All The Books I Can Read

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Tampa by Alissa Nutting – GIVEAWAY **WINNERS**

20130724-081836.jpgFirstly I’d just like to say a huge thank you to everyone who entered the giveaway. There were lots of new visitors to the blog and I hope you found something that keeps you coming back! 🙂

Thank you also to our wonderful sponsor, Allen & Unwin, the Australian publisher of Tampa who kindly provided the 5 copies for me to give away to some of you guys!

And now….. the winners!

#119 – Shayne

#44 – Michelle

#90 – Nicola

#59 – Bernadette

#49 – Jeanie

All winners have been emailed and have 48 hours from 9am EST Wednesday 24th to respond to me with their postal addresses. If I don’t hear back from one or more, I will draw winners to replace them.

Hope the winners enjoy their prize and would love to hear their thoughts on it as well.

Tampa

 

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Q&A With…. Rebecca James

Rebecca JamesThis morning I posted my review of Australian author Rebecca James’ second novel, Sweet Damage (which you can see here). Rebecca also very kindly agreed to answer a few of my questions and her answers were so detailed and fabulous that I had to give them their own separate post!

Q1). Hi Rebecca and welcome to my blog. Thanks so much for taking the time to answer some questions for me. To get started, can you share a little about how you came to write and what the road to publication was like for you?

 I started writing when I was in my thirties. I had four very young sons at the time and I think I needed some kind of creative outlet, something that got me away from nappy-changing and the chaotic domestic reality of my life.  Writing gave me some kind of an outlet, something that I was doing purely for myself.

It always seems, when a debut author breaks out, that their success has been instantaneous, overnight, but the truth is that most debut authors have a practice book or two hidden away somewhere. Beautiful Malice was in fact the third complete novel I’d written, and there were also a number of false-start books that I never managed to finish. The first book I completed I sold to a small e-publisher for the sum total of $100. With my second book I managed to get a literary agent and we shopped it around for a year and a half before giving up. My agent and I parted on amicable terms and I started work on my third book, Beautiful Malice.

It took a long time to get a literary agent for Beautiful Malice. Quite a few agents enjoyed it but said it would be an impossible sell because it didn’t fit clearly enough into a YA or adult fiction category. Eventually, after almost 100 rejections, Jo Unwin from Conville and Walsh picked it up. We worked on it together for a while before she submitted it. Erica Wagner from Allen and Unwin was the first publisher to make an offer and then Julia- Heydon-Wells from Faber and Faber offered. A few weeks later it went to auction in Germany, and a few weeks after that it sold all around the world. It was an amazing time.

In summary I guess the journey was quite long and slow to begin with and then, once Beautiful Malice sold, everything went ahead at a crazy, dizzy speed.

Q2). I know you’re a busy mother – you have four boys! How do you find the time to write? Do you have your own writing space and routines? Or do you just write where and when you can?

I write while the boys are at school, and now that they’re older I can do a bit of work on the weekends or in the evenings. (I’m answering these questions over Easter while the kids watch a movie).

I have a desk which I sit at most days, but sometimes I move my laptop to the kitchen table. On really cold days I’ve even been known to work in bed.

Q3). In Sweet Damage, Anna suffers from severe agoraphobia brought on by grief and stress. What made you choose this condition to give a character?

 In a practical sense, when trying to come up with an interesting set-up for my novel, I realised that a mental illness like agoraphobia, which keeps Anna housebound, virtually trapped inside, had a lot of obvious narrative potential. It’s such misunderstood condition and because of that I think it holds a lot of fascination for people. Almost, even, a  strange sense of the exotic. (The reality, of course, is not exotic or romantic at all).

I initially became interested in agoraphobia as a condition because I’ve had anxiety myself. I started having panic attacks at a particularly stressful time in my life (my husband, Hilary, and I were running our own small business, we had four young sons at home and Hilary became quite seriously ill). There was a particular day I was so anxious I failed to make it to the supermarket to buy dinner. I was lucky – I had a good doctor- and with a combination of medication and guided meditation, I was able to get better. But since then I’ve often wondered what if? What if my husband hadn’t been understanding? What if I hadn’t been lucky enough to  find a knowledgeable doctor? What if things had only gotten worse? I was never as unwell as Anna but I got a glimpse of the frightening possibility, of the frightening potential for your mind to let you down, mess with your thoughts in such a way that normal life becomes impossible.

 

Q4). Because of Anna’s condition, almost all of the action in the novel centres around her house, Fairview, which is almost like a living breathing character in itself. It reads to me like a modern day gothic story – were you inspired by stories such as Rebecca?

In a way, yes,  I was. It’s interesting, I actually reread Rebecca while I was writing Sweet Damage and didn’t enjoy it as much as I remembered loving it when I was younger. I found the narrator irritating – she’s just so  spineless and naive. And …(beware spoilers  for Rebecca ahead!) … the fact that she has virtually no moral problem accepting the fact that her husband killed his first wife made her seem like a  bit of a simpleton.  I thought her whole reaction to the bombshell that her husband was a murderer should have been made much more extreme, much more complex and believable.

Nonetheless, the way Du Maurier wrote about Manderly was unquestionably  brilliant, and I certainly tried to give Fairview some of that same sense of character and quality of gothic menace.

Q5). Genre and categorisation are all the rage at the moment. Your previous novel was probably classified as YA but this one seems to be marketed as adult, judging by the fact that the characters are slightly older and I’ve seen it in adult sections of bookstores. Where do you think it fits in? Does it straddle across categories or is it part of the ‘New Adult’ craze? Are any of these categories/genres even necessary?

 I think Sweet Damage is  primarily being marketed as a YA book in Australia but I’m not all that surprised you’ve seen it on adult shelves. Like Beautiful Malice I think it may be considered a bit of a crossover book. I hope it is. I’d like to think adults would enjoy it just as much as teens. It was tricky to write because I was always conscious that, like Beautiful Malice, it would be published as a YA book here in Australia, but as an adult book in some foreign territories. I had to try and make it straddle that divide. I hope I’ve been successful.

I don’t think the categories are all that important to writers, or even readers, but they seem to be necessary to publishers and certainly to booksellers. They’re mainly a marketing tool, I think, a way to define where books fit in and how they compare to  other books out there. Categories and genres help publishers and booksellers ‘place’ books, both literally (as in, on the shelves) and figuratively.

Anyway, it’s a very interesting time for all these sorts of  questions as everything has evolved so much because of the internet. Loads of  writers are self-publishing books and through various success stories even creating new genres (like New Adult, for example). It’s a great time to be a writer – there are so many options – and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

 

Q6). I’ve seen your bookshelves – you’re an avid reader! Who are some of your favourite authors/what are some of your favourite novels?

I have so many beloved books and though I don’t necessarily think in terms of favourites the books that stayed with me long after I turned the last page are the ones that come to mind when I’m asked this question. I think, if I can generalise a bit, that I prefer books that surprise and shock me with an unexpected twist, or stories that make me cry because they’re so heartbreaking, or writing that stuns me with its honesty and insight. Some of my favourite books include The Siege by Helen Dunmore, We Need To Talk about Kevin by Lionel Shriver, The Amateur Marriage by Anne Tyler, Out of The Silence by my sister, Wendy James, Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates and Villette by Charlotte Bronte.  My favourite authors include all of the above plus Helen Garner, Nicci French, Liane Moriarty, Roxana Robinson and  Kate Atkinson.

 Q7). Did the Easter Bunny bring you something delicious?

The Easter Bunny brought the kids a lot of delicious chocolate and I pinched enough of theirs to be satisfied. 🙂

 

Q8). If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?

A waitress probably. Or a kitchen designer. I’m not actually trained to do anything else.

 Q9). And lastly…what’s next for you? Anything juicy you can share?

 Nothing juicy. Sorry. My life is decidedly unjuicy. All going well I’ll keep on writing and hopefully put out a third book and then a fourth and a fifth and a sixth and so on and on until I’m ready to retire. (Which I’m hoping will be never while I’m still alive).

Thanks for being my guest Rebecca and for providing me with such wonderful answers. Looking forward to seeing many more novels with your name on them!

Sweet Damage

Beautiful Malice

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****GIVEAWAY**** Winners – The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

Thanks to Allen & Unwin I had 10 copies of Kate Morton’s exciting new book, The Secret Keeper to give away. I was overwhelmed by the amount of entries but there can only be 10 winners and here they are (thanks to random.org)!

1. Louise K

2. Nicola B

3. Lisa W

4. Trish M

5. Orlagh D

6. Shirley

7. Rachael J

8. Brenda T

9. Bella S

10. Michelle M

Thank you so much to everyone that entered. Congratulations to all the winners, you’ll be receiving an email from me very shortly – if there’s anyone who doesn’t respond within 48 hours, I will draw another winner. And a big thank you to the fabulous people at Allen & Unwin for providing the copies for the giveaway.

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**GIVEAWAY** – The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

Thanks to the fabulous Allen & Unwin, I have a super exciting giveaway! Kate Morton, acclaimed author of books such as The Forgotten Garden, The House At Riverton and The Distant Hours is releasing her latest novel, The Secret Keeper in Australia in November. I know a few people that have been lucky enough to read it already and the word is that it is incredible!

I have 10 proof copies of this exciting new book to give away to my blog readers (Australian residents only please due to the fact that it’s from the Aussie publisher). All you need to do is fill out this simple form and I’ll draw the 10 winners when the books are ready for me to ship.

Super exciting! Go forth and enter peeps! I know I can’t wait to read this book.

Thanks again to the wonderful publisher for providing me with these copies to give away

 

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The Unfinished Journals of Elizabeth D, by Nichole Bernier Read-a-long Discussion Part 3

Hello everyone and welcome to our final discussion! Over the last week we all read the final one third of the book and had everything revealed! But before we talk about that, I’d just like to recap a few of the things that happened. As always, this post will contain ***SPOILERS*** so please make sure you’ve completed the book before reading ahead!

Dave Martin and his kids came to visit Kate and her children on the island whilst Chris was in Asia. Kate is quite surprised when she sees Dave but also recognises the easy way in which he seems to be dealing with his three children. They talk and Dave seems relieved when Kate mentions that Chris is in Jakarta. Anyone who has been following the timeline of the book could probably figure out why Dave is relieved as we all have the benefit of hindsight. Kate it seems, for someone that always watched the news and panicked about things, is basically totally unaware that not only is her husband now in Bali but that the Bali bombings occurred where he was. To be honest I was surprised Kate didn’t panic more about this when she gets Chris’s voicemail message! Dave asks to have a shower before he leaves and insists on using the one inside…. after he’s gone, Kate discovers a journal is missing, the next one she should be starting, the one that should contain any truth about Michael. Did you think at this point in the story that Dave had stolen the journal?

Kate once again faces the challenge of whether or not she wants to take a job at a new restaurant opening up. There’s a part of her that really does, but she knows that she could easily be consumed by it and it would probably lead to her children, or her relationship with them, suffering because of it. I found the section where she questions Anthony, the friend that has put her name forward, about whether or not it could be a shared or part time position quite interesting. His response is condescending and sarcastic, seemingly derogatory about the fact that she might “get all mommy track” on him. I found that the conversation infuriated me, perhaps because I  have children and I feel for Kate’s need to consider her options. She doesn’t want full-time carers for her children and neither does her husband, especially given as he travels widely. But there’s also that need to satisfy an urge within herself!

Did anyone have any thoughts on who the mysterious Nadia was, before her identity was revealed?

Kate’s obsession (I’m not sure what other term to use here, it does seem to be an obsession) leads her to ring Dave and accuse him of stealing the missing diary – do you feel that as Elizabeth’s husband, Dave would’ve had a right to take the diary if he had so wanted? Do you understand Kate’s annoyance/fury at it or do you think she overreacted? It began to cause problems with her own husband as well as Chris fought irritation over her constant talk of the diaries, her agonising over the diaries, the to-and-fro of the diaries and what she should do with them? Do you feel that even though Elizabeth left them to her and the choice of what to do with them, that Kate was a bit…militant about it? It was almost like she banned Dave from them.

Kate then takes it upon herself to attempt to track down the mysterious Michael, given one of the diaries is missing, one that she believes is key. Do you feel you would’ve done the same thing in her position? Or would you have let it go, laid her to rest? To be honest, I’m not sure I’d have gone to the lengths that Kate did, even though in the end it got her the answers she so desired. She finds a brochure for the Joshua Tree in the trunk, almost hidden. Given the fact that Elizabeth took with her the diary that seems to contain secret information is the fact that she left a business card of where she was going (when she’d in fact told people that she was going to something else entirely) a little too…careless?

Now Kate knows who Michael is and he also inadvertently lets her know that Elizabeth had received a terminal diagnosis, probably in the very dark days after Emily’s birth where the relevant diary has gone missing. Kate realises now that Dave most likely didn’t steal the book and that Elizabeth probably did have it with her on the plane, taking it with her to the healing place. Did anyone pick this? Was it foreshadowed for you?

After they leave the island, Kate makes the decision to return the journals to Dave and also tell him of what she has discovered only to find out that Dave has actually figured it out, finding some bills in amongst the OB ones (I’m assuming that Elizabeth had ovarian cancer or something similar?) Kate realises that Elizabeth’s unkempt appearance was not just to do with Anna’s birth, but also her illness and that no one seemed to have picked up on it. Dave was surprised that Kate didn’t know and that helped me understand some of his anger towards her earlier on in the book – he obviously assumed that Elizabeth had told Kate and even after her death, Kate had been keeping something like that from him. It also seems that Dave knows why Elizabeth didn’t tell him, alluding to the time he ran from her, years before. He seems sad that after all their years together, she didn’t know better but I have to admit, I would’ve found it hard to tell him too, had I been Elizabeth. The chance of running would’ve been too great a risk to take with so little time left. However Dave didn’t know that Michael was to do with her illness so that knowledge is a gift Kate could give him. They then part on relatively good terms – do you think they ever see each other again?

How did you feel about the book overall? Was the ending satisfying to you? Or were there things you wanted to know that you didn’t get told?

Thanks to everyone who took part in this round, I’ve enjoyed both the book and constructing these posts and reading everyone’s thoughts immensely! I’d also like to thank Kelly and everyone at A&U for giving us all the opportunity to read and discuss some of their fabulous books!

 

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The Unfinished Journals Of Elizabeth D by Nichole Bernier Read-A-Long – Discussion Part 2

Hello everyone and welcome to Week 2 of our discussion! Thank you to everyone who took part in the discussion last week, we had such a large number of comments and people shared really involved thoughts about how they were feeling about the book, which is always awesome. You guys make my job so fun and easy!

As always…. ***SPOILERS*** ahead!

Okay our second section of the book – we’re in to the 3rd week of Kate and Chris’s holiday and Chris is working and the kids are at camp which gives Kate quite a bit of free time to devote to reading the journals. She reads through a rather large part of Elizabeth’s life, her years living in New York, her love for her job, her romantic relationships that come and go. We also find out how Elizabeth met Dave in this section and are privy to their relationship and eventual marriage. Did the way in which they came to be married surprise anyone? I know that I was certainly quite surprised when I read it – I was struggling with liking Dave in the first section we read and I have to admit that section 2 didn’t really have me warming up to him at all. The way in which Dave bolted at the vets when his dog needed to be put to sleep and then his abandonment of Elizabeth when she received some possibly bad test results at the doctors didn’t sit well with me. As Elizabeth voices in her diary, no one likes doing these things, but they do it anyway. Elizabeth only contacted Dave in the future because she discovered that she was pregnant – it’s likely that had she not done that, she’d never have heard from him again after he ran upon her telling him of the test results. In her position, would you have made that call?

That leads to them marrying and then the pregnancy results in a miscarriage for Elizabeth, yet another loss for Dave. This time however, he doesn’t run permanently and they agree to try again some months later, perhaps beginning the marriage that Kate comes to see later on when she moves to the area. Kate moving in is detailed in that section of the book too as well as Elizabeth’s first perceptions of her and some moments of Kate interacting with the mother’s group.

I actually found it easy to relate to a large portion of this part of the book – like Kate, I’m a stay at home mother to 2 children. Unlike her I didn’t have that passionate career but I do feel like whichever choice you make, there will always be people who will tell you that it is the wrong one. Likewise I felt for Elizabeth when she first joined the mothers’ group and was judged for drinking caffeinated coffee, having a mercury thermometre in the house, etc. Parenting is such a difficult thing to navigate for first time mothers (and often it’s just as hard with subsequent babies, when you’re supposed to be an ‘expert’) and it seems that at times, you cannot admit that you’re tired, that you’re frustrated, that you’d like to just scream. Or run away!

This section also saw more of Kate’s paranoia surface – she is frightened by a low flying plane over the island and she also freaks out when her children find some rabbits in their neighbours yard. What I found interesting is that although she’s also bothered by Chris being in Indonesia and areas close to it for work, it’s kind of like she’s less bothered by that than she was about the rabbits, even though she’s just read about new terrorist cells in the area. She’s distracted by her children and she forgets about it almost immediately, whereas it seemed that the episode with the rabbits lingered, although perhaps that was because Chris made fun of her.

After the birth of her oldest child Jonah, it is discovered that Elizabeth tore out pages in the diary. Kate assumes that these were possibly dark days that detailed post-natal depression. Why do you think Elizabeth chose to tear them out when she had left many other difficult things in, and also expressed anger at her mother destroying her diaries when she was young?

This is one of my favourite quotes from this section:

Maybe loyalty is for swans and bird-minded people too afraid or too unimaginative to see the alternatives.”

I’m finding Elizabeth quite the enigma!

How did everyone else go with this section?

 

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The Unfinished Journals Of Elizabeth D by Nichole Bernier Read-a-long – Discussion Week 1

Hello everyone and welcome to the first part of the discussion of The Unfinished Novels of Elizabeth D, by Nichole Bernier.  Just a quick warning once again that this post (and the comments) will contain **SPOILERS** for the first 136p of the novel so it’s definitely best that you not read ahead here until you’ve completed that section of the book. That out of the way, let’s go!

To recap briefly, this section of the book introduces us to Kate, her husband Chris and their children James and Piper. When Chris and Kate moved to Connecticut some years ago, Kate joined a mothers’ group and found a friend in Elizabeth. The two socialised regularly, both within the mothers’ group and separate from it until Kate and Chris moved away to Washington D.C. some 2 years before the book begins. Elizabeth is killed in a plane crash on her way to an artist’s retreat and Kate discovers that Elizabeth has left her something in her will – a trunk full of journals that Elizabeth has been keeping since she was very young. The note from Elizabeth left with her solicitor says that Elizabeth chose to leave them to Kate because Kate would know ‘the right thing to do’.

Kate and her family are on their way to a seven week break at a house they rent on Great Rock Island every summer – usually for two weeks but after the tumultuous experience of losing Elizabeth, they are taking a much longer break. Elizabeth’s husband Dave has requested that Kate pick up the journals on her way through to the island and he confesses to Kate that he read the most recent one and it seems that Elizabeth was meeting another man, not participating in an artist’s retreat like everyone thought. Kate isn’t sure what to make of this, but as they settle in to the island house and she begins to read the journals, it seems that she is experiencing an Elizabeth that’s entirely different from the one she knew.

I am loving this book – I have kept journals on and off since I was 12 or 13, although not with the dedication of Elizabeth. Some start off well and taper out by mid-January never to be written in again, some are sporadically kept up throughout the whole year and a few are faithfully written in every day! They’re in a plastic snap-lock tub in our garage and I have to admit, this book really made me think about what I’d want done with them in the event of something happening to me. A lot of the time I use them to vent my frustration, to say the things that I cannot say out loud, be it about my husband in moments of anger, or my family when they annoy me, or even my husband’s family. There are definitely things there that I wouldn’t want people to see – that’s why I write it in a diary. It’s supposed to be for my eyes only, they’re private. So, I’m a little curious – do any of our read-a-long participants keep diaries or journals, no matter how frequently? If so, have you ever thought about what might become of them after you are gone? If you had a choice, what would you want done with them?

Then we have the other side of the coin – Kate is the recipient of her friend’s journals, detailing her life for roughly 26 years. Elizabeth has no real wish for what she wants done with them, other than she thinks that Kate will do what is right and fair. If you were the recipient of someone’s journals, would you read them? Or would you destroy them unread, so that their thoughts would rest with them? Or maybe you’d keep them until their children were old enough to decide what to do with them? I have to admit, I’m not really sure what I’d do but I think that ultimately, curiosity would get the better of me – I’d have to read them! Depending on what I found would probably decide what I chose to do with them after that, which seems to be the way Kate is feeling. Obviously she doesn’t want to taint the children’s memory of their mother, if she finds things that are perhaps better off left to lie… but the children are also barely going to know their mother – two of them will probably remember nothing about her once they reach adulthood so the journals could be a valuable way for them to connect to Elizabeth.

I am torn between feeling sorry for Dave, Elizabeth’s husband and not really liking him. I understand his resentment about not being left the journals but I find him a bit abrasive. I’m trying to cut him some slack because he’s quite obviously grieving and also dealing with feelings of betrayal and anger, as he believes that Elizabeth was cheating on him towards the end of her life and was actually going to see a lover, rather than the painting retreat she told him about.

As Kate gets further into the diaries and realises that this is a totally different Elizabeth from the one she remembered as her friend, she starts to question other areas of her life, including her relationship with her husband Chris. She believes that he is hiding smoking from her. I really admired the way in which this novel portrayed marriage, both Kate and Chris’s marriage and also Elizabeth and Dave’s. I have all these theories on who Elizabeth might be seeing and why, what might be happening between Kate and Chris – anyone else been speculating? I’d love for some people to lay their thoughts out so we can compare back later when we’ve completed the book!

I could go on forever about this book because I think there’s so much to talk about but I’m turning it over the comments now, so come and share your thoughts!

 

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Read-A-Long Call Out – The Unfinished Journals of Elizabeth D, by Nichole Bernier

After hosting a read-a-long of My Hundred Lovers, by Susan Johnson in June, the people at Allen & Unwin have kindly asked me to host another during the month of August. We’ll be beginning around the 15th and our chosen book is The Unfinished Journals of Elizabeth D, by Nichole Bernier. Here’s the summary (from the Allen & Unwin website):

Summer vacation with her family was supposed to be a restorative time for Kate, who’d lost her close friend Elizabeth in a plane crash. But when she inherits a trunk of Elizabeth’s journals, they reveal a woman far different than the cheerful wife and mother Kate thought she knew.
The complicated portrait of Elizabeth – her upbringing, her marriage, and journey to motherhood – makes Kate question not just their friendship, but her own deepest beliefs about loyalty and honesty at a moment of uncertainty in her own marriage. When an unfamiliar man’s name appears in Elizabeth’s pages, Kate realises the extent of what she didn’t know about her best friend, including where she was really going when she died.
Written with grace, depth, and honesty, this is a story of two women – their friendship, their marriages, private ambitions and fears. And what they chose to keep hidden.

As someone who admits to being a little bit of a voyeur, I think the idea of being able to take a peek at someone’s private diaries and thoughts is fascinating – and sure to provide plenty of great fodder for discussion in a read-a-long style format.

If you think this is something you’d like to be a part of, then please leave a comment or email me at 1girl2manybooks {@} gmail {.} com – because of the tight timing and publisher sponsor, this is open to Australian residents only. You don’t have to have participated in the previous read-a-long but you do have to be keen to read the book to the schedule (which I will post as soon as I have received my copy of the book) and also to pop by and share your thoughts! After all a read-a-long is more fun the more people that are involved and want to speak up.

I’m looking forward to doing this again so if you’re interested – get in contact!

 

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My Hundred Lovers – Discussion Part 3 and Wrap-Up

Hello everyone and welcome to the third and final part of the discussion on My Hundred Lovers, by Susan Johnson. How is everyone? It’s a terrible day here where I am, perfect for reading and hopefully for some dissecting of this book!

So in the third part of the book we learn a few little things that some of us had been wondering throughout. I’ll talk a little bit about this section and then at the end I’ll have a little bit about the book overall. As always, feel free to bring up your own points of discussion or issues that have resonated with you in any way.

  • What do you think of Deborah’s unusual friendship with the eccentric Horatia? Do you like Horatia?
  • Do you think Deborah was drawn to ‘the beautiful lover’ because of his “full sensuous mouth that bore a curious resemblance to my fathers”? (p177). Or did she just want to sleep with a very beautiful man, so she could say/know that she had!
  • The chapter entitled ‘Breasts’ was for me, both beautiful and sad, one part devoted to her new son and the joy she feels at him and also the wonder at her new ‘page 3 breasts’ and the other part devoted to her husband’s belligerent attitude towards the new baby. Satisfied vs unsatisfied. It seems like the sort of chapter that deliberately raises sympathy towards Deborah and directs animosity towards her husband.
  • The Suspicious Wanderer’s past catches up with her in the chapter ‘The worried lover’ (p191) where she undergoes a test for HIV, which is becoming more commonly known. Do you think that the rise of AIDS and the fact that she knew someone that contracted it had any repercussions on Deborah’s behaviour?
  • In this section, Deborah has a liason with a woman. Do you feel that she is genuinely bisexual, merely curious or in love with the idea of love, no matter where it may come from?
  • Her husband is named David, the same name as her father. Do you feel this is significant? (p219). Do you think that she just keeps finding men who remind her of her father in some way, in any way?
  • Her father buys for her and her alone, a beautiful black pearl (p226) – not one for her mother or her sister. It seems that this sort of event happened all too infrequently in her life, someone singling her out and giving her something beautiful.
  • David an Deborah marry in haste, despite numerous warnings from various people. Did it seem their union was destined to be doomed from the start? (p227)
  • In this section, we finally find out what became of their marriage (p243). Did you see this coming or did it surprise you? Why do you think Deborah still refers to him as her husband, even though he is not?
  • Just after that chapter, is a beautiful moment shared between her and her sister Jane (p246). I know that I for one, would’ve liked to have seen a little more of their turbulent relationship. Do you think that enough insight into the two sisters was given?
  • When Deborah finds that there were people who knew of the affair, she never speaks to any of them ever again (256). Does this seem fair/reasonable to you? Especially after she tolerated the shadow lover’s years of infidelity? Did you feel sympathy for her?
  • Deborah grieves more for  the loss of the houseboat and the local houseboat community than she does her husband (p257). Is she right to feel such anger, hurt and betrayal even though she doesn’t love him anymore? Or should she have just let go?

Now that the whole book is complete, how do you feel about it now, versus in the beginning? Did you enjoy it more or less as the book went on? Do you feel you were given a whole picture of Deborah, her life and her lovers? Or do you feel there were things missing, things you would’ve liked elaborated? Did you enjoy the read-a-long experience, if it was a new one for you? Would you do it again? For what it’s worth, I think this book was absolutely perfect for a read-a-long! There are few books I’ve read that I think could’ve generated such discussion on so many topics!

I’d just like to say thanks to everyone that participated and joined in the discussion, I certainly had a lot of fun hosting! Thanks also to Allen & Unwin for organising this and setting us all up with copies of the book.

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My Hundred Lovers Read-a-long Discussion Part 2

Hello everyone and welcome to the second week of discussion for My Hundred Lovers. Before we start I’d just like to thank everyone for the discussion last week! Everyone was so forthcoming with comments and opinions and that is what makes a read-a-long so thank you all for your high level of participation.

Now we’ve read 2/3’s of the book roughly and have learned a lot more about Deborah. Has anyone’s feelings on her changed at all? Do you feel any more or less understanding of her as a character and a woman? Do you judge her, for her actions? As we found out there are probably a few sections in this part that would raise eyebrows these days!

  • We’ve learned that Deborah was married but so far her husband has not been a large part of the book, only mentioned here and there. On p172, when talking about her love for the beach she says “The glorious summer I lived with my son across the road from Rainbow Beach after I lost my husband.” For those who have NOT read on past p173, do you want to take a guess of what she means by ‘lost’?
  • On p91, Deborah states that “In France, she was someone else. She was a girl whose limbs were free, with carte blanche to fill herself in.” She distances herself from this by referring to herself in the third person again, as though she’s talking about someone else, but she talks of herself. Why do you feel she felt things were different in France, that she could ‘fill herself in’?
  • Was anyone disturbed by the chapter ‘Three Men In One Day’ (p103)? This chapter gives more insight into her family and how they have fared while Deborah was in Paris: “…the sister had grown even more beautiful, the mother more drunk, the father on his magic carpet even further away with his endless maps and horizons. The poor brother had long since stepped onto that drinking path which would lead him to an early death.” She has also lost her beloved dog, put down due to old age and and family cat has disappeared. Do you think anything in that above quote impacted on her decision to sleep with the three men in one day? Is it more simple than that? Can Deborah just not say no?
  • Did you find it hard reading this chapter knowing that things today are quite different and that sort of behavior is is considered to be far more dangerous? Then, “Every girl was on the pill and no one used condoms.” Today there is an attempt at a far more different message concerning sexual safety. Do you think Deborah would’ve been as promiscuous if her time was now? Is it something that you don’t feel worries her at all?
  • The shadow lover, whom she is sleeping with upon her return from Paris (as well as the above 3 men) taunts her with remarks that she is not clever, nor is she as beautiful as her sister. She retaliates by “…sleeping with as many lovers as possible”. Why do you feel she stays with the shadow lover, who treats her this way? Whom she found sleeping with someone else at a party, the reason she slept with one of the 3 men in one day. Do you believe that she loves him? Is it habit?
  • The Blind Lover (p123) chapter interested me greatly. He seemed a good, caring, loving man, at ease with his disability and determined to live a full and happy life. Deborah tried and failed to fall in love with him – if she cannot love such a man, can she love any man who is good for her? Does she have a predisposition to drama that dates back to her childhood? Is she always destined to make bad decisions involving men?
  • In this section, Deborah has an abortion. The father of the child is unknown, due to all the men she has been sleeping with. Why do you think Deborah cries when the procedure is performed on her? Is it regret that she isn’t keeping the baby? Or something deeper, such as the reasons behind why she is in this situation? I found the quote “The kindly Chinese doctor has let Ro stand in for all the absent fathers” disturbing and sad. She then ignores a directive not to have penetrative sex for two weeks after the procedure and sleeps with someone she has zero interest in. Does this tie back in with the above question about Deborah not being able to say no? Equating sex with love, or with worth, or with something that she desperately seeks and will take from anywhere to fill a void?
  • When she finally leaves the shadow lover, she goes to the dissolute lover, which she describes as “out of the frying pan and into the fire!” Is this more indication of her incapability to make wise choices with men?
  • “By then the Suspicious Wanderer knew her romantic streak was fatal.” (p138). Do you agree that she has a romantic streak? Does her idea of romantic and yours match up? And how could it be fatal?
  • I felt a bright spot in this section, a beautiful chapter was the one concerning her love for Nana Elsie and vice versa (p147). Nana Elsie is proud of her in a way that her parents aren’t but this quote “There’s nothing like family Debbie. Friends are all very well but it’s family who stand by you when the chips are down” by Nana Elsie seems very idealised. Surely she recognises that it wasn’t particularly like that for Deborah?
  • We also see the return of ‘the deflowerer’, Jonathan Jamieson (p157). How did you feel about Deborah’s involvement with him?

I knew when I was preparing this post making my notes that I’d found lots I thought would be good for discussion but I didn’t realise it was quite so much! If I’ve left anything out that you feel is important, please don’t hesitate to bring it up. I’m looking forward to hearing how you all felt about this section.

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