Adaminaby, NSW. 21/10/2017

Some days are made for beautiful morning walks.  Today is one of those days.

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Getting ready to say goodbye… 

Over the years I’ve had a number of conversations with a couple of my near neighbours, an elderly couple, who celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary earlier this year.  They are lovely people.

I knew that the wife was in hospital, and this morning the husband told me that she won’t be coming home.  She is frail and ill, and while the medical profession can keep her comparatively comfortable they cannot make her better.  The emotion in  his voice, of a man whose life partner is no longer at home and whom he clearly misses, was heartbreaking.

They’ve had a good innings, he said.  And so they have, but I don’t think that makes saying goodbye any easier.

I won’t see him again until next Wednesday, but I’ll be thinking of them both and their family.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë…

… was first published on 16 October 1847.  I first read it in 1967, and while it has never claimed the place in my heart that ‘Wuthering Heights’ by Charlotte’s younger sister Emily has, it’s a book I’ve reread more than once.

From the beginning I felt sorry for Jane.  Orphaned, and living with her ghastly relatives, then sent to that awful school.  The horrors of Lowood and the death of Helen Burns had me weeping in 1967, and since. Other aspects of the story move me as well: Jane’s falling for Edward Rochester, the discovery of poor mad Mrs Rochester, the fire.  Thinking of these aspects now, as I think of what (are for me) the key parts of the novel, makes it sound like a second rate soap opera.  Perhaps if I’d read ‘Jane Eyre’ for the first time as an adult instead of as an impressionable eleven year old, I might not have been so taken with the story.  These days, I can’t forget my first reading of the novel.  Nor can I forget reading each of the novels written by the Brontë sisters.

One day, I hope to travel to Haworth, to visit the Brontë Parsonage Museum.  I’d like to see the moors.

If you are a Brontë fan, which is your favourite novel, and why? Is there a particular Brontë novel you dislike?  (Yes, most of my friends dislike ‘Wuthering Heights’.  I’ve yet to meet anyone indifferent to ‘Wuthering Heights’.  People either love it or loathe it.

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First Person by Richard Flanagan

Intriguing.

‘They say there are only three rules for writing a book.’

In 1992, Kif Kehlmann was young, broke, married with one child and twins on the way.  He was living with his wife Suzy and three-year-old daughter in Hobart, trying to finish the novel he’d been writing for years.   The need to make some money was becoming urgent.  And then, Kif is approached to ghost-write a memoir.  Siegfried Heidl is a notorious conman and corporate criminal: about to go on trial for defrauding the banks of $700 million.  Kif will receive $10,000 if he can ghost-write Heidl’s memoir in six weeks.

Kif moves to Melbourne, leaving his heavily pregnant wife and daughter behind.  Sure, he’ll travel home on weekends, and the babies aren’t due just yet.  In Melbourne, Kif hooks up with his old mate Ray.  It’s thanks to Ray that he’s been offered this job, and $10,000 will be very handy.  But trying to get any information out of Heidl is difficult.  And the publisher, Gene Paley, is pushing Kif for progress.  After all, in this part of the publishing world, timing is everything.

‘This too you learnt from Heidl: how easy it is to remember; how hard to know if there is truth in even one memory.’

As the story unfolds, as Heidl’s trial date approaches and is then brought forward, Kif is under increased pressure to deliver.  It’s difficult to sort fact from fiction in what Heidl tells him, especially when Heidl turns Kif’s questions and suggestions into his own experiences. Is Kif writing Heidl’s memoir, or is Heidl reshaping Kif’s life?  If Kif has done a deal with the devil, how will he survive it?

’My first novel, I was aware, had suffered from being autobiographical, but now I feared my first autobiography was becoming a novel.’

I found this novel intriguing. The story opens with Kif reflecting on 1992 with the events around ghost-writing Heidl’s memoir.  It then shifts to Kif’s present, to the changes in his life and circumstances.  Kif may have survived the experience, but he’s not unscathed by it.

I wondered how much of the material for this novel was drawn from Richard Flanagan’s own experience of ghost-writing John Friederich’s autobiography ‘Codename Iago: The Story of John Friedrich’ in 1991.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith