were disturbing reports that she bounced back from the death of each baby very quickly, seemingly getting on with her life as it had been before babies, while Craig would be drowning in grief. She would often tell him she’d leave him if he didn’t “snap out of it”.

A lot of disturbing things about Kathleen’s early life came out in the trial and honestly, it was quite horrific. I feel as though there were extenuating circumstances in a way – not that it’s ever an excuse for what she did, nor do I understand it. But there were definitely things about her life that had impacted on her in ways that no one could’ve predicted or understood. And sometimes I felt to myself, why did she keep having babies?! WHY? But I honestly feel that she thought each time would be different. She would be older, more mature, better able to cope, to not ‘lose it’ as she often put it in her diaries. I think she genuinely believed that it would turn out different….and maybe she doesn’t even fully comprehend what she did. She certainly maintained her innocence and I think, still does. But having read everything, I find it impossible to believe those children died of natural causes with no intervention. In particular, Sarah and Laura.

This book is an updated version of a previously published book because in 2018, there was an inquiry into the convictions in response to a petition by supporters of Kathleen Folbigg, 15 years after her conviction and sentencing. The result of that inquiry was damning for Kathleen Folbigg with a 500 page report from the judge stating that he had no cause for any reasonable doubt as to her conviction. If anything it reiterated the decision, rather than raise any questions over it. She remains incarcerated in a high security NSW prison and will be eligible for parole in 2028.

This made me sad, both for Kathleen due to her own childhood and also for those four children. For Craig, who was alerted five times by terrible screaming, that something was wrong with his children. For anyone who had loved them and cared for them. For the ambulance officers and/or doctors who would try to resuscitate them in vain. And I can only imagine that for the detective who charged Kathleen, it was a long difficult investigation. Proving that a mother killed her children when there were no actual injuries, is not easy. And it also raises questions when other babies die of unexplained causes. These babies were all autopsied and it seemed that even after three of them it wasn’t really viewed as anything more than an inexplicable tragedy by most people. If some did have a few doubts, no one did anything until the fourth baby died.

Apart from an overly emotional prologue, this book seems well researched and gives a clear picture of not just the events surrounding the babies’ deaths but also Kathleen’s upbringing, her time in foster care, her marriage to Craig and her state of mind at various times.

8/10

Book #94 of 2020

I chose this book deliberately for my participation in the 2020 NonFiction Reader Challenge hosted by Shelleyrae @ Book’d Out. I’m using it tick off the True Crime category and as my 6th book completed for the challenge, it actually means that I achieve the goal I originally set out for myself when signing up. However I’m going so well that I’m going to try and cover all 12 prompts.

1. Memoir

2. Disaster Event

3. Social Science

4. Related to an Occupation

5. History

6. Feminism

7. Psychology

8. Medical Issue

9. Nature

10. True Crime

11. Science

12. Published in 2020

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Review: Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

Wolf Hall (Thomas Cromwell Trilogy #1)
Hilary Mantel
Fourth Estate
2009, 653p
Purchased personal copy

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

‘Lock Cromwell in a deep dungeon in the morning,’ says Thomas More, ‘and when you come back that night he’ll be sitting on a plush cushion eating larks’ tongues, and all the gaolers will owe him money.’

England in the 1520s is a heartbeat from disaster. If the king dies without a male heir, the country could be destroyed by civil war. Henry VIII wants to annul his marriage of twenty years, and marry Anne Boleyn. The pope and most of Europe oppose him. The quest for the petulant king’s freedom destroys his advisor, the brilliant Cardinal Wolsey, and leaves a power vacuum and a deadlock.

Into this impasse steps Thomas Cromwell. Son of a brutal blacksmith, a political genius, a briber, a bully and a charmer. Cromwell has broken all the rules of a rigid society in his rise to power, and is prepared to break some more. Rising from the ashes of a personal disaster – the loss of his young family and of Wolsey, his beloved patron – he picks his way deftly through a court where ‘man is wolf to man’. Pitting himself against parliament, the political establishment and the papcy, he is prepared to reshape England to his own and Henry’s desires.

From one of our finest living writers, Wolf Hall is that very rare thing: a truly great English novel, one that explores the intersection of individual psychology and wider politics. With a vast array of characters, and richly overflowing with incident, it peels back history to show us Tudor England as a half-made society, moulding itself with great passion, suffering and courage. 

Okay so recently I read Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder, which I said might hold the gold medal for books that I’d owned the longest but were unread. Actually, I think this one is probably the winner for that. I’m not entirely sure when I bought this but I’m going to guess early 2010. I bought this from Borders, an international chain of bookstores that opened up stores here in Australia in maybe the very late 90s/early 2000s? I can’t remember exactly and actually I never saw one until about 2006, because I didn’t live in a capital city but it was a short-lived experiment here that didn’t work. The international company offloaded them and then the purchasing company went into administration and closed in 2011. They were fabulous bookstores – a lot of them were double story with coffee houses inside. We bought from one regularly until we moved house in June 2010 and then it was an hour drive away, so I’m pretty sure I bought this before that move. I loved the 3 for 2 table.

I’ve tried to read it twice before. Both times I didn’t make it past page 50. But I always knew that I wanted to conquer it one day which is why it survived several of my book culls and why it was on my TBR bookcase that’s in my bedroom, which is unread books, but ones that have higher priority than my other unread books. During the time of isolation, I decided to mix up my reading including books I’d owned for a while alongside review copies and more recent purchases. And Wolf Hall was a high priority for me, given it seems a good time to pick up the trilogy now that all 3 have been published.

I mention a lot how my background historical knowledge isn’t good, but I have a general understanding of Henry VIII, his six wives and the creation of basically a whole new religion so that he could fulfil his dream of having a male heir and his line secured. His first wife, Katherine of Aragon, found it difficult to deliver live babies and suffered many miscarriages and stillbirths. She did have one daughter who survived, the Princess Mary but as Katherine, who was older than Henry and at first married to his older brother Arthur, before Arthur’s death, grew older, Henry’s patience waned and he began looking elsewhere. He was captivated by Anne Boleyn, who wanted to be more than just the mistress for the king that her sister was. Anne wanted to be queen.

There are loads of books out there about Henry VIII and his many wives. In this series, Hilary Mantel gives us the point of view of the man who made things happen. Thomas Cromwell grew up poor, with an abusive father and fled as a young teen, probably fearing his father would eventually kill him (not an unreasonable assumption). When the book skips forward, he is the right hand man of Cardinal Wosley, the man currently in charge of making things happen for Henry and what Henry wants is to annul his marriage to Katherine on the grounds that she was his brother’s wife first and not a virgin when she came to Henry. When Cardinal Wolsey can’t accomplish this, it’s his downfall and he’s set aside, removed from his position. Cromwell steps into the void left behind and now he must succeed where his patron has failed.

This is not an easy book to read, it’s difficult to ‘get into the rhythm’ of it, which was why I think I failed twice before. It’s very dense – rich with historical detail and I can’t even imagine how much research and planning Mantel must’ve undertaken to write these. Everything is meticulously detailed and there’s a large cast of characters, at least half of which appear to be named Thomas or Henry or Mary so at times it’s quite difficult to remember who is who and who is speaking. It’s also written in a way where the author often refers to Cromwell as ‘he’, even if she is actually speaking about someone else within that paragraph. I re-read quite a lot of paragraphs in the beginning and it’s definitely not a book you can ‘zone out’ of, which I am sometimes guilty of doing. My eyes read the words but I don’t really absorb it and I’ll turn the page without realising that I haven’t actually taken in anything on the previous page. This book, you can’t do that. It took me over four days to read it and honestly, I think the first 200 pages took me about five hours. it’s a book that requires a lot of concentration and effort but once you get into it, it becomes easier and everyone starts to sort themselves out in ways where you can remember their roles and who is enemy of who and trying to remove who from doing what.

But it’s the sort of book that is well worth the effort and quite rewarding. I ended up getting really invested – I think the time it picked up for me was after the removal of the Cardinal and when Henry is really determined to marry Anne and crown her queen and Cromwell is doing his wheeling and dealing and manoeuvring and the like. It actually ends in a really interesting place and it made it very tempting to roll straight onto book two, but I’m going to read something else in between, as a bit of a cleanser first. But I think that it’s going to be good to read the trilogy together because there’s so many things happening and so many people that it’s going to be easy to forget details. It took like 11 years for all 3 to be published so chances are if I’d read this when it was published, I’d have forgotten most of it before the second book was released.

There’s nothing I can say about this that hasn’t already been said, by people far smarter and more qualified than I am! It’s won a Man Booker prize. But for a while, I wasn’t sure that I’d ever read it. It does require a certain amount of ‘pushing through’ in the beginning. It’s a hard sort of story to settle into, or at least, it was for me. And I have heard others say the same. But once you do, once you find that place where it becomes something that you absorb more easily, it’s definitely worth the attention you have to pay. It’s excellently told and I’m so looking forward to being able to purchase Bring Up The Bodies and The Mirror And The Light. I know they won’t be sitting on my shelf for 10 years!

8/10

Book #93 of 2020

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Review: Jacinda Ardern by Michelle Duff

Jacinda Ardern: The Story Behind An Extraordinary Leader
Michelle Duff
Allen & Unwin
2020, 288p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Michelle Duff delves into Ardern’s beginnings in small-town New Zealand, discovering a nose-ringed teen fighting for equality and her own identity in a devout Mormon family.

Duff tracks Ardern’s political career, from being dismissed as a ‘show pony’ to her compassion during one of New Zealand’s biggest tragedies, the Christchurch mosque terror attack of 2019. In its aftermath, Ardern has become a global icon for her strength and decisiveness while uniting a country in shock and mourning.

Ardern attracted international headlines for being the second world leader to give birth while in office. But why was having a baby so meaningful, and what does it say about the continued struggle for gender equality?

Has Ardern really been a transcendent leader, and what enduring mark might she leave on the political landscape?

This is an engrossing and powerful exploration of one of the most intriguing political stories of our time – telling us as much about one young woman’s ascendancy as it does about the country that elected her.

Unfortunately, this was a very disappointing read.

I had been looking forward to this. I admire Jacinda Ardern hugely and she seems like she’s really used her leadership in a very different way to many other heads of state. Her compassion and grief after the New Zealand Christchurch shooting is something I think I will always remember. We are about the same age (less than 2 years between us) and I think I align a lot with her, politically.

But to be honest, I’d have gained more knowledge and insight about Ardern by reading her Wikipedia page. This, despite claiming to be a biography for me, isn’t one at all. I wanted to read a book about Jacinda Ardern – her roots, her childhood, her rise through politics. However what it feels like I read is a bunch of chapters on what the author thinks about Jacinda Ardern, about politics, about herself and her life. It was more about Michelle Duff, than it was about Jacinda Ardern.

Everything about Ardern, the author relates back to herself. Perhaps there are a lot of people out there who admire Michelle Duff’s work as a journalist and want to read more about her. I didn’t know her before this book, but I wanted to read the book because of the big picture of Jacinda Ardern on the cover and the fact that it was called Jacinda Ardern. I wasn’t at all interested in the author’s life growing up, how she differed or shared similarities with Ardern, how she knew Ardern’s cousin, how Ardern had a baby and Duff had a baby too.

Jacinda Ardern is a really interesting person and when she announced her pregnancy shortly after taking office, it was immediately obvious how differently women are still treated from men regarding having a career vs having a family. She was just the second female leader in the world to give birth whilst in office, after Benazir Bhutto. Even before announcing her pregnancy, she was asked in interviews whether or not she planned to have children, with one radio announcer even declaring that it was ‘the public’s right to know’. And look, there is some good stuff in here about feminism and the workplace and women’s roles and how things are still looked at differently in terms of women having babies in politics vs men. And I liked reading that but then just as quick it was over and we were back onto how the author’s cousin had X experience or Jacinda hadn’t been spotted breastfeeding in public and the author had felt self-conscious about that too.

I understand that we want to identify with people and especially people we admire. I like to identify with people too and I could list half a dozen things I have in common with Jacinda Ardern. But that doesn’t make for good reading and people reading it wouldn’t be interested in the ways in which Jacinda and I are the same or the ways in which we are different. And I felt that way, reading this book. It’s pretty obvious that this is cobbled together from bios already published on Ardern (probably such as her Wikipedia page!) or interviews she’s done at times during her career and just general information/speeches she’s given on her policies, beliefs and goals as a political leader. It provides little insight into her as a person and zero insight into her actual life. It is at times, gushingly over the top (and this is coming from someone who respects and admires Ardern a lot).

If I added up all the relevant information on Ardern here it’d probably only fill a few chapters. Stripping out the rest, which is basically anecdotes from the author about herself or someone she is friends with or related to, would honestly leave very little material. I was going to use this book towards several of the reading challenges I am doing for this year but having completed it, I’ve now decided against that because honestly, for me, this doesn’t fit the bill. I was going to use it for biography and it just….isn’t. It’s a bunch of thoughts and opinions relating to or about Jacinda Ardern and occasionally drifting into broader territory on issues such as feminism and race. Some of those issues are well covered but for me, I found this a disappointing and mediocre read that I could not recommend to anyone.

4/10

Book #92 of 2020

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Review: An Alice Girl by Tanya Heaslip

An Alice Girl 
Tanya Heaslip
Allen & Unwin
2020, 318p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

An extraordinary story of growing up in the late 1960s and early 70s on an outback cattle property.

Whether working the mobs of cattle with the stockmen, playing cattleduffing on horseback or singing and doing lessons at their School of the Air desks, Tanya Heaslip and her siblings led a childhood unimaginable to many Australians. Growing up on a vast and isolated cattle property just north of Alice Springs, Tanya tells of wild rides, of making far-flung friends over the Air, of the dangers, the fun and the back-breaking work. As the eldest child, her added responsibility was to look after the littler ones, so she was by their sides dealing with snakes, the threat of bushfires and broken bones.

Tanya’s parents, Janice and Grant ‘the Boss’ Heaslip, were pioneers. They developed Bond Springs Station where water was scarce, where power was dependent on generators and where a trip to town for supplies meant a full day’s journey. Grant was determined to teach his children how to survive in this severe environment and his lessons were often harsh. In a childhood that most would consider very tough, Tanya tells of this precious time with raw honesty, humour, love and kindness. This is the story of an Alice girl.

What an upbringing this was, for a girl from the burbs who has never really been to the outback!

This year, my husband and I had planned a trip to Uluru. I had always wanted to go and I thought that once they banned climbing it, it would be a perfect time. Photos without people traipsing all over it! However of course, we’ve had to postpone that trip – probably until July or so next year. When I was planning it, I learned that Alice Springs isn’t actually as close to it as I thought, in fact it’s a four hour drive and I’d have to make our holiday a bit longer if we were to see both of them! That’s how clueless about that area I am…..in the meantime, until I can go there, this was an excellent way to learn a little bit more about it at a more grass roots level, from someone who spent their entire childhood on a cattle property outside of Alice Springs.

It might be the same country I grew up in but it might as well be a million miles away! I was fascinated with the accounts Tanya gave of her and her younger siblings playing outside for hours, learning to ride and muster the cattle on the property, doing long distance learning and school of the air. Even more interesting were how people on remote properties managed to maintain social lives with those others who were also in similar situations. Things like cattle sales and local shows were something that people came from miles around to attend, catch up with others and kick back. A lot of the farmers had planes, so could fly to each other’s properties if required. And given your nearest neighbour could be over 500km away, which would be a 10/12 hour round trip in a car, a plane was not only a useful tool in terms of helping to muster and inspect properties from the air, but also to keep each other connected. Tanya’s father also had a property in South Australia and then added a third property in another part of the Northern Territory and using the plane to travel between them cut down on travelling time considerably. A four day drive between the NT and SA property became an 8hr plane ride, broken into 2x4hr chunks with a refuelling stop in Oodnadatta.

In some ways, this feels like an idyllic childhood. There’s a lot of freedom, to roam and explore. It seems they’re all connected in varying degrees to the land and it definitely teaches a hard work ethic as well as patience and understanding. This is not an easy lifestyle, which is the other side of the coin. There’s potential for a lot of danger: snakes, falling off horses, dehydration and heatstroke, etc. You’re a long way from any medical help and this can be serious, such as the case of Tanya’s mother’s fourth pregnancy. The hours are long, the work is backbreaking. The heat is endless, the dust and flies and relentless sun. It’s a harsh environment and when Tanya’s father took over the lease of the property, the area had been in a drought for ten years. That’s a long time and this sort of endeavour often relies upon things you cannot control, like the weather. The isolation is tough as well – Tanya and her siblings were raised alone and a bit wild….when meeting other children at first, they had no idea how to interact with them. It was a daunting, anxiety inducing experience. For women like Tanya’s mother, you have to be incredibly resourceful and resilient. Her story is told through Tanya’s observations. Never ending cooking and washing and cleaning, taking care of the men with their food requirements is basically a full time job. And those who aren’t happy with the benefits will probably leave and go elsewhere. For Tanya’s mother, connections to others in the “area” (broadly speaking) are vital. The governess/teacher/nanny types they employ to come and help look after and teach the younger children are also a lifeline for the wives, providing adult, female conversation and companionship when they can be alone long hours whilst their husbands are out working the cattle. It’s a lifestyle probably not suited to many and you have to really want it, love it, thrive on it in order to be successful. And I can fully admit, I wouldn’t be able to cope. The heat alone would do me in (I get burned when it’s less than 20 degrees). This was the 60s and 70s – no internet. No TV. No phone. Basically communication was via radio and very limited. But something that did very much come through for me, was that despite all of these challenges, the people who populate this remote area built their own very remarkable type of community.

I enjoyed this a lot. It also stops an interesting point (tying back in to Tanya’s guest post from yesterday) where she’s about to leave for boarding school, so perhaps one day there’ll be more about that experience.

8/10

Book #90 of 2020

An Alice Girl is book #29 of The Australian Women Writers Challenge for 2020

 

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