Thursday, 23 May 2019

A Love Like Dorothea's by Alison Whittaker

I've recently been dipping in and out of Alison Whittaker's book of 'poetry, memoir, reportage, fiction, satire and critique', Blakwork. It's beautiful, confronting and unflinching.


But I keep returning to one poem, perhaps because of the link to an older poem that is part of my white heritage. The comparison and contrast between the two ideas and images challenges many of my preconceived beliefs. I'm trying to understand; I want to understand, but sometimes the gulf still feels too huge. A Love Like Dorothea's helps to narrow that gulf a little for me.

I found Whittaker's reading below on the Melbourne Visiting Poets Program, at The Wheeler Centre in August 2018. They tell us that,

Alison Whittaker is a Gomeroi poet, life writer and essayist from Gunnedah and Tamworth, north-western New South Wales. She now lives in Sydney on Wangal land, and is recently returned from the US, where she received a 2017 Fulbright Indigenous Postgraduate Scholarship to complete a Master of Laws (LLM) at Harvard. Her poem MANY GIRLS WHITE LINEN received the Judith Wright Poetry Prize in 2017. She is the author of Lemons in the Chicken Wire (Magabala Books), the debut collection that established her as a powerful new voice in poetry.


For more information about Whittaker and her poems I suggest you read Jeanine Leane's Ultima Thume article in The Sydney Review of Books from February 2019 and Laniyuk's March 2019 review in The Lifted Brow.

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

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

How It Feels To Float by Helena Fox

In recent times I have been mostly writing quick reviews for the kids books I read on Goodreads, but every now and again I read one that I feel is worthy of a bigger post here. A book that I want to spend more time with, thinking about it - it's impact on me, the writing, the story, the characters.

This is one of those books.

How It Feels to Float came to me highly recommended - not only by my rep, but also by the mother of the author, Helena Fox.


The Pan Macmillan blurb says,

Biz knows how to float. She has her people, posse, her mum and the twins. She has Grace. And she has her dad, who tells her about the little kid she was, and who shouldn't be here but is. So Biz doesn't tell anyone anything. Not about her dark, runaway thoughts, not about kissing Grace or noticing Jasper, the new boy. And she doesn't tell anyone about her dad. Because her dad died when she was seven. And Biz knows how to float, right there on the surface - normal okay regular fine.

Dark, runaway thoughts and floating are all clues that this seemingly regular teen story about not fitting in, feeling awkward about one's body, one's sexuality, social gaffs, drinking, kissing the wrong people and kissing the right people at the wrong time is going to move into heavier territory at some point.

Fairly soon we realise that Biz, our extraordinary protagonist, is clearly experiencing life a little differently to everyone around her. She floats, or dissociates out of her body when things get too stressful, too awkward or too weird to cope with. She has visits from her dead dad, a man who was obviously struggling with his own major mental health issues in the lead up to his death.

Mental health, illness, sexual confusion, grief and loss are all big topics in young people's fiction right now, and a part of me nearly groaned out loud when I realised where this book was heading. But within a few chapters, I was hooked by Fox's poetic language and Biz's moving, authentic story.

I also loved the locations - all around the Illawarra region plus the train trip out west to Cootamundra, Temora and Wagga that were woven naturally into the story. I feel it is so important for us to have stories that reflect our own lives, in places we know intimately, so that we can own the messages they have to tell us and not just push them away as things that happen to other people, over there somewhere far away from us.

Without reading the author's acknowledgements at the end, you could still fairly safely assume that the author has had first hand experience with mental health issues. Her descriptions of Biz's thinking and reactions are so heartfelt, instinctive and genuine that they can only come from personal knowledge.

Biz's descent and torment are sympathetically drawn as is her search for a safe emotional harbour. Eventually this becomes a story about how to be anchored, or grounded and how be present, instead of floating away, perhaps permanently.

How it Feels to Float was an intense read, that drew me in, gradually, compulsively, urgently until I was left feeling like I had just read one of the best YA's I've read in a very long time.


Saturday, 18 May 2019

Memories of the Future by Siri Hustvedt

Memories of the Future by Siri Husvedt has lived with me for a few months now. The slowness of my reading is in no way indicative of any lack of enjoyment on my behalf. It is, however a thoughtful, intelligent read, that requires some active participation. Something I could only do when not completely exhausted after work or double-booked, triple-booked on the weekends.

My early feelings and thoughts about the book were contained in this post from last month - Starting a New Book... I won't repeat myself, so if you'd like a brief synopsis of the story, and a poem by Elsa, I'll wait here for you to catch up.
In this particular book, the book you are reading now, the young person and the old person live side by side in the precarious truths of memory


What the 23 yr old SH wrote and what the 61 yr old SH remembers are often two very different things. Hindsight gives a shape to what is shapeless as you live it.
The things that have stayed with her as important are not always the things she recorded in her journal. I am interested in understanding how she and I are relatives.
The story changes, adjusts to new experiences. Memory is not only unreliable; it is porous.
And sometimes there are shocks waiting in the wings to floor you. Sometimes memory is a knife.

This is the stuff I love. I even did a similar thing myself in my thirties when I read through my old travel journal from 1991. Even after a decade, the things I remembered were different to what I recorded at the time. I wrote another journal comparing my record with my memories. As I wrote, I was also being written.
I should hunt it out to see what it looks like twenty years later again.


We are all wishful creatures, and we wish backwards too, not only forward, and thereby rebuild the curious, crumbling architecture of memory into structures that are more habitable.

Sadly, though, somewhere after the halfway mark of Memories of the Future I lost my way. All the sideline stories (the crazy neighbour Lucy Brite, the story within the story that she wrote in her twenties...) stopped being interesting to me, even as they began to take up more and more of the story telling space. Every story carries inside itself multitudes of other stories.

It all got too much in the end - too rambling, too meta and curiously, not enough Elsa.

There was one brief passage towards the end about the Marcel Duchamp porcelain urinal debate, where ID, the Introspective Detective says,
The preponderance of scholarly evidence has long been on the side of the Baroness, you know. One, we have the letter Duchamp wrote to his sister, Susanne, two days after the urinal was rejected. It was discovered until 1982. In it he wrote. 'One of my female friends who had adopted the pseudonym Richard Mutt sent me a porcelain urinal as a sculpture.' Two we know that a newspaper reported at the time that the artist Richard Mutt was from Philadelphia. The Baroness was living in Philadelphia at the time. Three, we know that it wasn't until after the Baroness and Stieglitz were both dead that Duchamp assumed full credit for the urinal.... 
Duchamp stole it, all right. It doesn't even resemble the rest of his work.... 
Fountain doesn't fit in. But the museums haven't changed the attribution.

Marcel Duchamp, 'Fountain', 1950 (replica of 1917 original), porcelain urinal, 30.5 x 38.1 x 45.7 cm
Philadelphia Museum of Art 125th Anniversary Acquisition, gift (by exchange) of Mrs Herbert Cameron Morris,
1998-74-1 © Association Marcel Duchamp/ADAGP. Copyright Agency, 2019

Marcel Duchamp
Fountain, 1950 (replica of 1917 original)
porcelain urinal
© Association Marcel Duchamp/ADAGP. Copyright Agency, 2019

And as luck would have it, from the 27th April until 11th August my local Art Gallery of NSW is hosting The Essential Duchamp exhibition, with the urinal in question on full display. I wonder if the 'replica of 1917 original' is enough to cover his bases?

Favourite or Forget: Not a favourite in the end, but still keen to read more by Hustvedt.

Favourite Characters: IF IS and ID

Favourite Quote:
My first moments in my apartment have a radiant quality in memory that have nothing to do with sunlight. They are illuminated by an idea....I was twenty-three years old...
This took me straight back to my own 23 yr old self, living alone for the first time in a new town, starting my career, on the brink of my adult life, excited, full of anticipation and hope and plans and the love, the 'radiant quality' I felt for my first, slightly dingy, older style townhouse on the wrong side of the tracks.

Books in Books:

  • Don Quixote 
  • Balzac
  • The Great Gatsby
  • Proust
  • Sherlock Holmes
  • Gogol - Dead Souls
  • Baudelaire - The Flowers of Evil
  • Laurence Sterne - The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy
  • Plato - Apology
  • Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven
  • Socrates
  • Smolett - The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle
  • The Metamorphosis
  • Chaucer
  • Milton - Paradise Lost
  • Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
  • Finnegan's Wake
  • Simone Weil "imagination and fiction make up more than three quarters of our real life."
  • Great Expectations
  • John Ashbery
  • Michael Lally
  • Thomas Wyatt
  • Shakespeare
  • John Donne
  • John Clare
  • Emily Dickinson
  • Thomas Moore
  • Sylvia Plath
  • Alan Turing
  • Mary Shelley - Frankenstein
  • etc - there were many more but you get the jist!

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Jamaica Inn by Daphne Du Maurier

Jamaica Inn was my latest CC spin choice. I also realised recently that I would be able to join in Heavenali's Daphne Du Maurier reading week too, provided I got my review done on time. So here we go!


My Du Maurier journey began many, many years ago when I read Rebecca, undoubtedly her most famous novel. I was left feeling rather underwhelmed. It was okay but not amazing or even particularly memorable, in my opinion. I thought that would be that regards DDM.

About a decade later, in 2007, I was travelling around England, with Mr Books for the World Cup, when in a gorgeous B and B near Hadrian's Wall, I discovered a copy of Mary Anne. The first pages had me hooked. This story - part family history, part fiction was just the right thing at the right time. I left behind my just-finished (and unloved) copy of Chesil Beach (that's another story entirely) and invited Mary Anne to join me for the rest of our trip.

A few years back a CCSspin gave me My Cousin Rachel. I was a little cautious in my approach but ended up loving the psychological tension that oozed off every page. DDM was definitely back in my good books.

Which brings us to Jamaica Inn. I found it to be a very light, easy gothic mystery romance. It was enjoyable, although predictable. The romance was less gushing, soft romance and more realistic, making-the-best-of-a-(possible)-bad situation, while the mystery was carefully plotted tension rather than seat-of-your-pants terror.

Joss Merlyn was a tough man with a weak character. Aunt Patience was just weak. Jem Merlyn was enigmatic and painted as the 'bad boy rebel'. Vicar Francis Davey was enigmatic and painted as the 'knight in shining armour'. Mary was our spunky, sassy heroine. As independent and in control as a woman of her age was allowed to be (some time in the 1820's I believe).

On reflection, Jamaica Inn was less gothic and more an interesting dip into the mind of an alcoholic. His psychological pain was sympathetically drawn by Du Maurier, curiously more so than the obvious and devastating pain suffered by Aunt Patience at his hands.

The pretty, pretty VMC cover (designed by Neisha Crosland) added to my pleasure.

Du Maurier tells us in a note at the start, that Jamaica Inn is a real place, while Annabel @Shiny New Books fills in some of the blanks:
Jamaica Inn, the setting for her famous novel of 1936, sits high on Bodmin Moor in Cornwall. It was built in 1750 as a coaching inn and was a stopping-off place for many a smuggler. Du Maurier stayed there in 1930, and when out riding with her friend Foy Quiller-Couch got lost in the fog – but their horses returned them safely. This experience and hearing the tales of smuggling and ghosts associated with the inn inspired Daphne. These days, the lively inn is a famous tourist destination.


Favourite Character: Bad boy Jem of course!

Favourite or Forget: Enjoyable but forgettable.

Facts: Made into a movie by Alfred Hitchcock in 1939, an ITV series in 1983, adapted for the stage by David Horlock in 1990 and a BBC adaptation in 2014.

Sunday, 12 May 2019

Machines Like Me by Ian McEwan

Ahhh Ian McEwan!

My love affair with McEwan and his books is such a seesaw of anticipation, hope, expectation and oh so often disappointment. Atonement is the only book that has lasted the distance for me, although I'm willing to give Chesil Beach another shot, as in hindsight, I read it for the first time at completely the wrong time in my life to appreciate it properly. 

Machines Like Me sounded very promising and I'm probably one of the few people that didn't get totally creeped out by the front cover. Alternate histories, artificial intelligence (aka science run-amok) and profound moral dilemma's are all my literary cups of tea.


I've been holding off writing this review as I waited for Mr Books to finish it too. I wanted to discuss it with him and combine our thoughts for this post. Because, love it or hate it, Machines Like Us is the perfect book group book - oozing with thought provoking ideas and many points to mull over and debate.

The trouble for me in the end, was that I didn't buy the moral dilemma and was frustrated by the alternate history storyline that felt unresolved and unexplained - a gimmick rather than a fully fleshed discussion point. Which isn't to say that Mr Books and I didn't have a healthy discussion about consciousness, mind versus brain, emotional nuances, black and white thinking and how we develop shades of grey thinking. We did. But neither of us ever believe that robot Adam was anything more than a robot. 

He and the other 20-odd Adam and Eve robots were unable to cope with the 'real' world of human chaos and complexity. Their logically processes and programmed responses were not enough. Perhaps if they had been created as children and allowed to learn gradually the responses appropriate for the society they were living in about how to exist in this particular world of adults before moving on to older bodies, they may have not have freaked out so much.

What makes us human? Is it our brains, our feelings, our sense of consciousness? Is it soul or spirit or some other undefined, unseen element that makes us, dare I say, unique?

Mr Books threw the 1999 Robin Williams movie, Bicentennial Man into the mix. It had similar themes - robots as household help/slaves and where, exactly, is the line between human and non-human. 

The human characters were less than impressive - flawed, messy, chaotic individuals. They were insipid, jealous, vengeful, judgemental and lacking in dignity with imperfect moral compasses. No wonder the Adams and Eves struggled to fit in.

In this version of 1980's England, Alan Turing is still alive an inventing.
I was fascinated by how one person's life (or death) could change the course of history and wanted more of this. Turing, alive and well and fully embracing his sexuality changed the course of the Falklands War for example in McEwan's world. Turing's insistence on open source for all his inventions, meant that everyone had the ability to create technology, including, or more to the point, especially military equipment, which allowed Argentina to acquire the capacity to blow England out of the water in 1982.
But he didn't explain how or why JFK survived that shooting incident in Dallas - it was just a mention in passing. Maybe the advanced technology allowed for better surveillance and faster response times, so that there was no second bullet. Or maybe bullet-proof cars were invented by then in this alternate universe. We don't know. It is all pure speculation. Or as McEwan said,  "What might have happened was lost to us."

Favourite Character: none

Favourite Quote:
The present is the frailest of improbable constructs. It could have been different. Any part of it, or all of it, could be otherwise.
Favourite or Forget: It's not easy to forget a McEwan read. They usually make for a good book group discussion with their contentious issues, moral ambiguity and loose ends. But this one is not a favourite of mine.

Former Posts:

Thursday, 9 May 2019

Stories and Shout Outs

I knew that May was going to be a busy reading month, so I tried to prepare myself as much as possible in April.
  • I read my May book club choice in April (Bel Canto). 
  • I read my CC Spin book straight away (Jamaica Inn which I finished last weekend. It will also allow me to join in Heavenali's #DDMreadingweek from the 13th - 19th May, as long as I make the time to write my review!)
  • I finished two non-fiction titles that had been lingering on my table for a couple of months (A Vindication/Accidental Feminists).
  • I looked at my Moby Dick stuff again & created a timeline for the August readalong.

I've also been busy with other bookish stuff:

Reading Kids Books:

Trying to Find Some Calm:
  • Create Calm by Kate James
  • First week of alcohol and chocolate free month was rough, especially on Friday night, when we really wanted a beer with our pizza. We resisted, and felt better for it. 
  • This week has been harder with the chocolate part, but I've had a few sweet biscuit treats instead. 
  • A 3 hr walk (& coffee stop) on Saturday.
  • A 2 hr walk (& coffee stop) on Wednesday.
  • Eva Cassidy CD on high rotation.
  • 2 bubble baths.
  • And a new pair of shoes.

Strange, But True:

Yesterday, I had cause to google my blog name.
I discovered that many of my book reviews and catchy quotes therein have been added to a surprisingly large number of author websites. All Australian that I can see so far  - from Kate Forsyth, Matt Ottley, Sandy Fussel, Sulari Gentil, Judy Horacek to Aaron Blabey. I feel honoured and rather chuffed.


May Readalongs:

Nick @One Catholic Life is about to start off a new chapter-a-day adventure with The Count of Monte Cristo. This will be my third chapter-a-day readalong with Nick. Les Mis last year was hugely successful (for me) while my more recent foray into Don Quixote was less so.

I've had The Count on my TBR pile for 5-6 years now. It's another one of my lovely Coralie Bickford-Smith designed hardback Penguin editions.


Translated by Robin Buss, it is 117 chapters long.
The readalong starts Thursday 9th May and finishes on the 2nd September. It's not too late to join in.
Nick plans to post a quote a day on twitter and facebook using #montecristoreadalong
I hope to post most days :-)

May is also my next Iris Murdoch book, The Sea, The Sea with Liz @Adventures in Reading.

I've been very nervous about reading this book. It has been on my TBR pile for a number of years as a part of my plan to read as many Booker Prize books as possible, but I've been told by several people that it is a difficult read. I joined in Liz's readalong in the hope that reading some of Murdoch's earlier books, in the company of someone who so obviously loves and appreciates her work, would help me achieve success with The Sea, The Sea. I've now just been waiting to get the first few chapters of The Count under my belt before starting The Sea this weekend.
#IMreadalong


New To The Pile:
  • Woman Rowing North by Mary Piper
  • A Room Of One's Own by Virginia Woolf (I first read this years ago but lost/gave away my copy during one of my moves. Keen for a reread given my recent reading).
  • Waverley by Walter Scott
  • Circe by Madeline Miller
  • Australia Day by Stan Grant
  • Croatia - Lonely Planet (fingers crossed)

Tuesday, 7 May 2019

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

Bel Canto was our May book club choice. It was a reread for several of the members, but for me it was my very first time. I'm now wondering why on earth I left it so long to read.


Bel Canto is a glorious story about the power of song to soothe the beast within us all and to bring us together, regardless of class, culture, language or education.

I had no idea what to expect from this story initially; I knew nothing about it at all. I thought, perhaps, that it was a story about the opera. Imagine my shock when the the story begins with a dramatic hostage situation in a South American vice-presidential home one night in the middle of a private party for a Japanese delegation.

The bel canto reference is for the opera singer, Roxane, engaged to sing at the party. Her voice personifies the musical definition of 'full, rich, broad tone and smooth phrasing'. She has the entire party in her thrall, including the future terrorists hiding in the walls waiting to spring out and begin the hostage drama.

Patchett subtly explores the Stockholm syndrome that ensues. In psychological terms it is an alliance between the hostages and their captors designed to act as a survival strategy. Patchett shows us, that in this particular story, it can work both ways as the terrorists also become attached to their hostages. According to wikipedia, Stolkholm syndrome is seen as an irrational and possibly dangerous situation. Patchett shows us the logic, the necessity and the naturalness of this syndrome. It is simply a matter of one human being reaching out, responding to and connecting with another. It becomes inevitable.

Bel Canto is about humanity and what makes us human. It's about the things that bring us together, rather than tear us apart. It's the power of music and beauty to save us all.

First published 2001

Favourite Character: Carmen - brave, smart and caring but caught up in a situation out of her control.

Favourite Quote: "When I hear Roxane sing I am still able to think well of the world," Gen said. "This is a world in which someone could have written such music, a world in which she can still sing that music with so much compassion. That's proof of something, isn't it?"

Favourite or Forget: I will never forget this story.

Facts:
  • Based on the Japanese embassy hostage crisis (also called the Lima Crisis) of 1996–1997 in Lima, Peru.
  • Winner of the 2002 Orange Prize for Fiction (now the Women's Prize).
  • Winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.
  • I was in a choir for several years - we called ourselves Bel Canto.

Saturday, 4 May 2019

A Vindication of Accidental Feminists

A couple of months ago I was fortunate enough to receive a reading copy of Jane Caro's Accidental Feminists from Melbourne University Publishing. I immediately tucked it into my weekend bag to enjoy with my morning walks and coffee breaks.


It's a slowish way to read a book, I know, but that's the best way for me to enjoy and take in most non-fiction titles.

I had got to about the halfway mark, when I spotted that Ruth @A Great Book Study was hosting a month long readalong during April of Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. After reading Romantic Outlaws by Charlotte Gordon last year, I had downloaded Vindication onto my ipad for another time. Suddenly that time was NOW!

As I was ploughing my way through her rather dense, convoluted prose, in early April, I decided that a more interesting way (for me) to proceed would be to compare and contrast one of the very first feminists texts with one of the most recent.

Ruth has done a wonderful job of summarising and commenting on A Vindication over four posts on her blog, but the entire text is also freely available from the lovely people at Project Gutenberg.

A Vindication was first published in 1792, and written as a response to Edmund Burke's Reflections on the French Revolution, in which he argued for the preservation of traditional men's rights. Wollstonecraft challenged this point in her essay, to include equal rights for women as well.

In 2019, Jane Caro has written a book about the women of her generation (the Baby Boomers) who didn't expect to change the world, but accidentally found that the world they had been brought up to live in, no longer existed. They were the first generation of women to have earned money working for most of their adult lives, and thanks to advances in medicine and technology, were able to take control of their own bodies, in a way that no previous generations could ever have imagined possible.

Religion and tradition (as decreed by men) were the ways that society had 'kept women in their place' throughout time, history and culture, which meant that Wollstonecraft had to carefully couch her words to not upset this status quo. To make her ideas palatable to men (and no doubt, to many women too), she had to ensure that any so called god-given traits were acknowledged. She had to find a way to state her truths within the strict guidelines of the religious beliefs of the time.

As such, she declared that,
Nature, or to speak with strict propriety God, has made all things right; but man has sought him out many inventions to mar the work.

Once she had established that god was perfection and that mankind was the one who had messed things up, she could go on to discuss all the ways that had happened and what could be done about it. With the idea that this would allow mankind (and womankind) to advance to a state closer to god's original perfection.

227 years later, Caro is able to squarely state that it is,
The male anxiety around women's bodies (which) has dictated what women can wear, where they may go, whom they can marry and what they can do with their lives.

Not god or religion.
The rest of her discussion on religion and women is covered in a later chapter - Slags, Sluts, Gossips and Staceys - where she discusses the rise in fundamentalist groups of all faiths, and their impact on women's rights, and even their lives.
Their God is a vengeful God. He (and he is very definitely a He) is about command and control....This murky soup of seething undercurrents, taboos, judgement, ignorance, shame and fear around women and their sexual pleasure is nasty, sticky and toxic....There are a lot of very angry men out there, and we ignore them at our peril.


Both women strongly advocate education as the way forward. For men and women.

Wollstonecraft had to tackle Rousseau's idea of only educating women to please men (!), claiming that intelligent, well-educated women actually benefited the whole family given their important role as mother, teacher and care-giver to her family. Whereas Caro's main issue is not with the getting of wisdom, but with the incredible number of women completing their high school and tertiary education at the top of their classes, yet still not getting the top jobs.

Physical differences are explored. Wollstonecraft is keen to stress that even though men may be physically stronger, it doesn't make them superior. Many of the perceived 'weaknesses' of women were merely due to the enforced inactivity that was expected of young girls and the restricting clothes they had to wear.

The 'weaker sex' syndrome is still a factor for Caro,
somehow...we have decided that this difference in height, weight and upper-body strength is indicative of other perceived weaknesses, including intellectual, psychological and emotional weakness, and ability to endure....(this) idea of feminine weakness and fragility had a great deal to do with making men feel big and strong by comparison.

There is no denying that our bodies are built differently, but it doesn't make one body type better than the other. Women can play sport and be active just like some men. And men can be gentle, nurturing and caring just like some women. Our different bodies will simply work this out in different ways.

Beauty and self-image naturally comes up as a big discussion point for both women. Given how often our feminine nature and womanly wiles are held up as sometime to aspire to (to attract men) or to be wary of (in case they attract too many men!) and certainly not something to be enjoyed, by women, at least, it is still one of the hot topics in feminist literature.

Wollstonecraft says,
Taught from their infancy that beauty is a woman's sceptre, the mind shapes itself to the body, and roaming round its gilt cage, only seeks to adorn its prison. Men have various employments and pursuits which engage their attention, and give a character to the opening mind; but women, confined to one, and having their thoughts constantly directed to the most insignificant part of themselves, seldom extend their views beyond the triumph of the hour.

While Caro writes,
We've been trained since birth to believe that our looks are the most important thing about us. Girls are routinely complimented on their appearance rather than their capabilities....Arguably, the pressure to be gorgeous has intensified in this era of Instagram and Snapchat...this grooming starts painfully young.

As the step-mum of two young adult males, it has been curious and (often) disturbing to see just how much this focus on image is affecting both sexes now. The male Insta pages are full of buff, tanned men with shirts off, showing off their pecks, whilst the girls are equally tanned but in bikinis with pouting lips.

Caro spends quite a bit of time on the 'past our used by date' issue, which is fair enough, given that most of the Boomer women are now in their sixties and older, and this is their experience right now.

As an X-er, I recognise so many of the issues and concerns that Caro talks about, but I also see that my generation has experienced some things differently. My generation has benefited greatly by the first wave of women going through the workforce, the path has been easier, less trail-blazing, but many of the hurdles are still there - perhaps becoming more subtle and underground than of old though.

The men of my generation have also changed a lot. They are the first gen to embrace hands-on fathering and housekeeping in large numbers and the first gen of men to ask their work places to consider their family commitments.

The millennials (Gen Y) are in the thick of things right now. The few thirty year olds I know, male and female, are sleep deprived and struggling to have it all. Their embracing of technology and social media is overwhelming and future discussions around this and gender equity will be fascinating.

The Gen Z's I know seem to fall into two categories, those wanting to pair off early, perhaps looking for emotional security and surety in a world of divorced parents and casual jobs. And those determined to stay single as long as they can. Many of the young girls I've spoken to are happy to have relationships, but they don't want to live with anyone or get married, because they don't want to have to take care of anyone else except themselves.

Sadly, this new gen still have the same old stories about unwanted comments and attention from men that all of us had to deal with since way before Caro, Greer, Woolf, Wollstonecraft et al ever dreamed of writing a word.

Chastity, purity and modesty are regular themes throughout Wollstonecraft's essay. It is the double standard still being railed against by women today. Woman should be attractive and feminine to attract men, but not too sexy or flirtatious and she certainly shouldn't enjoy it. And if she does, then she is the one who will be judged and condemned and considered morally bankrupt, while the man gets off scott free. The lives and romances of both Mary and her daughter and perfect examples. They have both been roundly denigrated throughout history for their ungodly, loose morals and behaviours, but at worst, the men they shared their messy lives with were called creative, free-living Bohemians.

As Caro explains, one of the roles women learn at a young age is that it is their job 'to sexually police the relationship.'
It was up to us how far what was then called 'petting' went, and if it went too far, we were the ones to blame. It was our job...to be sexually alluring and up for a fair amount of sexual play (otherwise, we were 'frigid'). Yet we were also supposed to intuitively know exactly when and how to draw the line....Teenage boys were no more ready for full-on sex than teenage girls, I think, but it was part of the masculine disguise they were forced to wear that they could not be one to say no. That was our duty. We were protecting ourselves...but we were also protecting them and taking responsibility for them - the beginning of a lifetime of doing so.


One of the difficulties faced by any book talking about a society, a group or a whole culture is the tendency for generalisations. Both Wollstonecraft and Caro travel down this path. It's an unavoidable journey. But as modern readers we understand that the references to 'we', 'women', 'men', 'us' are generic and that we all live our individual lives with a great deal more complexity, ambiguity and nuance than the general suggests. Yet our lives are still lived within the confines of the society we are born into, whether we see and agree with these boundaries and traditions or not.

As Caro says in her Introduction,
Women are not a job lot (but)....what we share is the burden of assumptions that are made about what a woman should be like, what she should do, say, wear, think and express. To be a woman, no matter your background, is to have to fight for your territory in a way that most men never have to.

Many man (and women) are starting to see that the societal and cultural constructs around masculinity are just as limiting for men as the ones for women are.

Those of us living in the modern, western world have come a long way since 1792. The problems and issues of immediate concern to Wollstonecraft are different to those of Caro's generation. But they still exist, it's just that the goal posts have shifted. The journey is not over. Change happens generationally and will continue to do so, whether we want it to or not.

To finish, I will return to a section from my reading of Romantic Outlaws last year that struck me.
It is a sobering tale, the rise and fall of both Mary's, since it so clearly points to how difficult it is to know the past and how mutable the historical record can be. For almost two hundred years, Wollstonecraft was written off, first as a whore and then as a hysteric, an irrational female hardly worth reading....Mary Shelley, on the other hand, would be condemned for compromising the revolutionary values of her genius husband and her pioneering mother. Viewed as a woman who cared more about her place in society than about political ideas or artistic integrity, she was discounted as an intellectual lightweight.... 
At the end of her life, Mary Shelley could never have suspected that she and her mother would be treated so differently by history.... 
To be themselves. The hurdles, the critics, the enemies, the insults, the ostracism, the betrayals, the neglect, even the heartbreaks - none of this had stopped them.

That's all women ask. Is to be themselves.

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Stories & Shout Outs


Read But Not Reviewed:

  • Machines Like Me by Ian McEwan - like most McEwan's I'm left wondering if it's a hit or a miss - more mulling time required before I write. Also waiting to discuss it with Mr Books, who has just started it.
  • Maisie Dobbs #14 To Die But Once by Jacqueline Winspear (well, just a little review on Goodreads) - a couple of weeks ago I was feeling a little frazzled and decided I needed an old friend to comfort me. Maisie did the trick, as always.
  • Bel Canto by Ann Patchett - my latest book club read - how on earth have I not read this gem of a story before?

Short Stories:

  • Boodjar ngan djoorla: Country, my bones by Claire G. Coleman in Griffith Review 63: Writing the Country - not sure how I can adequately describe this one. It disturbed me and moved me and made me curious about reading Coleman's Terra Nullius sooner rather than later.
  • Jokes For the Gunmen by Mazen Maarouf in his book of short stories by the same name. Not sure what to make of this. Somewhat disjointed & jumpy but compelling nonetheless.

New to the Pile:

  • All Happy Families by Hervé le Tellier - love dysfunctional family memoirs!
  • City of Trees by Sophie Cunningham - essays on life, death and the need for a forest - enough said!
  • The Penguin Book of Japanese Short Stories - cannot wait to dive into these, but suspect they will sit on my TBR pile until my next trip to Japan!
  • Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker - having recently finished The Song of Achilles, I'm keen to read more now Homer adaptations. That's how I roll.

Latest Find:

  • Unsplash for amazing pics to post on my blogs. All they ask is for you to credit the artist whenever you use one of their images.
Photo by Jordan Whitt on Unsplash

What I'm Struggling With:

  • Tiredness & a couldn't-be-bothered attitude.

May To-Do List:

  • The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch - readalong.
  • Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier - my CC #20 spin book.
  • The Count of Monte Cristo - readalong.
  • Write my (August) Moby Dick Readalong introduction post.

Scary, But True:

  • Mr Books & I are an alcohol & chocolate free zone until the end of May.

On My Radar:

  • Endless Game of Thrones speculation and conspiracy theories! None of our thoughts about what would happen in the Battle of Winterfell came to pass - except we did predict the majority of the regulars that died. Needless to say, the Night King was not on that list! Didn't see that coming, but all hale Arya.


Cover Lover:

  • Which cover of Kate Morton's The Clockmaker's Daughter do you prefer?

  • The Australian cover (top left) catches my eye every time I see it on the shelf at work, but I also like the cover bottom right (from the US I think). I'm fascinated by the choices that publishers and editors make when choosing the different covers for each country. Teal green is certainly the colour of the moment in Australia!
  • Sadly none of these lovely covers were enough to make me actually read the book.

Thursday, 25 April 2019

Tollund Man by Seamus Heaney

In my previous post, about The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, I referred to Heaney's poem about the bog man found in Denmark in the 1950's. To find out how Tollund Man and Achilles go together in my universe, you'll have to read the post.

As always, though, I'm fascinated by the stories we tell ourselves about our past and how they inform our present day concerns. Seeing the Irish Troubles through the sacrificial death of an Iron Age man is just one example.

Photo by Krystian Piątek on Unsplash

THE TOLLUND MAN
I

Some day I will go to Aarhus
To see his peat-brown head,
The mild pods of his eye-lids,
His pointed skin cap.

In the flat country near by
Where they dug him out,
His last gruel of winter seeds
Caked in his stomach,

Naked except for
The cap, noose and girdle,
I will stand a long time.
Bridegroom to the goddess,

She tightened her torc on him
And opened her fen,
Those dark juices working
Him to a saint's kept body,

Trove of the turfcutters'
Honeycombed workings.
Now his stained face
Reposes at Aarhus.


II

I could risk blasphemy,
Consecrate the cauldron bog
Our holy ground and pray
Him to make germinate

The scattered, ambushed
Flesh of labourers,
Stockinged corpses
Laid out in the farmyards,

Tell-tale skin and teeth
Flecking the sleepers
Of four young brothers, trailed
For miles along the lines.


III

Something of his sad freedom
As he rode the tumbril
Should come to me, driving,
Saying the names

Tollund, Grauballe, Nebelgard,

Watching the pointing hands
Of country people,
Not knowing their tongue.

Out here in Jutland
In the old man-killing parishes
I will feel lost,
Unhappy and at home.

Given that it's Anzac Day in Australia, where we honour the fallen and remind ourselves about the sacrifices made by those who have gone before, 'lest we forget', this seemed like an appropriate poem for the day.

We have an entire world history of sacrificing our loved ones to the gods, to war, to causes beyond our ken. Will we ever learn the lessons?

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

It might seem sacrilegious to finish a post about war and sacrifice with football, yet surely, our love of sport, is just another example of conflict and sacrifice just played out on a smaller field and with less carnage.

So Go the Mighty Bombers!

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

I'm not sure why it has taken me so long to get my thoughts together about The Song of Achilles, but sitting down to write about my response to this amazing story is probably a story in itself!


It was during my early high school days that my love of history developed. My first history class took me into the fascinating world of Tollund Man - the mummified bog body found in 1950. I was amazed at what scientists and historians were able to deduce from these remains about the world and times he lived in. There was even a Seamus Heaney poem - my first (very young) adult experience of seeing how we have always made up stories and songs to help us interpret and reinterpret our history and give meaning to our present day experiences.

Some purists and classicists may disapprove of this mode of story telling, but retelling old stories with modern sensibilities helps to keep the old stories alive. Old ideas such as hubris can be brought to life for contemporary audiences to ponder about how it might present itself now.

That's what Madeline Miller does so well here.

Using the well-known, very masculine, very war-like story of The Iliad and turning it into a romance between Achilles and Patroclus gives this old story a new lease of life. This is still a world of men and war, but Miller gives a us a chance to see this world through the eyes of Achilles goddess mother, Thetis and through the ideas of a captured Trojan girl, Briseis.

The first half of the story that fills in the childhood back story of both young men is the most interesting part to my mind. It shows the human side of Achilles before he gets caught up in his prophecy and god-like fate. I also found their first love scene to be one of the most tender, beautiful moments I've ever read.

Once we moved into the world of The Iliad proper, I felt less involved until Briseis turned up. Seeing the camp though a female lens while being reminded of how the lives of women and children were affected by this long siege was a nice touch.

I also enjoyed the scenes between Patroclus and Achilles that showed their relationship at work - how they influenced each other, how they debated, argued and compromised, how they knew each other so well that they knew what to say and how to say it to appease or enrage each other.

It is these contemporary humanising additions that allow a modern reader to reach into the old story again to find deeper meaning. Reading between the lines and filling in the gaps is the realm of all artists. Reinterpretation is a continual process, dependant on the era and experience of those doing the reinterpretation.

Homer's Iliad was just one (and possibly the first) interpretation of the events that happened on the plains of Troy to explain to those left at home and those who came after, what happened. We all seek meaning and purpose in our lives. We want to make sense of big world events. Our search for understanding, knowledge and insight is perennial.

Revisionism is a natural, organic process that occurs during, and for, every generation. The Song of Achilles is a stellar example of how that can work.

Favourite Passage:
But fame is a strange thing. Some men gain glory after they die, while others fade. What is admired in one generation is abhorred in another....We cannot say who will survive the holocaust of memory.

Favourite Character: Briseis - she is brave, loyal and inclusive.

Favourite or Forget: Favourite, but not likely to be a reread. Highly recommended to lovers of historical fiction, Ancient Greek retellings, or for those looking for LGBTQI themes.

Facts: Winner of the Orange Prize 2012

Poem: The Song of Achilles

Sunday, 21 April 2019

The Belly of Paris by Émile Zola

Le Ventre de Paris (also known as The Belly of Paris - a direct translation, or The Fat and the Thin
referring to one of the main ideas explored in the story) is not only an extremely visual story, but a visceral one too.


Zola's descriptions of the food markets at Les Halles are colourful, very detailed and lengthy! He leaves no basket or barrow unturned. Every smell is documented including the decaying, the over-ripe and the composted.

The political and social injustices of the times are also symbolised in the Les Halles markets and reinforced by the various natures of the people who live and work there.

Many of Zola's standard themes are explored here - moral ambiguity, excess, waste, realism, gluttony, materialism, decadence, the haves and the have-nots. Consumerism, in particular, is placed under the Zola microscope in The Belly of Paris, as is the whole idea of spying, voyeurism, surveillance and gossip. Everyone watches everyone else and everyone discusses it with anyone who will listen.

One of the curiosities, for me, in this story and the previous Zola, La Curée is the whole push & pull against the renovation of Paris by Haussmann. On the one hand there is a real sense of loss and nostalgia for 'Old Paris', yet there's also an appreciation of the improved sanitation and open spaces that the clean up achieved. Zola writes about the tension between the corruption and the dynamism inherent in this process in all of his books.

It makes me think of the current concerns many Sydney-siders feel for the major road work and light rail projects happening around the city right now. I hear lots of people bemoaning the changing face of Sydney and the loss of old Sydney and that things will never be the same again. That it will make things worse not better. As a devotee of museums and history, I know that these exact same sentiments were expressed in the 1920's when large areas of The Rocks and North Sydney were pulled down to build the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

No-one in Sydney, or visiting Sydney, could now imagine it without our beautiful, graceful bridge spanning the harbour. It is instagrammed and hashtagged on an hourly basis all around the world. Just like we now love and appreciate the beautiful, graceful boulevards and open spaces created by Haussmann in Paris. Neither city misses the slums or narrow, crowded streets that were razed to create these beautiful new spaces.

At the time, the fear of change and sentimentality stopped many of the locals from seeing the possible beauty or improved functionality that would result from the change. They could not imagine that future generations would be grateful for the sacrifice and upheaval required to update, move forward and 'future-proof' their city.

I'm not suggesting that our current west connex, north connex & light rail projects will ever be considered beautiful, charming and elegant by future generations, that might be stretching the friendship too far, but they will add (in part) a functionality to our city that is currently lacking. Sadly our particular project is not being managed by a larger-than-life character like Haussmann. His bold vision is sadly lacking in Sydney. But then a large factor in his work was to make it easier for governments to police the city and stop the barricades - a practical, controversial consideration that upset many at the time. Yet the Champs Elysee was born. And who could now imagine Paris without the Champs Elysee?

Une Boutique de Charcuterie (1873) by Edouard Jean Dambourgez

To get back to Zola's main theme in The Belly of Paris, though, let's start with Claude Lantier (the artist based on Paul Cezanne) during his 'Battle of the Fat and the Thin' discussion,

In these pictures Claude saw the entire drama of human life; and he ended by dividing everyone into Fat and Thin, two hostile groups, one of which devours the other and grows fat and sleek and endlessly enjoys itself.
'Cain', he said, 'was a Fat man and Abel a Thin one. Ever since that first murder, the big eaters have sucked the lifeblood out of the small eaters. The strong constantly prey on the weak....Beware of the Fat, my friend!'
Gavard is Fat, but the sort that pretends to be Thin....Mademoiselle Saget and Madame Lecœur are Thin, but the kind to beware of - Thin people desperate to be Fat. My friend Marjolin, little Cadine, La Sarriette, they're all Fat. They don't know it yet, because they're so young and innocent. It must be said that the Fat , before they get older, are charming creatures.

Zola not only sees the modern trend in a division between the haves and have nots, the takers and the givers, but relates it back to the very beginning of human story. Since the beginning of time, we have been creating stories to bring to light our differences; what does it say about us, I wonder, that we are still telling the same stories thousands of years later?

Are we slow learners? Do we never learn from the lessons of history? Does every generation have to re-invent the wheel? Or are we just eternally interested in ourselves and our stories?

References to Les Halles are everywhere throughout the story and read like paintings. Fortunately many, many artists have painted these scenes, including the one chosen for the cover of the Oxford University Press edition by Victor-Gabriel Gilbert, The Square in Front of Les Halles 1880.

Brian Nelson in his Introduction explains that Zola 'combines the vision of a painter with the approach of a sociologist and reporter.' Below are a few of my favourite examples.

Les Halles 1895 by Léon Lhermitte
The opening to the Rue Rambteau was blocked by a barricade of orange pumpkins in two rows, sprawling at their ease and swelling out their bellies. Here and there gleamed the varnished golden-brown of a basket of onions, the blood-red of a heap of tomatoes, the soft yellow of a display of cucumbers, and the deep mauve of aubergines.

Les Halles
That church is a piece of bastard architecture, made up of the death agony of the Middle Ages and the birth pains of the Renaissance....There it is with its rose windows, and without a congregation, while Les Halles keep growing next to it.

Les Halles 1879 by Jean Beraud
A huge arcade, a gaping doorway, would open to his gaze; and the markets seemed to crowd up one on top of the other, with their two lines of roof, their countless shutters and blinds...a vast Babylonian structure of metal wonderfully delicate in its workmanship, and criss-crossed by hanging gardens, aerial galleries, and flying buttresses.

Les Halles and St Eustache by Eugene Galien-Laloue
The giant markets, overflowing with food, had brought things to a head. They seemed like some satiated beast, embodying Paris itself, grown enormously fat, and silently supporting the Empire.

Still Life with Cheese 1870's by Antoine Vollon.
The warm afternoon sun had softened the cheeses; the mould on the rinds was melting and glazing over with the rich colours of red copper verdigris, like wounds that have badly healed; under the oak leaves, a breeze lifted the skins of the olivets, which seemed to move up and down with the slow deep breathing of a man asleep.

Favourite Character: Maybe not my favourite character, but certainly, for me, the most memorable was La Belle Lisa 'she was a steady, sensible Macquart, reasonable and logical in her craving for well-being.' Quietly ambitious, determined, hard-working, voluptuous. Lisa embodies the bourgeoisie sensibility of looking out for oneself and turning a blind eye to the larger problems within society as being none of her business and beyond her control to do anything about anyway.

Favourite or Forget: As I slowly read Zola's books in chronological order for Fanda's #Zoladdiction each year, they all become forever burnt onto my memory. The abundance of food descriptions and Zola's play with homographs (trifle, ripening, fruit, sweetly etc) made this one a fun read. I think this particular OWC cover is my favourite of all the Zola covers.

FactsLe Ventre de Paris was serialised in the daily newspaper L'État from 12 January to 17 March 1873. It's the third book in Zola's Rougon-Macquart series.

Thursday, 18 April 2019

Starting a New Book...

So I've just started reading Siri Hustvedt's latest novel, Memories of the Future.

I'm inclined to anticipate enjoyment of Hustvedt's work thanks solely (so far) on my experience with What I Loved. I feel sure that I will be in for an intelligent, literary treat.


The first chapter has not disappointed.

Metafiction is the name of this game as Hustvedt's story explores a 61 yr old woman looking book on the journal written by her 23 yr old self when she first moved to New York to write.

In a curious, personal, twist of fate, there is a Don Quixote connection right from the start.

Within the journal of 23 yr old S.H. is another story about Ian Feathers (I.F.) - a man whose real 'life was lived in books, not out of them.' A man who took his passion for mystery, unsolved crimes and murder too far. A man who 'lived in a world built entirely of clues.' A man who wanted to live his life through the 'splendid' example of Sherlock Holmes (another S.H.). All good heroes need a sidekick - I.F.'s 'all-important confidante, his Sancho, his Watson,' was/is Isadora Simon (I.S.).

I love it when my book worlds collide, or perhaps, more elegantly, when serendipity steps in to allow one bookish experience to inform the next.

Memories of the Future is also ripe with books within books, or more accurately, poets and their poems.

John Ashbery, Kenneth Koch, Barbara Guest and Frank O'Hara. And The Great Gatsby, Balzac, Proust, Gogol, Baudelaire, Laurence Sterne and Plato just to name those referenced in the first 32 pages. But the one that has made several appearances and will obviously play a bigger role as the story unfolds is the Dada-poet/performance artist, Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven.

Who? I hear you ask.

According to the Poetry Foundation, she was a 'German-born avant-garde poet. Known for her flamboyance and sexual frankness, the Baroness was a central figure in Greenwich Village’s early-twenties Dadaism'.

Wikipedia describes her as 'breaking every erotic boundary, revelling in anarchic performance'.

Her friend Emily Coleman saw her as, 'not as a saint or a madwoman, but as a woman of genius, alone in the world, frantic'.

I'm very curious to see how Hustvedt will thread the Baroness' life into the rest of her story.
                     
Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven by Holland Cotter


Fruit Don’t Fall Far
By Elsa Von Freytag-Loringhoven
Translated by Jill Alexander Essbaum

From Daddy sprung my inborn ribaldry.
His crudeness destined me to be the same.
A seedlet, flowered from a shitty heap,
I came, the crowning glory of his aim.

From Mother I inherited ennui,
The leg irons of the queendom I once rattled.
But I won’t let such chains imprison me.
And there is just no telling what this brat’ll...!

This marriage thing? We snub our nose at it.
What’s pearl turns piss, what’s classy breeds what’s smutty.
But like it? Lump it? Neither’s exigent.
And I’m the end result of all that fucking.

Do what you will! This world’s your oyster, Pet.
But be forewarned. The sea might drown you yet.


Not my usual poetic fare, but from what I have seen so far, a fair example of the Baroness' writing. And as S.H. says on pg 53, 'I returned to the sputterings of the Baroness because I regarded her as my archival rescue job, almost annihilated back then, and I wanted to protect her from oblivion with my voice.'

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 as I can.

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

Classics Club Spin #20

It's time for another CC Spin over @The Classics Club.

I have participated in ALL 19 spins. Let's make it 20!

Photo by Lysander Yuen on Unsplash

The rules are easy: compile your list of 20 books by Monday - the 22nd April.

On that day a number will be randomly selected.
That's the book you read.

You have until the 31st May 2019 to finish your book and review it.
Yes, you read that date correctly!

Join in the fun by visiting the other players and commenting on their lists.
It's a great way to meet like-minded bloggers and explode your TBR classics wishlist!

CC Spin #20.

If you spot a match with your list, please let me know before the magic number is selected on Monday, I can then tweek my list to suit.

  1. Night and Day by Virginia Woolf                   shared read with Jessie @Dwell in Possibility
  2. Alexander's Bridge by Willa Cather                    shared author with Reese @TypingsLisbeth @The Content Reader & Relevant Obscurity
  3. A Dance to the Music of Time: Spring by Anthony Powell    
  4. Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens                    shared author with Jean @Howling Frog
  5. Coonaroo by Katharine Susannah Prichard
  6. Red Sky at Sunrise by Laurie Lee  
  7. The Wonder Child: An Australian Story by Ethel Turner
  8. Virginia Woolf by Hermione Lee                shared author with Emma@Words and PeaceReese @Typings & Jessie @Dwell in Possibility
  9. 1788 by Watkin Tench
  10. The Makioka Sisters by Junichiro Tanizaki
  11. Petersburg by Andrei Bely
  12. Letters on Life by Rainer Maria Rilke
  13. Lives of the Caesars by Suetonius
  14. Basil by Wilkie Collins                       shared author with Book Tapestry
  15. Elizabeth Gaskell by Jenny Uglow              shared author with Emma@Words and Peace
  16. Hiroshima by John Hersey                shared read with Anne @My Head is Full of Books
  17. Edith Wharton by Hermione Lee              shared author with Reese @Typings & Lisbeth @The Content Reader
  18. The Book of Tea by Kakuzo Okakura                 
  19. Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier
  20. The Cardboard Crown by Martin Boyd  

My Previous #CC Spins:

Most of my spins have been successful and/or enjoyable. 
I've also made my own fun by trying to read my books with other Classic Clubbers during many of the spins.
So far I have read:


CC Spin #1 (2013 #14) The Magnificent Ambersons with Cat @Tell Me A Story.

CC Spin #2 (2013 #6) Tess of the D'Urbervilles with JoAnn @Lakeside Musings & Several Four Many.

CC Spin #3 (2013 #4) My Cousin Rachel - hope to watch the movie soon.

CC Spin #4 (2014 #10) The Brothers Karamazov - I was flounderng about halfway through this chunkster, when I lost it during a move...serendipity, I say!

CC Spin #5 (2014 #20) The Odyssey with Plethora of Books - This one was a bit of a cheat as I had started it for another readalong, but was struggling to finish it. I added it to my cc list to motivate me. When no. 20 spun up it seemed like the gods had decreed it so!


CC Spin #6 (2014 #1) No Name by Wilkie Collins with Melbourne on My Mind.

CC Spin #7 (2014 #17) Silent Spring by Rachel Carson with Karen @Booker Talk - my first classic non-fiction spin.

CC Spin #8 (2015 #13) Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh - my one and only dud Spin read so far. Satire is not my thing.

CC Spin #9 (2015 #2) The Great World by David Malouf - my first Australian classic spin.

CC Spin #10 (2015 #5) A Far Cry From Kensington by Muriel Spark.


CC Spin #11 (2016 #19) So Big by Edna Ferber with Christy - we both experienced the joy of rediscovering a forgotten award winning classic.

CC Spin #12 (2016 #8) Dubliners by James Joyce - too depressing and hopeless for my state of mind at the time.

CC Spin #13 (2016 #15) The Catherine Wheel by Catherine Harrower - my second Aussie #ccspin classic.

CC Spin #14 (2016 #1) The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnet

CC Spin #15 (2017 #12) Out of Africa by Karen Blixen - a disappointment in the end. The movie was better.

CC Spin #16 (2017 #4) The Diary of a Provincial Lady by E M Delafield - a book that grew better with reflection & the passing of time.

CC Spin #17 (2018 #3) Far From The Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy reading with Tasheena @Dear Reader

CC Spin #18 (2018 #9) The Unicorn by Iris Murdoch - a curious choice with many, many layers and themes to explore.

CC Spin #19 (2019 #1) Eden's Outcast by John Matteson - a long journey, that I was ultimately glad that I had taken.

CC Spin #20 (2019 #19) Jamaica Inn

Happy Spinning!