Wednesday, 13 November 2019

99 Interpretations of The Drover's Wives by Ryan O'Neill


This little curiosity has been sitting by my bed for over a year now. It has taken a hectic schedule and a determination to read as much Australian literature this month as possible to bring this particular book to the top of the pile.

Why?

Simply because, as the title says, it is 99 stories re-interpreting Henry Lawson's 1892 short story The Drover's Wife. With my schedule so crazy, the chance to read a stack of short stories sounded like the perfect way to get through AusReadingMonth ticking a few goals!

And it was.

99 Interpretations of the Drover's Wives was a LOT of fun. Starting with a reprint of the original Henry Lawson story to refresh our memories, O'Neill then went on to retell the story in various literary styles.

I'd love to share all 99 with you, but that would just get tedious. Which is how I also felt if I tried to read more than 4 or 5 in one sitting.

The Drover's Wives was best read in small doses so that one could enjoy each version for what it was.

My personal favourites were the Hemingwayesque, the Year 8 English Essay (which had me laughing out loud and reading parts out to a bemused Mr Books), Editorial Comments, A Gossip Column, A 1980's Computer Game, Tweets, A Question Asked by an Audience Member at a Writer's Festival and Biographical. I also enjoyed the Cryptic Crossword and Wordsearch.

Some of the interpretations left me scrambling around on google trying to understand the reference. For instance, I have never read any Cormac McCarthy, so the McCarthyesque version went over my head until I found a vocab list of McCarthy's books that explained everything!

Lipogram was another new-to-me term. Turns out this is a composition where the author systemically omits a certain letter of the alphabet. O'Neill chose the letter 'e'. Whilst Univocalic only uses one vowel throughout the whole story. Again the 'e'.

I wasn't sure what a pangram was, but figured out from the sentence - Zippy onyx snake just got squelched by fuming drover's wife! - that it was a sentence that used every letter of the alphabet.

I also discovered someone I know. At the bottom of the Political Cartoon was 'art by Sam Paine'. I thought, 'I know Sam Paine, he's a Mudgee boy, I wonder if it's the same one?' Turns out it was.

The N + 7 chapter made no sense until I discovered the N + 7 generator - a machine that converts your text by replacing each noun in a text with the seventh one following it in a dictionary. It also explained why O'Neill dedicated the book not only to Henry Lawson but the Frenchman Raymond Queneau. Queneau was one of the 1960 founders of OULIPO (Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle) a group of ten writers and mathematicians who created pieces by using constrained writing techniques.

One of Queneau's most famous works was Exercises in Style, which tells the story of a man's seeing the same stranger twice in one day. He tells that short story in 99 different ways. Sound familiar?

Abecedarian was a curious choice. Until I learnt about the program for disadvantaged children and finally understood the focus on the children playing and the desire for a stable home environment.

The Drover's Wives was a playful, entertaining read.
O'Neill managed to sneak in pretty much every fact known about the writing of the original story, plus loads of biographical information about Lawson throughout the 99 versions. Imaginative speculation and creative cross-overs with other stories and authors also featured in different versions.

Recommended for readers with some basic knowledge of Lawson, his short stories and the Australian literary scene. If you have to google every single version, then you may not find it quite so amusing.

the drover's wife, 1945 Russell Drysdale

Facts:
  • O'Neill was the winner of the 2017 Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Fiction for Their Brilliant Careers.
  • The Drover's Wife was first published in The Bulletin on the 23rd July 1892.
  • Russell Drysdale's painting the drover's wife 1945 (although apparently not connected to Lawson's story).
  • On 28th June 1975 Murray Bail published a story in Tabloid Story that connected Lawson and Drysdale's works.
  • In 1980 Frank Moorhouse published his satire of the bush ethos in the centenary January edition of The Bulletin.
  • In December of the same year, Barbara Jeffries published her feminist version.
  • Anne Gambling (1986) The Drover's De Facto
  • Kate Jennings (1996) Snake
  • Mandy Sayers (1996) The Drovers' Wives - a critical response.
  • David Ireland (1997) The Drover's Wife
  • Damien Broderick (1991) The Drover's Wife's Dog tells the story from the dogs point of view.
  • Leah Purcell in 2016 created a play based on the story that infuses the story with a female First Nations perspective.
  • The Drover's Wife : A Celebration of a Great Australian Love Affair anthology by Frank Moorhouse 2017 which includes many of the versions above.

Monday, 11 November 2019

Week 3 - Non-Fiction November


Week 3: (Nov. 11 to 15) – Be The Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert (Katie at Doing Dewey): Three ways to join in this week! You can either share 3 or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert), you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read (ask the expert), or you can create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert).

As discussed in my week 2 Non-Fiction November post, I'm keen to know more about the GDR, life behind the Wall and the impact of the Wall coming down in 1989. So if you have any expert knowledge on this topic, please feel free to share in the comments.

However this week, I will turn the non-fiction gaze back to me, to show off  highlight some of the stuff I know, thanks to books!

Previously I have explored the Holocaust, Coco Chanel and Napoleon.

My 2014 Holocaust and Coco Chanel Be the Expert post is here.
My 2017 Holocaust Be the Expert post is here.
My 2018 Napoleon Be the Expert post is here.

This year we will travel to Japan.

My fascination with Japan goes back to my high school days when I studied Japanese for two and half years. Sadly, I am nowhere near as proficient in the language as that impressive claim might otherwise sound. But my obsession with cherry blossoms, tea ceremonies and Hiroshima dates back to this time.

I vaguely remember watching the TV series of Shogun back in the early 80's, but priests running around old Japan with swords failed to really capture my imagination. Not long after, A Town Like Alice was turned into a TV drama in Australia starring a young Bryan Brown. Here I learnt about many of the Japanese atrocities that happened in Malaysia in WWII. When my family moved to Cowra and I started taking Japanese classes, these were the two stories which formed my main views about Japan.

Quickly I was caught up on Cowra's own very personal history with Japan during WWII via the so-called Cowra Break-Out. Cowra still maintains a Japanese war cemetery from this time and now has a beautiful Japanese Garden created by Takeshi "Ken" Nakajima. This is where I caught the Japanese fetish for cherry blossoms. For five formative years during my teens, whilst we lived in Cowra, visiting the gardens in the spring time was the thing to do and something to look forward to. Long before selfies and hashtags, I was hooked on getting photos of swirling pink blossoms!

During my China phase in my twenties, I read a number of stories and histories that depicted the Japanese soldiers in China between the two world wars and into WWII. It was not a happy experience for the Chinese.

Over the years I have also read and watched a number of stories about the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbour, life in Changi prison, the fall of Singapore, the battle of Midway, the Kokoda Trail, the Burma Railway, the Vyner Brooke nurses captured in Singapore and James A Michiner's Sayonara.

It has only been in the past decade or so that I have finally started reading books set in Japan, written by Japanese authors.

Murakami was my first love, but I have broadened my range into Japanese classic literature, popular fiction and haiku (including Basho's travelling haiku classic Narrow Road to the Interior).

You can check out ALL the books on my blog that have been labelled 'Japan' or you can read about my non-fiction picks below.
  • The tsunami of 2011 has spawned many books including Strong in the Rain by Lucy Birmingham & David McNeill. But my favourite was Ghosts of the Tsunami by Richard Lloyd Parry - an in-depth study into the effects of the tsunami on one particular community.

For tales of modern travellers in Japan try:
  • Jane Lawson's Tokyo Style Guide - full of amazing vibrant photography.
  • Neon Pilgrim by Lisa Dempster - a terrific description of a young woman's attempt to walk the 88 Temples of Shikoku.
  • Peter Carey wrote a slim volume about taking his teenage son to Japan in Wrong About Japan.
  • And I wrote a post in which I discuss the best travel guides to take to Japan.

Children's books also feature on my backlist:
  • Yoko's Diary edited by Paul Ham was an award winning book about the story of a Hiroshima victim and her half-brother, who survived.

I continue to LOVE books about the food and culture of Japan. Most of these are still reads in progress, as I dip in and out of them when I can.
  • Tokyo Local by Caryn Liew & Brendan Liew
  • Tokyo by Steve Wilde & Michelle Mackintosh
  • Rice Noodle Fish by Matt Goulding
  • Shinrin-yoku by Yoshifumi Miyazaki
  • Onsen of Japan by Steve Wilde & Michelle Mackintosh

And because I can't help myself, I have a collection of non-fiction books about Japan, waiting for me to have the time to read them. Have you read any of these? Which ones should I prioritise?
  • Lonely Planet's Best of Japan
  • Hokkaido Highway Blues by Will Ferguson
  • Riding the Trains in Japan by Patrick Holland
  • Absolutely on Music by Murakami and Ozawa
  • Autobiography of a Geisha by Sayo Masuda
  • The Book of Tea by Kakuzo Okakura
  • Men Without Women by Murakami
  • Hiroshima by John Hersey
  • Lost Japan by Alex Kerr
  • On the Narrow Road: Journey into a Lost Japan by Lesley Downer
  • The Wages of Guilt: Memories of War in Germany and Japan by Ian Buruma

It took 35 years, but last year, for my 50th birthday, I finally saw cherry blossoms in Japan! It was a truly magical experience. Worth the wait in pink gold!


If you have any more inspired choices about travelling, living or eating in Japan, or any biography/history recommendations about the Japanese experience of WWII, I'd love to know.

Arigatou-gozaimasu ありがとうございます

Saturday, 9 November 2019

Moby-Dick Chapters 45 - 49


Articles:
  • The Endless Depths of Moby-Dick Symbolism by Joe Fassler 20 Aug 2013 basically tells us that there is so much symbolism in Moby-Dick as to render it meaningless! 
    • However his discussion with David Gilbert, a self-professed lover of Moby-Dick, reflects exactly what I'm enjoying (or more precisely, feeling smug about) our #slowread. 
You cannot read this book for speed. It is designed for the long haul, the chapters never too long, naps seemingly built into the text. It is, dare I say, a voyage. When in doubt, or simply in need of something, the something uncertain, a scratch like the scratch Ishmael feels in those opening lines, instead of the sea I will take to Moby-Dick and turn to a random page and read a few paragraphs out loud, my voice hauling forth the words like a net full of squirmy fish. It gets in your blood. It is your blood.
  • Moby Dick is Not a Novel: An Anatomy of an Anatomy by Jacob Shamsian, 21st Oct, 2014.
    • I've never heard of an anatomy story before, but according to Shamsian, Moby-Dick is one (as is The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman and Gulliver's Travels).
    • Moby-Dick isn’t actually a book about a whale named Moby-Dick. Melville uses his many pages to talk about whatever he wants. His book wanders through plot, character descriptions, short essays about whaling, admiration of the ocean, and whatever else enjoys discussing.
    • The anatomy, on the other hand, has a purported subject which is actually a lens used to write about other subjects. Moby-Dick has many subjects, but its primary concerns are twofold. First, Melville sincerely likes writing about whales and whaling....
    • ...The Pequod’s voyage, of course, is Ahab’s voyage, the second main subject, his hunt for “the inscrutable thing” embodied within the whale.
    • It’s the dissonance between the narrative chapters and the whale biology essays that make Moby-Dick an anatomy.
  • The Daily Dick - another blogger who managed to complete his challenge to read & blog about every chapter of Moby-Dick (back in 2012).
  • Call Me Ishmael is a blog and song combo hosted by Patrick. He discusses each chapter and finishes up with an original song. He is one of the few who has actually completed his self-imposed challenge.

Chapter 45: The Affidavit
  • Ishmael doesn't need much incentive to include a diversionary chapter on pretty much anything that he can remotely link to whales or whaling. Therefore we now have a chapter entirely devoted to the implausibility or incredulity some might feel about his story. 
    • I guess we can now see this as a perfect example of an anatomy story (see article link above).
  • To dispel this 'profound ignorance', he tells us that he knows of 'three instances' where a whale, after being harpooned and escaping, returns years later to seek vengeance.
  • We also get a list of famous whales -
    • Timor Jack, New Zealand Tom, Morquan and Don Miguel.
  • Ishmael reveals the danger to life and limb in whaling -
    • For God's sake, be economical with your lamps and candles! not a gallon you burn, but at least one drop of man's blood was spilled for it.
    • The Essex 1820
    • The Union 1807
    • Commodore J (probably Thomas ap Catesby Jones 1790 -  1858. In 1827, the Peacock under Jones's command had been severely damaged in an attack by a whale. In 1843, Commander Jones returned a young deserter called Herman Melville, to the United States from the Hawaiian Islands!) 
      • Melville says (via Ishmael) that he 'was stopped on the way by a portly sperm whale, that begged a few moments' confidential business with him.' 🤣
    • Langsdorff's Voyages & Captain D'Wolf  (& apparently Ishmael's uncle...)
      • John D'Wolf married the sister of Herman Melville's (not Ishmael's) father.
      • Author and narrator lines being blurred again.
  • He also spends quite a bit of time proving to us that it is indeed possible for a whale to ram a ship with it's head and stove it to.
  • Patrick's poem for this chapter:

  • I’ll testify to the reverend’s holy words:
    All truth told here. It’s your choice to believe it,
    Irrevocably.

    I’ve seen it thrice — embattled monsters torn
    From dealing fateful blows, brought back after years gone by.
    Death follows.

    No simple brute — a thoughtful, malicious eye
    Turns back assault, and stove in many leaders.
    Irrevocably.

    You will never be
    Broken, lest irreverent
    To powerful things
    When you face them.

    Haughty disbelievers knocked from donkeys
    On the road to Damascus. It’s your choice to believe it.
    Death follows.


    (c) and (p) 2008 Patrick Shea
    Words and music written by Patrick Shea October 1, 2008
    All parts performed, arranged, and recorded by Patrick Shea October 4, 2009

Chapter 46: Surmises
  • Ahab 101 - a Study in Madness.
  • In which Ahab contemplates his crew, Starbuck and their ongoing loyalty to his mad idea.
  • Ahab may be obsessed with catching Moby-Dick, but he's still savvy enough, or lucid enough, to realise that he has to keep the men busy and purposeful until such time.
    • ...yet all sailors of all sorts are more or less capricious and unreliable.
  • Ahab realises that his 'magnetic ascendency' over Starbuck does not extend to the 'spiritual man'.
    • Starbuck's body and Starbuck's will were Ahab's, so long as he kept his magnet at Starbuck's brain; still he knew taht for all this his chief mate, in his soul, abhorred his captain's quest.
  • Ahab plainly saw that he must still in a good degree continue true to the natural, nominal purpose of the Pequod's voyage.
    • That is, they must still hunt and capture whales for their spermicetti.

Chapter 47: The Mat-Maker

  • Weaving 101 - the Nature of Time.
  • First we see how Ishmael and Queequeg weave a sword-mat. It was nice to be reminded of a time when human hands, and not machines, wove mats. And that doing such work, can have a meditative effect, or as Ishmael says, a 
    • 'strange dreaminess....and I myself were a shuttle mechanically weaving and weaving away at the Fates....here, thought I, with my own hand I ply my own shuttle and weave my own destiny into these unalterable threads'.
  • I had read about Melville's love of metaphors prior to starting the book, so I was thrilled to finally encounter the Loom of Time in this chapter, with Ishmael as the shuttle and Queequeg as the sword. One of Melville's most famous metaphors - and one that threads it's way throughout the story (see what I did there?) - starting with chapter 1 - The Loomings - the idea of weaving, ropes and lines representing free will, chance and fate.
    • this easy, indifferent sword must be chance - aye, chance, free will, and necessity - no wise incompatible - all interweavingly working together.
  • The chapter finishes with the (chance) sighting of a whale followed by the sudden (fated) appearance of a group of 'five dusky phantoms' around Ahab.


Chapter 48: The First Lowering
  • A new character - Fedallah - an aboriginal native of the Manillas - stowaway, phantom, harbinger of evil. 
    • Surrounded by rumour and mystery. 
    • Ahab's personal prophet?
    • We now know what, or who, Archy heard in the hold 
    • AND Ishmael remembers the shadowy figures he saw creeping onto the Pequod 'during the dim Nantucket dawn.'
    • We are reminded of Elijah's 'enigmatical hintings.'
  • The breaking of tradition, with Ahab taking command of one of the spare boats, to join the chase for the whale with his own specially picked crew.
  • A long chase ensues full of drama and action.
  • Our first attempt to capture a whale is unsuccessful and almost lethal.
  • A squall tosses them 'helter-skelter', with Starbuck's boat being tipped over just as night comes in. They all managed to climb back in to wait for rescue.
  • A sudden 'faint creaking' in the dark alerts them to the approaching ship, which doesn't see them. They all leap over board just before the ship mows down the boat.
    • for one instant it tossed and gaped beneath the ship's bows like a chip at the base of a cataract; and then the vast hull rolled over it, and it was seen no more til it came up weltering astern.
  • Knowing that Ishmael is still alive to narrate this tale, makes the dramatic tension in this chapter a little less, well dramatic. 

Chapter 49: The Hyena

  • Melville Philosophy - or is it Ishmael?
    • There are certain queer times and occasions in this strange mixed affair we call life when a man takes this whole universe for a vast practical joke, though the wit thereof he but dimly discerns, and more than suspects that the joke is at nobody's expense but his own.
  • Whaling Philosophy - or the life and times of a desperado?
    • There is nothing like the perils of whaling to breed this free and easy sort of genial, desperado philosophy.
  • Ishmael asks Queequeg, Stubb and Flask if the recent capsizing that he experienced is a common affair when whaling.
    • Apparently it is.
  • Ishmael compares his near-death experience to Lazarus.
    • The biblical story of Lazarus (often considered a precursor for the resurrection story of Jesus) whereby Jesus calls forth the dead Lazarus from his tomb to the amazement of a group of onlookers. The witnesses now believed in Jesus' ability to perform miracles and he gained many more followers. 
    • all the days I should now live would be as good as the days that Lazarus lived after his resurrection; a supplementary clean gain of so many months or weeks as the case might be. I survived myself; my death and burial locked up in my chest.
  • He then writes a new will and testament.


The Moby-Dick Guide to Foreign Policy published on the Hoover Institution website in 2014 by Charles Hill messes with my head a little - Hoover, the age-old Middle Eastern conflict and Moby-Dick! Who knew? I'm beginning to think that Moby-Dick is the kind of book that anyone can interpret anyway they like to fit any topic they so choose!

I've saved the article link for this one to the end, as it refers directly to chapter 47 and the theme of weaving. 
Since remote antiquity, statecraft’s great metaphor has been weaving. Traces of cloth found at Fayoum and depictions of weavers at work on the walls of pharaonic Egypt reveal the centrality of weaving to ordered life in the ancient world....
No key unlocks the meaning of Moby-Dick; as one of the greatest works of literature, it leaves all interpreters floundering in its wake. But one image is unmistakably clear: the Pequod is the American ship of state, with its 30-man crew—30 states at that time—drawn from every imaginable racial, religious, linguistic, and geographic place and people. It is a voyage that imagines its purpose as all things to all men. For our Middle Eastern interests, it self-defines America as uniquely able to hold the trust and play the statesman’s role for Arabs and Jews alike. That moment would not come until the mid-twentieth century. 
After Moby-Dick was published and largely ignored, Melville made a personal expedition to the Holy Land in the hope, not to be realized, of finding answers to his doubts about religious faith. This he would chronicle in “Clarel: A Poem and Pilgrimage to the Holy Land” in 1876. Longer than “Paradise Lost” and just as much a journey through biblical texts, “Clarel” like Moby-Dick, but with more reason, was also ignored. 
Moby-Dick’s, and Melville’s, obsession with Palestine was a central contribution to the definition of American identity both before and after the Civil War. But the strategy the United States followed through the nineteenth century was not designed for shaping world order; it was a mission to “bring in the sheaves” of souls for the next world.
Photo credit: Barbara Kelley

Thursday, 7 November 2019

A Poem for A Thursday - How to Love Bronwyn

Today is our tenth wedding anniversary.

We've enjoyed ten years of love, laughter and happiness. Mr Books is a man of endless patience, with a big heart and a generous nature. Every day I am full of gratitude for our life together.

When I spotted this poem last week, I knew it would be the perfect choice to post today for A Poem for a Thursday. It's not often I find my name in a poem (or anywhere else for that matter). And when that poem also speaks to you and reflects your own truth, then you've found a winner!

Thank you Bronwyn Lovell for speaking so eloquently for the both of us.


How to Love Bronwyn
By Bronwyn Lovell | 1 February 2012 | Cordite Poetry Review


Don’t try too hard.
If it requires effort,
if it is difficult for you,
this is not for your portfolio.

It must come naturally,
like holding out your hand to test for rain,
and if you should feel something,
put away your umbrella.

Surrender to the pitter-patter
of unexpected kisses,
and if you get the urge to run
when they start to come hard and fast,

please do. This job is not for you.
I need a detective
to find the logic
behind my contradictions,

who will explain them to me patiently,
so I can come to better know myself.
I need a curator who won’t ignore
the chips and cracks,

who will study them,
run his fingers along their length –
an informed buyer
who knows the condition of his prize.

I need a break wall
to protect me from the storms
without and within myself.
Someone who will not ebb and flow,

who won’t come and go.
I need a man sure enough
of his own two feet
to anchor us both.

I am a body of water.
You need to know enough
of drowning
to know how to love me well.

Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

Bronwyn is a Flinders University PhD candidate in creative writing, researching depictions of women in narratives set in space and composing a feminist science fiction verse novel.

Jennifer @Holds Upon Happiness posts a lovely Poem for a Thursday each week. I enjoy sourcing poems from my recent reads to join in with her whenever I can.

Tuesday, 5 November 2019

Week 2 - Non-Fiction November


Week 2: (Nov. 4 to 8) – Book Pairing (Sarah of Sarah’s Book Shelves): This week, pair up a nonfiction book with a fiction title. It can be a “If you loved this book, read this!” or just two titles that you think would go well together. Maybe it’s a historical novel and you’d like to get the real history by reading a nonfiction version of the story.

Book Pairing was made easy for me this year, thanks to my most recent book group read. Normally I highlight the books I've read during the year, that go together nicely (I could have done Moby-Dick and Why Read Moby-Dick? or the bio about Mary Wollstonecraft and her daughter, Mary Shelley with Frankenstein, The Monsters we Deserve, FranKissStein and A Vindication of the Rights of Woman.) But no.

This year, I'm asking for your help to pair me up with a book or two.

For November we read Confession with Blue Horses by Sophie Hardach. I quickly realised as I was reading that the history of the GDR was one that I was very unfamiliar with. I'm not sure how that happened.

I've studied WWII, the Holocaust, the Russian Revolution, the Cuban Revolution and the Chinese Revolution. I've read about the American war in Vietnam and I studied Germany between the wars. In fact, I've circled right around the GDR, but have never entered.

I vividly recall the night in 1989, in my final year at Uni, when we all sat around in the common room together to watch the Wall come down. We were young and full of our own futures, but that night, we were suddenly made aware that we were watching history in the making.

And now thanks to Confession with Blue Horses I want to know more.


I currently have these non-fiction options on my wish list:
  • Günter Grass - From Germany to Germany
  • Anna Funder - Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall
  • Christa Wolf - Patterns of Childhood
  • Jana Hensel - After the Wall
And thanks to week one of Non-fiction November, I have added: 
  • Nina Willner - Forty Autumns: A Family's Story of Courage and Survival on Both Sides of the Berlin Wall
Do you know of any more (non-fiction) books about the Wall, the GDR perspective, history, the after effects etc? Please help.

Sunday, 3 November 2019

The Wonder Child by Ethel Turner


The Wonder Child is a gentle juvenile story about a family forced to be separated for years due to the gifted talents of one of the children. Challis plays the piano like a dream and goes off to Europe with her mother to make the family fortune.

The other four children stay at home with their hapless, but lovable father. Mr Cameron is a dreamer. He struggles to make his way in life, preferring to write verses, compose melodies and paint pictures. He doesn't seem to have the necessary skills to hold down a job and he relies on his more practical, responsible wife to manage their finances. Mrs Cameron obviously loves her creative husband, but also has to live with his flaws on a daily basis. After five children, and constantly being forced to ask family and friends for help, a job is arranged for Cameron in western NSW as a Crown Land Agent.

Wilgandra is a fictional town, but it sounds just like most of the small country towns I've known. Turner tells us it is -
three hundred and seventy-three miles back, back, away in the heart of the country - the farthest town to which the Government sent its Land Agent....
The climate was intolerable in the summer, there was little or no society, the only house they could have was not over comfortable.

It doesn't sound particularly promising or inspiring.

After their mother goes off to Europe with Challis, Hermie, Bartie, Roly & Floss are cared for by a very competent female 'lady-help' and their State girl Lizzie, carefully selected by Mrs Cameron before she left. However this arrangement only lasts six months, until the very competent young woman is snapped up by a local romeo to be his wife.

Hermie and Lizzie attempt to run the household, until even Mr Cameron is forced to acknowledge that this isn't working properly. Along comes the gentle, ineffectual Miss Browne. She's a spinster who has been unable to hold down any other job and whose ways are even more hapless than Mr Cameron.

A gradual decline sets in. Compounded by Mr Cameron losing his job as a Land Agent.

The family is forced to move out of the home the state provided, to take up possession of a lean, mean selection out of town.
Their father's selection stretched before them, eighty acres of miserable land, lying grey and dreary under the canopy of a five o'clock coppery sky, summer and drought time.

Five years drag on...five years of disguising their misfortunes from Mrs Cameron and Challis, until the day the letter arrives confirming the date they are due home from Europe. A Europe of adoration, comfort, new clothes and fine lodgings.

I don't normally provide a summary of the story in my posts, but this is one of Turner's lesser known works and I felt it deserved a fuller treatment.

Although this could be classified as a children's book, the themes are wide ranging and topical (for 1901). Turner discusses her views on religion and atheism via Mrs Cameron beliefs -
She said she did not try to explain or understand God, only to believe in him. She is quite right. It is the hard names, the popular orthodoxies, the iron creeds, that take the souls and heart and warmth out of religion. When you were little, she did nothing but show you God as your Father, and Christ as your Saviour, to be tenderly loved and obeyed, and gone to for refuge and comfort.... 
She wanted the love of God to be a living thing to you all - a glad, warm, spontaneous thing, like the love you bore us, only deeper. She would have no lines and rules and analyses of it while you were small. It was not a thing she actually spoke about very often....Not to understand, only to believe.

She includes some lovely descriptions of the bush -
Wattle in bloom made a glory of the uncleared spaces, the young gums were very green, the older ones wore masses of soft white upon their soberness.
Farther away there browsed brown sheep, but this was the season for lambs, a dozen little soft snowballs of things had come close to the cottage and gambolled with the children.  
They drove up the road that wound out of civilised Wilgandra away to parts where the bush took on its wild character again, and rolled either side of them in unbroken severity and loneliness for miles.
The air was fragrant with the bush scents that rise after rain. A cool, quiet breeze swayed the boughs pf the ocean-waste of tress, here and there it lifted the long string of warm-coloured bark - autumn's royal rags - that hung from the silvered trunks.

And the Boer War experience is covered off via the neighbouring squatter, Morty. Mortimer Stevenson is the youngest son of a strict father who runs off to war to avoid a romantic disappointment. Turner doesn't glorify the war (too much). She describes the Macquarie St parade as -
And now the crowd took the reins off itself, and gave head to its madness. It hurrahed itself hoarse; it waved its arms, and its handkerchiefs, and its hat,and its head; it flung flowers, and flags and coloured paper; it hung recklessly from roofs, and walls, doors, chimneys, fences, lamp-posts, balconies, verandah-posts.

We also see young Roly embrace the war talk. He renames the selection Transvall Vale, sets up camp in the yard and spends his days fighting imaginary enemies. But it is Morty's time in South Africa that hints at a more realistic and perhaps personal, view of war -
his first battle, with its horrid nightmare of flashing lights and thundering gins, its pools of blood, its contorted human faces, its agonised horses writhing in the dust.

She also shows us the other side with a quick glimpse into the life of a South African family who provide Morty with a place to sleep after he helps them bury their son/brother. -
it is the same everywhere; our lovers, our husbands, our sons - all gone from us! Some will come back, of course, but crushed and mutilated.... 
you must know why we are fighting....but our men don't know. They have been told they will lose their liberty and homes if they don't fight....your men, of course they come because they are sent, and they fight their best because they are brave and obey orders.... 
We are no different from you. We pay a few great men to do the thinking for us, and if they say it's got to be fighting, then, whatever it seems to us individually, collectively we just shoot.

As I said, for a juvenile story, Turner has managed to include lots of meaty topics. Including a very brief view on Indigenous life in a colonial outpost -
Two or three aboriginal women were coming back from a journey to the house, cloths full of stores and broken food slung over their shoulder. Stevenson forty years ago had had to break up a big camp of them on the land he had just taken up, and drive them farther west. Ever since he had not felt justified in refusing food to any of their colour.

Let's not forget young Hermie either, as the book is ultimately her coming of age story -
I can't tell you how silly  and small I have been - thinking men ought to be just like men in books, and never looking at what they really are.

Just like, Turner's more famous story, Seven Little Australians, The Wonder Child embraces it's sense of time and place. Her characters are unapologetically Australian in sound and attitude. Their lives always teetering on the brink of hardship and poverty, with large family life being shown as chaotic. We see young children shoulder responsibility and adult cares at a far earlier age than we expect now and where most people lived their daily lives far removed from government interference or regard. Individuals and families fell through the cracks all the time. Life was hard work, money and resources were scarce and getting by was the best most people could expect from life.

According the Brenda Niall's biography of Turner on the Australian Dictionary of Biography:
Her writing showed a continuing tension between her enjoyment of popular and commercial success and her wish to break free from the restrictions of juvenile fiction. Ethel's publishers always insisted that her work should remain within the range of the sheltered young reader.

I sensed this tension throughout the book. The meatier, adult subjects were dressed up in neat moral bows suitable for the edification of younger readers. Yet, I thoroughly enjoyed this glimpse into a world gone by and I'm grateful that Turner has another 40 or so such stories for me to enjoy at my leisure.

Facts:

Friday, 1 November 2019

Welcome to AusReadingMonth


Given the number of blogging events now in November, you may well ask why is AusReadingMonth in November? 

It's simple really. 

November is the month that Triple J hosts AusMusicMonth. Back in 2013 it seemed like a logical choice to combine these two events. 

Even though I have outgrown Triple J in recent times, it was the radio station that kept me sane and connected during my twenties and thirties whilst living & working in rural NSW. It will always have a special place in my heart.

I love Non-Fiction November (born in the same year as AusReadingMonth) and have usually managed to combine the two quite successfully, if not a little stressfully! But now, I've also discovered German Literature Month (created by Caroline & Lizzy back in 2011)  and Novellas in November.

And just to make life really interesting this year, Naomi & Marcie are hosting Margaret Atwood Reading Month to celebrate Atwood's 80th birthday on the 18th. 

Obviously it's not possible to do all of these at once, so if you have wandered over to join in AusReadingMonth, I congratulate you on your wise choice and welcome you with open arms!

I heartily encourage you to combine, merge or integrate your reading plans anyway you can - Aussie novellas, Aussie non-fiction, perhaps German nationals who have moved to Australia or Aussies with German heritage (Mark Baker, Lily Brett, Raimond Gaita, Eva Hornung, Anna Funder, Mireille Juchau, Rose Zwi, Ramona Koval, Susan Varga, Arnold Zable, Marcus Zusak)?

My plan is keep your blogging commitments to a minimum. 
  • One start up post with Q&A 
  • Plus a live linky for the entire month where you can return to add any Aussie books read & reviewed during November.
  • One final post at the end of the month to wrap things up.

However, if you do feel up for a bigger Aussie reading challenge, then check out my AusReadingMonth Bingo card. You can sign up for a Flyby Night, Backpacker, Grey Nomad or the Whole Hog experience!

You can use the Bingo card to guide your reading choices throughout November, or you can apply the card retrospectively to your year of Australian reading a là Bill @The Australian Legend or Lisa @AnzLit Lovers. Whatever works best for you.


So let's get this show on the road!

At your leisure, please complete the Q&A below and when you have time, visit our other participants to see what they're reading, explode your wish-lists and cheer each other on.

Aussie Q&A


1. Who are you? Where in the world are you? What are your impressions of the reading & writing scene in Australia?

2. Tell us about the Australian books you've read so far this year.
What were your favourites?

3. Have you ever visited Australia? Or thought about it? 
What are the pro's and con's about travelling to/in Australia for you?
Where would/did you visit?
What are/were your impressions? 

4. Do you have a favourite Australian author or book?
Tell us about him/her/it.

5. What are you reading goals for AusReadingMonth 2019?

Bonus Question: Can you name our current Prime Minister (plus four more from memory)? 
No googling allowed!



Thursday, 31 October 2019

A Poem on Thursday - Sorry's Essence

In preparation for AusReadingMonth, starting tomorrow, I thought we should explore poems that reflect Australian life in all it's facets. This week we have poet, Mark Mahemoff. According to wikipedia, Mahemoff’s poetry is 'chiefly concerned with framing, reimagining and memorialising commonplace moments, primarily in an urban setting.'

Sorry’s Essence
By Mark Mahemoff | 1 May 2012 | Cordite Poetry Review


This poem is constructed using words and phrases directly from Kevin Rudd’s ‘Sorry’ speech
as reprinted in The Sydney Morning Herald (online version) on February 13, 2008.


I move today we honour, we reflect
on mistreatment of the oldest history, indigenous people
who were stolen, blemished in our nation
the time has now come to turn Australia’s history
by righting the future
we apologise for profound grief and suffering and loss
and pain and indignity and degradation and sheer brutality and hurt
of mothers and fathers and brothers
and sisters and families and communities
breaking up inflicted on a proud people and the spirit
healing, heart, embraces
never, never again
solutions, respect, resolve, responsibility
origins are truly equal
remove a great stain
do so early
an elegant, eloquent and wonderful woman
has travelled a long way to be with us
she remembers the love and the warmth
and the kinship of those days long ago
she remembers she insisted on dancing
rather than just sitting and watching
she remembers the coming of the welfare men
tears flowing, clinging
complex questions
it was as crude as that
Tennant Creek and Goulburn Island
and Croker Island and Darwin and Torres Strait
She was 16
a broken woman fretting
ripped away from her
it’s a good thing that you are surrounded by love
Sorry
And remarkably, extraordinarily, she had forgiven him
there is something terribly primal about these
a deep assault
stony, stubborn and deafening
leave it languishing
human decency, universal human decency
deliberate, calculated, explicit, and notorious
Generally by the fifth and invariably by the sixth generation
all native characteristics are eradicated
they are profoundly disturbing, well motivated, justified.
an apology well within the adult memory span
a point in remote antiquity
it is well within the adult memory span of many of us
therefore we must also be the bearer of their burdens as well
the darkest chapters
with the facts, the evidence and the often rancorous public
we are also wrestling with our own soul
cold, confronting, uncomfortable
there will always be a shadow hanging over us
I am sorry
I am sorry
I am sorry
without qualification
Yuendumu, Yabara, Pitjantjatjara
there is nothing I can say today
I cannot undo that
grief is a very personal thing
imagine the crippling effect
it is little more than a clanging gong
a thinly veiled contempt
the gap will set concrete
the truth is a business
halve the appalling gap
back the obscenity
beyond our infantile bickering
Dreamtime

Parliament House, Canberra. Photo by Michael on Unsplash

On his website, Mark discusses how,
his writing primarily involves memorializing and eulogizing the overlooked and forgotten. Not only people but places and objects. He is driven by the weight of his forebears’ historical loss. Loss of family, of identity, of homeland. This loss has been handed down like an heirloom. It is the classic experience of holocaust survivors. But secreted amongst the loss is humour. He sees his task as shaping all these elements, to the best of his ability, into poetry.

Jennifer @Holds Upon Happiness posts a lovely Poem for a Thursday each week. I enjoy sourcing poems from my recent reads to join in with her whenever I can.

Tuesday, 29 October 2019

Week 1 NonFiction November


I'm so busy, with so many different things at the moment, that I'm simply going to jump straight into this challenge. I'll save the friendly chit-chat for the comments I expect to make as I travel around all the other participants posts.

Week 1: (Oct. 28 to Nov. 1) – Your Year in Nonfiction (Julz of Julz Reads):
Take a look back at your year of nonfiction and reflect on the following questions -

(1) What was your favourite nonfiction read of the year? 

  • To start with I will list my non-fiction reads over the past 12 months by genre.
  • Favourites will be highlighted.

Memoir/Biogrpahy



Nature/Science/Environmental



Feminism



Health/Self-help

(A) The Feel Good Menopause Guide by Nicola Gates (Not yet reviewed)


History/Politics



Indigenous

(A) On Identity by Stan Grant (Review to be published. Link is to my goodreads page of quotes.)


Food



Lifestyle



Books on Books

The Novel of the Century: The Extraordinary Adventure of Les Miserables by David Bellos (Review to be published)


Art



Children's

(A) Young Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe (Review to be published. Link is to my goodreads page of quotes.)

(2) Do you have a particular topic you’ve been attracted to more this year? 

  • I can see that memoir/biography has stayed my favourite form of non-fiction (no surprises there!) 
  • The pleasant addition this year has been an increase in the use of and interest in cooking interesting things again now that B22 and B19 have moved out of home (we love them heaps but it's lovely just being two grown ups, eating grown up food again). 
  • I'm also enjoying the gorgeousness of coffee table books more.

(3) What nonfiction book have you recommended the most this year? 

  • Any Ordinary Day
  • Mirka & Georges

(4) What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?

  • to show off the wonderful Australian non-fiction books I've read this year.
  • to finish the three (Australian) non-fiction titles half-read by my bed.
  • to find the next must-read bio/memoir.
  • I'm also keen to hear about more graphic non-fiction & finally read my copy of Andrea Wulf & Lillian Melcher's illustrated The Adventures of Alexander Humboldt.

Monday, 28 October 2019

Confession with Blue Horses by Sophie Hardach


I wasn't sure that I would like Confession with Blue Horses. The blurb and the cover made me think this would be a bit too kitsch or light for my usual reading tastes.
Tobi and Ella's childhood in East Berlin is shrouded in mystery. Now adults living in London, their past in full of unanswered questions. Both remember their family's daring and terrifying attempt to escape, which ended in tragedy; but the fall-out from that single event remains elusive. Where did their parents disappear to, and why? What happened to Heiko, their little brother? And was there ever a painting of three blue horses? 
In contemporary Germany, Aaron works for the archive, making his way through old files, piecing together the tragic history of thousands of families. But one file in particular catches his eye; and soon unravelling the secrets at its heart becomes an obsession. 
When Ella is left a stash of notebooks by her mother, and she and Tobi embark on a search that will take them back to Berlin, her fate clashes with Aaron's, and together they piece together the details of Ella's past... and a family destroyed. 
Devastating and beautifully written, funny and life-affirming, Confession with Blue Horses explores intimate family life and its strength in the most difficult of circumstances.

However, this was chosen as my next book group read and I haven't read very much about East Germany so I decided to tackle it for this year's Dewey's 24 hr readathon.

What a great decision!

Yes, it was a lightly told story but it was well-told. There was a sense of it being solidly based on oodles of research without being smacked in the face by said research. It was a quick, easy read that kept me engaged and on tenterhooks for the entire readathon. I had never thought about the number of children that had been taken from their families in the GDR and what it must mean for them now, that modern research techniques are allowing people to find lost children and lost siblings again.

I didn't know that there were people working away at old shredded Stasi documents to put them back together. But reconstructing old documents from the GDR is an ongoing task that helps individuals to recover the story of their earlier lives or those of their family.

By the end, I was very curious about Hardach's own background story. Was there a personal element to this story or was it simply journalistic curiosity. Her online bio briefly states:
Sophie is a journalist and the author of two previous novels, The Registrar’s Manual for Detecting Fraud Marriages, and Of Love and Other Wars. She started out as a news reporter for Reuters in Italy, Japan and France, and eventually settled in London where she now writes for a range of publications. Sophie was born and raised in Germany, and still counts Berlin as one of her favourite cities.

She has written extensively about the German experience in her newspaper articles. I even recognised some of the intimate details in the book as coming from what she had learnt via survivors that she had interviewed.

It's obvious that for Hardach, this journey of discovery is personal and professional. In the London Library Magazine, Spring 2019, Issue 43 - Stories from Behind the Wall (pgs 22-25), she says about writing this book,
I tried to capture the tensions and contradictions of life in the GBR....I wanted to show the coping strategies that people developed, the humour, solidarity, poetry, love and friendship. I grew up in West Germany, but my mother's family was from Berlin and the far eastern German provinces that are now part of Poland and Russia....The Wall has not not been there for longer than it was there. And yet, for those 28 years, it felt permanent, and left permanent marks.

It's that sense of permanent damage that I was left with when I finished the book. Even though, Hardach left us with a hopeful ending in this case, it seemed apparent that most real-life reunifications were far more complicated and distressing.

I'm now keen to read some of the books and authors that Hardach referenced in her article above - Christa Wolf, Helga Schütz (Gute Nacht du Schӧne 1991), Maxie Wander (Guten Morgen, du Schӧne 1977) and Anna Mundry (Gute Nacht, du Schӧne 1991).

Other books to consider:
Günter Grass - Germany to Germany
Wolfgang Hilbig - The Sleep of the Righteous
Peter Schneider - The Wall Jumper
Herta Müller - Traveling On One Leg
Anna Funder - Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall
Christa Wolf - Patterns of Childhood
Jana Hensel - After the Wall

Other suggestions welcome.

Saturday, 26 October 2019

Dewey's 24hr Readathon 2019


Dewey's 24hr Readathon is here once again, bigger and better than ever.

Please check that your name is on the 1000+ list. 
I thought I had signed up weeks ago, but when I double-checked recently, I realised that I had somehow forgotten to follow through with my good intentions.
It's not too late to sign up here.

The rules are very relaxed, join in as little or as much as you like. 
Read for all 24 hours or fit in as much reading as you can, when you can.
The idea is to read as much as you can with a supportive, fun group of bookish friends.

Any Australian readathoner's who'd like to keep in touch, especially during the long dark-night time of the northern hemisphere (ie our Sunday afternoon) when it feels like we're reading all alone, use the #readathonanz tag on twitter and say 'hi'.

This will be my one and only Readathon post.

All book updates, memes or Q&A's will be added below.
Scroll down to find the bits you're most interested in.

I will check in on Twitter for real time updates and chats around the top of each hour that I am awake and/or in reading mode.

Opening Meme


Where Are You Reading?

Sydney, Australia


What Do You Hope To Read?

I like to have a selection of books.

Some are half-finished, some are for #AusReadingMonth in November, some are for Non-fiction November, Novellas in November and some are for work (all the kids books).

Obviously I won't be reading or finishing all the books on my pile.
But I like to have choice depending on my mood and for when I get sleepy.


Who Am I?

My name is Bronwyn and I'm a bookseller & children's book specialist, based in Sydney.
(My eldest nephew started calling me Brona when he learnt to talk. The nickname has stuck.)

I've been blogging for 10 years and a part of the readathon team for 6.


My Readathon Plans?

Readathon starts at 11pm EST, Sydney.
Therefore most of my readathon will actually occur on Sunday 27th October.
I plan to read for a couple of hours in bed, or until my eyes won't stay open any longer!
Serious readathon reading will recommence at breakfast time.
You can check out your start time here.

The weather forecast is for a 23℃ day - sunny but windy.

I plan to check into social media for about 10 mins at the top of every hour.

I will join in memes and updates as I can.


Snacks?

I'm not a really a snacky kind of person, but tonight's red chicken curry will also double as leftovers for lunch tomorrow. Dinner is yet to be decided!


Lessons Learnt?

I'm determined not to spend too much time on social media this year.
Part of what I love about this event, is the community, but I do have to remember to read some actual books as well!
I also have a few things I have to get done tomorrow, so I've learnt not to stress about not reading for the whole time. I simply read as much as I can for as long as I can. Anything more than an hour is a bonus above my usual Sunday.

You can find me on twitter.
#ReadathonANZ


Starting Pages:

The Griffith Review #63 Writing the Country pg 101
The Breeding Season by Amanda Niehaus pg 64
Confession with Blue Horses by Sophie Hardach pg 34


Updates:
11pm Sat 26th Oct - 11am Sun 27th Oct
I was too tired to read anything, so decided a good night's sleep was the best way to start my readathon.
Woke at 7am - dozed and read until 11 (it was that kind of week. Haven't lazed away a Sunday morning like this in a very long time. It was delicious!)
Confession with Blue Horses - 110 pgs


11am - 2pm

Completed a few jobs but also read another 100 pgs of Confessions with Blue Horses.


2pm - 4pm

Lunch involved a glass of rose - turns out this is not conducive for readathon-ing.
Afternoon nap.

4pm - 8pm
Family time.
Dinner time.

8pm - 10pm
Finished Confessions with Blue Horses.

TOTAL
Read 303 pages.
Finished 1 book.

Wednesday, 23 October 2019

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood


My work has been a bit crazy this year. And during August and September it was hectic and full of changes. So a lot of the hype surrounding the sequel to The Handmaid's Tale passed me by. I saw some excited chattering on blogs, twitter and goodreads. I heard some of the discussion around it's long-listing for the Booker Prize before publication date. And I caught a fleeting glimpse of the embargo breach by Amazon.

But until the day before the Booker announcement, I hadn't really given The Testaments much thought. Obviously I wanted to read it. I usually love Atwood's stuff and I LOVED The Handmaid's Tale. But it would have to be twenty years since I last read it.

When I first read it in my twenties it made me furious (in that good bookish way when a book excites your passions). A reread, a few years later in my early thirties, confirmed that it could still enrage me (in that good bookish way when a book can get under your skin).

Sadly, I missed the recent Elizabeth Moss tv adaptation of the book.

My plan had been to reread The Handmaid's Tale prior to starting The Testaments. I was in no hurry; knew I would get around to it one of these days, so I just let it sit in the back of my mind for later on.

Until Monday afternoon last week, when my new boss asked me who I thought would win the Booker. I had been so busy, I hadn't even clocked that it was that time of year again. Not having read any of the shortlist, all I could go on was my gut feel that Atwood would win. Her book had the hype, her writing was guaranteed to be good and it seemed like the safe option.

Tuesday morning.

I was up early, getting ready for work, thinking a million other thoughts about all the things I needed to prioritise at work that day. As I sat down to eat breakfast, I glanced at twitter and suddenly realised that the Booker Prize was about to be announced. I quickly found the facebook feed so that little old me, all the way across the other side of the world on a completely different day, could watch the Monday night announcement in London, live! Don't you just love technology.

And joint winners!

Didn't see that coming at all.

Without even thinking about it, I raced up to my bedroom, grab The Testaments from beside my bed and read the first chapter before work.

Any thought of rereading The Handmaid's Tale first went straight out the window - my justification being to see if one could read The Testaments without having any, or much knowledge of the first. I was going to offer myself up as a reading guinea pig!

So what did I remember about The Handmaid's Tale after all this time?

None of the names for starters, except that the Handmaids were named after the man - 'Offred' 'Ofthomas' etc. And I remember that, in the end she (the main character, the titular Handmaid) must have escaped, or at least her story had got out, as she was being studied in a future history class or symposium. I remember that it was religious fanaticism that created Gilead, that this regime was still fairly new as people could still remember a time before. I remember thinking that the parallels with our times were frighteningly familiar - which is the trademark of all truly good sci-fiction writing - to make it just enough like our world to make it seem possible. I recall that our Handmaid, either rediscovered her old boyfriend or established a new connection with a driver or guard or someone who helped her plan her escape. I believe the ending was deliberately unclear about the success of this mission. I loved it.


What were my initial reactions as I started The Testaments?

Firstly I was confused by the names. I couldn't remember if any of these people had been in the first book. Aunt Lydia? Commander Kyle? Not sure.

But I was soon delighted to discover that this didn't matter very much, as what I was getting here was the back story that filled in all the gaps. Via various narrators we saw how Gilead was created, how the rest of the world responded to this change as well as various hints and rumours about the story surrounding our earlier Handmaid and what happened to her and her baby.

I've read that some people have been disappointed or underwhelmed by Atwood's latest offering, but I thoroughly enjoyed being back her capable hands.

It didn't move me as strongly as I recall being moved by The Handmaid's Tale. This book felt less political, less feminist, less personal and dare I say, less urgent. Perhaps the chorus of voices diluted the power that I experienced with the first Handmaid's story. Maybe I've mellowed with age. Or it could be a simple as the purpose of the story. The Handmaid's Tale asked questions and left lots unanswered. The gaps allowed for supposition, insecurity, fear and doubt. The Testaments tidied all of that up. And without giving away the ending, the homage to the first book at the end of the second, was satisfying and offered a number of pleasing resolutions.

Naomi @Consumed by Ink and Marcie @Buried in Print are hosting Margaret Atwood Reading Month in November that will include a readalong of The Handmaid's Tale and The Testaments. I'm the rebel who will be reading the books in reverse order as I'm hoping to squeeze in a reread of The Handmaid's Tale along with ALL the other blogging commitments I have on my plate for November!

To finish up, I want to bring to light a little known Aussie connection to Atwood. Well, I didn't know this - perhaps you did?

In the Sydney Morning Herald on the 16th Feb 2019, Nick Bryant wrote,

Her connection with the Sunshine State comes from her second husband, the novelist Graeme Gibson, whose father emigrated there from Canada in search of a friendlier climate and cleaner air. "Every time we got invited to Australia we would go up to Brisbane to visit the rellies," she says, laughing. "His mother and his grandmother were from there." 

Longlisted for The Giller Prize 2019