Another February read

This is a Miles Franklin WInner to add to my 2019 Reading Challenge.  It certainly lives up to the status of winner and depicts Australia in beautiful language.

From the book cover:

“His father dead by fire and his mother plagued by demons of her own, William is cast upon the charity of his unknown uncle – an embittered old man encamped in the ruins of a once great station homestead, Kuran House.  It’s a baffling and sinister new world for the boy, a place of decay and secret histories.

William’s uncle is obsessed by a long life of decline and by a dark quest for revival, his mother is desperate for a wealth and security she has never known, and all their hopes it seems come to rest upon his young shoulders.  But as the past and present of Kuran Station unravel and merge together, the price of that inheritance may prove to be the downfall of them all.”

I loved how so many aspects of Australian history were woven into the story.  I will be searching out other books by Andrew McGahan who had written many books before his untimely death from pancreatic cancer.

I don’t enjoy reading in large print.

The Life to Come by Michelle de Kretser was a very different read for me.  The many and varied characters kept me on my toes throughout the read.“Set in Australia, France, and Sri Lanka, The Life to Come is about the stories we tell and don’t tell ourselves as individuals, as societies, and as nations. Driven by a vivid cast of characters, it explores necessary emigration, the art of fiction, and ethnic and class conflict.”

I had put a reserve in at the library for this book and didn’t realise it was in large print, not my favourite way to read a book I must say.  I kept wishing it was in smaller print.  Apart from that I did enjoy the actual story.

The book is full of so many characters each portrayed in detail and each appearing to intersect in the lives of others in the novel.  I sometimes had difficulty in working out which characters linked with whom.

The descriptive writing is beautiful and the characters are unusual.  If you expect the characters to be lovable and for everything to come out just so at the end then you will be disappointed.  The characters have many flaws but life is depicted realistically.

A great read.

Another terrific Australian novel

Scrublands is a quintessential Australian novel.  I loved this book.

This review by Sue Turnball in the Sydney Morning Herald says all that needs to be said about the novel.

“Scrublands is the epic novel about rural life in Australia that we need right now. In its concern with crime beyond the suburban fringe, it sits right up there with the late Peter Temple’s Broken Shore, Garry Disher’s Bitterwash Road and Jane Harper’s The Dry, even as it extends their focus and reach.

What former journalist and foreign correspondent Chris Hammer has given us is nothing more nor less than the ethnography of a dying town where the op-shop with its window full of dead men’s shoes is only open Tuesday and Thursday, the hotel has closed down for lack of business, and the only place to stay is the Black Dog Motel, “no pets allowed”.

This level of observational detail is hardly surprising given Hammer is the author of The River, a prize-winning non-fiction account of life in the Murray-Darling basin during the millennium drought. He’s done the background research and now woven it into a crime novel that slowly unwraps the layers of complexity that constitute the tightly woven Riversend, a fictional but completely recognisable rural town that is “circling the wagons against drought and economic decline” as the biker gang roars through.. . . . . Scrublands is a rural crime novel with remarkable breadth and depth that would also make a superb TV series.”

From the book cover:

“In Riversend, an isolated rural community afflicted by an endless drought, a young priest does the unthinkable, killing five parishioners before being taken down himself.

A year later, accompanied by his own demons from war-time reporting, journalist Martin Scarsden arrives in Riversend. His assignment is simple: describe how the townspeople are coping as the anniversary of their tragedy approaches. But as Martin meets the locals and hears their version of events, he begins to realize that the accepted wisdom—that the priest was a pedophile whose imminent exposure was the catalyst for the shooting, a theory established through an award-winning investigation by Martin’s own newspaper—may be wrong.

Just as Martin believes he’s making headway, a new development rocks the town. The bodies of two German backpackers—missing since the time of the church shootings—are discovered in a dam in the scrublands, deserted backwoods marked by forest fires. As the media flocks to the scene, Martin finds himself thrown into a whole new mystery.

What was the real reason behind the priest’s shooting spree? And how does it connect to the backpacker murders, if at all? Martin struggles to uncover the town’s dark secrets, putting his job, his mental state, and his life at risk as more and more strange happenings escalate around him.”

A real page turner.  A fantastic read.

 

About my 2019 Reading Challenge

This year I have decided to reduce the number of books on my challenge and instead of 104 my challenge is 80.  For part of my challenge I would like to read as many books as I can from the previous winners of the Miles Franklin Literary Award.

In 1957, the first winner of the Miles Franklin Literary Award was announced: Patrick White, for his novel Voss. Over the years, the prize has been awarded to novels describing life in suburbia, compulsive gamblers, Australians abroad – but always true to the terms of Miles Franklin’s will: ‘[the] prize shall be awarded for the Novel for the year which is of the highest literary merit and which must present Australian Life in any of its phases …’.

I have read a few of them already but I will now endeavour to read some of the remaining books on the list.  Those I have read are:

All that I am by Anna Funder

Truth by Peter Temple

The ballad of Desmond Kale by Roger Mcdonald

Dark Palace by Frank Moorhouse

Jack Maggs by Peter Carey

The Well by Elizabeth Jolley

Cloudstreet by Tim Winton

Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey

Bring Larks and Heroes by Thomas Keneally

There are 47 books on the list so I still have a few I can choose from.  I think I will start with Voss by Patrick White as I have a copy here at home.

Book of Lost Threads but wool plays a part. . .

Book of Lost ThreadsIndeed there were many lost threads in this book but wool also played a part. This was a delightful book, another feel good read.

It was so long ago.  The person he was then no longer existed.  What was he supposed to say to this. . .  this interloper who had materialised on his doorstep?  Couching down on his haunches, he poked at the fire and looked at her covertly from under his eyebrows.  She was obviously waiting for him to say something.  He frowned. There was something not quite right . . .What was it?

Moss had run away from Melbourne to Opportunity on the trail of a man she knows only by name.  But her arrival set in train events that disturb the long-held secrets of three of the town’s inhabitnts: Finn, a brilliant mathematician, who has become a recluse: Lily Pargetter, eighty-three-year-old knitter of tea cosies; and Sandy, the town buffoon, who dreams of a Great galah.

It is only as Moss, Finn, Lily and Sandy develop unlikely friendships that they find a way to lay their sorrows to rest and knit together the threads that will restore them to life.

This is a tender story but also funny.  It is about love, loss, parents, children, faith, hope and the value of kindness. This was a very quick read, something light after many thrillers. Also it was delightfully Australian.

Ten Australian books to read before you die.

Much as I dislike the ubiquity of “before you die” when talking about lists, I have used it here as it was the title of the First Tuesday Bookclub on the ABC last Tuesday night.

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I thought I would share the ten books with you.  Perhaps you have read them.  You will find each of each of the books here, including a summary along with the remainder of the top fifty that didn’t make the top ten.

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Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay

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The Magic Pudding by Norman Lindsay

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The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas

ThePowerofOne

The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay

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A Fortunate Life by A.B. Facey

TheHarpintheSouth

The Harp in the South by Ruth Park

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The Secret River by Kate Grenville

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The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak

The number one book was. . . .

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Cloud Street by Tim Winton

If you have been counting you will realise that is only nine books.  The last book is the only one I haven’t read

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This book won Book of the Year in 2010.  It will go on my to read list.

I would be interested to know how many on the list those of you from overseas have read.

Here is the list in the order 1-10

Cloudstreet – Tim Winton
The Book Thief – Markus Zusak
A Fortunate Life – A.B. Facey
The Power of One – Bryce Courtenay
The Harp in the South – Ruth Park
Jasper Jones – Craig Silvey
The Magic Pudding – Norman Lindsay
The Slap – Christos Tsiolkas
The Secret River – Kate Grenville
Picnic at Hanging Rock – Joan Lindsay