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Review: The Place On Dalhousie by Melina Marchetta

The Place On Dalhousie
Melina Marchetta
Penguin Random House AUS
2019, 288p
Purchased personal copy

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

‘You look the type to break your father’s heart.’
‘Yeah, but he broke mine first.’

When Rosie Gennaro first meets Jimmy Hailler, she has walked away from life in Sydney, leaving behind the place on Dalhousie that her father, Seb, painstakingly rebuilt for his family but never saw completed. Two years later, Rosie returns to the house and living there is Martha, whom Seb Gennaro married less than a year after the death of Rosie’s mother. Martha is struggling to fulfil Seb’s dream, while Rosie is coming to terms with new responsibilities. And so begins a stand-off between two women who refuse to move out of the home they both lay claim to.

As the battle lines are drawn, Jimmy Hailler re-enters Rosie’s life. Having always watched other families from the perimeters, he’s now grappling, heartbreakingly, with forming one of his own . . .

An unforgettable story about losing love and finding love; about the interconnectedness of lives and the true nature of belonging, from one of our most acclaimed writers.

I feel like I have been waiting for this book my whole life.

That is of course, not true. I never read Saving Francesca and The Piper’s Son until 2011 or 2012. But I feel like ever since I read both of those I’ve wanted Jimmy Hailler to have his own book. And obviously I’ve not been alone in that. I feel like I’ve been around for this core group of friends for so long, I’ve watched them go from a bunch of thrown together high school students to young adults negotiating that life post-high school and now getting to the stage where it’s setting up life forever.

I’ve seen it said that this can be read stand alone and look, it probably can. I know people who have done it. But I’m going to go out there and say I don’t recommend it. Because this is like a three part journey and you get to know everyone so well in Saving Francesca. They are this group of people that became friends because of proximity and circumstance but they made it a choice to keep coming back together, to keep choosing each other. When you step into this book, you know who each and everyone of them is and how they got there.

Except Rosie. Rosie is new. Rosie is in QLD, having fled the family home that her father built so painstakingly for their family. Rosie’s mother died before it was finished and then not even a year later, her father remarried. Now her father is dead too and it’s Rosie’s stepmother Martha that lives alone in the house that Seb built. Rosie is running and Jimmy is searching when they meet during a flood and it’s something temporary even though Jimmy gives Rosie his number. When Rosie has need to use it, it’s still some time before Jimmy gets the message and then he finds his life irreversibly changed.

I’ve said this before, probably said it so many times but I’m not sure there’s an author out there that writes characters in pain better than Melina Marchetta. She manages to convey that pain and anguish in such beautiful ways so that it becomes like your own. You live and breathe her characters and it’s like that in every book. And I think it’s a difficult thing to do because it can so easily stray into overdramatic territory, or ring a bit false. But I’m never more invested than I am in a Marchetta book and it’s even more so when there are characters that I feel I know so well. Frankie, Will, Tom, Tara, Justine, Siobhan and Jimmy have this connection and even though they may come and go as life dictates, they are the closest of friends without making a big deal about it. There are private jokes ahoy (it’s not fucking Melbourne) but what they do is show up. And Jimmy, who has searched for a family, you have one mate. You’ve created one with Rosie and you’ve created one with your friends. It may not be the same……but it’s there and it’s real.

It’s tough being a stepmother (and I should know). It’s probably equally tough being a stepdaughter. And it’s even harder when the thing that tied you to each other is no longer around. Both Rosie and Martha lay claim to the house and when Rosie finally returns home, neither will move out and relinquish their claim on it. They exist separately to each other, one upstairs and one downstairs, barely interacting and when they do it’s fraught with tension. Martha has been through some things too – she’s been grieving but now her life seems like there are possibilities for the future, but she has to make some tough decisions, ones that won’t make things with Rosie any easier. Jimmy becomes the person in the middle that starts to bind them together, to break down the tensions, sort of the same way he did with Frankie’s mother in Saving Francesca. Jimmy has never been afraid to jump in there – he was that irrepressible kid in high school that kind of just attached himself to Frankie and followed her home one day and became part of her life. He has fears in this novel, deep fears of his own ability and adequacy to do this when he’s had so little in the way of role models to show him the way. But Jimmy is more than just the sum of his biological parts and he’s had plenty of influence from other people he’s not related to and these days, plenty of support. Him and Rosie both have realisations to make about their village and who populates it.

I read this on a plane and unfortunately I had to leave it behind at my parents’ place when I flew back because my carry on luggage was overweight and they slugged me 60 bucks on the flight up. I didn’t want to pay that on the way back as well so I left behind everything I felt I wouldn’t need or that would weigh it down, until I see my parents again. I’m already regretting leaving this. Because I want to read it again. I devoured it kind of greedily on the plane, because I’d been wanting a book about Jimmy for so long and I wanted to see (needed to know) how things were going to turn out for him. I wish I had it again to read it slower, second time around. To really absorb everything and just take in the little details and moments. I will get the chance to read it again and I’m telling myself that the wait will make it all the more worth it. I re-read Saving Francesca in preparation for this but I didn’t get to The Piper’s Son. I think I’d like to read all 3 one after the other, just to relive the journey in full.

I am a broken record when it comes to Melina Marchetta but she can do no wrong when it comes to books that hit me right in the heart.


Book #55 of 2019

The House On Dalhousie is the 27th book read for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2019


Review: Tell The Truth, Shame The Devil by Melina Marchetta

tell-the-truthTell The Truth, Shame The Devil
Melina Marchetta
Penguin Books AUS
2016, 405p
Purchased personal copy

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

Chief Inspector Bish Ortley of the London Met, divorced and still grieving the death of his son, has been drowning his anger in Scotch. Something has to give, and he’s no sooner suspended from the force than a busload of British students is subject to a deadly bomb attack across the Channel. Bish’s daughter is one of those on board.

Also on the bus is Violette LeBrac. Raised in Australia, Violette has a troubled background. Thirteen years ago her grandfather bombed a London supermarket, killing dozens of people. Her mother, Noor, is serving a life sentence in connection with the incident. But before Violette’s part in the French tragedy can be established, she disappears.

Bish, who was involved in Noor LeBrac’s arrest, is now compelled to question everything that happened back then. And the more he delves into the lives of the family he helped put away, the more he realises that truth wears many colours.

I finished this book a couple of weeks ago but I’ve put off reviewing it until now. This is the sort of book that makes me wish I was better at this…..that I had a magic way to translate the mess of feelings in my head into this post. That I could better articulate the intricate maze of relationships and issues and events that are taking place in this book.

Reading this cemented one thing for me, if nothing else. Melina Marchetta could write anything and I’d read it. I read her contemporary YA novels first…. Looking For Alibrandi years ago when I was still in high school and then Saving Francesca, Jellicoe, The Piper’s Son. Someone asked me if I’d read Finnikin and I hadn’t because I didn’t think it would be my thing. I’m not a huge fantasy reader but I was urged to and in reading them I realised that it doesn’t matter what genre Marchetta is writing in. Those heartbreaking relationships are still the same. They transcend everything else.

And this book is no different. It’s Marchetta’s first ‘adult’ fiction novel, focusing on a character named Bish. He works with the London Met but is currently ‘taking a break’ after an incident at work. Bish has suffered a terrible loss…..he’s also now divorced and watching his former wife move on in multiple ways. When Bish’s teenage daughter is caught up in a bombing in France, he wastes no time getting over there. He wants to see that Bee is safe but it turns into something else. Bish’s job qualifications mean that he’s able to step in and talk to parents, keep lines of communication open. He is able to take charge in a way that others can’t, including those running the tour his daughter was on. The more Bish learns, the more he becomes almost compelled to find out exactly what happened: who was it that set off the bomb? Does it have anything to do with the daughter and granddaughter of one of the most notorious terrorist bombers in London? Or is there something else to it?

Oh Bish. You poor, poor man. What a wonderfully complex, heartbroken character he was. He’s really got not a lot going for him at the opening of the book. He’s divorced from his wife, who has moved on, his teenage daughter barely speaks to him and he’s still grieving horribly. He drinks way too much and he has nothing to focus him, to occupy his time. As strange as it sounds, the bombing and the fallout gives him something to do. It allows him to showcase his various skills (sometimes reluctantly, as he’s pressured into doing things by a former schoolmate who makes vague noises about his high-up in government boss) and it gives him a mission. He not only wants to find out about the bombing of the bus in France but it also begins making him think  about the bombing that occurred in the London supermarket thirteen years ago.

And there’s the Marchetta factor where all these things – people, events, places etc from the past, come to a point in the present and you begin to realise just how intricate this plot is. How the most innocuous seeming things suddenly come back later on with renewed importance – and the same with characters. The pieces fall together so slowly but in a good way – little bits and pieces are uncovered, things that make you query the most likely scenario and start constructing others in your head.

But as amazing as the plot concerning the bombing is, it’s the relationships where this book truly shines. It’s a book of love in all its varying types…..and of pain. There’s plenty of pain here as well, heart and soul wrenching grief. But there’s also hope…this is a book that never loses hope. You always hope that Bish will find whatever it is he needs to in order to begin to heal, to move forward. I loved Bish, so much so that I wanted to protect him at times, from some of the other characters within the story.

I’m not sure that when Melina Marchetta began writing this story in 2013, she could have foreseen how relevant it would be at the time of its release on so many levels and even more so for me reading it some 6 months after its release. In a world of Donald Trump as president, with five year olds being detained at airports because they flew in from Iran, of conclusions being jumped to every time there is an incident (Bourke St, the Quebecois mosque) this book is a searing look at minorities and the treatment of them in society. There are disturbing incidences in here of teens being beaten half to death for vaguely resembling someone who isn’t even an official suspect in a bombing. And it’s not that much of a stretch to imagine it happening in real life. Perhaps it already is.

As I mentioned I’m not sure that I was able to do this sort of book justice in my review. That I could articulate just how intricate the strands of the plot are and the complex relationships. All I can do is recommend that people read it for themselves, no matter if you’re a fan of Marchetta’s previous works or not. Even if you’ve never read her before, try this one.


Book #14 of 2017


Tell The Truth, Shame The Devil is book #4 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge for 2017

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Review: Looking For Alibrandi – Melina Marchetta

Looking For AlibrandiLooking For Alibrandi
Melina Marchetta
Penguin Books Aus
2014 (originally 1992), 331p
Copy included in my #NBBF swag bag won via giveaway

Josephine (Josie) Alibrandi is the 17 year old daughter of a young single mother and in her final year at an inner-city Sydney Catholic high school. An English scholarship student, Josie has never really fit in at the school, not being from a wealthy background. Her Italian heritage and lack of even knowing who her father is places her in a position of isolation. Josie spends most afternoons thinking of ways to avoid going to her maternal grandmother’s house, knowing it’s just going to result in plenty of lectures about her lack of respect.

For Josie, this is the year that will change everything. After seventeen years of secrecy, her father will enter her life when he returns to Sydney from Adelaide and the two will attempt to forge some sort of relationship. There are also boys – John Barton, whom Josie has known for years and had a crush on as the two often debate together in inter-school tournaments as well as the rebellish Jacob Coote from a nearby public school with a notorious reputation. She will fall in love, she will experience heartbreak more than once and true grief. She will learn the secrets of her family that have been hidden for over a generation and find a new common ground with her strict grandmother.

Like a lot of people, I first read this book in high school. I would’ve probably been in year 10 or 11, so 1997 or 1998. I had little in common with Josie – I went to the public school with the notorious reputation. My family were incredibly boring: parents, me, my younger brother with little in the way of external cultural influence. I had a very strong core group of friends that were all very much like me, from similar backgrounds. And yet there was something about this book that I truly loved – perhaps the raw honesty in which it is told. The struggle of a teenage girl to truly find her identity and what she desires in the world. I didn’t read another Melina Marchetta book until after I began blogging but since then I’ve read almost everything she’s ever published. And so when I saw this beautiful Penguin Children’s Classics version of this book I thought it was time to revisit the beginning of Marchetta’s career, the book that started it all. The book that awarded her so much acclaim that she didn’t publish her next novel until 11 years later.

I’ve been lucky enough to listen to Melina Marchetta speak and even briefly converse with her myself. It’s interesting that now, as a 32 year old mother of two boys, I find I relate more to Josie even more than when I was her age. And the simple reason is that I married into a Sicilian family and so much of this book is now a part and parcel of every day life with my in-laws. In this book Josie describes an event known as “Wog Day” where her relatives make pasta sauce. My father-in-law grows Roma tomatoes and every year they hold their own version of “Wog Day” where they make and bottle some 300 longnecks of pasta sauce that they distribute to various family members and community friends and store the leftovers in their garage. At last count, I believe there was close to 1000 bottles stored. Enough for my father-in-law to have a few years off growing a bajillion kilos of Romas and the sauce day. But nope. Every year he plants new tidy rows of Romas (and a million other things) and every year they hold the sauce making day. My mother-in-law is also incredibly religious and visits there bring not-so-subtle suggestions to baptise our sons into the Catholic faith and put them into a Good Catholic School. It’s utterly irrelevant that I’m not Catholic myself (I’m a baptised Anglican but have been to church only twice in my life, for my christening and my younger brother’s) and that my husband lapsed decades ago. I think deep down it bothers her greatly that we don’t adhere to these traditions (our children together are the only grandchildren who have not been baptised). There’s a large family group there and get togethers are rowdy and crowded. I haven’t even met every family member and I’ve been with my husband for eight years. People gossip and shout and I find it at times, overly confronting. Everyone seems to know everyone else’s business and have an opinion on it – that they don’t mind telling you. Some of it is fascinating, watching the food procession and the structure of the families. And some of it is so very foreign to me. My children are half Sicilian but they won’t be treated the same way my husband was, growing up, with the “wog” ridicule. My husband and his brothers didn’t even learn their parent’s dialect because that just brought more derision, although they do understand it when their parents speak. I spend a lot of time nudging my husband and whispering “what did they say?” when one or both of them are going off in Italian. I’d absolutely love for my children to learn the language but given that it’s skipped a generation and my in-laws are getting on a bit, it’s unlikely.

Back to the book! Josie’s struggles leap off the page, the writing is so engaging. I love her interactions with her father when she meets him, trying to make him see that she doesn’t need him. It turns out that not long after that, she kind of does need him and the two of them engage in a wary battle of wits and wills to try and establish some sort of civility and rapport. It’s been so long since I read this that I had only a vague recollection of what happened to John Barton, so the impact on me was almost as great as it would have been the first time. It’s not uncommon for most teens and young adults now to have some sort of personal experience with this issue and it’s very delicately handled. Josie’s disbelief is palpable as she fights to understand why this has happened and opportunities that might have been missed. It’s so easy to believe that you have it all, as a teenager, that tragedy is something that only happens to other people. There are so many things that can give you the most brutal of reminders that it isn’t true.

I don’t know where Melina Marchetta finds the motivation for her male characters, but I want to! Jacob Coote, Will Trombal, Jonah Griggs! Each of them are so perfect and yet they are not, because they all have their flaws. But the interactions between her main characters honestly, cannot be rivaled by other authors. Melina Marchetta has written some of my favourite scenes ever. And I’ve read a lot of books. For me, her books are to be held up to refute the idea that adults shouldn’t read YA. These books are perfect examples of how an adult can identify and relate to the characters in a YA novel and enjoy their journeys. There’s something very endearing about Josie, even when she’s behaving in quite a brattish way.

It’s interesting, reading this book again after I’ve read 6 other more recent works of Marchetta’s. You can tell she has come a long way as a writer and considering she was starting from an excellent base in this book, that’s saying something. I think few people write a debut as beautiful as this one. I’d recommend anyone who hasn’t read her immediately do so – and probably in the order her books were published. It’s a journey for any reader.


Book #109 of 2014


Looking For Alibrandi is book #39 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2014



Quintana Of Charyn – Melina Marchetta

Quintana Of Charyn
Melina Marchetta
Penguin AU
2012, 516p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Froi and Quintana have been separated, driven apart by betrayal. Froi was nearly killed but time and care have healed his horrible wounds and now he travels the length and breadth of Charyn, searching for the woman he loves and the unborn child of his that she carries within her, breaking the curse of Charyn.

Searching for Quintana isn’t the only thing that is keeping Froi busy. The powers that be have decided upon the advisor to the King who is not even born yet and he will take the role but first they need to secure the nation. The threat of Bestiano still looms and he is desperate to find and kill Quintana and assume the power of the throne. He is gathering an army fed on lies and Froi, Gargarin, Arturo and Lirah have the job of raising allies to face him. But in their travels Froi encounters Finnikin, his father and Perry who believe that Charyn is about to betray them again. Froi is desperately torn between the woman he loves and the land that sings to his blood and the people that rescued him, took him, loved him, made him part of their family.

Meanwhile Quintana is hiding with her babe in her belly among people that she has no choice but to try and trust. It isn’t easy for her and it isn’t easy on them either. But her time is near and there are people near by and all over that are looking for her to cut her throat the minute she births the next King of Charyn. Quintana is at her most vulnerable, she will need help from the most unlikely of corners to ensure the safety of two lands and lay the bloodshed to rest.

This is it! Quintana Of Charyn is the third and final volume in the stunning Lumatere Chronicles and what an adventure it has been, immersing myself in this world over the last couple of weeks. It’s always very daunting picking up the final volume in a series that has become much loved, because the expectations are scarily high. Will it live up to them? Can it wrap up everything that the readers desire to have wrapped up? And I think the general consensus is that Melina Marchetta has delivered.

According to Danielle over at ALPHA Reader, Quintana Of Charyn is a book that is full of hope. I have to agree with her, we talked about it on twitter a little and that after some of the darkness of Froi there is a lot of beauty, hope, forgiveness and trust emerging within this novel. Quintana is an amazing character, one of the most fascinating I’ve come across in a long time. There’s so much depth to her, her terrible early life, her twin souls and her ‘madness’ ill blends together in such complexity. She isn’t always likeable – she’s prickly, she’s rude, she’s not really got much of an idea of social graces or how to act with other people, but she’s forthright, she’s brutally honest, she doesn’t really have a clue how to lie or deceive. She went to someone she felt she could trust even though she didn’t know them. She placed a huge amount of faith in someone, in more than just one someone actually. I really felt that her honesty about the child she carried was just incredible – she’s frightened about whether or not she can love this baby, about whether or not she will know what to do, about whether or not they will bond. She hasn’t known much love in her short life Quintana, but she’s capable of such powerful love anyway. Both Froi and Quintana are characters who develop throughout these books at a rapid pace, Froi of this novel is such a huge departure from the Froi we first met. He has grown, matured, strengthened, changed and evolved into his destiny. It hasn’t come easily to him at times, he struggles with just who and what he is but his acceptance of it and his duty leads to some amazingly torn loyalties and internal dilemma. Quintana and Froi have such a fraught relationship with misunderstandings and separations and drama that it makes Finnikin and Isaboe’s courtship look normal. What I really liked about this book was that Marchetta doesn’t really attempt to make Quintana mature into ‘normality’ in this book. She’s still paranoid, she’s still a bit crazy really and she’s still awkward around other people with no real thought-t0-mouth filter and I suspect that she will probably always be that way. And I love that about her, that she’s just that little bit insane but Froi loves her dearly (perhaps even because of that, not in spite of it) and accepts her. No one else could have accepted Quintana as she is as a wife. They would’ve wanted to hide her away, or change her. Froi celebrates her and it’s beautiful.

I finished this book and I felt deeply satisfied. Like the whole world had been put to rights and everything was as it should be. I cried in this novel, I turned the pages anxiously, I tried to figure out just how Marchetta would end things so that the two people who deeply belonged together, would be. And as a final novel in a trilogy goes, this one is amazing. It gives so much, it is the journey you want it to be but things don’t feel like they’re contrived. The happy ending is that, but you know there’s still going to be issues, still going to be struggles as Charyn rebuilds, as it forges new relations.

Quintana Of Charyn truly is a book of hope. Of finding yourself and your home, embracing who and what you are. It’s about family and the different sorts of ties that bind through thick and thin and it’s a love story as well, in more ways than one. You’ll fall in love with all of these characters, I know I did. Even though this particular story is done, I’d love to see Marchetta revisit this world sometime in the future.


Book #198 of 2012

Quintana Of Charyn is the 65th novel read and reviewed for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2012!


Froi Of The Exiles – Melina Marchetta

Froi Of The Exiles
Melina Marchetta
Penguin AU
2011, 593p
Read from my TBR pile

It is three years since the curse on Lumatere was lifted and Queen Isaboe and her Consort Finnikin are rebuilding their beloved country. They haven’t forgotten the wrong that Charyn did to them, sending the Imposter King and raping and pillaging their women and lands. When a Charyn rebel contacts them and says he has a way to get them into the palace and a way for them to kill the King of Charyn, the ears of Lumatere are listening.

Froi has been trained by the best and he is the one that is the right age to impersonate one of the lastborn of Charyn and enter the kingdom with a dangerous mission: to assassinate their leader who has gone unpunished for the crimes he committed against the people of Lumatere. He imagines it will be quick, he has his orders and the minute the heart of the King of Charyn stops beating, he is to go home to Lumatere. But Froi is not prepared for what he finds in this broken nation – people who are both quietly proud and deeply ashamed of acts performed in the name of their homeland. A Princess who is so broken she just might almost be insane. A Priestling and an architect so gifted that share the same face but also a deep and twisted fierce devotion and hatred for each other from events long in the past. Froi can’t deny that there is a little piece of him that is at home here. He doesn’t want to examine it too closely but he’s having to face the mystery of his birth and heritage at last, high above the ground and deep in the caves below it as he finds himself fighting to save the one who will break the curse on this barren place.

Froi Of The Exiles is the second novel in Melina Marchetta’s Lumatere Chronicles and honestly, my love for this author and her work has no bounds. I’d put off reading the fantasy trilogy until all 3 volumes were released, but also because I couldn’t see myself loving them as much as I loved her contemporaries. Well, that was utterly stupid of me because these books are fraught with the same beautiful and fragile emotions and relationships as her fabulous contemporaries. The only difference is we’re treated to a new world so fleshed out it takes my breath away.

Froi is a big book – just shy of 600p in large paperback form and there’s such a lot going on here. It’s hard to know where to start but I’m going to go with what I absolutely adore about Melina Marchetta books and that is the way in which she fleshes out characters and relationships! There’s so much to love here, be it Froi and his growing up, learning to control his temper, serving his Queen and later on his struggle with just who he might be. Then there’s his strange relationship with the broken Princess, two people warring inside a mind that struggles for sanity, given the horrors she has seen, lived through and been subjected to, often at the hands of those who should’ve been closest to her and protected her the most. I love the way Melina Marchetta’s characters are so flawed in so many different ways and like Froi in Finnikin Of The Rock, our first glimpses of Quintana of Charyn are less than flattering. She’s unkempt, dirty, bordering on mania and insanity, two twisted personalities living within her. Froi and her are never going to be that couple that things go smoothly but even for a Marchetta book, their waters are deeply troubled, misunderstandings and tortured loyalties dividing them frequently. They cannot ignore the song inside the both of them that draw them to each other, much the way that Finnikin and Evanjalin/Isaboe couldn’t in the first novel. Even when they were fighting, they needed to be near each other, to see and touch and it is somewhat similar with Froi and Quintana.

Secondary characters are never ignored and the beautiful and broken relationship and the twin brothers, Gargarin and Arjuro was some of the most powerful writing I’ve come across in my life. A simplicity that was heartbreaking lay at the foot of the discord between these two brothers and watching them struggle with hatred, despair, love, devotion and regret was part of the wrenching emotion at the core of this book. Likewise the distant relationship between Lucian of the Monts and the Charyn wife he took to honour a pact made by his late and very beloved father and then sent away, was another part of this story that I absolutely adored. I was devastated towards the end of this book when Marchetta made me believe one thing before these two could mend their differences and accept the fact that they were both in love with each other but I now live in high hope that I’ll get the fabulous pay off I crave in Quintana Of Charyn.

There is nothing that isn’t covered here. The politics are so complex, the factions within Charyn are many and varied and it’s a country so devastated in spirit and divided that you can see it’s crying out for a real leader to bring all of the people back together and give them a common goal. The curse has left it twisted in hatred and fear and that breeds ignorance and violence. The desire to take the throne for their own corrupts more than one individual and to keep Quintana safe when there are many who would kill her is no easy task. The places they can go for safety are few and far between.

Froi Of The Exiles is everything the second novel of a trilogy should be and no filler. It does however, have a bit of a cliffhanger of an ending, as volumes in trilogies often do and I’d been well warned about this before I started this series. Luckily I chose to wait and was able to dive into the third and final novel, Quintana Of Charyn almost straight away. I cannot wait to see how this all ends.


Book #197 of 2012

Froi Of The Exiles counts towards my participation in the Australian Women Writers Challenge of 2012. It is the 64th novel read and reviewed so far.


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Finnikin Of The Rock – Melina Marchetta

Finnikin Of The Rock
Melina Marchetta
Penguin AU
2008, 416p
Read from my TBR pile

It has been 10 years since Finnikin of the Rock and his guardian, Sir Topher have been home to their beloved Lumatere. Since the five days of the unspeakable when all that ruled their country was lost, their throne brutally destroyed and then stolen and Lumatere put under a curse, many Lumaterians have sought refuge where they can, sleeping in encampments on the borders with other nations.

Finnikin has spent the past 10 years travelling and learning. Sir Topher, taking care of him while his father languishes in a mine prison for treason for not bowing down to the impostor King, has made sure that Finnikin has learned many languages and also the varied fighting styles of the surrounding people. Now Finnikin has been summoned to the High Priestess who delivers to him a woman with a shocking claim – Evanjalin will bring about the return of the heir of the throne of Lumatere, who will open the gates and allow them to reclaim their country. Finnikin cannot help but be skeptical – he is sure his boyhood friend, the Prince Balthazar is dead, also massacred in the invasion that killed all of his family.

But Evanjalin is full of purpose – she is determined to return home and also that the rest of the Lumaterians in exile be able to return home as well. Her strength of conviction and her determination help to temper Finnikin’s distrust and disbelief of her as they travel, hunting down the people that have fled, trying to bring them back together in this time of need and potential change. To Finnikin, Evanjalin represents something he hasn’t had for a long time – hope of seeing his father, his country, his childhood companions again. And she might also represent love, even though she swears to him that she’s bound to the future King.

Finnikin Of The Rock is the first in the Lumatere Chronicles, Melina Marchetta’s venture into fantasy. I hadn’t read this one and it’s follow up, Froi Of The Exiles before now for a couple of reasons – I’m not good at waiting for series’ books and I’d already been warned several times that Froi really does have an epic cliffhanger and also, I’d kind of really lost a bit of interest in fantasy books. But two or three things changed my mind – firstly it’s Melina Marchetta and my rediscovery of her novels this year has been fabulous. I saw her at Melbourne Writers Fest and she said that her fantasy series is just like her contemporary series, the same emotions, the same feelings, the same relationships, just in a fantasy setting and I thought yeah, I really need to get back into this. These are the only books of hers I hadn’t read and I wanted to really round out my investigation of her backlist. And also, the third novel, Quintana of Charyn turned up in my mailbox for review and I no longer had to wait! I could read all 3 one after the other and keep the story fresh in my mind. So I rushed out and bought both Finnikin and Froi and prepared to get stuck in.

This book is such a wild ride – we open with a prologue that gives us a tiny bit of the before and then a summary of the five days of the unspeakable and I was utterly hooked from that! In such a short amount of time, Marchetta manages to convey the devastation of a nation, the splintering and fracturing, the fleeing. Immediately I wanted to know so much more and I ended up reading this book basically in one sitting!

Finnikin is an interesting character, he was about 8 or 9 when his world splintered apart, he lost his father and was entrusted to the care of others. He’s at times abrasive and rude, distrustful and skeptical of Evanjalin and her mission. Her faith slowly brings him around but it doesn’t stop him arguing with her, questioning her and later on, trying to protect her. I really loved the evolution of their relationship – Marchetta does underlying attraction hidden behind hostility so well, I could put myself in their places easily and feel what they were feeling.

Evanjalin is a really incredible character. Without giving too much away about her, because it’s really best to read the book and figure it out for yourself, her strength and courage amazed me. She is the sort of woman I love to read about in novels, with such steadfast determination and knowledge of what she had to do even though it would have personal consequences for her, a burden for her to carry. I ended up so invested in her story and in her!

The character of Froi, a thief that ends up as part of their party after he steals Evanjalin’s ring was a character that grew on me quite surprisingly. He starts off as quite loathesome – a thief, a snitch, a little sneak who has very little in the way of any redeeming qualities at all. His time spent with Topher, Finnikin, Evanjalin and the various people they collect with them on their journey back to Lumatere and his witnessing of what it is that they’re doing helps to slowly improve his character. He’s never been shown love or respect or friendship in his life most likely and although they aren’t unkind to him in the beginning, they really tolerate him only as being less of a nuisance with them than to let him go. But his evolution is quite interesting and he moves to front and centre in the second volume, Froi Of The Exiles and I can’t wait to find out what happens in his story.

I am glad I held off on reading these because I think it’s going to be a fabulous experience to be able to sit down and read them in a short time frame. Marchetta’s trademark beautiful writing and a really well established and fleshed out world makes for a truly wonderful series.


Book #180 of 2012

Finnikin Of The Rock is the 60th novel read and reviewed for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2012


Melbourne Writers Fest – Tuesday 28th August

Meet Melina Marchetta

Tuesday was my second day at Melbourne Writers Fest and I headed in nice and early – my Melina Marchetta session was at 10am and I was meeting the lovely Danielle Binks from Alpha Reader before hand. We’ve met before but only really talked briefly at an event where there were a few other people. Danielle is one of my favourite people to go to and read their reviews because I know that I’m going to enjoy something she has recommended. So far she has a pretty good strike rate!

I met Danielle outside the venue and she gifted me with a copy of A Bit Of Difference, by Sefi Atta, which I was thrilled about, thank you Danielle! Sefi Atta was one of the Nigerian born authors I listened to during the Sunday Morning Reads session and this is the book she read from. Danielle also introduced me to Jordi, who was going to be chairing the session with Melina and because we were super keen we went upstairs to wait even though it wasn’t going to start for half an hour!

The session was very popular – it was part of the School’s Program and the Cinema was really large and quite crowded. Melina kicked off by saying that her novels focus on identity and our place in the world. She considers her career in 2 sections – Looking For Alibrandi and everything else that came after it. There was 11 years between Looking For Alibrandi being published and her second novel, Saving Francesca, being published. She was intimidated by the success of Looking For Alibrandi, found it a bit frightening. She didn’t enjoy the attention, someone she knows said to her that she doesn’t cope well with people’s high expectations and she acknowledges that this is very true! She said that when Looking For Alibrandi was published, she knew maybe 200 people in Australia and they were the people she expected to read the novel. Then all of a sudden, people she didn’t even know began writing to her after they had read her novel and she found that absolutely incredible. All these strangers out there, reading her words and connecting with them.

The producer of Strictly Ballroom rang her a couple of months after Looking For Alibrandi was published. He had read the book and there was something about Josie that had really struck a nerve with him. At first Marchetta was reluctant to see the book turned into a movie because she was very much aware of the way that cultural groups (be they Italian such as Marchetta, Arabic, Asian, etc) are represented in the media. The producer had to earn her trust, prove to her that he would be respectful of her culture. Although she considers herself Australian, she still very strongly identifies with her Italian culture. That producer didn’t end up being the producer of the movie, another one came on board, but he was an Executive Producer.

Marchetta has been working on an adaptation of On The Jellicoe Road for about three years. For anyone who has read On The Jellicoe Road, the challenges of turning it from a book to a film are very obvious – the narrative is several stories interwoven and it isn’t told in a linear way. It jumps back and forward in time and the viewpoint changes. She called the On The Jellicoe Road timeline the “bane of her existence”. It has the potential to confuse if not done right – they can’t afford to alienate anyone at the beginning of the story so it’s been a challenge to get the order in which things are told exactly right. Therefore the movie script doesn’t open the way that the book does because the book opening is not Taylor’s story. The challenge is “showing” in a movie what a book tells you. She chose not to use a voice over so had to find other ways to convey the information that the viewer would need. It’s been finding those visuals that has taken her the 3 years.

The script is now ready – they are about to send the script out to funding bodies in order to attempt to secure the funding they need. They also want an international distribution – they do have distributors interested in reading the script but they need a “name” to be attached to the script. Part of the decision is either a smaller Australian distribution without any names attached or a bigger, more global distribution with a known actor attached. For a global one, they need the character of either Taylor Markham or Jonah Griggs to be a “name”. They have some ideas, some people in mind but she couldn’t say! Melina said she cried writing the script, suddenly found herself wanting to “save everyone’s life!”

There’s also a potential 10 part TV series in the works, set 5 years after On The Jellicoe Road, focusing on Jessa McKenzie. It will use the original plot of Jellicoe, featuring a war between the houses of the boarding school, rather than the boarders, the Townies and the Cadets. It will be “stakes are high” drama, which Marchetta loves. She knows that it’s unrealistic that there are no teachers ever really present in On The Jellicoe Road but to that she says “Who cares?!”
Melina believes that the United States may have embraced On The Jellicoe Road first before local audiences because they are used to those quite dramatic storylines whereas in Australia people are more used to down-to-earth story lines. She talked about winning the Printz award and how she got a phone call, assumed she’d been shortlisted and before that sentence had finished forming in her mind, was told that she had won. She wasn’t supposed to tell anyone (she did though!) and had to wait up until 2am our time to the live announcement. Because she had no one she could really say “Did this really happen?” to, while she was waiting for 2am she started to wonder whether or not she had imagined the phone call telling her she’d won!

That brought the session to a close and Danielle and I hightailed it down to the Atrium where Melina was going to be doing a signing after the talk. To my surprise I was the first one there – Danielle wanted to know how many little schoolkids I had elbowed out of the way in order for that to happen! I got Melina to sign two books I’d bought on Sunday for myself, Saving Francesca which is one of my favourite books EVER read and On The Jellicoe Road. I also bought a copy of Looking For Alibrandi, for my American friend Aerie over at Literary Obsession because I begged her to read Marchetta earlier this year and she’s read both Francesca and Jellicoe but hasn’t read the book that started it all yet!

To my surprise, when I told her my name, Melina asked me what my last name was. I told her and she immediately knew we’d spoken before, which we have, on Twitter after I reviewed Saving Francesca earlier this year. I had mentioned in my review that I’d loved the tiny little S-biscuit plot and how that had resonated with me so much. I’m not Italian, but my husband is – both his parents were born in Sicily and came to Australia in the 1950’s. My MIL makes the S-biscuits and she sort of epitomises the grandmother’s of Will and Francesca in the novel. I was so thrilled that she remembered that – such a good memory!

Thank you to Danielle for the two pictures of Melina and I!

This was a fabulous session – I learned so much and enjoyed it so much. Jordi was a fabulous chairperson and honestly, I could listen to Melina talk about her novels and her processes all day.


On The Jellicoe Road – Melina Marchetta

On The Jellicoe Road
Melina Marchetta
Penguin AU
2010 (originally 2006), 290p
Read from my local library

Taylor Markham was 11 when her mother abandoned her at a 7/11 (a petrol/gas station) on the Jellicoe Road. A woman by the name of Hannah found her and bought her home and Taylor lived there until she started high school the following year, moving out of Hannah’s unfinished house and into the dorms at the Jellicoe School where Hannah works/volunteers, run and funded by the government mostly for wards of the state, children of diplomats and occasionally, juvenile delinquents.

Now Taylor is head of her house and leader of the boarders at the Jellicoe School and the territory wars, between the boarders, the Townies and the Cadets are about to start. She needs to fight to keep their territory and negotiate terms but she’s finding it hard to concentrate because Hannah, the one person she’s been able to rely on in her life, has disappeared without even telling her. The school principal says Hannah has gone to nurse a sick friend but Taylor is skeptical. She wants to find Hannah, she wants to find her mother. Taylor’s only clue about Hannah and what might have happened to her or where she might have gone are pieces of a manuscript that Hannah has been writing, about a group of children who lived in Jellicoe many years ago.

The other reason Taylor is having trouble concentrating is because this year, the leader of the Cadets is Jonah Griggs. And Jonah Griggs and Taylor have history. Steadily the boarders have lost ground and territory and Taylor doesn’t want that to happen again this year. She was chosen to be leader of the boarders but the confidence isn’t in her from her own group, let alone anyone else. Taylor knows the grounds though and she knows they’re not as powerful and strong as the Cadets, nor do they have as much bargaining power as the Townies. She’ll have to come up with her own upper hand in the dealings for the war.

Told in a duel narrative between Taylor and bits and pieces of the manuscript that Hannah was writing, that flashes back to another time in Jellicoe, On The Jellicoe Road is a beautiful coming of age novel about facing your past and having the courage to let it go and move on.

On The Jellicoe Road is the latest novel read in my project to read Melina Marchetta’s backlist and I’m going to be quite honest here. I’m glad I read this one after reading Saving Francesca and The Piper’s Son recently. This one is harder to get into, as it back and forths between Taylor’s narrative, which includes dreams she has where she talks to the boy in the tree, and the manuscript Hannah is writing which is basically a step back in time. Information is slow to come and the reader is left to piece most of it together themselves. For the first part of the novel, maybe 50-70p, I was a bit confused with the jumping back and forth, a bit confused about Taylor’s dreams and also about the Hermit but then it all started to click. And this is a book where it pays off in a big way to persevere. If I didn’t know it was so universally loved, if I wasn’t familiar with Marchetta’s work, I might not have made it all the way to the end. But I am so glad I did.

Because make no mistake – this book is well worth it. It is beautifully, beautifully written with a choice of prose that leaves the reader wrung out and breathless. There’s a simplicity in the words, no elaborating, no flowery, verbose descriptions. The words chosen are the least amount of words probably needed to convey so much. I was an emotional wreck when I finished this book and I just sat there and thought about it (and looked for tissues) for ages afterwards as all the things in my mind came together and finished the picture. There was so much to take in, to think about – I went back and read passages again as things became even clearer in my mind and I’m sure I’m not the only one that’s done that.

I’m not even sure where to start on Taylor and Jonah Griggs. Taylor is an amazingly well crafted character, complex and full of depth. Her life has been full of upheaval, of traumatic events with only snatches of good memories. Her mother abandoned her, Taylor can barely remember a time when she wasn’t high or moving her around with no notice but yet she is desperate to find her and reconnect with her. To know why she left her there on the Jellicoe Road all those years ago. Jonah is this year’s leader of the Cadets and the two of them shared a day back in their pasts that changed them both. He’s tough, taciturn and yes, for a little while I was thinking to myself Taylor and Jonah? Why do people always talk about this pairing? I really am not into it and I don’t get it. And then I GOT IT! All of a sudden the relationship between Taylor and Jonah was expanded upon and their history laid bare and it was intense. And incredible.

This review is full of rambling nonsense really and I think that Melina Marchetta must render me speechless and incapable of coherent thought with every book of hers I finish. But I strongly strongly urge people to read this novel. And to go into it with an open mind knowing as little as possible and, if you get a bit confused like I did, just keep going and give it a chance. You will not regret it.


Book #41 of 2012

On The Jellicoe Road is the 11th novel completed for the Australian Women Writers Challenge. It’s set in rural NSW, in a made-up town called Jellicoe which is around 7 hours drive from Sydney. The book pays a lot of attention to the setting of Jellicoe, it’s described beautifully and in great detail and it’s the core of so much that happens.


The Piper’s Son – Melina Marchetta

The Piper’s Son
Melina Marchetta
Penguin AU
2010, 328p
Read from my local library

The Piper’s Son is set five years after Saving Francesca but this time it focuses on Thomas Mackee, who has hit rock bottom in the time that has passed. When the book begins, he’s down and out, no real job, living with less than desirable people, having distanced himself from people like Francesca, Tara, Justine and Jimmy. After ending up with 10 stitches in his head, being kicked out of his share house and abusing Francesca when she comes to collect him from hospital, Thomas turns up at his aunt Georgie’s house. His father’s twin sister, Tom has spent time there before, drifting in and out as he’s needed it over the years.  A couple of years ago, Tom watched his family implode – his uncle Joe, Dominic (Tom’s father) and Georgie’s younger brother was killed senselessly, an innocent victim of the London Underground bombing. Dominic spiraled into alcoholism, leading to Tom’s mother leaving him, taking Tom’s younger sister to Brisbane. Tom decided to stay behind, figuring someone should keep an eye on Dominic. But six months later, Dominic up and disappeared and Tom moved in with Georgie before quitting university and starting down the path that leads him to where we find him at the beginning of the novel. Add in the never-ending desire to see Georgie and Dominic’s  biological father’s body returned from where it lies somewhere unknown in Vietnam, which looks like it could be actually happening and the family is a melting pot of pent up emotions.

And now he’s back living at Georgie’s, getting himself a job to pay off debts that aren’t his, which puts him back in contact with both Francesca and Justine. Tara is overseas and Tom is desperate to reconnect with her after things ended badly between them. He writes her emails, which go unanswered at first, pouring out what has happened and what is going on with him. When his wayward father returns home, Tom has even more demons to face.

Georgie has her own problems to deal with. Still grieving the loss of her younger brother, mourning the departure for Brisbane of her sister-in-law and niece, wondering on the whereabouts of her twin Dominic, she turned to Sam, her former lover, for comfort. Sam was the one who went to London to try and bring Joe home after the incident. He was a huge support, despite the problems that had separated them some years previously. Now Georgie has to decide if she and Sam can be a family again, or if the past hurts are just too much to forgive and forget.

Thankfully someone helpfully told me to read Saving Francesca before this one and even though this one came in first at the library, I waited until I had both in my possession. You don’t really have to read them that way but it’s a lot better for the experience if you do. Thomas was a bit of a fun character in Saving Francesca with a hidden depth but a lot has happened since then and he’s hit rock bottom big time. He’s distanced himself from all his old friends, things with a girl who is special to him stalled almost as soon as they began and his family have fallen apart in more ways than one. Injured and with no where else to go, he returns to the home of his aunt Georgie, whom he has stayed with before, and begins trying to put his life right.

It isn’t easy – Tom is angry and he’s not very nice, especially to the people that care about him and who are trying to help him. But deep down he’s struggling to do the right thing and be someone who takes responsibility, even if he goes about it a little bit of a different way to most. We learn a lot about him and what has happened to him in the five years since Saving Francesca finished through his emails, mostly to Tara who is in Same, East Timor.

Like in Saving Francesca, there’s such a realism in the relationships portrayed here. Families fall apart, unforeseen circumstances can lead to the breakdown in the most secure marriages. Tom’s uncle was killed in tragic circumstances, pointless circumstances, his father turned to drink, his mother left, his father left. Everyone is grieving, deep psychological grieving that permeates this entire book. Tom grieves the loss of his family, Georgie grieves the loss of her brothers but the death of Joe also renewed her relationship and connection with Sam, which had ended in grief and even though they are seeing each other, this does not bring Georgie any form of peace of mind. If anything it causes her more worry, and more stress but she cannot let it go either.

This book is beautifully written, with a warmth and good humour, the subtle undercurrent of core friendships and family winding their way through the narrative. These characters have flaws, often many of them, but they’re all the better for them and working through them. Tom is self-destructive at the beginning, searching for nothingness through drugs, alcohol and mindless sex. There’s a beauty in watching him pick himself up slowly, carefully – still messes up, he’s still cruel, rude and generally obnoxious but underneath all that there’s a real, genuine person doing his best to do right by people and try and fix the mistakes he’s made and what has become of his life.

And also? It was very nice to catch up with Francesca, her brother Luca, Will, Justine and (sort of) Tara as well. One of my favourite things about sequels is nosying in on characters I love and although this isn’t entirely a sequel, it satisfies my curiosity on how they were all doing past high school, past university and out into the real world. I do hope that one day Melina Marchetta returns to this world, perhaps to give us a story about Jimmy or Justine. Or both!


Book #33 of 2012

The Piper’s Son counts towards the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2012, my 8th novel completed!


Saving Francesca – Melina Marchetta

Saving Francesca
Melina Marchetta
Penguin AU
2003, 242p
Read from my local library

Sixteen year old Francesca Spinelli’s life is falling apart. Forced by her extroverted, feminist, intelligent mother to attend new school St Sebastian’s at the start of year 11 when all her friends went to another, Francesca finds school days difficult. St Sebastian’s was previously a boys-only school and they’ve only recently started accepting female students.  There’s only thirty girls there, a few from Francesca’s old school and most of the others come from yet another school. Francesca doesn’t exactly have friends, more acquaintances that she hangs around with at times, because there’s no one else. But school isn’t at all her biggest problem.

One morning, her mother doesn’t get out of bed. Her mother is a lecturer at UTS, a passionate, larger than life persona. For her to not get out of bed is unthinkable, especially as it happens the next day and then the next and the next and then the one after that. Without her presence, the family begins to buckle under the strain of being cheerful, of pretending that nothing is wrong and that she’ll snap out of it soon. Francesca and her 10 year old brother Luca are thrown into a life that they do not know. They can’t relate to their father, who seems to be promoting all of his energy into their mother, and they can’t reach their mother who does not even have the energy to eat or hold a conversation.

In a time of chaos at home, at school things are slowly clicking together. Francesca is making an eclectic group of friends – the political activist and outspoken Tara, piano accordion player Justine, flirtatious Siobhan and some St Sebastian boys – class clown Jimmy and music-obsessed Thomas. And then there’s Will Trombal – a year above her and prefect of her house. Francesca is elected ‘the one’ to talk to Will about some of the things the girls want like more rights at the school which has catered to only boys for so long it’s not quite sure how to cater to the girls it now accepts. They’re an unlikely bunch and it’s because of Francesca that they all come together and form a mishmash group of friends.

But although things at school are getting better and she’s falling in love and experiencing the joy of slowly finding out who she really is and spending time with people that know and appreciate that, the home life is still sliding. Her mother still can’t get out of bed, her father fluctuates between expecting her to be the adult and call her mother’s place of work and negotiate her leave and telling her she’s a child and doesn’t need to know what is going on. For Francesca, it’s all spinning out of control, like her mother is the glue that holds the family together and without her at her best, they’re all going to fall apart.

Sometimes I wish I had the skill to articulate how I feel about something like this book. I can say it was awesome, I can say I loved it, I can say I connected with it and the characters within it. I can say that it made me laugh and it also made me cry. But none of those things would really be enough. This book is one of the reasons I am a reader. There are some books out there that are meant to be experienced and for me, this is one of them. Melina Marchetta is worshipped in Australian YA circles and I more than understand why. Before this book, my experience with her work was reading Looking For Alibrandi for school, many years ago. I enjoyed it a lot but I moved on from reading YA and I didn’t often pursue anything I’d read for school, out of school. But since I’ve started blogging and reading YA again, I’ve been vowing to read more Marchetta. And I’ve finally made good on that.

Francesca is a character full of depth and feeling. She’s a natural extrovert, more like her mother than she realises, suppressing herself because she believes it’s the only way in which people will like her. She’s already miserable, forced into a school she didn’t want to attend, away from the people she thought were her friends. When her mother has a breakdown and becomes depressed, life comes crashing down around her. Her mother is such a central point in her life, in her family and without her as the rock, the anchor that holds things together, the cracks are coming faster than anyone can plaster them up. Francesca’s father is of the mindframe that left alone, Francesca’s mother will heal. Other family members think she should be seeing a doctor and given antidepressants. Francesca doesn’t know what the answer is, she just knows that she wants things to be back to normal.

The relationships and interactions in this novel are simply incredible. Francesca’s mother Mia’s depression feels so real without being over dramatic and the family’s struggle with how to cope with it is emotional and the blaming and arguing and guilt that comes with it are perfectly portrayed. Francesca’s friendships, formed in unorthodox ways through random moments and the different personalities of the people that come together to form this little group are refreshing. Francesca makes friends by finding her way back to being herself, shedding the persona she had assumed at her previous school at the advice of her so-called ‘friends’ in order for people to like her better. Her mother has always thought she’s known what’s best for Francesca and it seems like Francesca has often rebelled against that merely on principle. But when her mother isn’t there to tell her anymore and she has to figure it out herself… And then there’s her relationship with Will (or rather her non-relationship with Will) – snatches and tiny moments that manage to tell a story worth thousands of words.

I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to read this. And once again, I’ve found another book read from my local library that I need to buy and give a home on my shelves. I can see myself returning to Francesca’s story time and time again in the future.


Book #32 of 2012

Saving Francesca qualifies for the Australian Women Writers Challenge- my 7th title for the challenge so far this year. It’s set in Sydney’s inner-west, around such immigrant suburbs as Leichhardt. The characters talk often of heading to Bar Italia for a gelato. Leichhardt is known as ‘Little Italy’ and Francesca is obviously of Italian descent. Her relatives are Sicilian immigrants and the whole story line about the ‘S Biscuits’ had me in tears laughing. My mother-in-law (also born in Sicily, came to Australia in the late 50’s) make’s S biscuits and is fiercely, fiercely proud of them. In fact my sister-in-law once mentioned that she liked them and when my MIL flew up to the Sunshine Coast from Melbourne to visit them, she packed the entire array of ingredients it takes to make them, specifically to both make them for her son and DIL and also to teach DIL to make them. DIL wasn’t interested in learning, which utterly flabbergasted my MIL. She couldn’t understand how anyone wouldn’t want to learn how to make her amazing biscuits. I am the black sheep DIL because I actually do not like the S biscuits. MIL still refuses to believe this and sends about 300 home with us every time we see her.