A renewal of an acquaintance

We visited Canberra last weekend as a surprise for our younger daughter’s birthday.  While we were there we had a family day out at one of the historical properties in the Australian Capital Territory. There are not many historical properties as the ACT has a very short history in the scheme of things as Canberra was built as a planned city for the capital of the country.

The place we visited was Lanyon Homestead.

The homestead is now on the edge of the outer suburbs of Canberra.  You are literally one minute in the suburbs then round the corner in the countryside.  When we used to live in Canberra it was a fairly long trip from our suburb out to Lanyon and we were in one of the outer suburbs.  That was many years ago and Canberra has grown considerably since then.

It was lovely to revisit Lanyon as we used to take our children there.  Now there is a cafe in one of the outbuildings

and the homestead is manned by staff who will give guided tours if asked.  We had gone to have a birthday lunch at the cafe as well as doing a tour of the estate.

One aspect that we remembered that is no longer there was the Sidney Nolan Gallery.  The gallery had been there for 27 years but in 2007 it was decided that the gallery was no longer suitable for such a valuable collection. This is rather sad as the collection was housed in a rural setting at the request of the artist.  Now the collection is housed in the Canberra Museum and Gallery.

You can read about what prompted this move at Yolande Norris.

My April reads

I have been busily reading this month so here are the books I have read.

Coffin Road was another Hebridean thriller by Peter May.  I will need to look out for more of his books.  I picked this one up at the secondhand book sale.  Very atmospheric writing.

Promise by Sarah Armstrong, for some reason made me think of The Slap by Christos Tsiolkis.  The link was probably the moral issues and legal issues that were presented here.  The story is set in Sydney and the hinterland of Nimbin. A very thought provoking tale with the moral dilemma that was the focus of the story.  How far should a person go to protect the safety of a child?  I kept wondering what I would do in the situation.

You can listen to an interview with Sarah Armstrong here.

The Blue Mile by Kim Kelly was set in Sydney around the time of the construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.  Lots of historical research has gone into this book and it reminded me of the Rowland Sinclair series of books by Sulari Gentill

“Against the glittering backdrop of Sydney Harbour, The Blue Mile tells of the cruelties of poverty, the wild gamble a city took to build a wonder of the world, and the risks the truly brave will take for a chance at life.”

The book was a romance but the historical aspects made it an enjoyable read.

Exposure by Helen Dunmore didn’t disappoint.  I loved The Siege and this was equally as good.  This is a spy novel but not one with a complex plot.  You can read an excellent review here.

“It is set at the heart of the Cold War in November, 1960. Simon and Lily Carrington live in North London. Simon works at the Admiralty, keeps his head down and has a relatively ordinary life. However, this is turned upside down when he is accused of espionage.”

Selection Day by Aravind Adiga was all about the fanatic love of cricket in India and the pressure that is put on two brothers to succeed in the cricket arena.  It was also an enjoyable read as it provided aspects of life in Mumbai along with the cricket focus. There is an excellent review here.

I thoroughly enjoyed all of these books and would recommend each one.  It was a mixture of genres this month, not my usual crime fiction.

According to Goodreads I am two reads behind in my Reading Challenge so I need to catch up.  At the moment I am reading Jack Maggs by Peter Carey.

 

 

 

 

 

Australian history with a bit of crime and romance

I am really enjoying the Sulari Gentill books of the Rowland Sinclair series.

gentlemen-formerly-dressed

I have just finished Gentlemen Formerly Dressed and enjoyed it just as much as the previous book I reviewed.  The story moves along at a rollicking pace and I stop now and again to check on some particular aspect of Australian history mentioned in the plot.  I love how Sulari Gentill brings history to life.  I have never been a great lover of history but I am loving this series.  The book is set in London but follows on from the troubles they had while in Nazi Germany.

From the cover:

After narrowly escaping the terror of Nazi Germany, Rowland Sinclair and his companions land in London, believing they are safe.

But they are wrong.

A bizarre murder plunges the hapless Australians into a queer world of British aristocracy, Fascist Blackshirts, illicit love, scandal, and spies.

A world where gentlemen are not always what they are dressed up to be.

 There are some wonderful reviews to be found here.

This is another for my Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.

An Australian author I enjoy

I have written previously about the debut novel of Sulari Gentill but since that time she has been prolific in her writings.  I have read A Few Right Thinking Men, A Decline in Prophets and Paving the New Road.  She has also written Miles Off Course but I haven’t read that one.  I am just about to read the fifth book in the series and it is called Gentlemen Formerly Dressed. She has also written The Hero Trilogy, a fantasy adventure series.

Paving the New RoadPaving the New Road was set in the early 1930s and the bulk of the action takes place in Nazi Germany.  This book fits into the historical novel category as well as crime fiction so it is an ideal book for my reading likes.

From the cover:

It’s 1933, and the political landscape of Europe is darkening.  Eric Campbell, the man who would be Australia’s Fuhrer is on a fascist tour of the Continent, meeting dictators over cocktails and seeking allegiances in a common cause.  Yet the Australian way of life is not undefended.  Old enemies have united to undermine Campbell’s ambitions.  The clandestine armies of the Establishment have once again mobilised to thwart any friendship with the Third Reich.

But when their man in Munich is killed, desperate measures are necessary.

Now Rowland Sinclair must travel to Germany to defend Australian democracy from the relentless march of Fascism.  Amidst the goose-stepping euphoria of a rising Nazi movement, Rowland encounters those who will change the course of history.  In a world of spies, murderers and despotic madmen, he can trust no-one but an artist, a poet and a brazen sculptress.

Sulari Gentill does a wonderful job of bringing Australian history to life with the inclusion of real characters amongst her fictitious. Rowland Sinclair is the debonair and charming protagonist of this series and he along with his friends provide the vehicle for this wonderful look at Australian history while giving us the intrigue of a crime fiction novel.

Highly recommended. A rollicking read.

This is another book for my Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.

Omeo, Omeo, not wherefore but where art thou Omeo?

I live in Metung, East Gippsland which in the eastern part of the state of Victoria in Australia.  Omeo is in Victoria and in terms of distance in Australia it is quite near to Metung.

Metung to OmeoOmeo is situated on the Great Alpine Road and my reason for mentioning Omeo is that I have just finished reading a book that was set in the area around Omeo.

Great Alpine RoadThe book I purchased for $1 at a thrift shop and it was a dollar well spent as I thoroughly enjoyed the book.

Lottie

I have to admit that the cover is not the most enticing I have seen but nonetheless I was intrigued to read about this death that had “shocked Australia”.

From the cover:

When Ethel Griggs dies suddenly in the Victorian country town of Omeo in January 1928, rumours about her husband’s blatant affair with Lottie, the lovely 20-year-old daughter of the local grazier and Methodist elder, Jack Condon, are rife.  So rife that despite a doctor’s certificate suggesting natural causes, police order Ethel Griggs body to be exhumed and the young mother of 11-month-old baby Alwyn is found to have died from Arsenic poisoning.

Her husband, the Reverend Ron Griggs, the district’s methodist minister, is charged with her cruel and heartless murder.  Based on a true story, Reg Egan has recreated. in his first novel, the town and its people, the atmosphere and the love affair that intrigued and shocked the whole of Australia.

The story was certainly intriguing and I enjoyed the fact that I could visualise the various places mentioned in the story.  Even Traralgon station got a mention along with Bruthen, Ensay, Swifts Creek, Cassilis and numerous other small places in the district. The major towns also played a part with Sale and Bairnsdale enjoying centre stage at some point.

An enlightening read particularly for those interested in the local district and the history of the district.

Here and here you can read newspaper reports on the murder.

This one will go on my Historical Fiction Reading Challenge as it was set in 1928.

 

The wing of night was an unusual title

This novel won the Nita Kibble Literary Award in 2006.

The Wing of NIght

From the book cover:

In 1915 a troopship of Light Horsemen sails from Fremantle for the Great War.  Two women farewell their men: Elizabeth, with her background of careless wealth, and Bonnie, who is marked by the anxieties of poverty.  Neither can predict how the effects of the most brutal fighting at Gallipoli will devastate their lives in the long aftermath of the war.

The Wing of Night is a novel about the strength and failure of faith and memory, about returned soldiers who become exiles in their own country, about how people may become the very opposite of what they imagined themselves to be.

It is a testament to the other side of the Anzac experience.  An engaging and thoroughly believable depiction of the impact of war on a generation of ordinary folk, of the memories that haunt lay soldiers and those left at home to pick up the pieces.

I seem to have read a few novel recently with some link to war, I guess that is understandable as I am taking part in a historical fiction reading challenge.

The Wing of Night by Brenda Walker was a love story as well as one about the experiences of war.  It is one that I enjoyed reading as the novel had two very different protagonists and their stories were intertwined. If you are interested in Australians in World War I, with the spotlight falling on those who were left at home and those who returned home after the war, then this is the book for you.  It was an interesting read.

Another book by this author is Reading by Moonlight: how books saved a life. This is a memoir about the time Brenda Walker was having treatment for breast cancer. You can listen to a programme on this by clicking here.  You can also read and listen to more on this book at the ABC Book Club website. This book also won the Nita Kibble Literary Award, this time in 2011.  It is a book I have put on my list of books to read.