These paper boats of mine are meant to dance on the ripples of hours, and not reach any destination... Rabindranath Tagore

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past...F. Scott Fitzgerald - The Great Gatsby

We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom. We lived in the gaps between the stories.
On the way to the river are the old dormitories, used for something else now, with their fairy-tale turrets, painted white and gold and blue. When we think of the past it's the beautiful things we pick out. We want to believe it was all like that.
--from Margaret Atwood - The Handmaid's Tale

Reading is the sole means by which we slip, involuntarily, often helplessly, into another's skin, another's voice, another's soul.
- Joyce Carol Oates


Tuesday 30.9.14
Broken LinesBroken Lines by James Hunt
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

If you like a book that bulldozes through brisk bursts of action, then this book has possible appeal. No dallying around character sketches, getting to know what makes them tick...Let's just get into and get on with the action...

The summer sun was brutal. Even the asphalt was sweating.

This is a hot world suddenly cut from the power of microchip energy.

All of the cars along the highway were completely still. Wrecks dotted the road for miles.

... and that brings out desperate needs for desperate measures.

Hasty snapshot descriptions of tense atmospheres tend to evolve into tangling mixed metaphors...
e.g. There was only the silent murmur of crowds piling into the streets looking confused in the motionless city...

But wise and brave (seems to be) man Mike has plans to get his family into their jeep and off to their holiday cabin in Ohio...

I was left breathless and hungry for a bit of depth...

Monday 29.9.14
An Unforgivable Secret by J.E.B. Spredemann
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hannah, Samuel and Christian lived in the folds of the Amish community. But all three reached out and touched other worlds, other traditions, other lives beyond the comforts of Amish routines. Their minds and their hearts were challenged, viciously challenged till each struggled to return to some form of peace in Amish realities. One stepped further.

A book that awakens religious, cultural and moral questions and offers the reader the opportunity to seek personal answers, to affirm personal faith in inner strength.

Thursday 26.12.13
The End of the World
by Sushma Joshi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The End of the World is the title of one of the 8 short stories about late 20th century Nepal and those who live there. But, as the title of the whole collection of stories, it suggests that each story symbolises some kind of ending in progress - without the relief or satisfaction of closure. The people struggle with new tastes - Cheese, unravelled friendships - Betrayal and the dark side of power - Law and Order. The monsoon season could almost be a welcome distraction. There is little time to get to know any characters. There is just the ragged moment mirroring little sign of fulfilment. The collection could represent a negative view of this world, struck down by shifts in political circumstance. But then there is the enigma that we hope, we keeping hoping that such chaos of personal identity and purpose must tire, must end sometime.

Tuesday 24.12.13
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It is easy to get caught up in the colour and mystery and intrigue of the Christmas ghosts of A Christmas Carol. But I have read this story - usually at Christmas - a number of times. For once, I found myself pouring over the Christmas past - the 19th century London Scrooge as a lonely child, little more than a ghost himself. Somehow the older, selfish monster that he became was a sad reflection of why - perhaps a sad reflection of why many today still lock out the Christmas spirit. The story is an enchanting carol, celebrating a possible transformation from ghost to spirit.

Monday 23.12.14
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Many years ago, I had to read this book as a school text. I was in Year 7 at the time. I remember being mesmerised with the knitting theme (knitting round a guillotine haunted me) and totally disenchanted with Lucie Manette, the Doctor's daughter. For some reason, I thought of Shakespeare's Desdemona - syrupy and tragic, bearable but not totally warm and likeable. All these years later, and my views haven't changed, but I have noticed other features in this story. Dickens is adept at personifying the weather and the countryside. The personifications subtly add tone and mystery and depth to unfolding dramas. He shaves off a few layers of character and storyline and then moves on. So frustratingly delightful. And he is also adept at seeing beyond external characters. Sidney Carton, the ugly, insipid loser of the whole narrative, becomes a tragic hero of grand proportion. I read the whole book in two sessions over two days. It still enchants.

Saturday 10.8.13
Song of the Slums by Richard Harland
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It's the Age of Steam with a vibrant heartbeat growing in the slums. Astor has been groomed in the harp, but when she is left in the wealthy Swale household under rather strange marriage circumstances, and escapes, she inadvertently grooms a whole new lifestyle with matriarch Granny Rouse and her slum gang. It is there that Astor finds her real music, her real rhythms and her soul.

Sunday 4.8.13
The Red Shoe by Ursula Dubosarsky
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The scattered debris of post war worlds is all here. The headlines of the day cut into the home lives. Disturbingly, perspectives of home mirror the crises on larger scales. This is not a novel based on a traditional, linear narrative sequence. It is like mini memoirs co-existing spiced with flashbacks; mainly the memoirs of children growing up in a world they barely understand. The effect is mesmerising; a sense of sadness grappling with the right to find some kind of happiness - with a little help from some red shoes that could be magical.

Sunday 28.7.13
Purple Threads by Jeanine Leane
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Layers of stories tumble from the worlds of a ragged home in Gundagai in southern New South Wales. A young girl is buffeted between stories from past and present worlds - her aunts' versions. But she is intrigued. She loves her different world, close to the music and moods of the earth. Only humans strike the wrong chords, but the other music plays in the background. Her purple threads - the earth colours of an Australian October, her birth season - keep her connected. Sunny is an Aboriginal girl being what she can be. The narrative becomes a series of many cameos of Sunny's world and those with her through the seasons.

Saturday 27.7.13

Refugee Boy by Benjamin Zephaniah
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Perhaps this book disappoints- not outlining the tensions between Eritrea and Ethiopia, not fully exploring and explaining the work of young Alem's parents, but the book is about the boy; the boy finding his own journey and his own rite of passage. We feel the incredible confusions he must feel - an alien culture and climate, a Refugee Council, a foster family, a new school and the whole disturbing, temporary arrangement of it all. And in the midst of all this darkness, appear some rather special miracles. Young people dare to face and challenge legal strongholds. An apparently indifferent girl becomes his sister. This book bridges and casts a rainbow over the many tragic chasms in our world.

Sunday 5.5.13
The art of the engine driver by Steven Carroll
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A book that tantalises and frustrates! Tantalising thumbnails of characters drifting through a season in their lives. The just outside Melbourne setting of the 1950's is like a weigh station - taking stock of past and present before moving on. Initially, the sense of place is beautifully described and quite haunting. The linking thread is an engine driver named Vic who hopes that his steam driving worlds may move on to the electric worlds of the Spirit of Progress. But his driving worlds are overlaid with fractured realities that haunt his dreams. And Vic himself is one of those fractured realities. He and those living in the same street are on their way to an engagement party. Like a Canterbury Tales scenario, these pilgrims bring their stories with them. But the frustrating element is the spasmodic reference to a comet in the skies...perhaps symbolic of an upheaval of life. And when the upheaval comes, the drama seems to confuse, the characters seem to fizzle and maybe peter out. The art of the engine driver seems to become a little weathered.

Monday 14.1.13
Walk in My Shoes by Alwyn Evans
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Nessa's Afghanistan was a tortured world, a world living the fear of The Terror. And the fear stays alive in her mind, even when her family ventures to the Australian unknown, seeking some kind of freedom and life. Like some ugly Medusa, old realities become nightmares, recurring in jagged, disjointed fragments. But the land of "red dirt and blue sky" heals the thirsting spirit - slowly.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...