My contribution to the AWW Bingo challenge for 2017. It was challenging selecting some of these books. I had read more than one short story collection, a number of non-fiction books and more than one book that surprised me. Have others finished the challenge yet?
A book that surprised me:
The Circle and the Equator by Kyra Giorgi
‘The first time I saw Tercero I didn’t know what I was seeing.’
A book of non-fiction:
Into the Heart of Tasmania: A Search For Human Antiquity by Rebe Taylor
‘Ernest Westlake had spent his life dedicated to stones. He grew up and lived in Victorian rural England, but he occupied a more ancient world.’
A book that’s more than ten year old:
Three Little Maids by Ethel Turner (First Published in 1900)
My review (not yet posted to Goodreads):
‘There was the listening hush of midnight in the house.’
After the death of Mr Conway leaves her in straitened circumstances, Mrs Conway and her three daughters, Dolly, Phyl and Weenie, move to Australia. It’s the end of the nineteenth century, and Mrs Conway hopes to make a new life for her little family. How successful will the move be? How will the family establish itself?
I enjoyed this novel. I may not recognise all aspects of the setting, but that really isn’t necessary. It’s the challenges the little family faces which make the story interesting. And comparatively happy endings (for most) are always welcome.
In this novel, first published in 1900, Ethel Turner draws on her own upbringing. After her father died, just before she turned two, Mrs Turner moved to Sydney with her two daughters. In many ways, this novel reflects the time in which it is set and was written. It reminded me (in some ways) of Louisa May Alcott’s ‘Little Women’ and ‘The Katy Books’ by Susan Coolidge (Sarah Chauncey Woolsey).
This is only the second Ethel Turner novel I have read. Over fifty years ago, I read a copy of ‘Flower O’ the Pine’ (published in 1914). It was one of my mother’s childhood books, and I loved it.
One day I’ll read ‘Seven Little Australians’.
A book by an Indigenous Author:
My Side of the Bridge by Veronica Brodie
My review (not yet posted to Goodreads):
‘I first heard Auntie Veronica Brodie tell her story one evening in 1995, and from that moment I knew it had to be published.’
This is the life story of Auntie Veronica Brodie (1941 – 2007), as told to Mary-Anne Gale. This book was published in 2002. Veronica Brodie was born at the Raukkan Community (then the Point McLeay mission) in 1941, and was later sent to Adelaide by the Aborigines Protection Board to continue her education.
Veronica Brodie was an Aboriginal woman of Ngarrindjeri and Kaurna descent, and was a widely respected elder. In this book, through Mary-Anne Gale, she told of her life, of the challenges she faced, of the campaigns she was involved in for Indigenous rights. Parts of her story horrified me:
‘I mean, we had government people in the Northern Territory who wanted full-bloods to be tattooed! Do you realise that Hitler’s system of tattooing the Jews came from what they wanted to set up in the Northern Territory?’
No, I didn’t. And I’m disturbed by it.
I was more aware of the grading:
‘They graded my kids when they were born as if they were grading fowl eggs. My first two girls were graded differently – Colleen was declared one-eighth Aboriginal, while Margaret, the oldest one, was declared one-sixteenth Aboriginal. You see, Margaret was quite fair, but Colleen was a little bit darker-skinned. They both had the same parents, so it just goes to show how silly the system was.’
To read this book is to be reminded (albeit painfully) of elements of Australian history which are painful. I was particularly interested in Veronica Brodie’s account of the fight against the bridge to Hindmarsh Island (Kumarangk). How little we accept or know or choose to learn about other cultures. The campaign against the bridge was ultimately unsuccessful, but it did unite activists with local communities.
‘I want you to imagine your way back to the year of 1840 on the Port Adelaide River. Just think what it would have looked like then.’
Auntie Veronica Brady fought and won her own battle with alcohol, which she addresses in the book. She also suffered from a number of significant health issues. What an inspirational woman!
The Hate Race by Maxine Beneba Clarke
‘If racism is a shortcoming of the heart, then experiencing it is an assault on the mind.’
A short story collection:
Do You Love Me or What? by Sue Woolfe
‘I’ve never been really sure what friendship is about, and at what point it melts into love.’
A book with a beach setting:
To The Sea by Christine Dibley
‘On this planet, there are two worlds. The world of the land and the world of the sea.’
A book with poems:
Driving Too Fast by Dorothy Porter
My review (not yet posted toGoodreads):
Dorothy Porter (1954-2008) published seven collections of poetry, two novels for young adults, two librettos for operas performed in Sydney, Melbourne and London, and four verse-novels. She received a number of awards for her work, including The Age Book of the Year Award and the National Book Council Award (Poetry) for ‘The Monkey’s Mask’, and the FAW Christopher Brennan Award for Poetry in 2001.
‘Driving Too Fast’ was published in 1989, and is the first of her collections of poetry I have read. I will remedy this. Reading poetry is very much mood-related for me, and I need the time to read and reflect, time to follow the poet’s words in order to visualise and analyse the images. Between 1975 and 2009 life was usually too busy to take the time to enjoy poetry. It certainly wasn’t a time for me to discover and appreciate new poets, although I continued to enjoy poems by Mark O’Connor, Judith Wright, T S Eliot, Emily Brontë and (some) Thomas Hardy.
So, when I picked up ‘Driving Too Fast’, I had no idea what to expect. There are three sections in this, the fourth of Ms Porter’s poetry collections. The first section (In Extremis) includes poems about Carmen, about Trucanini:
‘I’m trying to hear the Black Drive of 1830;
but hear instead the rattle of pneumonia
and the bedside voice of white Christianity’
and about the Antarctic explorers Oates:
‘We dug up Christopher’s head
and it was rotten –‘
‘Cri de coeur
strength of character
whimpering to itself on sea-ice
that is yielding
to the spine
of a killer whale – ‘
The second section (‘A Girl Mad as Birds) moves from others towards the more personal: lorikeets flash with colour, kookaburras cackle. And I smile at ‘The Lazy Poem’:
is for the indolent.’
The third section (‘Amulet’) is personal. These are ‘I‘ poems: about desire, dreams and love.
I need to read more of Dorothy Porter’s poetry. While not all of these poems appeal to me, many of the images become real. Consider the opening of the poem ‘Hawkesbury River’:
‘The light over the Hawkesbury River
Has been clawed at –
it’s a dismal warder of a river
its sandstone cells
its mangrove pits
like grey hair – ‘
I just wish I’d discovered Dorothy Porter earlier!
A book that won an award:
The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon (this book won the 2017 ABIA book award for Book of the Year Older Children (age range 8 to 14 years))
‘DAR-1, that’s me. I was the first baby ever born here.’