Inside the Bone Box: Anthony Ferner

Another book to add to my list …

The Idle Woman


In this day and age, with independent bookshops and small publishers closing in swathes, it’s a joy to hear of a newly-founded enterprise: Fairlight Books in Oxford. At one year old, they’re just about to release a series of five novellas in their Fairlight Moderns series and I was delighted to have a sneak peek. I decided to start with Inside the Bone Box, because it focused on a doctor and that appealed in the wake of Adam Kay’s diaries. It’s the story of consultant neurosurgeon Nicholas Anderton, whose burgeoning obesity has already threatened his marriage and now raises very serious questions about his professional capabilities. Meanwhile his wife, Alyson, has her own demons to fight. It soon becomes clear that the ‘bone box’ of the title isn’t just the skull, within which the brain-self resides, but also the prisons we build for ourselves, trapping ourselves within…

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A week in the life of Cassandra Aberline by Glenda Guest

‘Time was cut, dried, and nailed to the wall of the tiny wooden railway office.’

Cassandra (Cassie) Aberline has been estranged from her family for over forty years. But her recent diagnosis of Alzheimer’s dementia has her thinking of the past, of why she left Western Australia for New South Wales. Cassie undertakes a journey by train: back to the Indian Ocean from the Pacific, on the Indian Pacific. There’s an urgency to this journey, a journey Cassie needs to make while she still can, before she loses more of herself to Alzheimer’s. There’s a promise Cassie made to someone, before she left Western Australia, and a package she was given. While we find out, early in the story, what the parcel contains, it takes much longer to get to the promise. Cassie’s physical journey to Western Australia takes time, which enables her to remember aspects of the past mainly through different memories of her life on the east coast:

‘Do these memories tell Cassie anything new about herself? Do they reveal what needs revealing? Of course not—they come too late in the story of her life, and are all about doing, reaching, achieving, and, of course, concealing—mainly concealing. They show her only the mask she had donned, on that first long journey from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific, and had never taken off. With me, what you see is what you get. How often has she said it —to her colleagues, to her students? It is a lie, but one she considers true.’

Who is Cassie Aberline? Cassie has been an actor, and a drama teacher at university. Her specialty is Shakespeare. What from her past is important, and why? There’s unfinished business in Cassie’s life, a need to revisit the past to try to determine whether leaving was the right thing to do. If she wasn’t right, then Cassie wants to (somehow) make amends. But this need to put things right is less about the people Cassie left behind than it is about making sense of events and actions to determine what was truth. This is about Cassie’s understanding: her memory of life with her sister and father especially after her mother died, of her close relationship with the Blanchard family on the neighbouring farm.

‘She is trying to understand herself, the life she has created, but all she has to work with are disconnected fragments—half-remembered lines from long-ago scenes she can barely recollect. That is all the malevolent magic of memory allows.’

I picked this novel up after reading a review by a fellow book blogger. I am glad I did: I read it over two days as I could hardly bear to put it down. I was caught up, both in Cassie’s physical journey across Australia and in the journey through her mind as she tried to understand a life and memories that she thought she’s left behind. Life is never simple. Memories are never perfect, even when they are accessible.

‘The mind is a false creation, Mary says, and it’s not always true to us. We can’t worry about what is, or what is not. We just have to be who we are at the time.’

Jennifer Cameron-Smith


After the Sunday Papers #17

There’s always something interesting to read here. A reminder as well about the 2018 Reader Survey.

She Reads Novels

“She had read novels while other people perused the Sunday papers” ~ Mary Elizabeth Braddon, The Doctor’s Wife With several pieces of bookish news to share with you today, I decided it was time to bring back, after a four year absence, my After the Sunday Papers posts, which were always very useful when I had a few book-related things to mention but didn’t need to devote a whole separate post to each of them. I’m not intending to make this a weekly feature again (not that it ever really was) but I will put a post together as and when I feel that I have something to talk about.

First of all, I want to congratulate author Benjamin Myers on winning this year’s Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction, which was awarded at the Borders Book Festival last night. As some of you will know, I am currently…

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Historical Musings #39: I Spy Historical-Style

Some great reads here, especially Dorothy Dunnett’s ‘House of Niccolo’ series

She Reads Novels

Welcome to my monthly post on all things historical fiction. I noticed this I Spy challenge appearing on lots of other blogs a month or two ago and wanted to give it a try, but didn’t get round to it at the time when everyone else was doing it. When I was thinking of a topic for this month’s Historical Musings post I thought it might be fun to put together a historical fiction (and non-fiction) version of the I Spy game which would give me an opportunity to highlight twenty books from my shelves, some of which I’ve read and some that I haven’t.

I’m not sure where this challenge first originated but these are the rules:

Find a book that contains (either on the cover or in the title) an example for each category. You must have a separate book for all 20, get as creative as you…

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Two short(ish) reviews

Some more books to read…


I read two fantastic books in the middle of my manic assessment period at the end of first semester – Euphoria by Lily King and We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo. Both books featured strong, memorable characters, and both books were set in foreign countries (New Guinea and Zimbabwe respectively), each with a beautifully developed sense of place. Some thoughts on each –

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The Red Door by Rosa Fedele

‘He’s watching me.’

Glebe, Sydney, 1983. ‘Rosalind’ is a beautiful old mansion, divided into apartments, gradually being restored by its new owner. The new owner, a woman whose name we don’t learn until near the end of the novel, is herself a bit of a mystery. One amongst many. Renovation of the mansion has challenges, some inexplicable occurrences, as well as a reclusive resident in Apartment 3.
And when the owner discovers that the man in Apartment 3 has the same surname as two teenage sisters brutally murdered over thirty years earlier, she is concerned. Can he be connected to the murders? They’ve never been solved. She becomes obsessed with the crime, obsessed with the tenant, and in danger of destroying her own newly-formed friendships.

I needed to concentrate while reading this novel: there is a lot of action, there are many different characters, with different perspectives to follow. The perspectives change frequently and can be confusing, especially as some of the characters have secrets to hide. All of this serves to heighten the suspense. I thought I’d worked out key parts, such as who had murdered the sisters, only to find that I was wrong. Sigh. I did work out other elements, though, and I found the actual solution more satisfying.

One element of the novel frustrated me: I could see no reason why the reader shouldn’t know the name of the protagonist much earlier in the novel. Why did that need to be a mystery, or was it simply a distancing technique? Overall, I enjoyed Ms Fedele’s debut novel, beautifully enhanced by her original artwork. Most of the different threads are brought to a satisfying conclusion. And, for those who wondered what the future might hold for some of the characters, Ms Fedele’s second novel ‘The Legacy of Beauregard’ is about to be published (in July 2018).

If you enjoy mystery novels and novels set in Sydney with more than a few interesting twists, you may well enjoy this.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith


Written on the Skin by Liz Porter

Will I live long enough to read all of the interesting books tempting me to read them? Here’s another one …


I’ve never been particularly interested in crime novels, mysteries, or courtroom dramas, and until I listened to the Serial podcast, true crime was also on the ‘not particularly interested’ list. But there was something about the meticulously produced Serial that sucked me in (and it wasn’t just Sarah Koenig’s dulcet tones). Since that time, I’ve listened to other true crime podcasts and read a few books.

Liz Porter’s book, Written on the Skin – An Australian Forensic Casebook grabbed my attention because of the chapters on the use of DNA testing in forensic science – genes are always interesting!

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