Posted by: Lisa Hill | August 3, 2019

Six Degrees of Separation: From Deadly D and Justice Jones, to …

This month’s #6Degrees puzzled me when the first emails popped into my inbox this morning.  Kate’s was starting with The Aftermath (and my brain began fizzing with ideas about war and reconciliation immediately)…. but Theresa Smith’s was starting with The Light Between Oceans. Huh? What’s going on, I thought, how can the meme start with two different books?

The answer is that we have to start with the book we finished with in July.  Bizarrely, for me, it’s a book for junior readers, about (of all things, my pet yawn) playing sport…

But not quite.  Deadly D and Justice Jones, making the team by Kalkadoon man Scott Prince is more about young people learning to manage their anger, and it was written to lure sports-mad young people into wanting to read.  And it features Indigenous kids in an everyday way.  They’re just kids playing football, and the Superhero Deadly D just happens to be Indigenous.

That prompts a thought that many of us like to see ourselves represented in the books we read.  This year’s Miles Franklin winner, Too Much Lip by Melissa Lucashenko’s features a family like any other except that they’re Indigenous, and their family baggage is tied up with the sad and sorry Black history of our nation.  I didn’t note this in my review but Lucashenko’s great skill in writing this superb novel is that readers can identify with the messiness of her characters’ lives on so many levels.  You don’t need to be Indigenous to identify with feeling resentful of a bone-idle loudmouth brother, eh?

The push and pull of love and loyalty in Too Much Lip made me think of Susan Johnson’s Life in Seven Mistakes, IMO her best book though it’s not the one that was shortlisted everywherethat was The Broken Book (2005).  Life in Seven Mistakes (2008) is a delicious black comedy, woven around the phenomenon inflicted on all of us whose parents have retired to the so-called Sunshine State: the Dreaded Family Christmas at Surfers Paradise. As you can see from my review I found a great many resonances in my own life, though I was restrained when it came to expressing exactly what they were!

How much truth to tell is a perennial issue in authorship, whether the book is fiction or not.  Jessica White treads a careful line in her hybrid memoir Hearing Maud, a journey for a voice.  In tracing the life of Maud Praed, deaf daughter of the Australian author Rosa Praed, (see my review) White sees with clarity the difficult decisions that her own parents had to make about what’s best for their child and how the child in later life may question the wisdom of the decisions that were made.

Not all memoirists seem to care about how their family members feel… I remember feeling repelled by the (now famous) Benjamin Law for ‘outing’ his mother’s gynaecological history in The Family Law, and Alice Pung reveals unresolved conflict with her mother in Unpolished Gem.  But as I wrote in my review: this is the generation that tells all and fuddy-duddies like me who prefer a little discretion are probably past our use-by date…

Some books, however, are written as homage to a much-loved parent.  Richard Flanagan’s Booker Prize winner The Narrow Road to the Deep North was ‘the book he had to write’ for his father, a survivor of the infamous Burma Railway built by POWs.  In my review I alluded to how reading about the brutality experienced there was overwhelming at times—I cannot imagine the emotional toll of writing it, knowing that’s what your own father had suffered.  But I also noted how

….by tracing the POW experience from different angles The Narrow Road to the Deep North and Thomas Keneally’s Shame and the Captives contribute to a richer understanding of defeat.  The Japanese treated their POWS as slave labour to build a symbol but their captives were ennobled by it; the Australians at Cowra treated their Japanese POWS well, and their captives felt shamed by it.

And that brings me neatly to The Aftermath, which starts Kate’s chain at Books are My Favourite and Best and also contributes to a deeper understanding of victory and defeat. The Aftermath is set in post-war Hamburg with the British occupiers sharing a house with a defeated German.  In my review I described it as a penetrating exploration of vengeance and forgiveness, guilt and blame in a very charged atmosphere and that is mostly what comes through in the film which was subsequently made.  But, as is so often the case, the book is a richer experience and develops the theme in all its complexity.

So that’s my #6Degrees: from a book about conflict resolution to another about reconciliation!

Thanks to Kate at Books are my Favourite and Best for hosting:)


  1. I like this chain! And I really need to read The Aftermath, I had marked it previously upon reading your review.
    My home here is on Kalkadoon land. Scott Prince is a terrific ambassador for young people. My son has met him several times through football out here.


    • That’s the kind of sporting ambassador I admire:)

      Liked by 1 person

    • I have never forgotten the Kalkadoons Theresa because they are the first indigenous people whose name I knew, back when I was in Mt Isa when I was 11 or 12. It was a long time again before I heard the names of any other people.

      Oh, and Lisa, I enjoyed reading your links. Thoughtful as always, with some books I’m keen to read, including White’s of course.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I am fortunate to work with some excellent Kalkadoon teenagers, some inspirational young adults that are passionate about their culture and making sure their younger counterparts are too.

        Liked by 2 people

        • That’s so fantastic Theresa. Back in the early-mid 60s that I’m talking about, we had some indigenous classmates at school but I don’t think any pride in culture was being encouraged. Things are improving, even if it’s snail’s pace – it shouldn’t be snail’s pace of course!

          Liked by 1 person

          • We have a specific role for senior students in our high school as Indigenous School Captain. Just this week, our Indigenous school leader headed up an entire week long program of Indigenous cultural activities for lunch times. Everything from Indigenous games, traditional foods, dancing and music. It was terrific. She should be so proud of herself. Because of our high numbers of Indigenous students, having an Indigenous School Captain role serves as a positive link between school and community. Antonia is also an incredible role model for young Indigenous women.


  2. I’ve read a couple of those and I’m theoretically on the side of letting it all hang out, though I test myself from time to time with what I do and do not put in my journal posts.


    • I am theoretically in the same place, but then every now and again I come across a book that offends my sense of fair play. Especially if the people involved are still alive.


  3. As always you’ve created a very thoughtful and thought provoking chain. I’m in your corner about the son who outed his mother’s medical history. I suppose he found a reason to justify it at least to himself.

    Privacy is a topical issue right now because of the stance taken by Prince Harry and his wife. Frankly I don’t care what they do in their lives, it has no interest for me but they seem to be taking privacy to a ridiculous level, preventing people taking photos of them in a public space


    • Well, he says that his mother talks about it, so it’s ok. But I think there’s a difference between sharing personal information with your own social circle, and other people making it public knowledge in a book.
      The Royals? Well, they’re fair game. If you take the money and the lifestyle and the celebrity, you have to take the negative aspects as well. It was the Queen who invited the press into their lives when their popularity was low, and everything else follows on from that.


      • I don’t think anyone is fair game really. I think there has to be some lines drawn re their privacy. Where those lines are drawn is up for discussion, and maybe or maybe not they are drawing them unreasonably, but I think they, like anyone paid to do a job, deserve some privacy. Those young royals I think do a lot for their money. Harry’s Invictus Games is one example, but they are all patrons of organisations, they are all expected to give speeches, open things, shake hands interminably, etc. I’m not a monarchist and I voted for a republic here, but I don’t think any human beings who are trying to live their lives reasonably are fair game. I don’t think the Royals have much choice about taking the lifestyle, money and celebrity really, do they? And, I can understand them wanting to protect their kids, particularly Harry whose kids are somewhat down the line of succession.

        As for the Queen inviting the media in back then – does that mean everyone from then on must suffer? Do WE expect to suffer forever for a bad judgement call we made – and not only us but everyone down the line?

        I am a soft wishy-washy, I know, but I can’t help it!!

        I haven’t read The family law, but I do remember feeling that Alice Pung was too young to write Unpolished gem, that she didn’t have the maturity to empathise with her parents and understand where they were coming from. I think by the time she wrote the next one she’d grown a bit. And, of course, she’s a beautiful writer.

        Liked by 1 person

      • There is indeed a huge difference. When she talks about it to her friends/relatives she is making the decision about who to tell and how much. He has taken that choice from her .

        As for The Royals, just like many celebs they don’t realise that once you let the geni out of the bottle with the media,you can’t put it back in again when you feel like it


  4. You have got an interesting selection of books and topics in your chain. I have wanted to read The Narrow Road to the Deep North but never got around to it. Life in Seven Mistakes sounds delicious!


  5. Such a thoughtful and interesting chain


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