Thursday, 6 August 2015

Notes from Eve Abbey ~ August 2015

Did you enjoy the TV version of Kate Grenville's enormously popular The Secret River about life in the early days of settlement?

If you haven't already read this, I hope you can find the time to do so soon. There is quite a lot more in the book that doesn't show in the TV series, while the play concentrates more on the issue of Aboriginal possession. In the book you can read about the life of William and Sal Thornhill in London before they were transported and their on-going relationship with their children. Two following books complete the life of the family. They are The Lieutenant and Sarah Thornhill (granddaughter).

Another really good book is Searching for the Secret River, in which Kate recounts all the work she did researching for The Secret River, in London as well as here. Family historians will definitely enjoy this as well as anyone trying to write a novel. It ends up being a fascinating story.

I was especially pleased to read Forever Young, the fifth book in the Glenroy trilogy written by Steven Carroll. Well, it is no longer a trilogy and is soon to be a sextet! The Glenroy series is The Art of the Engine Driver, The Gift of Speed, The Time we have Taken, Spirit of Progress and now Forever Young. These elegantly written books will be a pleasure for you to discover. I am a great fan. It was a good idea to distribute Forever Young together with a free copy of The Art of the Engine Driver, the first of the series, so you will know the three central characters, Vic, Rita and son Michael. Steven Carroll admits this is very autobiographical. The sixth and final volume will involve Vic in his youth so Forever Young is the end of the family story. Carroll aims to reveal the passionate hearts beneath the surface of suburban calm. His writing style for these stories is unusual and addictive, with constant repetition and soothing rhythm.

Carroll recently won the Prime Minister's Literary Award, in addition to his earlier awards as a Miles Franklin Winner and the Commonwealth Writers' Prize. He does not use the same style for his other books. There are several stories inspired by poems written by T.S. Eliot, including The Lost Life and A World of Other People.

The Miles Franklin Award was won this year by Sofie Laguna for her second adult novel, The Eye of the SheepNot a good title I think, and I was also not anxious to read yet another story about an autistic boy. However, I was quite overcome when I did read it. It became quite thrilling and heart-breaking. The story is told in the voice of the boy, whose imagination is never at rest, and nor is he. Sofie Laguna has done a marvellous job by exactly capturing this. And the story itself is one encountered by many families – with a little too much alcohol and domestic violence. I thoroughly recommend this excellent novel.

A good novel also on the Miles Franklin Shortlist is Golden Boys by Sonya Hartnett, who is better known for her Young Adult and Children's books. Sonya is a totally reliable author. All her books, and there are many, are interesting and good value. Although this book is for adults, it nonetheless features a group of children just beginning to form moral judgements. I really enjoyed this.

Appointment Northwest by successful poet Peter Skrzynecki is a tender memoir about his very first posting as a country school teacher. Straight out of training college he is sent to Joegla, about 50 kilometres out of Armidale, to be sole Teacher-in-Charge of a tiny school with only 14 students. Quite a shock but an opportunity for him to try out his management style. He boards with a local family with whom he makes tight bonds and learns how to negotiate friendships in a small community. More importantly he begins to understand the very close attachment to the landscape which bolsters the locals, and he begins to find his poetic voice. This is a very nice book. Many of you will have read his poetry collection Immigrant Chronicle as it is an HSC required text but I also recommend his autobiography The Sparrow Garden.

Here's a quirky recommendation. Young German doctor, Giulia Enders, has written a very easy to read book called Gut: The Inside story of our body's most under-rated organ. This is all fascinating and is enlivened by line illustrations.

Keep well,


Buy these books at Abbey's (131 York Street Sydney) ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Abbey's ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

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