Posted by: Lisa Hill | August 28, 2015

The Secret Son, by Jenny Ackland

The Secret SonA little while ago I had a minor whinge about my wish that debut authors would write about less predictable topics, about how it’s disappointing to see promising authors dredging up Relationships #101 and Dysfunctional Families #101 over and over again, as if there were nothing else to write about in Australia.  So I was very pleased to come across debut author Jenny Ackland’s The Secret Son – because it’s ambitious in theme, scope and structure and very interesting to read as well.

There are two narratives, the turn-of-the-20th-century narrative of  James, a farm boy of little initiative in Beechworth, and of Cem, a young man of Turkish descent who, despite his family’s misgivings, takes off from Australia for the village of his ancestors in the 1990s.  These two narratives do intersect, but the novel takes its time to do that, creating a nice frisson of mystery to be resolved.

James’ narrative is well-written, with a slow gentle rhythm that matches this character’s ambivalent personality and also that peaceful lost era before the cataclysm of World War I.  For James there is the puzzle of his vanished father’s identity and his mother’s reluctance to talk about it, exacerbated by the town’s diffidence towards them.    When his mother dies and James finds out that the property for which he had plans is only rented, and that puts paid to his even more vague plans for a bride, he drifts into working at a newspaper printing room in Melbourne, and from there into enlistment.  He ends up in the Dardanelles.

This characterisation made me wonder about how many other young men of vaguely pacifist intention might also have enlisted and managed to survive the war without actually killing anybody.  James’s impulsive enlistment derives in part out of frustrated love for Linda Cole (real life daughter of E.W. Cole of Cole’s Book Arcade fame) and her obsession with flying.  But James is also fascinated by the bees on his mother’s farm: he likes their orderliness, their industry and their hierarchical structure.  Perhaps the army momentarily had something of the same appeal.

The back cover blurb reveals enough of the plot for me to be able also to disclose that this first section of the novel ends up with James heading for a Turkish village, gravely ill, rescued from the abandoned trenches of Gallipoli by a Turkish boy whose life he had earlier spared. 

The next section, however, brings a change of pace, a change of locale and a change of era.  Cem is also a diffident young man who has difficulty making decisions about his own future.  Brought up in an extended migrant family from Turkey, he drifts into university but drifts out of getting a job afterwards.  Curious about the family stories he has heard all his life, he decides to visit the village of their birth, despite strong objections from his irascible grandfather.

But raised on his grandfather’s myth-making, Cem soon finds that reality doesn’t match what he finds, and the culture clash is deftly handled.  The exuberant characterisation of this section brings new momentum to the novel, and the dialogue is lively.  The taxi driver who delivers a crash course in Turkish culture has an authentic style which derives, so the blurb tells me, from the author’s own love of the country and her connections there.  (I haven’t been to Turkey yet, but it’s on my bucket list.)

This character Ibrahim is a lovable charmer:

‘My mother has very beauty heart.’  Ibrahim ate a stuffed vine leaf and reached for another.  ‘But I very angry, with all these feelings.  I sell wristling for ticket to Istanbul.  I catch bus with little bit money in my pocket.  All we men in this country has is big hopes with empty pocket.  Some days I think for us to stay small, in our shit villages is better.  This city, she making us too sad.’

Cem started to agree, but Harry interjected. ‘No.’ He was half standing, leaning over the table, the taxi-driver’s wrist caught in his hand.  ‘You were right to follow your dreams.  The first and most important thing a man must do is identify his quest.  The second thing he has to do is complete it.  You have succeeded already, don’t you see?’ Harry released the taxi-driver’s hand, sat down and held up his briefcase.  ‘On the matter of dreams, all will be revealed.’

Ibrahim grabbed Harry around the neck and kissed him on the cheek.

‘Harray, I not understand your speaking, my friend, but you is clever man!  I am believe you!  We live in this crumbling city, we have black feeling in our hearts.  Music makes it blacker, all the broken people around us, but still we are proud, and still there is honour.

He poured more raki into their glasses.  (p.103)

This Harry, on the other hand, is a pain in the neck.  Cem is a nice, friendly young man, and en route and against his better judgement he gets saddled with Harry, an academic who is obsessed by his theory that Ned Kelly (yes, the bushranger) had a son who went to war and didn’t return.  Harry is, to put it mildly, a crashing bore.  He talks too much, and he has endless problems with back pain.  Cem is not best pleased when he discovers that he’s heading for the same village that Harry needs to visit, to research his bizarre theory.  And since Harry speaks not a word of Turkish, Cem is expected to translate for him…

Now, as it happens, I am concurrently reading Zola’s La Bête Humaine (The Beast in Man), a novel which explores the idea that the base instincts of men can be passed on in families.  Ackland’s novel places Cem in the invidious position of being held to account for actions taken long ago by his relations.  The Ned Kelly motif allows some discussion about tainted blood and how ‘debts’ might be repaid in atonement.  These are interesting ideas to think about in the contemporary calls for apologies for past wrongs.

The dual narratives work well for the most part, but it is a complex plot requiring close attention by the reader throughout, especially when it comes to working out the relationships across time and place.  As is sometimes the case with debut novels, there are occasional elements to the plot which seem unnecessary, and here and there I noticed expressions that seemed a little incongruous, which could have been dealt with by more astute editing.  I have never before come across snuck (as a replacement for sneaked) in the written past tense, and I was baffled by this use of shrug as a description of a person:

At the beginning of 1990, Cem was twenty-three and a kind of shrug.  He was one of the sugar men, but his sweetness was diluted in Melbourne.

The reader finds out eventually what this reference to sugar is about, but shrug remains a mystery.  Perhaps it is a metaphor for Cem’s inability to explain himself because he often doesn’t know what he thinks, but the text takes a while for that aspect of his characterisation to become clear.  It’s not until five pages later that this passage begins to reveal his ambivalence, and even then there’s no reference to him shrugging his shoulders:

Cem lengthened as he grew and began to lope when he walked, hands in pockets, chin dropped to the ground.  He didn’t look people in the eye because inside all of his stretched new form, he hadn’t even begun to reach his own edges, and he was unsure about everything.  He was on the verge of something, but he wouldn’t have been able to say what.  His family, though, never tired of telling him what kind of person he was.  (p.78)

I think most readers will enjoy the settings, the mystery and above all the lively characterisation in The Secret Son.  It’s more than a coming-of-age novel, as its allusion to the ‘guilt’ of post-Holocaust Germans implies.  This story lays bare the bewilderment of someone held to account for the sins of the previous generation, coupled with the pain of those who’ve been wounded and long for acknowledgement and restitution.

There’s also a review at Readings.

Author: Jenny Ackland
Title: The Secret Son
Publisher: Allen & Unwin, 2015
ISBN: 9781925266160
Review copy courtesy of Allen & Unwin.


Fishpond: The Secret Son and all good bookstores.


Visit this post – Indigenous Literature Week 2015 at ANZ Litlovers – to sign up if you want to participate in ILW for 2015.

ilw 2015


Thanks to everyone who is participating in 2015 Indigenous Literature Week – I hope that hosting this celebration helps to make more people aware of our indigenous writing!

ILW 2015 this year takes place to coincide with the First Nations Australia Writers’ Network Workshop, which is being held in Melbourne in the last weekend of August.  I will be monitoring this page until the end of September.

You are welcome to add your review/s early.

When you are ready to share your reviews, please use comments below:


  • your name & the name of your blog (if you have one) and
  • the URL where your review is posted (your blog, or your GoodRrads or Library Thing account).

(Please do not add Amazon consumer reviews because they generate intrusive Amazon ads and I don’t care to support Amazon advertising).

If you don’t have a blog or a GoodReads/Library Thing account, then please share what you thought about the book you read in the comments section at the bottom of this post.  Or if you’d like to write a review of greater length, contact me at anzlitloversATbigpondDOTcom about writing a guest review to be hosted on the ANZ LitLovers blog.

I will gather these links to generate a list which will be added under the headings below on this page. I will also add any new titles that crop up to the master Indigenous Reading List.

PS If you haven’t signed up to participate yet, or want to know more about ILW, please click here.

2015 Reviews (in alphabetical order by author)

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander authors


Maori Authors

Cousins, by Patricia Grace (review by Lisa Hill, ANZ LitLovers)

Posted by: Lisa Hill | August 26, 2015

Cousins, by Patricia Grace

ilw 2015
I decided to kick off my first review for Indigenous Literature Week with a novel by Patricia Grace of Ngati Toa, Ngati Raukawa and Te Ati Awa descent, because she is visiting Melbourne for the Melbourne Writers Festival and the First Nations Australia Writers’ Network Workshop.  Grace is one of New Zealand’s best known writers and has an impressive body of work which includes novels, short stories and children’s books.  Her best known work is probably the ground-breaking Potiki (1986) which I reviewed a while ago but I also enjoyed Baby No-Eyes which came out in 1998. (See my review).  In between these two novels, however, came Cousins in 1992, and I think I like this one best of all.

(But perhaps I should reserve my judgement because I’ve just ordered her new one, Chappy, from Readings – and it’s getting rave reviews in NZ. I also found a copy of Tu (2004) at Brotherhood Books, so these are treats in store.)

Cousins (517x800)Cousins begins with the heart-breaking story of Mata.  There are three interlocking stories, with narrations that shift to allow for differences in intimacy.  We meet Mata striding along the road at night, barefoot and with nothing but the clothes on her back and a photo of her mother, who died when she was a little girl.  Mata’s story is poignantly told from her child’s point-of-view, punctuated by her middle-aged first-person narration, which works like a barrier against revealing her feelings.

Where?  Didn’t want to ask where or why, or to have thoughts that lead to thinking. Only wanted hands in shoes in pockets and just herself, her own ugly self, with her own big feet and big hands, her own wide face, her own bad hair, which was turning white, springing out round her big head. One coat, one dress. Shoes on their last legs or in their last pockets, a photo in a frame, and her name. (p. 14)

Mata Pairama spent her childhood adrift from her culture.  Her father refused to let her extended family take care of her and abandoned her to the guardianship of Mrs Parkinson, who offloaded her to an orphanage.  Her childhood was spent in terror of an omnipotent Old Testament God, in the loneliness of a child who belongs to no one, and in confusion about her identity.  She is re-named May Palmer, but that doesn’t make her acceptable to the mother of her only friend, Betty, who wasn’t allowed to bring dirty, black children into the house… 

By chance when Mata is ten, the resemblance to her cousin Makarata is spotted in the school playground and the orphanage allows her to spend a three week holiday with her extended family.  With Mrs Parkinson’s exhortations to be on guard against sin, bad companions and the devil ringing in her ears, Mata sits on the train looking out for houses…

because that was what she liked best, liked thinking about houses.

Inside houses were mothers, fathers and children, tables and chairs, cups and dishes in cupboards, curtains with flowers on them, floral wallpaper, patterned mats of floors, beds with shiny bedspreads, drawers and wardrobes full of clothes.  There were toys and dolls.  The dolls had dresses and pants and there were tins of beads that you could make bangles and necklaces with, threading the beads on cotton – green white read, green white red, all red, all green, any way you like.  When it was long enough you tied it round the doll’s wrist or neck. (p.17)

But the house where her aunty lives is not what she expected:

There’d been room for her to sit between the table and the wall and there was a little window high above her head.  It was like being in the fort that the School boys had made once, out of boxes and boards. There was a stove with a pot and a kerosene tin on it, a basin and a row of tins on a bench and boxes nailed to the walls like cupboards without doors.  In the boxes were plates and mugs, bowls and billies and knives.  The walls were papered with old Free Lance and Auckland Weekly pages and there was a lamp hanging from the ceiling on a piece of S-shaped wire.

The poverty and squalor of entrenched disadvantage is seen vividly through this child’s eyes.  The toilet is outside at the end of a long path and there were flies and spiders and maybe snakes.  She doesn’t like eating eels from the river, and she is shocked that she has to share a bed with one of her cousins.  The other kids seem to run wild, and she doesn’t fit in.  She wants to go ‘home’.

But things improve.  By contrast, her grandmother Keita’s house is a ‘real’ house as befits her status as the matriarch.  It has windows, bedrooms, and curtains, and the food smells good.  That night Aunty Gloria cuddles her to sleep, and tells her that she is a loved member of the family and that she belongs to them.  Keita gives her a photo of her mother, and she is shown her mother’s grave, and the graves of her ancestors, and told the story of how her mother Anihera ran away to the city with a man who was no good.  But Mata is utterly overwhelmed by it all.  She is confused when Keita insists on calling her Mata instead of May, and she doesn’t understand the language of her own culture, Māori.

And most poignant of all, back at the orphanage, she thinks that none of it was true.  She wasn’t their girl at all.  She had waited every day but they hadn’t sent for her. She’d never heard from any of them, never been there again. (p.56) She doesn’t know how her grandmother tried to get her back, and failed. So Mata spends her life waiting…

Mata’s cousin Makarata is the Chosen One, the ceremonial puhi.  (See the Mai Review for a very interesting article about this).  Traditionally, puhi were treasured daughters of chiefs, were of high rank, endowed with aristocracy, and fiercely protected and respected by the tribe. They were renowned for their beauty, their courage and leadership, and their role was to keep the tribe protected, safe and prosperous.  They were cherished as future leaders and led very privileged lives.  Indeed, Makarata never brushes her own hair until she goes to boarding school and has to be taught by the other girls how to do it.  But puhi were also often betrothed at birth, mainly to formalise alliances with another iwi or tribe.  In the 1970s when feminism was changing the role and expectations of women around the world, the puhi tradition was destined to clash with the independence and self-empowerment that Makarata yearns to have.

Makarata’s narrative voice is mature and sophisticated and she speaks standard ‘educated’ English.  Her mother, Polly had left the community, ostensibly to care for her sick sister Cassie and the children in the city, but it was really because after mourning her husband Rere who was killed during WW2, that Polly wanted a city life.  Like Anihera and others of this generation, Cassie had not wanted to have the elders choose her husband for her, and the husband she chose is ‘no good’ either.  Polly leaving the whānau (family) arouses strong feelings of disapproval, but when she isn’t able to care for Makarata the child is brought up by her grandmothers, cosseted and loved, and eventually sent to boarding school where she does very well.

However, Makarata too rejects the traditional role that was chosen for her, causing upset and shame to the entire family.  In Wellington, she becomes a nurse, which involves breaking various traditions to do with touching other people and the care of the dead.   The author makes use of Māori and Pākehā names to denote the extent to which family members identify with their own community or reject it, and later, when Makarata marries ‘out’ she names her children Michael and Kate.  It’s not until the period of Maori activism and the Land March in the 70s when she has been married for ten years that Makarata’s pakeha husband Rick discovers that she speaks Māori.

Missy’s story is narrated from a child’s point of view, by the spirit of her unborn twin brother, never acknowledged at birth, which has curled itself into Missy.  Her Māori name is Maleme Karoria Tatua.  She’s one of a somewhat chaotic but loving family of seven children, and her father is a good-natured but irresponsible drunk.  She goes to school irregularly, but is there enough to absorb the message that speaking her own language is forbidden and that Māori children are not expected to achieve much.  Missy is mildly jealous of poor little unloved Mata when she visits, and in a family where the children amuse themselves unsupervised, is nonplussed about how to relate to this forlorn child, too scared to do anything that might get her clothes dirty. Missy’s future doesn’t seem bright until she steps into a place for which she is wholly unprepared and unexpectedly finds love and respect.

In adulthood these lives are transformed.  Makarata becomes a powerful spokesperson for her people in the political-legal battle for Māori self-determination and land rights, and a chance meeting at a critical time in her life leads to a reunion and the end of estrangements.  Cousins is a beautiful, thought-provoking book that made me wish I knew more about the Māori culture.  I think that a New Zealand literary festival at the some time in the future might be the catalyst for me to start learning…

BTW It’s a bit dated, but I found this interesting little snippet called the Beginners Guide to Visiting a Marae from a NZ government website about settling in as a migrant

Author: Patricia Grace
Title: Cousins
Publisher: Penguin New Zealand, 1992
ISBN: 9780140168082
Source: Personal library, purchased from Brotherhood Books.

Patricia Grace’s books are still in print in New Zealand, but although you might find her latest title in an Australian bookshop, you’re not likely to find her backlist unless you strike lucky like I did in a second-hand bookshop.  Your best bet is Fishpond because they deliver free to Australia.   This is the link for Cousins.

PS I’ll be setting up the page for other Indigenous Literature Week reviews in the next day or so….

The Handbook This is a fantastic book! Get yourself a copy!

Will you believe me if I say that I picked it up The Handbook late last night after I had finished reading Patricia Grace’s Cousins just to have a look at the introduction before turning out the light, and found myself reading the entire book instead?  It’s true.  I couldn’t stop reading it…

I did already know I was going to be interested,  I had heard the authors discuss the book with Patricia Karvelas in The Drawing Room on Radio National.  I knew it wasn’t yet another book  about the science of climate change so that you can have arguments with climate change deniers, it was, as the title implies, a book about what to do to make life bearable now that climate change is upon us.  How to make your life better in the 2° rise-in-temperature scenario, which is now inescapable.  How to prepare for that, because it’s happening in your lifetime, in your own little house in the suburbs or wherever.  Yes, present tense, not future tense.  Noticeable changes now, and only going to get worse even if a miracle happened and our witless politicians started doing something to prevent it getting to the 4° rise-in-temperature scenario.  But, well, I admit it, I was expecting The Handbook to be a bit worthy.  I was expecting it to be a bit dull.

I should have known better.  I hadn’t heard of Whitmore before (he edits the Environment pages at The Conversation) but Jane Rawson (who used to do the same thing) is the author of A Wrong Turn at the Office of Unmade Lists which won the 2014 Aurealis Award and the Most Underrated Book Award (see my review), and she’s just won the 2015 Seizure Prize for a macabre novella called Formaldehyde, so she’s never going to write anything dull.  Although a serious book, The Handbook is really interesting to read and in some places will even make you chuckle.

It’s a mixture of things any intelligent person could predict will happen when temperatures rise (e.g. you will use your air-conditioner more and your power bills will go up; there will be even more bushfires and floods and you may lose your house and belongings, that’s if it doesn’t kill you) – and things you might not have thought about, like food shortages because storms have wiped out the crop and Australia’s heavily centralised food distribution system has failed because the roads have been washed away.

Remember the price of bananas, for ages and ages, after Cyclone Yasi hit Tully?  What if it hadn’t been just bananas, eh?  It’s disquieting to learn a few facts:

Nobody starved during the 2011 Queensland floods, but the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries report made some rather chilling conclusions.  It turns out that Queenslanders got very lucky.  There are a number of factors which make Australia’s food supply vulnerable to disasters.  Over recent decades the supply chain has grown longer, more complex and more centralised.  More than 80% of us depend on supermarkets for our food, and the food must first travel from farm to distribution centre to supermarket, distances of thousands of kilometres.  In the whole supply chain, Australia holds only five days of fresh food, two weeks of chilled goods, and a month of dried goods.

The report found that, while Queensland ably dealt with the severe flooding, if the disaster had arrived at the same time as something else, say bushfires in Victoria, or a major cyclone, supermarkets would not have been able to restock and people could have gone hungry.  That may sound unlikely, but recall that a major cyclone did strike Queensland less than a month later.  If Yasi had struck only 250 kilometres north or south., at Townsville or Cairns, Queensland would have been facing a disaster that the food supply chain couldn’t handle.  (p.157-8)

But the book is not about scaring you.  Apart from sensible ideas about having an Emergency Pantry List, and growing some food in your own backyard or a community garden, it offers a wealth of ideas that build on people’s capacity to cope and to be resilient.  What that kept me reading after I read the introduction was that the first chapter was about people, and how they react to threats.  The Handbook addresses the psychological issues from the outset: it observes that people dismiss threats or become paralysed with fear and do nothing, and offers suggestions for how to prepare your mind to deal with the inevitable.

In my last years at school before my retirement, I had responsibility for Emergency Management Planning.  As luck would have it I was Acting Assistant Principal during the term that the education department, in the wake of the Black Saturday bushfires, was insisting that all schools update their Disaster Plans.  We didn’t have a Disaster Plan, and we had only ever had desultory evacuation drills, not any other kind.  And although I was working in a school on the urban fringe 1000 metres from a national park to the north and 500 metres from bushland to the west, I lived 25 kilometres away in the safety of the southern suburbs and the thought of bushfire planning hadn’t entered my head.  I did not know that embers can blow up to 15km to land on a school’s roof and start a fire in the building.  To say that I was on a steep learning curve is a bit of an understatement.

But one of my enduring achievements at that school was to make sure that every staff member understood the risk, and that we were not only prepared, we had drilled for every conceivable eventuality.  And when our planning was eventually tested in the real, when there was a bomb threat, we had 400 kids and 50 adults safely outside in three minutes, and crucially, there was no panic.  At the subsequent debriefing, the police told us that they had never encountered a school so capable and calm.  At the subsequent staff meeting, I was amused to find that there had been some muttering about ‘Lisa inflicting a drill on us just at home time’, some staff had not known that it wasn’t a drill!

(If you’ve got kids at school, I bet you’re wondering how their school would get on.  Ask your kids if they have different kinds of drills, and if you’re not satisfied by what they say, go and ask nicely about it.  Offer to help, you’ll learn things that may save your life or your home).

The Handbook, however, isn’t just about the day/s of the disaster, it’s about the aftermath.  Yes, you need to do things now so that you can survive the next heatwave without your air-conditioner because the power supply hasn’t coped with a week of 45° temperatures.  You’ll need to be prepared in case you have to come up with meals that don’t rely on electricity for cooking.   And if the overnight temperatures are going to hover around 25-30° (like they did in Melbourne in 2013-4) you need to have a cool space somewhere in your house so that you can sleep.   You also need to have a community around you to look out for each other.  It’s better, isn’t it, if the hale and hearty venture out to do any desperately needed shopping for medicine than your neighbour who’s got to take small children in her less reliable car?  It’s important, isn’t it, that somebody checks on that batty old lady who lives alone in your street?  But you also need to take care of that community afterwards, to support each other in the recovery phase and to learn from the disaster as well.

Have you checked with your local council that they have made provision for the homeless in extreme weather conditions?  I have.  I asked them last summer, and was pleased to find that they were ahead of me.  The Handbook makes a point of addressing inequity: they have suggestions for things that you can do on the cheap and is hard-headed about how the rich will inevitably cope better than the rest of us.  If Tasmania and New Zealand look as if they’re going to be more congenial places to live as temperatures rise, you can bet that Gina Rinehart and Co have already got their eco-survival mansions sorted, probably in gated communities, thereby putting that real estate option out of the reach of the rest of us.  (Well, maybe not Gina, she’s said to be a climate change denier.

The book is extensively researched, and at the end of each chapter there is a list of websites and resources to help you.  I’d write more, but I’ve got things to do.  I’ve already got an emergency kit but there’s a couple of things missing: I haven’t got a wrench to turn off utility supplies, and I haven’t got a solar powered phone charger.    I need to update my risk analysis too: I think the most likely thing I’m going to face here in Melbourne in the short term is recurring heatwaves and electricity blackouts that will last longer and longer before the power is restored, but I hadn’t thought about food shortages.  Our pantry reflects my foodie-Spouse’s interest in gourmet cooking, not a supply to depend on for a week or more.  (Depending on whether I’ve just stocked up or not, the dog will be ok.  I buy in bulk for her.)

I also haven’t given enough thought to flash flooding which last came to my place with a huge storm in 2011.  It paralysed traffic on my terrifying route home from work and made wellies a necessity in my street and my back garden.  My vegetables are in raised beds so they would be ok, but where did I put my wellies after they dried out?  And have we had the gutters cleared this year, so that they can cope with an overwhelming onrush of water?  One of our three water tanks (the first one, the one that wasn’t installed by a plumber) doesn’t have an overflow valve, where will the water go if it overflows?  Will a sudden rush of water knock over the nearby fence so that my precious dog could go exploring into hostile new territory?  Or will it dislodge the adjacent tree so that it crashes into the shed and breaks the windows, shedding glass everywhere for unwary paws?  Maybe I should retrofit the valve, eh?

Get the book, read it, and make yourself a manageable plan.  Don’t do it on your own, your best asset is other people!

Authors: Jane Rawson and James Whitmore
Title: The Handbook: Surviving and living with climate change
Publisher: Transit Lounge, 2015
ISBN: 9781921924934
Review copy courtesy of Transit Lounge

Fishpond: The Handbook: Surviving and Living with Climate Change
and good bookshops everywhere.

PS Do check out Crikey’s Dirty Dozen, the ones doing the most to block action on climate change, because:

In 50 years’ time, as the world swelters, crops fail, bushfires rage and extreme weather causes devastation around the globe, the Dirty Dozen are the people who should be remembered for their role in allowing it to happen. Perhaps primary schools could bury this list in time capsules to be excavated in 2100, just so future generations will not forget what they did.

PPS Sadly, right on cue, within an hour of me posting this, the ABC is reporting severe weather events in NSW.  Three adults and two children are stuck in floodwaters on a causeway at Kiama,  the Jerrara Dam has overflowed at Illawarra and people are being evacuated, there are floods outside Orange and there’s a mini-tornado at Dubbo.  The SES are doing heroic work as usual and dozens have been rescued…

Posted by: Lisa Hill | August 24, 2015

The Orpheus Clock, by Simon Goodman

The Orpheus ClockEarlier this week, I read in The Guardian that the children of Holocaust survivors have genetic evidence that the trauma has been passed on to them.  It seems it is not just an old wives’ tale that bad experiences can be passed on to the next generation, there is now research evidence for the theory of epigenetic inheritance: that is, that environmental factors can affect the genes of your children…

I thought of this as I was reading The Orpheus Clock, an account of Simon Goodman’s search for family art treasures that had been stolen by the Nazis.  He begins the book with his discovery of some old boxes hoarded by his father, which came into his possession after his father’s unexpected death.  Bernard Goodman, once Bernard Gütmann, was eighty, but it was not his body that life had broken. Later on, as the author explains that the box contained voluminous correspondence and files, he says that his father’s quest for justice was an obsession, and that the few things that were recovered caused division and dissension amongst the remaining family members.  It is unutterably sad that in addition to all the horrors of the Holocaust, the quest for justice and recompense has been so complex and tortuous and that it is still not resolved more than 70 years after the end of the war.

The first part of the memoir traces the rise of the Gütmann family and their prominence in German banking.  They moved in elite circles, and lived a life of luxury.  A man of excellent taste, Simon Goodman’s grandfather Fritz built a magnificent art collection which included works by Degas, Renoir, and Botticelli, and a superb collection of silverware.  With the rise of the Nazi party, some family members relocated to other parts of Europe,  but fatally, others believed that the histrionic hatred of Jews was only another manifestation of the anti-Semitism that had historically ebbed and flowed to coincide with economic downturns and recovery.  Fritz and Louisa Gütmann settled in the Netherlands, where they wrongly believed that they would be safe, and their son Bernard went to study in England (where he anglicised his name, and survived the war).

The next part of the book covers the ghastly history of the Holocaust, and how it impacted on the extended Gütmann family.  But it also includes the not so well-known scheme to systematically loot the occupied territories to build a personal collection for Hitler and for his henchmen.  (There are reports this week that a Nazi train full of looted treasure has been found in Poland.)  Conquerors have done this kind of looting since time immemorial, of course, but surely none have done it with such extraordinary duplicity, maintaining a fiction of buying the art with now notorious Nazi bureaucratic paperwork, while systematically stripping Jewish owners of their property with bargain-price payments paid into banks that Jews couldn’t access, before shipping the victims off to slave labour and the death camps.

But it was this fiction of buying the art that made recovery a legal minefield after the war.   A surprising amount of the art was located quite quickly by an American team called the Monument Men, but claimants – often dispersed around the world – had to be able to identify it, and prove ownership.  Just the process of identifying it was hard enough: imagine being a descendant with no particular expertise in art and having to name and describe the paintings on your grandparents’ walls, and state their size with accuracy.  Paintings are sometimes renamed, and occasionally they are attributed to different painters after an authentication process.  But proving ownership when the Nazis had forced the owner to sign sale documents in triplicate at gunpoint was a legal conundrum requiring common sense and a fair go, which Goodman says that the post-war socialist Dutch government wasn’t disposed to offer because they weren’t interested in making things easy for ‘rich capitalists’ to get their pictures back.  For Bernard as executor of his parents’ stolen estate, it was a frustrating and mostly fruitless task which added to the devastation caused by the loss of so many members of his family in the Holocaust.

What Simon discovered after Bernard’s death was that a lot of the recovered art work flooded the market in the post-war era, and much of it made its way to America because there was post-war austerity everywhere else.  While I can understand the discomfiture of an unwitting buyer being suddenly confronted with the knowledge that they have a stolen artwork on their hands, as Goodman tells it, the story of having to fight in the courts to recover his grandfather’s artworks is an unedifying one.

But rather than concede defeat, Simon Goodman took up his father’s quest, despite friends warning him that ‘You can’t change the past.’  He explains it like this:

From the earliest age I had carried with me an unidentified sense of loss.  Growing up in a silent void, I only recognised much later in life the invisible “elephant in the room”, the Nazi cataclysm that had almost obliterated my family.  Whether unconsciously or not, I had clearly been affected by my forefathers’ suffering, and as a result I found to difficult to rest. Only by addressing their unfinished business, reaching back to change the past however minutely, did I find some solace.  As I embarked on this quest to find my family’s lost treasures, a solution to my underlying grief emerged.  The more I traced our hidden artworks, the more my family’s buried history resurfaced.  As I placed one more piece of the shattered jigsaw puzzle back together, the lost lives became tangible once more.  With each piece came a little renewed pride.  Today I am comforted by knowing my place in all that.  I no longer suffer from an isolation of rootlessness.  My roots are deep and wide, with ancestors that go back many centuries and relatives on four continents.  (p. 317)

Other reviews are at The Daily Mail UK and you can read Simon’s own account of the Rubens in the Courtauld Gallery at the Irish Times.

Author: Simon Goodman
Title: The Orpheus Clock
Publisher: Scribe Publications, 2015
ISBN: 9781925106800
Review copy courtesy of Scribe


Fishpond: The Orpheus Clock: the Search for My Family’s Art Treasures Stolen by the Nazis

Posted by: Lisa Hill | August 22, 2015

Dangerous Allies, by Malcolm Fraser

Dangerous AlliesIt was when I was reading Simon Mawer’s Tightrope (see my review) and came across the part about the American betrayal of its allies in the late stages of WW2, that I remembered that I wanted to read Dangerous Allies by Malcolm Fraser in which he argues that Australia should be more independent of the US in its foreign policy.  The notable point about this opinion being that Fraser was a Defence Minister who acquiesced to the Americans, sending men too young to vote to fight and die in the Vietnam War (which the Vietnamese call the American War).  Fraser was also the Liberal Prime Minister who went to his grave with unanswered questions about any external involvement in the dismissal of the Whitlam Government in 1975 (thus disappointing any conspiracy theorists who naïvely thought he might one day ‘fess up).  So this book is not predictable Leftie anti-American stuff; this is a book by a conservative…

(No, I don’t believe that leopards change their spots.)

Well, the book came in from the library (no way I was going to add to the Fraser coffers by buying it!) and I have just finished reading it. It’s a bit repetitive here and there, and a lot of it is clunky.  I admit to skimming over the chapter about the history of Australia’s transition to a fully independent nation as distinct from one which relied on the Brits for defence and foreign policy and which had no ambition to change that.

(I’m not slack, it’s just that I already know all that from doing Constitutional Law at Queensland University, but also because I was paying attention to Gough when he talked about the remnant bits of dependence that lurk in our systems of law and governance.  But if you weren’t paying attention when someone interesting like Gough was talking about it with such eloquence and passion, you’re not very likely to find it interesting at all in this somewhat plodding book. )

Anyway, (leaving aside that there might not be anybody left to care after a nuclear war) Fraser’s message is that Australia’s alliance with the US makes us vulnerable in the event of a stoush between China and the US, probably triggered by Japan and the issue of those islands with a hybrid name (Diaoyu/Senkaku).   (He says) the US would probably lose since they’ve already lost three wars because they don’t have the domestic fortitude to win (Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan).  If the US retreated to the western hemisphere to resume an isolationist position, that would leave us friendless and adrift in Asia… [LH Goodness knows how we would get on if they refused to trade with us, now that we have jettisoned most of our manufacturing industry, including the food processing and car industries].

Fraser also says that our continued hosting of Pine Gap and the Marine Air-Ground Task Force in Darwin and other US bases makes us complicit over assorted dubious US activities (e.g. the use of drones which kill civilians in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia).  And while our alliance makes it hard impossible for us to stay out of any war between China and the US, his analysis is that we ought not expect that they would reciprocate that alliance if we had some dispute with our only conceivable threat, our neighbour Indonesia. (Amongst other examples, he cites US lack of enthusiasm for helping with the Timor peace-keeping force.)  Fortified by American belief in its own exceptionalism and its God-given destiny as Leader of the Free World, the US acts in its own interest, he says, and it’s not in their interest to worry much about Australia.  Especially not since we always go along with what they want, whether it’s in our interests or not.

The chapter on Evatt’s post-war role in the UN was interesting (and surprisingly benign).  So too was the chapter about how, despite a rocky start, South-east Asian nations in the post colonial period have set up their own initiatives for development and peace in the region.  But I had to grit my teeth to read the sections about the Vietnam War, in which blame apparently lies entirely with first, French intransigence and then US duplicity in the service of the prevailing Cold War rhetoric, and for which he, Fraser, as a very junior minister complying with the pattern of Australia’s strategic dependence, takes no responsibility.  Everybody thought communism was monolithic, you see, so everybody believed in the domino effect.  Oh, ok, then…

For Fraser, the end of the Cold War was a game-changer, because American hubris since it achieved sole superpower status makes it a dubious ally.  In amongst all the waffle, Fraser seems to be saying that whereas once we shared their values, now we do not.  This manifests itself in ugly ways such as their pursuit and assassination of terrorists within allied countries; their refusal to allow the International Court of Justice to have jurisdiction over Americans; and their abrogation of human rights in the service of their own security.  He doesn’t mention US use of torture or Guantanamo Bay (unless I missed it) but those are examples that we all know about.

[LH: There are echoes of this attitude to abandoning long held values in Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s latest pronouncements about likely Australian willingness to join the US in the bombing of Syria:

He [Abbott] acknowledged legal differences between carrying out strikes in Iraq compared to Syria, but indicated that would not be a roadblock.

“While there is a little difference between the legalities of air strikes on either side of the border, there’s no difference in the morality,” he said.

“Whether it’s operating in Iraq or Syria it [ISIS] is an absolutely evil movement and in the end, when they don’t respect the border, the question is why should we?” (Source: ABC News)


Anyway … Fraser’s position is that strategic dependence was a foreign policy that served us well.  We needed Britain till WW2, and there were benefits in the alliance with the US until the end of the Cold War.   But now it’s time for an independent foreign policy for Australia, and if Canada and New Zealand can have an independent foreign policy, why can’t we?

And so on.

In other words, there’s nothing really new in what Fraser says in Dangerous Allies, what’s new is that he’s the one that’s saying it.  (Or was, he died earlier this year).

What’s a bit depressing about Dangerous Allies is that whether you agree with any or all of what Fraser says, the difficulties in extricating ourselves from the US alliance seem insurmountable.  I don’t like the idea that our leaders over time seem to have put us into a position where we no longer have any choice about it.

Is Dangerous Allies likely to have any influence?  Not according to Mark Beeson, reviewing it at The Conversation.  But he has a higher opinion of its worth than I do:

Nevertheless, this is one of the most original and timely contributions to a debate that, with a few honourable exceptions, tends to be sterile, predictable and unchanged since the end of World War Two.

As Fraser points out, the world has changed profoundly in the interim. It’s about time some of our thinking began to reflect the new realities, too, he suggests. An independent Australia could actually play a useful role in doing precisely that.

Don’t hold your breath…

PS Hats off to the designer of that clever bookcover! It’s by Design by Committee.

Author: Malcolm Fraser, with Cain Roberts
Title: Dangerous Allies
Publisher: Melbourne University Press, 2014
ISBN: 9780522862652
Source: Kingston Library

Posted by: Lisa Hill | August 20, 2015

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, by David Mitchell

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de ZoetI am very late to the party with this one, especially since I already have David Mitchell’s latest book, The Bone Clocks on the TBR since last year and anyone who is anyone has already reviewed that one too, so I’ll try to keep this review brief.

But I do want to convince you to beg, borrow or steal a copy if you haven’t got one, because it is such a splendid novel, (as is everything else this author has written).   I will start by warning you that, enjoyable as the early chapters are, they are deceptive.   Even an alert reader may be lulled into thinking that this is a story of a junior clerk called Jacob de Zoet, up against corruption in the trading post where in 1799 he works for the Dutch East India Company, a tale spiced up with the claims of two women on his heart, one of them Japanese and the other at home in Holland.   Such a story is interesting, it will engage your attention, (and it will stop you doing the housework) … but it is just a taster for a heart-stopping tale that becomes more enthralling with every page you turn.

No, no more about the plot.  But a word or two about the characters can’t hurt…

There are three characters whose lives are defined by a thirst for knowledge.  Jacob falls on his feet when he’s abandoned on the doorstep of a bluestocking.  Orito is fired by a passion to build bridges over the ignorance of her countrymen, and Dr Marinus wants to be the first European to describe the botany of Japan.  But Japan in this era is a closed society, where to bring a Christian psalter into the country is to invite grave punishment, where they do not even know that Europe’s discovery of the printing press and the rifle is about to impact on the East, and where by the 1850s the gunboat diplomacy of the Americans was to prevail because the Shoguns had no power to withstand it.  There are spies everywhere, watching every move the Dutchmen make and reporting back to their Japanese masters.

But the lesser characters are equally compelling.  Among the Dutch merchants and traders, all are out to make money, occasionally through promotion but more often through graft and corruption, to make up for the long years spent away from home.  (And sometimes for having been press-ganged into service in the first place).  Among the Japanese, there is the enigmatic Ogawa who unbeknownst to Jacob is a rival for Orito’s heart, there is Enomoto, a powerful man angered unwisely by Jacob who won’t grant his desire to have a monopoly on mercury, and there is Shuzai, a man more cunning than he seems at first.  The bluff arrogance of the Dutch contrasts with the wily courtesies of the Japanese, but there is deception and betrayal on all sides.  (There’s another …um… group that comes in for critique, but I’m not going to spoil the surprise by naming them, though if you know your history you can probably guess).

Mitchell also explores faith and belief in this novel, and what people will do because of it.  The Japanese fear the Christian faith so much that they will not allow any practice of it on their soil.  Their belief in their own superiority closes their minds to any foreign ideas, and that includes religion.   But Jacob will not part with his strictly forbidden psalter not just because he is a pious man who uses it to pray, but also because it deflected a musket ball from his grandfather’s heart when he was serving in Palestine.  It’s not exactly a talisman against danger, because Jacob is not a superstitious man, but it has saved the lives of two of his ancestors and he values it as a family heirloom too.

Holding on to the psalter, however, doesn’t just put Jacob at risk, it also endangers the inspector who failed to confiscate it, and Jacob feels guilty about that.  Guilt, who feels it and why, is another powerful theme in this book.

But this is nothing compared to the consequences of another man’s beliefs about immortality.

One of the aspects of this novel that I really liked is Mitchell’s narrative technique.  Every word spoken between the Dutch and the Japanese on the tiny island of Dejima, takes place in two languages.  While the reader sees the point of view of multiple characters, what we read first is the perspective of the Western characters, and then the struggles of the Japanese translators to render it intelligible to their masters.  Graded according to their skill, they confer with each other, and sometimes gain the assistance of one of the Dutchmen, (usually Jacob).

Marinus peers through the lamp-lit smoke.  Uzaemon wonders whether his discourses are prepared in advance or netted from the thick air extemporaneously.  ‘Microscopes and telescopes are begat by Science; their use, by Man and, where permitted, by Woman, begets further Science, and Creation’s mysteries are unfolded in modes once undreamt of.  In this manner Science broadens, deepens and disseminates itself – and via its invention of printing, its spores and seeds may germinate even within this Cloistered Empire.

Uzaemon does his best to translate this, but it isn’t easy: surely the Dutch word ‘semen’ cannot be related to this unknown verb ‘disseminate’? Goto Shinpachi anticipates his colleague’s difficulty and suggests ‘distribute’.  Uzaemon guesses ‘germinate’ means ‘is accepted’ but is warned by suspicious glances from the Shirandô’s audience: If we don’t understand the speaker, we blame the interpreter. (p.205-6)

Later on, when Marinus launches into further pomposity and some tactless observations that could well offend the Japanese, he invokes Bacon the Englishman, causing a different kind of consternation:

Arashiyama deals with the word ‘quackery’ by omitting it, censors the line about tyrants and commoners, and turns to the straight-as-a-pole Takaki, a translator of Bacon, who translates the quotation in his querulous voice.  (p.206)

This is so cleverly done, enabling the reader to visualise from all sides these scenes where East meets West: the interlopers, impatient with what they think is superstition and ignorance; the interpreters, learning as they go; and the rulers of the island, alert for any information that questions their authority or power.

I met David Mitchell once, when he was here the year that Cloud Atlas was shortlisted for the Booker.  I’ve got a photo of him autographing my first edition:)

Author: David Mitchell
Title: The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet
Publisher: Sceptre, an imprint of Stodder & Houghton, 2010
ISBN: 9870340921579
Personal copy, purchased from Benn’s Books Bentleigh.


Fishpond: The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet

Posted by: Lisa Hill | August 19, 2015

Flood of Fire, by Amitav Ghosh

Flood of FireIsn’t it just wonderful when you find a book that you simply can’t put down!  Many assorted duties have been neglected in the two days it took me to romp through the third and final book in Amitav Ghosh’s Ibis Trilogy, Flood of Fire. My only disappointment is that there are no more to come…

It isn’t necessary to first read Sea of Poppies (see my review) or River of Smoke (see my review), but if you like grand storytelling, well, why wouldn’t you want to read them all?  If you are monolingual, it might perhaps take you a little while to get used to some of the patois…

Annabel and Mrs Burnham left later that day and for a fortnight afterwards the Burnham mansion was silent and dark.  Then suddenly the lights went on again and Zachary knew that Mrs Burnham had returned.  A week later there was an explosion of activity around the house; khidmatgars, chokras, malis and ghaskatas went swarming over the grounds, stringing up lanterns and putting out chairs.  One of the chokras told Zachary that a big burra-khana was to be held at the house to celebrate the Beebee’s birthday.   (p.58)

… but Ghosh makes it easy enough to deduce that those khidmatgars, chokras, malis and ghaskatas are servants and a burra-khana is a party – and by the time you come to Book 2 it will seem quite normal.  (As some of it was, for me: some of the odd borrowings in my family’s lexicon (e.g. ‘Let’s have a dekko’ / Let’s have a look) must have derived from Hindi – my grandfather and great aunt served in India before WW1.)

These books are such fun, even though Ghosh raises serious issues in all three novels…

Flood of Fire begins with the fallout of the financial disaster than befell the Indian merchant Bahram when the Chinese cracked down on the opium trade.  His widow Shireen is bankrupt, but she knows there’s something odd about the way he died.  It’s not easy for her to leave the purdah that has always confined her, but Shireen is a splendid character – she gets a wardrobe of western clothes ready and sets off for Canton to restore her husband’s reputation and claim her share of the compensation that the opium merchants are demanding from the Chinese government.  They intend to get it too.  As I suggested in my review of River of Smoke, the British merchants are determined to impose their version of Free Trade on China, and for strategic reasons, it suits the British government to go to war over it.  (They end up with Hong Kong, as we all know).

Among the soldiers that gets caught up in this morally bankrupt conflict is Kesri, a sepoy in colonial India.  In ensuing chapters we learn his back story, and how he is connected to one of the survivors of the Ibis disaster off the coast of Mauritius.  (Yes, I am being evasive about some of the characters – this is because it takes a pleasurable while for Ghosh to reveal which ones survived the Ibis – and it would spoil the story if I so much as mention their names.) Kesri is the moral compass of the novel: bewitched by the romance of the military life, he disobeys his father and joins up, only to find that he has to deal with the enemy within as well as the opposing forces.  There is the racial chasm between the British troops and the sepoys, with differential treatment in pay, accommodation and status, exemplified over and over again in the overt disdain that marked every interaction.  But there is also the sometimes brutal jealousy of the other sepoys, which always has the potential to wreck Kesri’s military career.  The omniscient narrator tells this story from his point-of-view, revealing his inner torments about where his loyalties lie – but time and again we see him show valour and wisdom in his interactions with lesser men, as well as on the battlefield.

A career soldier, Kesri is troubled by the harsh punishments meted out in the name of discipline, and he is appalled by the senseless slaughter of a vanquished enemy that refuses to surrender.  He is uneasy about his role in fighting wars that have nothing to do with the interests of India.  But Kesri has sworn allegiance to Queen Victoria, and he is a man of his word.  He consoles himself by remembering the ancient Indian epics:

A tremor went through Kesri as he thought of the part that he himself had played in what was unfolding around him now:  deep within, he knew that his actions would have to be answered for in many lives yet to come.  To combat the dread in his heart, he reminded himself of the heroes of the Mahabharata who had fought, against their own inclination, on the side of evil, only because it was their duty: because not to fight would have brought dishonour.  He reminded himself of Dronacharya battling Arjuna, the pupil he loved more than his own son; he thought of Bhisma Pitamaha, most righteous of men, committing himself to an unjust cause; he thought of King Shalya, making war upon his own sister’s sons, only because of a few words, unmindfully spoken, had bound him to his fate.  It was in just that way, Kesri told himself, that he too had sworn an oath to the British and could not now go back on his word without dishonour.  (p.505)

He is also loyal to an officer who becomes his friend, a troubled man who lost the love of his life because he was of the wrong class.

Less honourable is Zachary Reid.  Each chapter weaves together the fortunes of the survivors of the storm that hit the Ibis at the end of River of Smoke, and as it slowly dawns on the reader that this handsome, charming character is about as contemptible as it’s possible to be, his catalogue of betrayals grows.  (I listed half a page of them in my reading journal).  Ghosh is too good a writer to paint characters in black and white, however, and what we see in Reid is that while pride and ambition have made him venal, he is a product of the economy in which he thrives.  What have you become? he is asked and his reply is:

‘You wanted me to become a man of the times, did you not?  And that is what I am now; I am a man who wants more and more and more; a man who does not know the meaning of “enough”.  Anyone who tries to thwart my desires is the enemy of my liberty and must expect to be treated as such.’ (p.582)

Yes indeed, it’s just not possible to read this novel set in 1839-1841, and not notice resonances with contemporary economics…

Ghosh makes it clear that the British acted with their usual cynical self-interest, and they have their share of incompetents and villains, but it’s not heavy-handed and he doesn’t absolve the Chinese for their own part in their downfall.  The Emperor in faraway Beijing is divorced from reality, and pays more attention to the venal advice of his hangers-on than he does to the hapless governors-general of Canton.  Any effort to negotiate a settlement to avoid the slaughter of a war the Chinese could not win was stymied by the refusal of the Emperor to countenance defeat.  (Not unlike Japan in WW2, or Hitler.  Or any number of other monsters playing with the lives of their own people.)

Will there be a Book 4?  There are hints in the Epilogue …

There are reviews all over the place, but I liked this one at the Financial Times.

Author: Amitav Ghosh
Title: Flood of Fire
Publisher: John Murray (an imprint of Hachette), 2015
ISBN: 9780719569012
Review copy courtesy of Hachette


Fishpond: Flood of Fire

Posted by: Lisa Hill | August 18, 2015

The Ballad of Desmond Kale, by Roger McDonald

Ballad of Desmond Kale

Roger McDonald is an author whose work straddles the rise of the internet, so it’s his later work which tends to be reviewed online while reviews of his earlier work are hard to find.  I’ve been reading his novels for long time, but all I’ve reviewed here is

The rest of his oeuvre is part of a mini-project of mine, to review earlier works by favourite authors, so that I will eventually have reviewed them all.  And since The Ballad of Desmond Kale (2005) was also the 2006 Miles Franklin winner, it’s part of my challenge to read and review all the MF winners as well.  (I’ve got 16 left to read, but 33 to review).

So although re-reading  The Ballad of Desmond Kale was triggered by my conversation with Roger McDonald at the Bendigo Writers Festival it was a book I was always going to re-read anyway.

I know I didn’t do this novel justice the first time I read it.  It’s such a big, ambitious book, epic in its scope and uncompromising in its style, it’s hard to know where to begin, so I’ve spent some days mulling it over before trying to capture it enough to persuade readers to tackle it.  At 638 pages it’s a big book, and, as you can see from the Opening Lines, McDonald’s prose reproduces the style of the period.  If you make the mistake of thinking that it’s a book about convicts and settlers and the birth of the wool industry in Australia, you might falter before discovering its magic.  And that would be a pity, it really would.

As I said when reviewing Ian Reid’s recent The Mind’s Own Place, Australia’s fledgling colonial society was potentially a place for redemption.  It’s a cruel irony of our history that the dispossession of the indigenous people and the near-destruction of their culture led to the birth of an egalitarian society where people could remake themselves in ways that were never possible in England.  Penned in by the impenetrable Blue Mountains on one side and the vast oceans that lay beyond Port Jackson and Botany Bay on the other, convict and gaoler alike were imprisoned in a place where old certainties no longer applied.  Despite the brutality of the penal settlement, emancipists of energy and ambition could reinvent themselves alongside the officer class as farmers, as merchants, as landowners, as artisans and in time, even as members of the clergy, the magistracy, the government or the bunyip aristocracy.

But as author Jane Rawson recently said in a completely different context at the Bendigo Writers Festival, it’s one thing to predict what will happen in any given circumstance, and another thing entirely to predict how people will behave.  In Roger McDonald’s early 1800s, an Irish convict called Desmond Kale has charisma.  He is a natural leader (which is why the Brits transported him as a political prisoner) and his obsessed foe Stanton fears his de facto power.  (Which Kale exerts through rumour and the ballads that are sung about him.  He is hardly ever actually present in the tale).

Stanton, like everyone else, is bewitched by the possibilities of wool, which thrives in the pitiless climate.  It provokes his greed and ambition, and it brings out his latent cunning.  He hears the rumours that Kale’s audacious escape inland has ended not in failure and a dreadful death but in a spectacular new breed of sheep, in competition with his own.  Rivalry turns to hatred and obsession.

The novel weaves intricate relationships into new forms of loyalty and betrayal.  Of necessity, new kinds of families form and family ties are tested.  Stanton ‘adopts’ an Aboriginal boy orphaned by ruthless land-clearing, and exploits him as unpaid labour.  Titus is subsequently supplanted by Kale’s grandson, Warren Inchcape, adopted in this case because the boy has a natural instinct for handling sheep and Stanton doesn’t want any rival sheep-breeder to hire the boy’s skills.  Warren’s mother, who loves him dearly, gives him up in the hope that Stanton’s hatred of Kale will be tempered by forming a relationship with the convict’s grandson.  But Stanton also sees the boy as a potential heir, because he has no son.  As adolescent hormones kick in, Warren begins to see himself as a potential husband for Ivy while all the while Stanton’s wife Dolly plots to ensure that her social ambitions prevail.  (And they don’t include having a convict’s grandson as a son-in-law).

Love is a powerful thread throughout the novel.  Officer ‘Ugly’ Tom Rankine is in cahoots with Kale and is willing to bring all kinds of supplies to the hideout in the mountains.  But women are at a premium in the colony and although the woman he really loves is Kale’s daughter Meg Inchcape, he’s not willing to part with his current lover Biddy McGee when Kale asks for her.  But none of the women in McDonald’s novel yield readily to male power unless they want to, and Biddy isn’t as naïve as she at first seems.

McDonald also explores what his characters will risk to get what they want.  Some risk the noose, the cat, their freedom and their families for financial gain.  Some risk reputation and honour.  Family feuds fester across the oceans; a small inheritance might be worth more than it seems; and social barriers fall.

The plot is as tangled as a wool drawer but some themes stand out.  Power is held by those not fit to have it, and people will do almost anything when there are get-rich-quick opportunities.  But a dream can sustain you through all kinds of hardships and sometimes the fortune you are searching for turns out to be another human being who loves you after all.  I loved the ending: a surge of rollicking adventure with shipwrecks and murder and a Dickensian lawyer in his London office, and yes! justice triumphs as well.

I said at the beginning that McDonald’s style is uncompromising.  You’ll either adapt to it, or you’ll struggle.  I loved it, and this is just one example that shows you why:

‘That has all been settled, said Rankine.  ‘The governor has reviewed the events of the day from every slant.  Rangers were the escort detail that day.’

‘So they were.  Isn’t it interesting.  And so shall I tell you something, my dear captain?

Rankine could only raise an eyebrow.  The rest of him was frozen.

‘It is you – I have you under suspicion as the officer involved.’

Rankine with wild inspiration held his wrists up to Stanton.

‘Very good,’ said Stanton, smiling wanly.  ‘You invite the shackles.  You do not even quake.’

But if I don’t get out of here with Clumpsy, I’m done,’ thought Rankine, experiencing the intolerable sensation of exploding inwardly, in his mind.  The thought he now had was to leave Meg in the care of the Josephs as soon as he could, turn back and admit his involvement to the governor.  That way neutralise Stanton by baring himself without shadows.  And get his marriage papers signed.

‘I would rather have Kale than you, ‘ confided Stanton in a whispering rush.  ‘I would be kinder to Kale than I ever was before, if I had him in irons.  I do heartily regret any distress I have caused his daughter, except that what I do, in my courts, the malefactor gives me best reason to do.’

Then Stanton threw his head back, and said, in a vomit of opposite feeling, ‘You must like old coats, sir.’

‘I do beg your pardon?’ said Rankine.

‘In your dalliance with women.  Wasn’t she spoiled enough by Marsh and having a child out of wedlock, and whatever officers found her willing, right up to the governor, for you to ever dream of turning her petticoat hems honest?’

Rankine decided that one day, when he could, he would strike the minister in the chest, break his jaw and kick him to the ground, and feed him to the dogs in pieces.  Smaller and smaller, hoping every one hurt.  (p. 364)

Stanton is a splendid villain, and McDonald will have you barracking for his opponents right from the start!

Peter Pierce reviewed it for The Age, and so did Matt Todd at A Novel Approach who sums it up perfectly: Within its covers, you will find something to keep everyone happy – intrigue, mystery, romance, and a cracking good story

Author: Roger McDonald
Title: The Ballad of Desmond Kale
Publisher: Knopf, 2005
ISBN: 9781741665161
Personal copy (and signed by the author!)

Fishpond: The Ballad of Desmond Kale

ilw 2015This is just a quick reminder that Indigenous Literature Week starts at ANZ LitLovers, on August 28th, coinciding with the First Nations Australia Writers’ Network Workshop, which is being held in Melbourne in the last weekend of August.

This is a week to celebrate all forms of Indigenous Writing, and I hope that many of my readers will join in and read a book by an Indigenous author.

If you would like to participate,  your choice of indigenous literature isn’t restricted just to Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and Maori literature.   Participants are welcome to join in reading indigenous literature from anywhere in the world, from Canada to Guyana, from Native American to Basque to Pashtun or Ixcatec. (For a list of indigenous people of the world, see this list at Wikipedia.) As to how we define indigenous, that’s up to indigenous people themselves.  If they identify as indigenous, well, that’s good enough for me.

Thanks to all those who joined in last year and have encouraged me to host the week again.


  •  I’m not using Mr Linky for sign-ups this year: if you’d like to participate simply do so in comments below.  Please include your name, and the name and URL of your blog or Goodreads or Library Thing page where you are going to put your review of the book.   If you don’t have a blog or one of these accounts, just use the comments box on the Reviews from Indigenous Literature Week at ANZ LitLovers 2015.  If you would like to write a guest review of your book for ANZLL I will happily host it here too.
  • Tell us what you think you might read in the comments box.  You never know, you might encourage someone else to try the book too! (You can always change your mind later if you want to).
  • When you’ve finished the book, come back and comment on the Reviews from Indigenous Literature page and then I’ll add it to the  reading list.

Thanks to contributions from a fantastic bunch of participants in previous ILWs the reading list is growingFor reasons of space and time and personal preference  my reading list is limited to literary fiction titles by indigenous Australian and New Zealand authors but participants are free to choose any form you like – short story, memoir, biography, whatever takes your fancy!  The permanent link to my reading list (and to other sources) is on the ANZLL Books You Must Read page in the top menu, and you can also find it in the list of Pages near the bottom of the RH Menu.

What will I be reading? Well, I have some vintage titles on the TBR and some new ones to choose from as well:

Indigenous Australian authors

  • Old Man’s Story by Kakadu Elder Bill Neidje as told to Mark Lang, Aboriginal Studies Press2015 ISBN: 9781922059949
  • True Country, Kim Scott’s first novel, Fremantle Press, 2010, ISBN 9781921361524
  • There’ll Be New Dreams, by Philip McLaren, Magabala Books, 2001, ISBN: 9781875641765
  • Earth by Bruce Pascoe, Magabala Books, 2001, ISBN: 9781875641611
  • Maybe Tomorrow by Boori Monty Prior, with Meme McDonald, Penguin, 1998, ISBN: 9780140273977

Maori Authors

  • For Someone I Love, a Collection of Writing by Arapera Blank, Anton Blank, New Zealand 2015 ISBN: 9780473299187
  • Cousins, by Patricia Grace, Penguin, 1991, ISBN: 9780140168082
  • Tu, by Patricia Grace, Penguin, 2004, ISBN: 9780143019206
  • What Becomes of the Broken Hearted, by Alan Duff, Random House, 1996 ISBN: 9780091834203


Now, (sneakily putting this at the bottom of this post to see if you’re paying attention!) I have a lovely little book of poetry called Crimson, by Maori poet Marino Blank to give away to the first Aussie or Kiwi participant to sign up.  (Limited to Australian and New Zealand postcodes only, sorry).  It’s a lovely hardback edition with gorgeous endpapers, published by Marino’s brother Anton Blank, and the poems are stunning.


Posted by: Lisa Hill | August 15, 2015

The Other Side of the World, by Stephanie Bishop

The Other Side of the World From the blurb for this second novel from Sydney writer Stephanie Bishop, I had thought I might identify with the protagonists, a Cambridge couple who migrate to Australia in the 1960s.  But no, while this is an absorbing meditation on belonging, nostalgia, and motherhood, I found the central character Charlotte to be, as my mother would say, a bit of a misery and weak and selfish into the bargain.  I might be selfish sometimes, as we all are, but this character’s way of dealing with her own unhappiness is on a scale that I have no patience with at all.

I don’t need to ‘like’ a character to admire a book, but I suspect that some to whom this book is marketed will focus on Charlotte’s deficiencies as a human being and perhaps overlook the fine writing, the carefully-paced structure and the occasional striking metaphor.  (Women in armoured bathing suits… yes, so evocative of the middle 60s!) The Other Side of the World reminded me of Ian McEwan’s On Chesil Beach in the way that the small domestic tragedy derives from the failure of the characters to communicate with each other.   Charlotte and Henry say they love each other and there are numerous touching moments of intimacy, but they don’t ever discuss their inner demons, their desires or ambitions, and it is left to Henry to blunder about trying to make decisions ‘for the best’ for his family – without ever having any understanding of his wife’s unhappiness.

The story opens in Cambridge where Henry is starting out in his career as an academic and Charlotte (in those pre-pill days) has had a baby for which she is wholly unprepared.  It is not clear whether she is suffering from post-natal depression or if it’s depression about being plunged into the dreariness of housekeeping and motherhood at the expense of her career as an artist, but she is in a bad way.  She can’t cope, she flounders about, she forgets things – even words – and her inertia lasts all day so that nothing much gets done.  (The description of the filthy house is disgustingly convincing.)

The baby wails incessantly, and Charlotte’s sole solace is to plunge across the fields on long walks in England’s bleak weather.  And when Lucie is barely seven months old, Charlotte discovers that she is pregnant again.  Henry, in despair over his inability to help or even to know what’s wrong, seizes on a brochure offering Paradise in Australia, and although the one thing that comforts Charlotte is her attachment to place, she submits to his patient badgering and off they go…

Well, Australia doesn’t work out for either of them.  I only ever saw Fremantle in the 1960s when the Southern Cross berthed to offload its WA passengers, but I imagine that Perth then was a smaller, hotter version of Melbourne, a place that made me very miserable in my early, intensely homesick days as an Aussie.  I remember being devastated when my father announced that we had been turned into Australian citizens: even as a child it outraged me that my identity could be bureaucratically sabotaged like that and, worse,  that my parents had evidently decided that we were going to stay.  O woe! (I hatched plans to be a stowaway but had no strategy to get to Station Pier by myself).  For Bishop’s characters there was the unwelcome discovery that Henry’s Anglo-Indian origins were considered dubious, and for Charlotte all her miseries are just the same except that she is so anchored to England that its atrocious weather has metamorphosed into eternal springtime, with bluebells and petunias (which she tries vainly to grow in the parched Perth summer.)

Unattractive aspects of Charlotte’s character begin to surface.  In the beginning the reader pities her, but her judgemental attitudes towards the suburban women she meets expose her sense of superiority.  She doesn’t understand the mash of vowels when she asks for directions, and she sits aloof at playgroup because she knows the other women don’t really want to hear about her children, they only want to boast about their own.  She never speaks to the women who live next door. Whether the author intended to reveal this or not, her character Charlotte has brought her British class consciousness with her, and it’s only partly offset by the casual racism that Henry experiences when his colleagues discover that the academic with the British name and qualifications has dark skin.

When she finally meets someone who understands about art, Charlotte flirts with him and what happens eventually is entirely predictable.  Not so predictable were Henry’s travails at work and his sudden departure to India when his mother is dying, and Charlotte’s astonishing self-indulgence.  It is one thing to lose patience with small children when they are being bratty, and another thing entirely to inflict grievous cruelty on very small children for a sustained period of time.  Her behaviour only seems credible if the reader grants her a diagnosis of mental illness because the author doesn’t make a convincing case that it derives from Charlotte’s frustration about her marriage and the children denying her identity as an artist.  But really, for most of us who are parents, what this character does is simply inexplicable.

I found myself curious about the authenticity of some elements of the period.  Henry flies to India by plane, in the 1960s, using a small inheritance, and he calls home too.  Plane travel ‘home’ and international phone calls were very expensive in those days, beyond the resources even of well paid professionals like my father when my parents were saving up to buy a house.  I wondered about the plastic magnetic letters on the fridge too: these seemed very new to me when I was given some for my child, later, in the 1970s.  The Perth playgroups seemed anachronistic to me as well:  I remember Whitlam providing funding for these when my child was a toddler and what I thought then was a new social initiative was a wonderful way of meeting other young mums, relieving the isolation of the suburbs of Melbourne after having lived in a country community in the company of other young women and their children. Perhaps I am wrong about these aspects of the novel that jarred for me, memory plays tricks and maybe Bishop’s research is more authentic than my memories…

What bothers me more about this book is this author’s choice of topic.  I know writers write about what they must, and if they have things to get off the chest, well, so be it.  But IMO the travails of British migration more than half a century ago seem somewhat bland in the context of contemporary Australia.  A writer of this talent could be exploring contemporary immigration experiences which, with her empathetic touch, would have greater resonance.  I’d like to see that…

Do read Dorothy Johnson’s review at The Age/SMH.

Author: Stephanie Bishop
Title: The Other Side of the World
Publishe: Hachette 2015
ISBN: 9780733633782
Review copy courtesy of Hachette



Posted by: Lisa Hill | August 14, 2015

2015 My loot from National Bookshop Day

S T Gill and his AudiencesI was in Bendigo for the #BWF Writers Festival on National Bookshop Day so I couldn’t shop local, but I joined in the fun at the Dymock’s Festival Bookshop after Sasha Grishin’s session because, well, I just had to have copy of the irresistible S T Gill and his Audiences …

(If you can’t have the paintings on your wall, at least you can have the book, right?)

A Guide to BerlinThen, during the week, I went to my favourite local bookshops.   Ulysses Bookstore Sandringham is where I’ve bought some of our best cookbooks, but this time I bought Gail Jones’ new novel, A Guide to Berlin.  I haven’t been a fan of Gail Jones’ writing style, but this one has had rave reviews, (see this one from Susan Wyndham in the SMH) so I’ve put my hand in my pocket to try one this author more time.  After all, six strangers connected by a love of Nabokov does sound enticing … and it’s a stunning cover too.


The Buried GiantAfter that it was off to Kidna Books (422 Hampton St, Hampton) (no website, it seems, but excellent friendly service, and a fabulous range of books for kids and also some lovely colouring books for adults.  This is the latest fad, it seems, but actually, the research apparently shows that colouring in for adults is an excellent stress-buster, especially if you are not the sort of person to take to meditating.)  Kidna Books is the best place to go to buy gorgeous greeting cards for bookish friends, and I also picked up a copy of Kasuo Ishiguro’s new The Buried Giant.  There has been some anguished commentary about this one: is it fantasy or is it literary fiction, and is it possible to be both? Well, there’s only one way to find out, and to say that I like Ishiguro’s writing is a bit of an understatement, so there it is on my TBR, patiently waiting its turn!

Life on AirThen it was off to Benn’s Books Bentleigh who have a huge range for the kind of books I like.  First up, I hunted around for a book for my father: Father’s Day isn’t far away, but it’s getting harder to find books that suit him now.  He likes historical adventures like Patrick O’Brien’s and the Simon Raven series, but he’s got so many, what I usually do is to hunt around online with him by my side so that I don’t duplicate what he’s already read.  (For an old bloke of 90, he has an impressive memory for what he’s read!)  I was just about to give up when I found David Attenborough’s autobiography Life on Air and I think that will be a success.

Then just 501 French Verbsnearby was the somewhat daunting 501 French Verbs (501! will I ever learn them all?) and I bought that because it has some really helpful features such as idiomatic words and expressions using the verb, and even some with proverbs e.g. the very apt advice to authors Bien faire et laisser dire which means ‘do your work well and never mind the critics’!

Butterflies in NovemberThen it was over to the fiction shelves, and what did I spy?  Face out, cunningly positioned to attract the attention of anyone interested in #WITmonth (Women in Translation Month) there was Butterflies in November.  It’s published by Pushkin Press who’ve never disappointed yet, and it’s by an author from Iceland called Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir, and translated by Brian FitzGibbon.  Irresistible, right?

When the Doves Disappeared Purge And then, (alphabetically, of course) right next to it were two books by Sofi Oksanen that I’d put on my wishlist this very morning when Tony from Tony’s Book World recommended them! Well, I couldn’t leave them there for somebody else to snaffle, not when they were the last ones on the shelf, could I?

The Porcelain Thief My last indulgence was a book I’ve read about somewhere, called The Porcelain Thief by Chinese-American author Huan Hsu.  It seems complementary to  The Orpheus Clock which I’m reading at the moment, another story about family treasures appropriated during wartime and the quest to have them returned to their rightful owners.

I haven’t got to Grants Books Cheltenham where I find second-hand treasures because my credit card needs to recover a bit.  But I will.  You know I will!

Eat Sleep Read Local

 I really like the clever packaging for my new book at Ulysses Bookstore!


Posted by: Lisa Hill | August 12, 2015

Women in Translation, suggestions from the archive

Inspired by Stu from Winston’s Dad who has just posted Five from The Archive to support Women in Translation month (#WITmonth), I’ve looked back through my archive and have some suggestions too…

There are reviews of 32 translated books written by women on my blog, but whereas I am relaxed about gender issues in my general reading, that’s not the case for translated fiction.  I don’t consciously read to maintain gender balance but I monitor it and make the results transparent using WordPress categories (see the Reviews category).  Over time, the ratio for my general reading hovers around 45:55 (female:male) and I’m comfortable with that because the results will always be slightly skewed by my love of the classics and by the type of non-fiction that I read.  But when it comes to translated fiction, even if I ignore the C19th classics that skew the results further (reading French classics including the entire 20 novel Rougon-Macquart cycle by Zola, and reading so many of the great Russians before my trip to Russia in 2012), the ratio is still 1:3 in favour of male authors in translation.

From what I’ve read around the web, this is consistent with the proposition that there’s not a lot to choose from.  For a variety of reasons, it is said, women authors tend to be translated and marketed less than male authors.  One obvious reason is that historically women have won fewer of the major prizes: if you plan to read all the Nobel Prize winners, as I do, you will end up reading lots more male authors in translation.  The same goes for reading the great classics from Europe, because (as with British classics) most of them were written by men.  It would be daft to set aside reading these wonderful books because of the gender of their author and I don’t intend to do that.

But when it comes to contemporary authors, the picture is less clear, and I don’t have time or inclination to explore it.  What I offer here is some suggestions to encourage you to check out the best of what I’ve discovered of women in translation:

Nobel Prize winners:

From Asia:

From the Middle East:

And finally, my favourites from Europe and Russia:

Happy reading!

Ballad of Desmond Kale

I was part way through writing my review of Roger McDonald’s Miles Franklin Award-winning seventh novel, The Ballad of Desmond Kale, when I realised that I hadn’t posted its opening lines.  (It’s one of my blog projects to post the opening lines of all the Miles Franklin winning novels, but I have to confess that it’s a project that’s stalled a bit since my disenchantment with the award over its most recent choices…)

Anyway, back in 2006 the judges had a really difficult task in choosing a winner.  These great books were on the shortlist:

  • The Garden Book, by Brian Castro
  • The Secret River, by Kate Grenville
  • The Ballad of Desmond Kale, by Roger McDonald
  • Everyman’s Rules for Scientific Living, by Carrie Tiffany
  • The Wing of Night, by Brenda Walker

I’ve read every one of these books and I can only say that I’m glad I wasn’t on the panel having to choose between them.

But I think they made the right choice.  Here are the opening lines from the Chorus of the First Part:

After Desmond Kale was flogged for stealing a ten-shilling metal rake he was cut down from the punishment tree and commanded to walk the ten miles back to the prison stockade of Toongabbie.  So famous was Kale’s conceit in Botany Bay, he was ordered to walk in ankle irons, holding his chains in his fists.

Eight flogged men were given a ride in the stone quarries’ waggon.  Kale was given an escort soldier, kept under view.  It was said he might die – it was hoped by some that he would – just through the effort of lurching along in the bright morning, restrained by bolt, ring, rivet and rusty chain.  The man who awarded his fifty strokes of the cat, Parson Magistrate Stanton (who was not present at the flogging, on a pretext of standing aloof), was quite as likely to agree in the denying fullness of his heart: that Kale could leak his gore into the earth, that the flies could swallow him.

‘But fifty is nothing’ Kale was heard to say, spitting a tooth worked from the side of his jaw where it was cracked on a lump of tree during punishment.  The back of his short flooded red while the next part of Kale’s joy was to struggle forward of the bullock waggon and keep pace with his escort soldier, who said nothing from the time he flitted up from behind a log at the side of the track where he seemed to have been sleeping in sticks and grass and dirt.

The Ballad of Desmond Kale, by Roger McDonald, Knopf, 2005, p. 3-4






The Ballad of Desmond Kale, by Roger McDonald, Knopf, 2005, p255-257

In the Night of Time If anyone is revising 1001 Books You Must Read, In the Night of Time must surely be included in the new edition.  It is such a masterpiece, it belongs in any canon, along with the great works of Tolstoy, Austen, Proust, Eliot and James Joyce.

The blurb says that it’s like War and Peace, and at first I thought no, it’s more like Proust.  The way that the sinuous sentences trigger memories from sensation; the way that Moline’s characters’ thoughts meander through ideas and memory and emotion, revealing the story in slow motion.  But like Tolstoy, this author tells us that in a war nobody understands anything.  If any war exemplified this truth, the Spanish Civil War certainly did so, and I thought I understood that from reading Orwell and Hemingway.  But In the Night of Time brings us the story not from the perspective of an idealistic outsider confronted by reality, but from the perspective of an ordinary man surprised by a war that has suddenly erupted in a place and a civilisation that he thought was solid and dependable, his country that frustrated him because it was too conservative and too resistant to change.

This novel – what a lame label that seems for this work of art! – is about what happens to an ordinary man in a war, confronted by moral choices that compete for his soul: the instinct for self-preservation against the chance to help someone; the desire to escape to normality against the duty to help a cause; the risk to personal safety against the chance to save a priceless work of art; and most of all, the passion of new love against the anxious love for one’s precious children.  In the Night of Time shows us the normal human tumult of emotions – love, passion, vanity, jealousy, ambition, responsibility to and love of one’s children – tested against the opportunity that war offers to achieve your own desires.

As you read, you will come to love the flawed humans in this profound, compelling story.  The central character – whose thoughts, memories and sensations will break your heart – is Ignacio Abel, a gifted architect who believes in architecture as social justice, a man who discovers his other self through his American lover Judith Biely.  The duality of his life is more than the lies that he tells to his stolid, placid wife Adela: his somnolent conservative married self is liberated by his younger self discovering sex and impulsiveness.   For Ignacio – who –  even as a child – used to lie awake at night in the darkness, the passionate moments of his affair find him discovering Madrid by night.

So much to tell you about this book!  But it’s like Proust… no review or analysis can capture its magic..  You just have to take it on trust from those who’ve read it that it will be worth the investment of time.  Don’t do as I initially did: I began it, then had to leave it behind because of its weight when I went on yet another trip to Queensland to care for my parents, then tried to resume it… No, don’t do that.  Buy the book (because you’ll want to keep it) and save it till you have a week to spare and can read it as I did the second time. Read it as you would read Proust: without interruption, lost in its world, surrendered to the power of the author’s craft, delighting in the way that In the Night of Time becomes part of your reading treasure.

There are reviews everywhere but IMO most of them over analyse the book.  The only one I like is at,

Author: Antonio Muñoz Moline
Title: In the Night of Time (La noche de los tiempos)
Publisher: Tuskar Rock Press, an imprint of Profile Books, 2015
ISBN: 9781781254639
Review copy courtesy of Allen & Unwin, RRP AUD $35.00


Older Posts »



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 728 other followers