Monday, 31 October 2016

Notes from Eve Abbey ~ November 2016

A.S.Patric’s novel Black Rock White City has won the Miles Franklin 2016 Award.

The author is not only a writer but also a bookseller. He works at one of the Readings Bookshops in Melbourne. This is his first novel and fits well into the guidelines of the Miles Franklin Award in that the story concerns refugees from Sarajevo.

Jovan and his wife Suzana might have been university lecturers at home but now, in Melbourne, Jovan is an indispensable cleaner in a hospital and Suzana does domestic cleaning. They still maintain their Croatian identities even amongst their friends who also come from the Balkans.

The book is an interesting look into the multicultural suburbia of our main cities. Many readers expected The Natural Way of Things to win the award but this novel illustrates a different community, which is a nice change.

I’ve discovered another new writer, in the crime genre. Jock Serong is an ex-lawyer now living in rural Victoria whose first novel Quota won the Ned Kelly Award for Best First Crime Novel last year. The story is set in a seaside country town where abalone fishing is the main industry – that’s where the title Quota comes from! Someone is trucking the excess abalone up to Melbourne to sell under cover. There has been a murder on a trawler and small town rivalries are clouding the picture. There is eventually a trial at the Supreme Court and this is where Serong’s ease in writing dialogue comes to the fore. Justice is shown to be fickle but the conclusion is very satisfactory.

I did first read The Rules of Backyard Cricket, which involves betting on cricket matches as well as the rivalry between two brothers. One becomes Australian Cricket Captain and the other is the showy Australian Representative, always hitting the headlines as well as the long balls. I really loved both these books. They are the sort of books which you are reluctant to finish. More please! Text Publishing has done a great job with these books – the cover for The Rules of Backyard Cricket certainly pulls you in.

The Whole Wild World is a memoir by long-time Sydney journalist Tom Dusevic and Croatian migrants are again in focus. It is good to read about the efforts of new arrivals – sharing houses and helping each other. I’m sure many people will identify with these memories as well as the schoolyard adventures and teenage angst. Recommended. The title comes from mishearing the saying “the whole wide world”.

I read in The Australian recently that yet another translation of Cervantes’ Don Quixote has been donated to the Cervantes Collection held in the Mitchell Library’s Friends Room. There are more than a thousand different editions and translations in the collection which was begun by Dr. Ben Haneman. The room is open Tuesdays from 10am to 4pm. The new addition is in Gurani, the native tongue in Paraguay, delivered in person by the Ambassador. I was moved to see how many different editions were available at Abbey’s Bookshop. Over eighty editions of Don Quixote are listed but when I filtered this to show only the titles in stock the answer was five. But five very interesting choices. The Penguin Classic edition has the famous introduction by John Rutherford, the Vintage edition has an introduction by Harold Bloom, while the Canterbury Classic edition is an especially nice production. But what about these….? Little Master Cervantes is a board book for babies, illustrated and with simple text in Spanish and English. Or from Restless Classics, there is a special deluxe edition for the 400th anniversary with woodcut illustrations and access to a series of video lectures discussing the work.

I had very great pleasure reading the surprise hit of the year which is The Shepherd’s Life: A Tale of the Lake District by James Rebanks. The author is a shepherd on a small farm on one of the fells. He is the third generation and appreciates the traditions and compromises that have to be made.

He chooses to carry Herdwick sheep, one of the old breeds. His description of the various tasks he must do will certainly stop you thinking that a farmer has lots of time. He absolutely loves and admires his sheep. His description of the lambing season and the tricks of the trade when “showing” his sheep at the annual fair are wonderful.

He wasn’t interested in education when he went to school but in his early twenties, after reading many books, he gained entrance to Oxford University where he did well. However, he always wanted to return to the farm and has managed to find enough outside employment so that he and his family can earn enough to continue farming.

Beatrix Potter’s legacy gains an admiring mention. A biography of Beatrix Potter, Over the Hills and Far Away: The Life of Beatrix Potter is out now. A lovely edition including some of her own illustrations. As well as a variety of Peter Rabbit stories in the children’s section , we have some in either Italian or French upstairs in Language Book Centre.

On Thursday November 24th there will be a book launch at Abbey’s for the memoir written by my cousin Naida Haxton, A.M. The book is called Res Gestae: Things Done and will be launched by David Jackson A.M. Q.C. Naida was the first female to practice at the Queensland Bar. If you are interested in things legal you are welcome to join us.

Thursday 24 November
6PM for 6.30PM
02 9264 3111 or

Keep well,


Since 1968 ~ Abbey's 131 York Street Sydney ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Abbey's ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

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