Posted by: Lisa Hill | August 7, 2021

Six Degrees of Separation: from Postcards from the Edge, to….

This month’s #6Degrees starts with Postcards from the Edge by Carrie Fisher.  Nope, haven’t read it.

But a link is super easy especially since much of the research for the book I’ve chosen involved correspondence albeit not postcards: Elizabeth Macarthur, a Life at the Edge of the World by Michelle Scott Tucker.  Yes, that is my blurb that you can see there on the front cover of the reprint edition because this bio is ‘unputdownable’.  I followed the progress of the book through to publication on Michelle’s blog because I was fascinated by her take on a history I’d known about since my schooldays and could see that what I’d been taught was only half the story and that the real ‘father’ of the wool industry was a woman!

For aspiring authors, I’d add something else: a writer’s blog can create a readership that didn’t exist before.  Through Michelle’s blog I’d learned to love both her topic and (more importantly, for me) her writing.  I mean, history’s interesting, but some histories are indigestible for a general reader.  I knew even before Michelle signed a contract with her publisher, that I liked reading what she had to say.  (I am equally convinced that I’m going to like Nathan Hobby’s bio of Katharine Susannah Prichard when it finally hits the bookshops, because I’ve liked everything so far that he’s shared with us on his blog.)

From ‘edge’ in the title, let’s go to an author: Arabella Edge is the author of two books I really liked. Her first novel The Company was based on the 1629 shipwreck of the Dutch East India Company flagship Batavia, and it was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award and won the 2001 Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Book in the Southeast Asia/South Pacific region. (There were two copies available at Brotherhood Books on the day I looked).  The God of Spring (2005) also features a shipwreck, the topic triggered by an ambitious artist who wants to paint the story of the shipwreck of the frigate ‘Medusa’.

I like novels that feature art and artists.  One of the cleverest ones I’ve come across is Night Blue (2021) by Angela O’Keeffe, with narration by the painting itself.  The painting is none other than our most famous, ‘Blue Poles’ by Jackson Pollock.  It’s fascinating to me that our most famous painting is not one by an Australian or any of our world-renowned Indigenous artists whose works command astronomical prices, but one that is famous because of the brouhaha about its purchase.  Ironically, it was all those who hated it and carried on about it ad nauseam who made it famous.  After all, nobody knows anything much about any of the other paintings in Parliament House.

However, thanks to Clare Wright’s You Daughters of Freedom (2018) many more of us know about the Women’s Suffrage Banner, which was made by Melbourne-born artist Dora Meeson Coates in 1908 and which also hangs on display in Parliament House. The story of the banner is only a part of Wright’s comprehensive history of women’s suffrage here in Australia.  She also made the point that by focussing so much on WW1 and the Anzacs, other aspects of our interesting political history have been neglected, one of which is the defeat of the conscription referenda.

Well, I’m currently reading Save Our Sons: Women, Dissent and Conscription During the Vietnam War by Carolyn Collins which is about the courage of women who protested against conscription in the 1960s and 70s, and its theme of courage in the face of state power is reminding me of a terrific novella by Wendy Scarfe, The Day They Shot Edward (1992, reissued 2018).  It is set in 1916 when the First Conscription Referendum was tearing Australia apart.

That theme is also resonating in my current novel, The Stray Cats of Homs, (2018) by Eva Nour, translated by Agnes Broomé.  August is #WITMonth, where we celebrate the work of women writers in translation, and this fine novel is the story of the courage it takes to stand up and be counted against tyranny in Syria under Bashar al-Assad.

So there we are, that’s my #6Degrees for this month!

Next month’s starter book is another book I haven’t read: Second Place by Rachel Cusk.

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


Responses

  1. I have been slowly becoming a fan of Rachel Cusk’s. I loved Second Place. Her writing deserves full attention to every sentence as her ideas have to be thoroughly explored and examined in the light of one’s own experiences as a woman in our current situation. It’s set on the Marshes in UK where in the midst of the Pandemic an artist comes to stay in the narrator’s studio .A separate dwelling on the property of the narrator and her Husband. M writes of the events that occur during L’s stay

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    • Hello Patricia, thanks for your comment.
      I’ve got Transit on the TBR so I really should read that before reading anything else by her… she’s written so many books it would be hard to know where to start.

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      • Be interesting to see if you get on with her Lisa, she’s such a Marmite author. I am not a fan.

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        • Yeah, I’ve hesitated because of reviews I’ve seen…

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          • My problem is that the prose in the two I’ve read (for the Shadow Giller) were all passive, and as a sub-editor I spend hours turning passive copy into active copy so I just couldn’t switch my editor’s brain off enough to enjoy. It might be different for you.

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            • Is passive voice a no-no these days? (Like adverbs?)

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              • Passive voice is journalism is BANNED. One of the reasons I was hired to edit copy for the IIED was that academic always write passively and the powers that be wanted everything turned into an active voice because it’s easier to read and understand. In fiction you can fo what the hell you like but that doesn’t mean I’ll be able to get on with it 🤣

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                • Sorry. Ignore all my typos. I’m doing this on my phone and I have fat fingers! Lol.

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                • LOL. The thing is, the passive voice usually means something different when it’s changed into the active voice. Covid was first identified in China does not mean the same as China first identified Covid.
                  I think writing is more interesting when both active and passive are used.

                  Liked by 1 person

  2. Fascinating links Lisa … and I agree with your comments about writers’ blogs. I particularly love reading their journey from idea, through research and writing, to the whole publishing process and post publication.

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    • Yes… though they have to be careful not to give the game away!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I think Rachel Cusk is one of my favourite contemporary writers and though of a younger generation she is like all good writers a risk taker and worthy of attention.

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  4. That first link is nicely done. Very keen to read Night Blue.

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  5. Well, the only one I’ve read is Night Blue, which I first heard about via your blog 😊

    I really like the sound of The Stray Cats of Homs… not sure I’ve read anything set in Syria before.

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    • It starts off slowly, but I’m now about 2/3 through and it’s getting hard to turn the light out…

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Great chain. About Vietnam – I’m old enough to remember those protests, and my sister was almost arrested when she participated in one of them!

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