Australian fiction

(in)sanity: reading prelude to christopher

Hello friendly readers,

This is a very exciting post. This is the review of my final university set text. After this book, I no longer have assigned novels or books to read. At last count I am eleven weeks and 4,200 words away from completing my degree and graduation so fun times ahead.

So without any further rambling, here are my thoughts on Eleanor Dark’s Prelude to Christopher.

This was the first Australian book I have read that didn’t revolve entirely around the Australian landscape or setting in some way or another. Although there are obvious elements of Australian culture and values, for me it was significantly different to all the other Australian literature I have read.

The basis of the book is the exploration of hereditary mental illness and insanity. The main questions posed are whether mental illness is hereditary and can be passed on through genetics, whether being told you’re mentally ill can result in making you mentally ill and whether there is a way of breaking the cycle of events around you.

Although the discussions of eugenics may seem a little confronting and worrisome, the novel was written before World War II, an important factor to keep in mind while reading. In this sense, Dark effectively captures some of the discussions and opinions occurring in Australia and other countries during the period.

The novel, similar to the writings of Virginia Woolf and James Joyce, takes place over a short amount of time, just four days. This works as Dark intersperses the present with the past to create an interesting collage of stories, characters and events. It also means the story ends up with an interesting crime/mystery fiction feel as the reader tries to put the pieces together.

The novel reflects on a variety of characters, their lifestyles and circumstances and the ways in which these impact and inform their mental and emotional stability. Overall, it represents the shifting ideologies and new ideas that were forming in Australia and other countries in the period before WWII.

It was a very enjoyable read and I was completely drawn into the world and characters, even questioning my own mental stability at times. It has changed my perspective on contemporary and pre-war Australian literature and greatly improved my outlook for the remainder of the course.

From the internet friend who has stopped questioning her mental stability (coz we all know there are a few bits missing),

The Cat

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the cards we are dealt: reading i am the messenger

This week’s book as voted into the 101 Club as one of the 101 Best Books as voted for by Dymocks readers and it definitely deserves it.

I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak was one of the few highlights of the couple of days in which I was based in my bed surrounded by tissue boxes, Strepsil packets and steaming hot mugs of tea..

Luckily, I can safely say, this book was a fantastic bedside companion. Between sneezes, I gripped the pages of the book, quickly turning through the chapters. At every point, I wanted to continue reading and managed to finish the book in under 48 hours (granted I was stuck in bed, but it is an amazing experience nonetheless).

Many of you may now be familiar with the work of Markus Zusak because of the recent film adaptation of his novel, The Book Thief. If you aren’t familiar with his work, get familiar. I read The Book Thief a few years ago and was impressed, but I Am the Messenger definitely put Markus Zusak on a whole new level for me.

This book was a gift I bought for myself that went well beyond my expectations. What I was expecting was an enjoyable plot with interesting characters all portrayed through beautiful language. What I got was so much more than that.

Sometimes when you read a book, you get caught up in the world, but when you finish the last page, you close the book, slip it back onto the shelf and continue about your life.

But other books stay with you and change the way you live. Through this blog and the reading challenge I set myself this year, I have been very lucky to find a number of these books such as John Green’s Looking for Alaska and Craig Silvey’s Rhubarb. Currently, I Am the Messenger is the most inspiring book I have read this year.

The novel is filled with ideas and is one of the first experiences I have had where I have read a book with the conscious thought that every reader will take away something different. Now that I have read the book, I feel it will be a different story every time I read it. It became a very subjective and personal experience that I felt deeply connected with.

For me, the book really explored the ways in which we can change and impact the lives of others through both small and seemingly mediocre actions, as well as through grand gestures and big changes. It also made me think about the human capacity for compassion and love and the ability to connect with others. The ideas of the book went beyond the pages and really moved me. It really showed the way that we can take the smallest skills we have and use them to become a better person and better those around us. 

With this in mind, and my experience of the book, I am going to take each of the playing cards from my photo and do something nice with them. I haven’t decided exactly what those will be yet but they might range from something simple like writing someone a note, to something a little bigger like volunteering my time. As I complete each card over the next fortnight or two, I’ll keep you readers updated in the comments section.

From the girl who is now inspired to change someone’s day with a smile,

The Cat

it’s raining, it’s pouring: reading it’s raining in mango

This week is another Australian classic from my class set reading list, Thea Astley’s It’s Raining in Mango. My free time is a bit low on the ground at the moment meaning my free reading is getting a little bit limited, but rest assured I’m hoping to get a little bit more done over the month. Keep an eye out for a potential Hunger Games week challenge I’m going to announce over the coming weeks.

Like the title, my week was full of rain, wind and hail so it was a nice feeling to curl up in bed with a hot tea and warm blanket and read.

I did really enjoy this book. It was a bit of a surprise because the pile of books I wanted to read was quite high when I begrudgingly picked this up for class but I am pleased I read it.

The book is really interesting because there are quite a number of characters, plot lines and time periods. The best part is the way each of these characters either interact with or embody historical moments, beliefs or shifts in Australia during the nineteenth century.

With that said, the characters and these movements are not romanticised or overtly celebrated like many traditional Australian narratives, but reflect a serious attempt to analyse both the positives and negatives of these situations.

For me, this made the book and characters more realistic as it didn’t have the pronounced nationalist feel that certain texts sometimes seem to have. It also meant the culture of Australia during this period was more true to the history.

The other unique feature of the book was the Australian climate and landscapes. Rather than use the traditional Australian bush landscape, Astley sets the book in the tropical parts of northern Queensland. This made the book far more interesting as it differs from a lot of the traditional Australian narratives but also meant a number of different themes and concepts could be explored.

The book overall was a surprise and was again another Australian classic that I feel accurately reflected and examined the Australian culture of the nineteenth century. However, if you are searching for a happy ending or a heart-warming and nationalistic piece, this probably isn’t the book for you.

From the internet friend who is holding out for more sunshine and warmer weather, 

The Cat

surfies, molls and vaseline: reading puberty blues

Hello lovely readers,

Again I have missed my deadline for my post and again I have a poor excuse for being late. Punctuality is apparently not my thing.

This week my excuse is I just didn’t have any free time, between searching for a new house in Melbourne (how exciting!), having all my family travel down and stay for the week (even more exciting!) and my twenty-first, followed by my cousin’s eighteenth (the most exciting!).

I think it’s safe to say, time for blogging was a little bit scarce. but please forgive me and let me make up for it by reviewing an iconic, and recently re-popularised, Australian youth classic, Puberty Blues.

Now I am one of the few who have not been sucked into the new tv series. I’ve heard such resounding reviews that I’ve actually avoided it for fear of detriment to my study.

But I did read the book, and all I can say is, I loved it. From page one I was sucked into the lives of Debbie and Sue, two thirteen year old girls, growing up in 1970’s Australia.

The book beautifully captures the difficulties surrounding boys and sex, alcohol and drugs and overall growing up as a teenage girl.

Around this coming-of-age story are the fantastic images of the 1970’s with straight-legged Levi’s, the drive-in, panel vans and the surfie culture of southern Sydney.

The plot bares all about the girls and their struggles, with parents, boyfriends, bullies and the desperate need to be accepted into the ‘cool’ group.

Surprisingly and impressively, the book and characters don’t become whingy and whining, nor are they common and stereotypical.

Unlike many other youth fiction books, especially those based on the experiences of teenage girls, the book remains enjoyable and the characters are elegantly simple.

The short novel is inspired by the experiences of the two authors, Kathy Lette and Gabrielle Carey, giving an authenticity to the plot and characters that brings them to life from the page.

The authors make you connect with Sue and Deb, as you, regardless of age, think back to your high school days of cliques, flirting and homework.

The books is a fantastic embodiment of a classic Australian coming-of-age story and beloved by many more than yours truly, with positive reviews from Germaine Greer to Kylie Minogue.

I finished the 150 page book in two days and would definitely recommend all those who haven’t read it do so (especially if you watch the tv show).

 

From the friend who encourages you to make good life choices, 

The Cat