Launceston Municipal Transport 1911-1955 by Ian G Cooper

A snapshot of public transport in Launceston between 1911 and 1955

I confess. I bought a copy of this book because it contains (on page 121) a photograph of my maternal grandfather, C.W. Cameron. He was the motorman on the last official tram service in Launceston on 13 December 1952 and is pictured, with conductor M.R. Harvey. Although the trams were long gone by the time my family moved to Launceston in 1960, some of the tramlines were still in place.

As I flicked though the book, I recognised the trolley buses (which were still in use until 1968). And then I read the book from cover to cover, fascinated by the history of public transport in Launceston during this period and enjoying the glimpse into the past provided by the photographs. There is technical detail of the various trams and buses, photographs of different tickets used, and details of the routes used.

The book also mentions the  Launceston Tramway Museum which is well worth visiting.

Those interested in technical detail will find this book interesting, as will those interested in the history of public transport.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith

#AussieAuthor2021

Rosalee Station by Mandy Magro

‘Summer in Mareeba was close to unbearable at times.’

I was looking for a novel set in Queensland and picked up this book. I was in the mood for something light, and this rural romance fitted the bill.

Sarah Clarke travels from Mareeba to Rosalee Station with her boyfriend Brad. Sarah will work as a cook and is looking forward to it. But within days, her relationship with Brad is over. Sarah decides to stay, and then realises that she is attracted to Matt (the station owners’ son). Sigh. Matt is already in a relationship, but he does not seem happy.

What happens, dear reader, is inevitable but it takes a while. A few twists, a surfeit of similes and a touch of tragedy combined with some evocative description of the countryside and a glimpse of life on a station in remote Queensland.

If you enjoy Australian rural romance, then Ms Magro’s novels may well suit.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith

#AWW2021

#AussieAuthor2021

The Mystery of the Hawke Sapphires (Charles Dickens Investigations Book 7) by J. C. Briggs

‘Where are you? Dy’d in the blood of recent murder …’

London, 1851.

Sir Gerald Hawke (an odious man) is on his deathbed when he asks a distant cousin, the Reverend Meredith Case, to find Sapphire. She is his long-lost ward, and the heir to the Hawke sapphires. Reverend Case resolves to find her. He starts by asking Sir Gerald’s long-term housekeeper, but she claims that Sapphire disappeared ‘before her time’.

Felix Gresham (a young man with literary ambitions) is found murdered on the steps of a bookshop. Charles Dickens is an acquaintance of the Gresham family, and becomes involved in this investigation with Superintendent Sam Jones.

Dickens also becomes involved in the search for Sapphire (how he loves a mystery) and begins to wonder if there could be a connection between the missing woman and the murdered man.

This is a marvellous novel, full of Dickensian twists. There are two involved mysteries to solve, terrific characters (meet the Screeches – Ebenzer and Bella, Miss Jane Gauntlett, and (of course) the resourceful young man known as Scrap).

If you enjoy mysteries set in the Victorian era, then I recommend this series. They do not need to be read in order because each case is self-contained, but you’ll miss some terrific character development.

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

Jennifer Cameron-Smith

The Mystery of the Hawke Sapphires (Charles Dickens Investigations Book 7) by J. C. Briggs

‘Where are you? Dy’d in the blood of recent murder …’

London, 1851.

Sir Gerald Hawke (an odious man) is on his deathbed when he asks a distant cousin, the Reverend Meredith Case, to find Sapphire. She is his long-lost ward, and the heir to the Hawke sapphires. Reverend Case resolves to find her. He starts by asking Sir Gerald’s long-term housekeeper, but she claims that Sapphire disappeared ‘before her time’.

Felix Gresham (a young man with literary ambitions) is found murdered on the steps of a bookshop. Charles Dickens is an acquaintance of the Gresham family, and becomes involved in this investigation with Superintendent Sam Jones.

Dickens also becomes involved in the search for Sapphire (how he loves a mystery) and begins to wonder if there could be a connection between the missing woman and the murdered man.

This is a marvellous novel, full of Dickensian twists. There are two involved mysteries to solve, terrific characters (meet the Screeches – Ebenzer and Bella, Miss Jane Gauntlett, and (of course) the resourceful young man known as Scrap).

If you enjoy mysteries set in the Victorian era, then I recommend this series. They do not need to be read in order because each case is self-contained, but you’ll miss some terrific character development.

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

Jennifer Cameron-Smith

This Has Been Absolutely Lovely by Jessica Dettmann

‘It was like a murder of crows had muscled in on a couple of pigeons.’

Back in the 1980s, Annie Jones was part of a mildly successful band named Love Triangle. But her dreams were derailed by family responsibilities. Thirty-five years later, with her parents now dead and her three children grown, Annie wonders whether she can try again.

But families are complicated. Annie’s family is together in the days before Christmas, to attend her father’s funeral and will then celebrate Christmas together. They are all staying in the home of her late parents. Meet Molly and her partner. Molly is pregnant with her first child. Meet Simon, his wife and child, who have flown in from Germany, and Naomi and her child. And then, there are the other two members of Love Triangle: Annie’s ex-husband Paul, and his partner Brian.

Molly wants Annie to help look after her baby, Simon wants Annie to sell the house. At least Naomi seems content. Can Annie find her own space, and freedom to pursue her dreams? Or is it too late?

‘This was impossible, Annie thought. How was she supposed to know who knew what about whom and if they did know how they had found out, and how long they had known for and what they were planning to do with information they may or may not have? This felt like picking up an Agatha Christie novel halfway through. It was a murder mystery, and the victim was Annie’s whole history.’

Ms Dettmann has peopled her novel with a delightful (mostly) collection of very human characters, with their anxieties, concerns, dreams, and regrets. Most of our view of events is delivered from the perspectives of Annie and Molly. There’s humour here, as well as all the complicated dynamics of family. An enjoyable read.

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

Jennifer Cameron-Smith

#AWW2021

#AussieAuthor2021

Going Back: 16 Jewish women tell their life stories, and why they returned to Germany—the country that once wanted to kill them, by Andrea von Treuenfeld, translated by Cathryn Siegal-Bergman

ANZ LitLovers LitBlog

Today, January 27th, is International Holocaust Memorial Day, commemorating the tragedy of the Holocaust during World War II. It commemorates the genocide that resulted in the deaths of 6 million Jews and 11 million others, by the Nazi regime and its collaborators.

So today I share with you some of the extraordinary stories in Going Back: 16 Jewish women tell their life stories, and why they returned to Germany—the country that once wanted to kill them. 

It says in the Talmud that none are poor save him that lacks knowledge. May the reader be deeply enriched by this book! (Cathryn Siegal-Bergman, translator)

This is the blurb:

16 women, 16 different stories of lives turned upside down during the war. Fleeing the life-threatening policies of Nazi-era Germany, they escaped with the hope of a better life, relocating to countries around the world. A very different kind of diary, the book tells of…

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It’s not just about the rise in anti-Semitism: why we need real stories for better Holocaust education in Australia (from The Conversation)

Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, Poland. Shutterstock

Jan Lanicek, UNSW

On January 27 communities worldwide commemorate the liberation of Auschwitz — the largest complex of concentration camps and extermination centres during the Holocaust. This is the first year the International Holocaust Remembrance Day will be marked nationally in Australia.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg will address the event, which demonstrates the importance the government ascribes to Holocaust commemoration.

In October 2019, after two cases of serious anti-Semitism in schools (one where a Jewish student was forced to kiss the feet of another student) Josh Frydenberg urged schools to deliver more history lessons about the Holocaust. He said:

If they [bullies] understood and comprehended the atrocities of the Holocaust, they would be as insulted as anybody, including me, about these recent attacks.

Federal and state governments have provided funding to Holocaust museums, and Holocaust education is mandatory in years 9 and 10 in NSW and Victoria. It is also part of the history curriculum nationally.

Although the Holocaust is a universal symbol of evil, there is some feeling among Australians it has no direct historical relevance here. In 2016, the Australian War Memorial in Canberra unveiled a small exhibition with several stories connecting Australia to the Holocaust. But there was some opposition.

The Memorial director Brendan Nelson, commented that

One regular visitor to the Memorial told me emphatically that she was opposed to this exhibition. “This has nothing to do with Australia and the Australian War Memorial”, she said. She told me that she would never walk through it.

With the passing of most of the last survivors, it seems the horrors of the event are being lost with the younger generations. Surveys conducted by the Claims conference (an international organisation that aims to bring justice to Holocaust survivors) in 2018, showed 31% of Americans (41% of millenials) believe substantially fewer than 6 million Jews were killed (two million or fewer) during the Holocaust.


Read more: Many young people still lack basic knowledge of the Holocaust


And almost half of Americans couldn’t name a single concentration camp during the Holocaust, despite the fact there were possibly more than 40,000 at the time.

Teachers need to consider new ways how to make Holocaust history relevant to new generations globally, and in Australia.

How the Holocaust is relevant to Australia

My historical research has brought to light personal stories connecting Australia and Europe during the second world war.

Between 7,000 and 10,000 Jewish refugees reached Australia shortly before the war. Most of them left behind relatives, often elderly parents, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles and friends, who perished in the Holocaust.

In 1939 Mayloch Ruda from Warsaw, Poland migrated to Australia with his two daughters — leaving his wife Chana and three other children, Pola, Frania and Guta behind. This was a typical migration strategy, when the breadwinner left first to establish a new home overseas.

Mayloch applied for Australia to admit his family, but it was too late. The war closed almost all emigration routes from Europe. His wife and three daughters were soon imprisoned in the largest Nazi ghetto in Warsaw.

Mayloch and his two daughters remained in an intermittent contact with their family through the International Red Cross. The last message they received from Pola in November 1942 was delayed by almost six months:

We are in dire material conditions. Mother lost her sight. We plead for any help, as soon as possible. We all live together. We are waiting for help and the news.

Mayloch contacted Jewish humanitarian agencies to send his family food parcels, but it is doubtful they ever arrived. Most of the Jews from Warsaw, very likely including the Ruda family, were murdered in Treblinka.

After the war, the Rudas and others tried to locate their relatives, and if they survived, bring them over to Australia.

Another surviror, Max Heitlinger, who arrived in Australia in 1939 from Vienna, expressed these feelings in his memoirs.

I knew it was the end for all of them. I still wake up at night and cry in desperation and self-accusation.

Despite the immense interest in the history of the Holocaust in Australia their efforts and strategies have remained largely unknown.

The Holocaust is about human rights more generally

The idea Holocaust education could help combat rising anti-Semitism is not new. Surveys conducted in the past 15 years, however, suggest “Europe is experiencing rising levels of antisemitism […] alongside a growth in Holocaust education”.

The authors of the surveys write that for Holocaust education to be effective, the curriculum should also consider “the pre-existing cultural capital of students and the specific history of Jewish communities, anti-Semitism, and the Holocaust in the country […] where the subject is being taught”.


Read more: New research shows religious discrimination is on the rise around the world, including in Australia


UNESCO recommends education about the Holocaust include elements such as a fostering critical thinking, education about global citizenship and an integration of gender perspectives to help unmask bias.

Stories like the above, of migrants in Australia separated from family, offer possible avenues for teachers to present the Holocaust as part of our history.

Using these stories is also crucial for understanding the diverse experiences in Australian multicultural society.

Photos of Holocaust victims and survivors from the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington.
Up to 10,000 Jewish refugees came to Australia before the war. Many left behind relatives. (Photos of Holocaust victims and survivors taken from the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington) Shutterstock

Stories of separated families still happen today. Sadam Abudusalam, an Australian citizen, was separated for three years from his Uyghur wife Nadila and their child, who were left behind in China. The Chinese persecution of the Muslim Uyghurs was recently characterised by the Trump administration and the president-elect Joe Biden’s team as a case of genocide. Thankfully, Sadam was reunited with Nadila and their child in December 2020.

The study of the Holocaust offers immense opportunities to educators at all levels, but proper training is necessary for those who teach the subject.

But while the Australian government has mandated Holocaust education, the recent fee shake-up in universities — where fees for most humanities courses have risen – will unfortunately put learning about it in-depth out of reach for some students. And this includes prospective school teachers.

Australia must make it easier for students to learn about the history of our world so they can better teach it to school students.

The study of the Holocaust, as the ultimate example of genocide, allows teachers to raise the universal message of human rights abuses and mass violence. If we relate the Holocaust to our past and present context, we can facilitate a better understanding of the Australian place in the world and its relation to gross human rights violations around the globe.

Jan Lanicek, Senior Lecturer in Modern European History and Jewish History, UNSW

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Wild Orchard by Isabel Dick

‘If Harriat Bracken on that fine April morning in the year 1840 had turned to the left and gone, as she had been bidden to do, straight up to her bedroom, all that is recorded here would never have happened.’

Harriat ‘Harry’ Bracken did not do as she was bidden, and instead met ‘Jan’ Halifax, a young man who had been sent to England from Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania) to learn about growing hops. Harriat, the spirited daughter of a clergyman, falls in love. Jan is soon to return home to Van Diemen’s Land and he and Harriat marry, with her parents’ permission, after a very quick courtship.

Harriat leaves behind a conventional, genteel family, one in which class is important, to travel to the colonial frontier of Van Diemen’s Land. She knows nothing about Van Diemen’s Land, but she loves Jan and would follow him anywhere.  And 17-year-old Harry and 20-year-old Jan, married, eventually arrive in Hobart. They do not stay there long, moving quickly to the land that Jan’s father has left to him when he turns twenty-one.

What follows is a heart-warming tale of survival against the odds, of triumph against adversity, of the power of friendship. Harry may not know much about living in the bush without assistance, but she quickly learns. She contends with an assigned servant who becomes a danger to her and her new-born child, she makes friends with the other settlers who live near by and she supports Jan. Jan has his own tribulations: family members who have taken his property require him to relocate to Hobart for a while.

Ms Dick ‘s novel touches briefly on the dispossession of the Indigenous occupants.  She also has Harry meeting one of Tasmania’s more infamous bushrangers, Martin Cash. The novel ends as the Halifaxes are on the path to success. They complement each other perfectly, they are surrounded by good neighbours, and the land is full of promise.

This novel was published in 1946, and while it glosses over some of the negative aspects of colonial settlement, it does not ignore them. It is an easy, heart-warming read, which left me wondering what might happen next.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith

#AWW2021

#AussieAuthor2021

On the Town by Dianne J.E Cassidy

‘Life as a prostitute in Launceston was nothing if not eventful.’

In her preface, Ms Cassidy writes: ‘This book does not, and cannot, in any way mention all of the brothels and prostitutes operating in Launceston in the 1800s. It merely tries to bring to light some of the more notorious characters living at that time so that their lives and tales are not lost to history.’

Ms Cassidy draws on public records (usually from newspaper accounts) to write about the experiences of women who ‘lived on the town’ in nineteenth century Launceston. This is a part of Tasmanian history about which I know little, in part because most accounts of the time focus on the historically well-known figures. Newspaper accounts only provide a partial story, of course, but those records have enabled Ms Cassidy to provide a social history of the lives and times of some of the women involved. I found the photographs interesting as well: some of the buildings that formerly housed brothels still exist.

As I read through Ms Cassidy’s book, I was drawn to parallels with elements of Dickensian London: the poor trying to survive however they could; violence; and the role of alcohol. And, of course, the moralistic judgments made.

This book is a valuable addition to the history of Launceston, especially as it covers people and events generally ignored in historical accounts.  And when I next return to Launceston, I will visit some of the graves at Carr Villa, and I will walk around central Launceston in the streets where some of these women walked.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith

#AussieAuthor2021

#AWW2021

O by Steven Carroll

To be published 3 February 2021

‘No one is allowed to escape the symbols of occupation until …what? Amnesia sets in and the country forgets itself?’

The novel opens in occupied France in 1943. Dominique Aury feels a desperate need to do something: she loves her country and simultaneously hates it. She wants work that is not German propaganda, and it is becoming harder to find each day. She meets Jean Paulhan. They become colleagues and eventually lovers. He is an older man, with a wife. She has been married and has a child. She has also changed her name. Dominique becomes caught up in the French Resistance and she helps a woman she knows only as Pauline Réage to escape. (Those who have read ‘The Story of O’ may recognise these names.)

‘Names are good like that, you can reinvent yourself with a new one.’

This novel is a meditative reflection on how a story comes to be written, and who and what it might really be about. In part, this novel is about Dominique as O, rather than ‘The Story of O’. In part it is about the occupation of France., and about memory of the past. Only a man, it was thought, could write such a story. Dominique sets out to disprove this and becomes enmeshed.

‘There is a young woman, known only as ‘O’, walking through a city park with her lover.’

Dominique intends the story for her married lover with no wider circulation, but it is published. And once published, the story is no longer confined. The private becomes public, knowledge is assumed.

‘It occurs to her that is what O is doing: consenting to be the possession of strangers.  And in this sense, in the event of publication, would she not become her character?

‘The Story of O’ has its own life quite independent of the author, it is part of O, it is part of France, it is part of the past. And what does it mean, when a story becomes detached from its context, when a private fairy tale becomes public property? And then, when, the author and recipient grow older, where does the fairy tale fit then?

‘But that’s the problem with the past. It never stays past.’

This is another beautifully written novel by Steven Carroll. The themes of the novel, of surrender, submission and shame apply to O and to France during this period. Both will move on, but the past cannot be ignored.

‘The lover for whom the love letter was written is gone. That world has passed. This one is not hers anymore.’

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

Jennifer Cameron-Smith

#AussieAuthor2021