Dark Edges by Catherine Lee

‘Jimmy Dallas was good at following instructions.’

Jimmy Dallas, an Australian Rugby League football player, is found dead from an apparent drug overdose.  The needle is still in his arm.  Is it an accidental overdose, murder or suicide?  Detective Sergeant Charlie Cooper and his partner Detective Senior Constable Joe Quinn are called in to investigate. Jimmy Dallas was the fullback for the Sydney Rangers team, a star performer in their last match, a win which guaranteed them a place in the finals. No one close to Jimmy thinks he’d use heroin, but everything points to a self-administered overdose.  Jimmy’s best friend is fellow Rangers player Joel Maquire.  Joel is devastated by Jimmy’s death.   Joel’s brother Nate is the team captain.  Can the Maguire brothers shed any light on events?

As part of their investigation, Cooper and Quinn look at drug use within the Rangers Club. The officials try to assure them that all is fair and above board.  ASADA has no adverse results from testing team members, and the team sports scientist Dean Rycroft assures them that the only supplements given to players are vitamins.  But Cooper and Quinn are not convinced, and when they find a connection between the heroin used by Jimmy and that supplied by the Chiefs outlaw motorcycle gang, things start to get complicated.

‘He had a bad feeling about this case.’

This is the fifth novel in Ms Lee’s Dark Series, and it is every bit as gripping as the first four. There are some interesting developments in Charlie Cooper’s personal life which add to the tension as Cooper and Quinn try to work out what happened to Jimmy Dallas.  There’s also some friction between different police officers involved in the case.  And the ending?  There are aspects that I didn’t anticipate, disquieting aspects that have served to keep aspects of this novel in my mind.

Note: my thanks to Ms Lee for providing me with a free advance reading copy of this novel for review purposes.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith

#AWW2017

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Not Just Lucky by Jamila Rizvi

‘Have you ever noticed that really successful women are always lucky?’

When I first joined the paid workforce back in 1974, as a shop assistant in a women’s shoe store, my (male) boss was still complaining that equal pay (granted to women in 1969) forced him to pay women more, even though males were physically stronger.  This physical strength, he told me, would have enabled a male to carry more boxes of shoes up from the basement store room.  When I left the shoe store a few months later to start training as an enrolled nurse, I got to use a lot of physical strength.  Back in those days, there were few males in nursing and very few of the ancillary staff (or equipment) now available to help with the heavy lifting.  By the time I left the paid workforce, in 2009, there were a lot more women in the workforce.  But many of those women were in lower-paid work, were casual or temporary employees and were more likely to have accumulated less superannuation for their eventual retirement.

What has changed in the past 43 years?  Are women better off?  If they are not, what are the barriers to their success?   Have those barriers changed over the last four decades?  I picked up Ms Rizvi’s book to get a perspective on some of these issues questions from a young, articulate woman.

On Page 15, Ms Rizvi writes:

‘What this book is, is a career book that is unashamedly feminist.  One that will help you to help yourself, but also prepare you to help the woman sitting beside you and the woman who dreams of sitting beside you but thinks she never will.  It’s a book that will help you to feel more confident about work without blaming you for being less that confident to begin with.  It’s a book that will help you become brave enough to truly enjoy the success of others and to claim credit for your own.  It’s a book about being more than just lucky.  It’s a book about being brilliant.’

Ms Rizvi acknowledges the benefits bestowed upon her by a comfortable middle-class upbringing, but much of what she has to say is also relevant to women who’ve not enjoyed these benefits.  Women can lack confidence (in themselves, in their abilities, in each other) for many reasons.  And if you don’t believe that you are good enough, then it is difficult to present as if you are.  How do we, as individuals, work through some of the cultural and structural barriers to success?  And, importantly, how do we do this without sacrificing what is important to each of us as individuals?

This book is less about answers than it is about raising awareness about some of the issues.  Ms Rizvi does this by drawing on case studies and on her own experience.  It’s not about changing the system (that might be nice, but it isn’t likely to happen anytime soon).  it’s about working within the system, about being aware of ways in which your own behaviour may serve to undermine what you are trying to achieve.  It’s about surviving and (hopefully) thriving.  It’s also about recognising that women do not always act in the best interests of other women.

While I’d recommend this book to anyone interested in contributing to more effective equality in the workplace, I think it is of most interest to young women who are about to embark (or who have just embarked) on a professional career. It’s important to recognise that there is usually a gap between what workplaces should be like, and how they often actually function.   I think there needs to be more conversation about this gap and its causes.  While effective change needs to involve both men and women, awareness at an individual level is a good starting point.

I found this book easy to read, a good blend of personal experience, practical suggestion and research-based information.  And, on a purely personal level, I enjoyed the anecdote Ms Rizvi related about clothes.  She writes, drawing on her father’s experience in the public service, clothes may not give you power, but they do give you confidence.  I remember the tie to which she refers.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith

#AWW2017

AWW 2017: Challenge Completed

Life’s about to get busier than usual for me, so I’d better post my ‘ AWW 2017 Challenge Completed’ post now, rather than wait until further into December.  Besides, I can always add to it if I write any more reviews between now and Christmas.

I’ve reviewed 63 books by Australian Women Writers for the 2017 challenge.  I’ve actually read more than 70, but as is always the case for me, review writing lags behind reading.

I’ve read some terrific books.  The links below are to my reviews on Goodreads, but if you are not a member there and don’t want to join (why ever not?) then you’ll find the reviews posted up on this blog.

My favourites?  Well that would depend on the day and the mood that I’m in.  But there’s something for everyone here.  Happy reading!

 

My first review for 2017:  Ruth Quibell’s ‘The Promise of Things’.  Here’s a link to my review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1856238300

My second review for 2017: Jan Smith’s memoir: ‘Confession of a Homegrown Alien’.  Here’s a link to my review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1869402236

My third review for 2017: ‘The Hidden Hours’ by Sara Foster.  Here’s a link to my review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1883268075

My fourth review for 2017: ‘Jerome and His Women’ by Joan O’Hagan.  Here’s a link to my review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1883331037

My fifth review for 2017: ‘The Circle and the Equator’ by Kyra Giorgi.  Here’s a link to my review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1860248050

My sixth review for 2017:  ‘To The Sea’ by Christine Dibley.  Here’s a link to my review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1912818866

My seventh review for 2017: ‘Family Skeleton’ by Carmel Bird.  Here’s a link to my review:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1914770862

My ninth review for 2017: ‘The Hate Race’ by Maxine Beneba Clarke.  Here’s a link to my review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1922048357

My tenth review for 2017:  ‘One Leg Over’ by Robin Dalton.  Here’s a link to my review:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1869405017

My eleventh review for 2017: ‘Dangerous to Know’ by Anne Buist.  Here’s a link to my review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1926843735

My twelfth review for 2017: ‘Three Wishes’ by Liane Moriarty.  Here’s a link to my review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1936197055

My thirteenth review for 2017: ‘The Last Anniversary’ by Liane Moriarty.  Here’s a link to my review:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1938070601

My fourteenth review for 2017: ‘Dear Quentin’ by Quentin Bryce.  Here’s a link to my review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1975824052

My fifteenth review for 2017: ‘They Cannot Take The Sky’ edited by Michael Green, Andre Dao, Angelica Neville, Dana Affleck and Sienna Merope.  Two of the editors are Australian women.  Here’s a link to my review:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1978615706

My sixteenth review for 2017: ‘The Shape of Water’ by Anne Blythe-Cooper.  Here’s a link to my review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1979554458

My seventeenth review for 2017: ‘Dying:A Memoir’ by Cory Taylor.  Here’s a link to my review:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1966031083

My eighteenth review for 2017: ‘Do You Love Me or What?’ by Sue Woolfe.  Here’s a link to my review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1983528277

My nineteenth review for 2017: ‘The Better Son’ by Katherine Johnson.  Here’s a link to my review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1976753527

My twentieth review for 2017: ‘See What I have Done’ by Sarah Schmidt.  Here’s a link to my review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1976754019

My twenty-first review for 2017: ‘Fighting Hislam’ by Susan Carland.  Here’s a link to my review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2002270477

My twenty-second review for 2017: ‘The Golden Child’ by Wendy James.  Here’s a link to my review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2003198466

My twenty-third review for 2017: ‘Storyland’ by Catherine McKinnon.  Here’s a link to my review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2020153979

My twenty-fourth review for 2017: Eva Hornung’s ‘The Last Garden’.  Here’s a link to my review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2016291975

My twenty-fifth review for 2017: Caroline Overington’s ‘The Lucky One’.  Here’s a link to my review:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2025830240

My twenty-sixth review for 2017: Julia Baird’s ‘Victoria the Queen’.  Here’s a link to my review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2017350400

My twenty-seventh review for 2017: Sally Abbott’s ‘Closing Down’.  Here’s a link to my review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2027819431

My twenty-eighth review for 2017: Sarah Bailey’s ‘The Dark Lake’.  Here’s a link to my review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2029882390

My twenty-ninth review for 2017: Karenlee Thompson’s ‘Flame Tip’.  Here’s a link to my review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2032513269

My thirtieth review for 2017: Eliza Henry-Jones’s ‘Ache’.  Here’s a link to my review:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2032512180

My thirty-first review for 2017: Baba Schwartz’s memoir ‘The May Beetles’.  Here’s a link to my review:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2016292585

My thirty-second review for 2017: Katherine Brabon’s ‘The Memory Artist’.  Here’s a link to my review:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2002271308

My thirty-third review for 2017: Tania Blanchard’s ‘The Girl from Munich’.  Here’s a link to my review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2034586815

My thirty-fourth review for 2017: Catherine Lee’s ‘Dark Chemistry’.  Here’s a link to my review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2058539962

My thirty-fifth review for 2017:  Sheila Fitzpatrick’s ‘Mischka’s War’.  Here’s a link to my review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2049558282

My thirty-sixth review for 2017: Pip Smith’s ‘Half Wild’.  Here’s a link to my review:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2073193845

My thirty-seventh review for 2017: Louise Milligan’s  ‘Cardinal’ (The Rise and Fall of George Pell).  Here’s a link to my review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2077301675

My thirty-eighth review for 2017: Claire Corbett’s ‘Watch Over Me’.  Here’s a link to my review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2066236549

My thirty-ninth review for 2017: Zana Fraillon’s ‘The Bone Sparrow’.  Here’s a link to my review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2084707820

My fortieth review for 2017: Catherine Lee’s ‘Dark Paradise’.  Here’s a link to my review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2087184561

My forty-first review for 2017: Kate Cole-Adams’ ‘Anaesthesia’.  Here’s a link to my review:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2067978123

My forty-second review for 2017: M.J. Tjia’s ‘She Be Damned’.  Here’s a link to my review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2094068016

My forty-third review for 2017: Joanne Verikios’s ‘Winning Horsemanship’.  Here’s a link to my review:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2096996109

My forty-fourth review for 2017:  Sheridan Jobbins’s ‘Wish You Were Here’.  Here’s a link to my review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2067059504

My forty-fifth review for 2017: ‘My side of the Bridge’ by Veronica Brodie as told to Mary-Anne Gale.  Here’s a link to my review:   https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2108145982

My forty-sixth review for 2017: ‘The Choke’ by Sofie Laguna.  Here’s a link to my review:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2114184678

My forty-seventh review for 2017: ‘Three Little Maids’ by Ethel Turner.  This book was first published in 1900.  Here’s a link to my review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2099071465

My forty-eighth review for 2017.  ‘Fatal Mistake’ by Karen M Davis.  Here’s a link to my review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2122460695

My forty-ninth review for 2017.  ‘Bridget Crack’ by Rachel Leary.  Here’s a link to my review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2125184396

My fiftieth review for 2017.  ‘The Way Back’ by Kylie Ladd.  Here’s a link to my review:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2126162571

My fifty-first review for 2017.  ‘A Dangerous Language’ by Sulari Gentill.  Here’s a link to my review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2128279463

My fifty-second review for 2017.  ‘Driving Too Fast’, a collection of poetry by Dorothy Porter.  Here’s a link to my review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2095031576

My fifty-third review for 2017.  ‘The Lone Child’ by Anna George.  Here’s a link to my review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2136207838

My fifty-fourth review for 2017.  ‘Sixty Seconds’ by Jesse Blackadder.  Here’s a link to my review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2137314655

My fifty-fifth review for 2017.  ‘How to Dress a Dummy’ by Cassie Lane.  Here’s a link to my review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2143063710

My fifty-sixth review for 2017.  ‘Falling Pomegranate Seeds’ by Wendy J Dunn.  Here’s a link to my review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2153449270

My fifty-seventh review for 2017.  ‘The Tides Between’ by Elizabeth Jane Corbett.  Here’s a link to my review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2170121049

My fifty-eighth review for 2017.’Drawing Sybylla’ by Odette Kelada.  Here’s a link to my review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2176490281

My fifty-ninth review for 2017. ‘Accidental Heroes’ (‘The Rogues’ #1) by Lian Tanner.  Here’s a link to my review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2176494041

My sixtieth review for 2017.  ‘The Trauma Cleaner’ by Sarah Krasnostein.  Here’s a link to my review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2180507753

My sixty-first review for 2017. ‘Mirror Sydney’ by Vanessa Berry.  Here’s a link to my review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2181439191

My sixty-second review for 2017. ‘Whitehaven Beach’ (a children’s book) by Cathy Maisano.  Here’s a link to my review:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2189421556

My sixty-third review for 2017. ‘A Crying in the Wind’ by Elizabeth Fleetwood.  Here’s a link to my review:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2197240310

A Crying in the Wind by Elizabeth Fleetwood

I picked this novel purely by chance: it was on the new acquisitions list at my library.  Any novel about Tasmania will catch my attention, but not all will hold it in quite the same way as this novel did.

‘By an unwritten agreement, nobody ever spoke of the past.’

Spanning two hundred years and involving four families, Ms Fleetwood divides her story into four parts and writes of a Tasmania that few of us can have a complete understanding of.  I picked the novel up because it is set in Tasmania and because, although I’ve not lived there for over forty years, I still consider it ‘home’.

The four families, introduced in Part One (which opens in 1812) are the Aborigines (starting with ‘Tom’ Kickerterpoller, stolen from his family in 1812), the Fairfield settlers from Scotland (starting with Susannah), the convicts (starting with George Turner) and (much more briefly) the Dutch Dijkstra family, beginning with Katrijin’s dream.

In the subsequent three parts of the novel, the stories of different family members are told.  These stories will involve dispossession and removal for many of the Aborigines, contrasted with the relative prosperity for many of the European settlers. The Turner descendants will be part of the settlement of the North West, and the Dijkstras will seek refuge in Tasmania after being displaced from both Java and Europe.

Tasmania itself provides another story: of changed land use, of attempts to try to make the land respond to European demands.  Some of these attempts work, others don’t and there is a brooding undertone for those who are sensitive.   Consider this, from one of the more powerful passages in the novel:

‘.. and that awful crying in the wind that apparently nobody else could hear.’

“I hear it”, said Marner. “It’s the cry of the wounded and dispossessed, it’s the groan of nature destroyed for greed, the wailing of the animals driven out and the broken song of the birds shot for no reason, the sadness of those who don’t count, and those whose dignity was trampled on.  It’s the tears of the broken hearts and it’s the cry of those who didn’t love when they could have.”

I kept reading.  I know this crying in the wind more as a feeling of unease in some places.

I enjoyed this novel, recognised some history (especially as it relates to the settlement of the North-West coast region where I was born), learned more about the dispossession of the Aborigines, and wondered about the impact of the past two hundred years.

If you like family sagas, if Tasmania is part of your life or intrigues you because of its beauty, its contrasts and (or) its history, you may enjoy this novel as much as I did.  I loved the way in which Ms Fleetwood wove her characters into the history.  Real or representative, the characters bring the story to life.

I finished the novel wondering what the next chapter would be, both for the characters and Tasmania.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith

#AWW2017

Whitehaven Beach by Cathy Maisano

I don’t read a lot of fiction for younger children these days, but every so often I am tempted.  And I’m especially tempted when book is written by an Australian woman :-).  So, now for something completely different:

‘Sand thieves operating on Whitehaven Beach.  Prepare for immediate departure…’

Megan and Marcus Morgan, aged 8 and 9, are no ordinary school children who enjoy time at the beach.  No, Megan and Marcus are secret agents working for ‘The Environmental Protection of World Beaches’ or ‘EP’.  They are the latest of generations of Morgan children to serve EP.  The family has a beach hut, known as Parry, which is filled with amazing gadgetry and doubles as a very fast rocket ship.  So, when Megan and Marcus receive a message to travel to Australia to save Whitehaven Beach, it takes them only five minutes to travel to Whitehaven Beach from Bexhill-on-Sea in the UK.

When they arrive, they see a massive crocodile which has been swallowing the famous soft white sand on Whitehaven Beach.  But their investigations lead them into danger.  Can Megan and Marcus recover the sand?  What is the story behind the crocodile?  And why is Whitehaven Beach so special? Will it be lost forever?

In this fast-moving children’s adventure, Ms Maisano has combined information about Whitehaven Beach, an engaging pair of heroes, appropriately dastardly villains and all the whizzbang gadgets that heroes need when trying to save the environment.  The story unfolds over nineteen chapters: the sort of story children will enjoy hearing, and adults will enjoy reading to them.  A story for children about children: perfect.  Me, I‘d like to visit Whitehaven Beach one day and  I’m looking for children to read the story to.

This is the first in a series of books (The Paradise Beach Mysteries) by Ms Maisano.  Three have already been published, and a fourth is expected next year.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith

AWW2017

And here, courtesy of Wikipedia, is some more information about Whitehaven Beach.

Mirror Sydney by Vanessa Berry

‘Cities are made up of histories and memories as much as they are made up of their physical environments.’

This book is based on Vanessa Berry’s blog Mirror Sydney  which she has been working on for the past five years.  I discovered the blog after reading this book: it is fabulous.  But back to the book.  In a series of thoughtful anecdotes, accompanied by hand-drawn maps, Ms Berry explores different aspects of Sydney.  There are overlooked places, and odd places.  There are amusement parks (many of which are now defunct); there are time-capsule stores (such as Ligne Noire in Parramatta Road); there’s the memorial (in Kurnell, built in 1870) to Captain Cook’s landing; there’s reference to a coal mine on the Balmain peninsula. As Ms Berry writes:

‘Cities are ever-changing entities, but in Sydney’s drive towards reinvention there was this time something especially rapacious about the rate and scale of change.  The city as I knew it was being overwritten as fast as I could chronicle it.’

There are glimpses into previous plans for the rail network, to the disused platforms 26 and 27 at Central Station, to the plans for Westconnex.

I also enjoyed Ms Berry’s journey through the arcades in the outer suburbs of Sydney, with her reference to Walter Bejamin’s ‘Arcades Project’.  There may have been romance in Benjamin’s Parisian arcades, but there is little romance in the more utilitarian arcades visited in outer Sydney. And yet, the history is interesting even where there are questions unanswered.  What has dictated the shape of a roof?  Whose initials appear above the entry to a shop?  What dreams were represented in some of the arcade names, or stores?

I’m on more familiar ground along Parramatta Road.  My husband has told me of Parramatta Road when he grew up in Leichhardt during the 1950s and 1960s.  My own first visit was in 1970, but I’ve been there frequently enough to witness some of the changes.

‘There are a number of time-capsule stores along Parramatta Road.  There is the never open but fully stocked Ligne Noire perfumerie, like a corner-store version of the Mary-Celeste, the ship discovered in the Atlantic Ocean abandoned with everything onboard intact.’

Ms Berry’s journeys through Sydney, across the Cumberland Plain and towards the Blue Mountains, are about history.  The journeys show changes in land use, and document (in their own way) dispossession.  Dispossession?  Yes.  And not just of the original inhabitants.  As land use in Sydney has changed during the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, people in search of affordable housing are having to move further and further from the city centre.  Many of the low-income housing options once available are being developed into much higher cost housing.

I enjoyed reading this book.  To me, it is an invitation to think about the places depicted, about the multiple factors that shape the city of Sydney, as well as the contrasts between beauty and ugliness.

Ms Berry writes:

‘What I hope for is that the places in Mirror Sydney, at the moments at which I encountered them, will remain in collective memory, as a record of late twentieth- and early twenty-first-century Sydney.  This version of the city, an uneven landscape of harmonious and discordant places, deserves this careful scrutiny, for it is a complex city that folds many times and memories within it.’

I agree.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith

#AWW2017

The Trauma Cleaner by Sarah Krasnostein

‘We specialise in the unpleasant tasks that you need to have taken care of.’

Sandra Pankhurst is a trauma cleaner.  It’s work that she’s been doing for twenty years: at crime scenes, after floods, for real estate agents, for charitable organizations and for executors of deceased estates.  Sandra also cleans for individuals, in cases of long-term neglect where health issues or hoarding have rendered homes barely habitable or worse.

Sarah Krasnostein writes about trauma and its impacts on two levels.  In between chapters about some of the client work Sarah has accompanied Sandra on, there are elements of Sandra Pankhurst’s own extraordinary life.   Reading this book, I was filled with admiration for what Sandra has achieved in her life given the challenges she has faced.    These challenges include adoption and then rejection.  While trying to find a place in the world, Sandra married as a man, fathered children, and then left partner and sons behind.  Transitioning from male to female has its own challenges, and Sandra has learned a lot about belonging, loss and rejection.  No summary I can attempt here will do justice to Sandra’s life and achievements or to the difficulties she has faced.

And yet, perhaps because of these challenges Sandra is able to assist people who’ve lost order in their lives to find new beginnings.  She does this by listening to those she cleans for, by treating them with dignity and respect, by helping them create order.  For some clients, she’s done this more than once.

‘This could be no one else’s office: it radiates the charisma of Pankhurst.  Her corporate motto— Excellence is no accident— ‘hits your face as soon as you walk in’; is painted in white curling script directly onto a cherry-red feature wall and decoratively framed in white.’

I picked up this book because I wanted to know more about what trauma cleaners do.  I was not expecting to read such an incredible, fascinating and (in large part sad) true story about the person who spends her life cleaning up after traumas.   Because of trauma, Sandra Pankhurst cannot remember aspects of her own life.  Because of trauma, she finds it difficult to let others care for her.  And yet, this resilient woman cares for others, affording them compassion, giving them dignity.

This is Ms Krasnostein’s first book, and is well worth reading.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith

#AWW2017