TONY SMITH. The farcical appeal to ‘family values’ | John Menadue – Pearls and Irritations

Some opponents of marriage equality have resorted to spurious arguments about ‘family values’. The record of arch-conservatives on war, overseas aid, asylum seekers, Indigenous affairs, the social …

Source: TONY SMITH. The farcical appeal to ‘family values’ | John Menadue – Pearls and Irritations


NATASHA PULLEY The Bedlam Stacks. Reviewed by Robert Goodman – Newtown Review of Books

I loved ‘The Watchmaker of Filigree Street’, so I’ve immediately added this to my MUST read list. I have no self-control 😉
An adventure full of wonder and discovery in The Bedlam Stacks. Natasha Pulley burst onto the fantasy scene last year with her stunning debut The Watchmaker of Filigree Street. This slightly steampunk tale of Victorian London was full of charm and whimsy but also beautifully observed, historically fascinating and populated with interesting characters. Now she …

Source: NATASHA PULLEY The Bedlam Stacks. Reviewed by Robert Goodman – Newtown Review of Books

The Belinda Triangle by Dick Hoffman

The times are right for dystopian future.  And, disturbingly, 2031 is not all that far away.  If we survive until then.  This novel is funny and scary.  Although not everyone will appreciate some of the humour.

The Belinda Triangle by Dick Hoffman

‘It’s still a wonderful country, what’s left of it.’

Picture this: in the very near future, after a(nother) Civil War America is no longer a super power.  Reduced to 48 states, chaos in Congress, an ever-increasing number of ridiculous and sometimes contradictory laws making life extremely difficult for many.  It’s 2031, and Doyle Beckett and his wife Geneva Rose Beckett of Colorado both lose their jobs on the same day. Doyle loses his job as a history professor because of financial cutbacks and Geneva (Gen) loses her job because pregnant women can no longer work outside the home.  Doyle has to do something urgently.  There’s the Financial Viability Act (FVA) to worry about: FVA scores are adversely affected by a lack of full-time employment, and children born to families with low FVA scores (in the bottom quartile) will have their children auctioned by the government for adoption by couples in the top quartile.

So, Doyle takes a job on a cruise ship.  He thinks he’s going to be delivering history lectures. Why is Geneva so opposed to Doyle taking this job?  Could it be because it will be a one-way trip for the passengers?   In the meantime, Geneva’s life becomes complicated.  Colorado is being terrorized by a militia.   Public transport is protected by machine guns.  Hostages are taken, lives are in danger.

The action shifts between Colorado and the cruise ship.  Will either Gen or Doyle survive long enough for their FVA score to be an issue?  And who is Belinda?


It’s complicated, convoluted and an interesting blend of dystopian comedic horror.  There are good guys some bad guys and some heroes.  And on the cruise ship, Belinda thinks she’s on a rehabilitation cruise.

Some elements of this novel had me laughing out loud, while other elements (especially around the purpose of the cruise and the treatment of the passengers) had me cringing.  The third set of elements had me worried: chaotic government in many countries and the current state of the world make some (at least) of the scenarios of ‘The Belinda Triangle’ seem possible.  Gulp.

Note: My thanks to NetGalley and Pronoun for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith

JAMES O’NEILL. The South China Sea and the risk of war: a summary. | John Menadue – Pearls and Irritations

It is self-evident that the risk of war is not confined to the South China Sea.  In fact, the risk of war there is probably less than in other significant flash points around the world.  

Source: JAMES O’NEILL. The South China Sea and the risk of war: a summary. | John Menadue – Pearls and Irritations

Bridget Crack by Rachel Leary

This novel moved me on a number of different levels.  First, there’s the portrayal of life in colonial Van Diemen’s land (now Tasmania) when it was still a penal colony and when so much of the island had not been explored.  Secondly, there’s the beauty and the harshness of the landscape itself.  An unforgiving place for those not prepared.  Thirdly, Ms Leary creates what (for me) is a three-dimensional interaction between people and place:  I can see the characters, experience the setting, feel the environment.

Bridget Crack by Rachel Leary

‘Bridget stood on the boggy patch of ground looking up at the road.’

Van Diemen’s Land, 1826.  Bridget Crack is a convict, transported for seven years for being in possession of counterfeit coins.  Initially happy to reach dry land, Bridget does not settle to what is expected of her as an indentured domestic servant.  Her first position, in the home of a British Army officer, is relatively comfortable but Bridget does not realise this.  She is reassigned to another position and, warned about the master, behaves in a way which has her returned to the gaol.  This time, Bridget’s hair is cut off as a punishment.  When Bridget appears before the police magistrate, he orders that she be sent to the Interior.

‘She didn’t care: didn’t give a damn what they did to her.  They could go to hell.’

Bridget is sent, miles from Hobart Town, to a hard life labouring for a cruel master.  She decides to run away, to find the township of Jericho.    But Bridget becomes lost.

‘At dawn she unfolded herself from the hole, stood shaky as a foal.  The sky was a soft mewing grey, the air fat and ripe with the stink of life—the sharp perfume of plants, the heady sweetness of soil.’

She is saved from certain death by Matt Sheedy and his band of men.   These men are bushrangers, desperate men, on the run from the law, with nothing but their lives to lose.  They had tried to escape the colony by sea, and still hope to.  In the meantime, they’ll take whatever they need from those they encounter along the way.  Bridget’s presence creates tensions, but how can she escape when she doesn’t know where she is?  The country is alien to her, full of danger.  It doesn’t take long for the authorities to realise that Bridget is with the Sheedy gang, which leads to her inclusion on a proclamation by His Excellency Colonel George Arthur, Lieutenant Governor of the Island of Van Diemen’s Land and its Dependencies:

‘ … AND I DO HEREBY FURTHER PROCLAIM THAT any person who may apprehend Bridget Crack (5 ft.  3 in. light brown hair, green eyes, 21 years of age, arrived per Faith, native place Suffolk, absconded from Black Marsh, October 7, 1826) having absented herself from her usual place of residence and lately suspected to be in the company of the before named Offenders, will immediately receive from the Government the sum of Fifty Guineas, or (at their election) Fifty Acres of Land, free from all restrictions.  And if the Offender shall be apprehended by prisoners, such prisoners shall receive a Free Pardon.’

Ms Leary has written an absorbing, atmospheric novel in which the landscape becomes central to Bridget’s story.   There is no romance in this tale, just danger, difficulty, hardship and hunger.  There can be no happy ending here, no escape for Bridget or her companions.  Will it be the law, or the geography of the island which triumphs?

‘Above her the top of the escarpment was visible in the pitch-black—the rock in the night blacker than the sky.  The river was running fast, chatty as a drunk priest.’

If you enjoy historical fiction set in 19th century colonial Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania), if you enjoy beautifully written novels exploring the interactions between those who are desperate and the harsh environment surrounding them, I recommend this novel.  It’s not an easy world to explore, but Ms Leary brings both characters and the environment to life: I could see the tea-coloured river, hear the Devils screeching, feel Bridget’s hunger and the leeches.

This is Ms Leary’s first novel: I hope there will be others.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith

#AWW 2017


JOHN BLAXLAND AND ELAINE PEARSON. Myanmar Rohingya crisis: Australia needs to stand up and help as the situation worsens. | John Menadue – Pearls and Irritations

The world seems to be sitting on its hands as the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar descends into what the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has described as “a textbook example of e…

Source: JOHN BLAXLAND AND ELAINE PEARSON. Myanmar Rohingya crisis: Australia needs to stand up and help as the situation worsens. | John Menadue – Pearls and Irritations

Women’s entrappings of high office | The Saturday Paper

The popular chant at Donald Trump’s election rallies was, invariably, “Lock her up! Lock her up!” So popular, in fact, it continues at his post-election rallies, now that he is United States president. The woman they want to lock up, of course, is his defeated Democrat opponent, Hillary Clinton.

Source: Women’s entrappings of high office | The Saturday Paper