The Big Book Club Inc. is a not for profit organisation committed to the promotion of reading, literature and Australian authors and illustrators. The Big Book Club Inc. has two major projects: The Big Book Club (TBBC) for adults, and The Little Big Book Club (LBBC) for parents of children aged between birth and five years.
Your chance to win....
1 of 5 copies for individuals
and 10 copies for a book club of
Those Faraday Girls
by Monica McInerney
Our latest recommended reads include some great fiction, non-fiction and the first in a young adult series
The Midnight Dress by Karen Foxlee
"This is a highly evocative tale set in a northern cane town that tells of the friendship between two teenage girls, and the relationship that one of them forms with an ageing dressmaker. The investigation into the disappearance of one of the girls is cleverly interwoven with the story of the making of the midnight dress, in a hard-to-put-down read". Maggie, Paediatrician/Mother.
"A mystery thriller and highly unusual celebration of handsewing and the rainforest, this entrancing, clever novel begins with an ending and ends with a beginning. It is set in a Queensland sugar cane town situated between pristine coast and the forested skirts of a mountain, and tells the story of 15-year-old Rose Lovell, motherless daughter of an itinerant alcoholic, as she finds her true self under the tutelage of an old seamstress and the friendship of sunny, romantic Pearl Kelly.
"Will you forgive me if I tell you the ending?" the novel begins, and once you have finished the books its well-sustained mystery is instantly betrayed by the breathless timbre of this section of prose - the pitch-perfect response of a particular character to a planned assignation. For while the regular text marches steadily forward to recount the arrival of Rose and her father in Leonara, her growing friendship with Pearl, her discovery of elderly Edie Baker, the local witch, and to describe the climactic Harvest Parade with its shocking, inexplicable conclusion, the italicised opening of each chapter moves between judicious backwards revelations and the police investigation which follows the disappearance of the girl in the midnight-blue dress.
The dress, of dark blue taffeta and black beaded lace constructed out of old garments of Edie's, is at the heart of the book. Each chapter is named for a different embroidery stitch, each name a glancing clue to its chapter's revelations. As they stitch, Edie teaches Rose the arts of pattern making and hand sewing, regaling her with the doomed love stories of her forbears, a tailoring clan stretching back 300 years to the Rue St Honore in Paris and teaching her, too, the secrets of the rainforest which sustained her parents, particularly her mother and her solitary self after her father returned hopelessly damaged from the war.
While pretty, outgoing Pearl dabbles in the dangers of flirting in the town's claustrophobic little book exchange and sends letters in saccharine highlighter to an alphabet full of Muscovite Orlovs in the hope of finding her one-night-stand father, Rose practises handsewing a straight seam and pacing it with love, as Edie encourages in her an appreciation of what life has given her instead of bitterness at what it has already taken away. Like the sewing, Rose's transformation is not an easy or straightforward affair: there is unpicking and reworking, particularly when Pearl betrays the secret on the mountain that Rose has shared with her, but by the time the dress is finished and the night of the Harvest Parade has arrived Rosie is comfortable in her own skin and her wild red hair and her handmade dress with its dreams stitched in - a dress that is stunningly different from the fashionable pastels of her classmates.
There are interestingly opposing moral judgements to be made about these characters and likely to be opposing opinions too about the inclusion of the somewhat sentimental last regular-print section. Foxlee's first novel, The Anatomy of Wings, won two significant first-book awards, but this novel, with its well developed characters and sense of place, seems to me a more satisfying one, not least for the way in which a skilfully executed and unusual structure enable themes that go deeper than the mystery genre in which it might otherwise have been pigeonholed". Katharine England, The Advertiser.
Murder mystery stitiched into coming-of-age tale
"Karen Foxlee's 2007 debut novel, The Anatomy of Wings, won acclaim and awards. The Queensland writer's follow-up, The Midnight Dress, a crossover novel aimed at adults and young adults, far surpasses it. Tension and atmosphere simmer exquisitely in this tale of a teenage girl's murder.
Rose Lovell has never had a home. She travels with her binge-drinking father, living in caravan parks across the country. She is thin and constrains her flamboyant red curls with pins and black hair colouring.
When she arrives at Leonora State High School in far north Queensland, preparation for the Harvest Parade, where all the girls need a new dress to wear for the float and the crowning of harvest queen and princesses, is under way. Rose is befriended by kind and beautiful Pearl Kelly, who sees only goodness in people and who suggests Rose ask enigmatic seamstress Edith Baker to make her dress.
Edie is a credible old-woman character, but is also a new literary creation: an Australian "wise-woman", not overtly derived from myth or fairytale but from the rainforest and fabric. Even though we learn Edie's story, especially the joyous quicksilver account of her mother sewing a hidden assignation letter into her future husband's new suit pocket, Edie retains an aura of intangible, benign mystery.
Like her own mother, Edie is drawn to the ineffable rainforest, its sanctuary and voice. The rainforest nurtures and provides gifts of exotic fruit and nuts: blue quandongs, rose walnuts, the topaz tamarind and porcelain fruit. The rainforest is where Edie and her mother built a house high in the trees at Weeping Rock but, after becoming a haven for Rose, it eventually becomes a place of betrayal.
As Rose and Edie discover and create Rose's midnight dress, her changing appearance reflects her growing contentment and strength from climbing the mountain and being nourished by people and the land.
Foxlee ingrains the shadow of murder into her storylines. Very early in the book we are subtly forewarned that the wearer is destined for another plane: " ... the dress is a magical thing, it makes her look so heavenly." At the harvest festival the girls must walk down the catwalk in their pretty dresses.
"One of the girls is chosen [as a harvest queen or princess]. And sacrificed," says Rose.
The structure also enhances the mystery. In italics at the beginning of each chapter an omniscient narrator describes the murder and its investigation. This allows a privileged view into scenes that need careful, evasive telling before ultimately they merge in time with the major narrative.
Although some fairytale elements are included, such as Rose's deep sleep for three days before the parade, The Midnight Dress is set in quite recent history. The Chernobyl nuclear disaster becomes a magnified foreboding of death as well as a link with Pearl's unknown Russian father. Pearl is learning Russian and sending letters to men with his surname. Rose also loves writing. The author's own writing avoids abstruse words but creates a sensory picture of a secretive, lush paradise threatened by a serpent.
Even though she lives in a caravan park called Paradise, Rose belongs in Edie's "Eden" for now. Names are part of Foxlee's cache of symbols: "love" is found in Rose's surname Lovell, and a river and bird (falcon) are placed inside the name of Murray Falconer, the young man drawn to water who falls in love with her. "Weeping Rock" deservedly suggests a parallel with the similar finely wrought, menacing atmosphere of Picnic at Hanging Rock, where girls also go missing.
Images of cloth and stitches thread the iconic midnight dress to the other strands of the narrative but the hints of sewing rituals and the cover image of the "sewn" title and buttons may wrongly deter some prospective readers. Instead, this impeccably weighted bildungsroman-mystery is a rare find that many readers will treasure.
Desire for a leisurely read to savour the story and its seductive writing will vie with intense curiosity to rush ahead and discover what really happened to the murdered girl in this alluring, mesmeric mystery". Joy Lawn, The Weekend Australian.
And the Mountain Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
"Khaled Hosseini needs little introduction. His debut The Kite Runner was on best seller lists all over the world and was made into a film. It is up there with the books that have had the greatest impact on me when reading them. His follow up A Thousand Splendid Suns was another beautifully crafted book, dealing with the women of Afghanistan.
His latest, And the Mountains Echoed, is again set in his country of birth, starting in the home of a poor family in a rural town. Two children have lost their mother and their father has remarried and had another child. His new wife's brother works in the city and the father leaves to travel there on the premise of finding work. The real reason is revealed and adds a further tragedy to the family that has already suffered so much. The results are far reaching and long lasting.
Hosseini has written another masterpiece - and I do not use that word often. He writes beautifully, it is original and so powerful. It left me devastated and has been added to the list I mentioned above. It is a credit to him that he writes about Afghanistan in a way that is revealing and has been so widely read. We can all learn so much from this man's books." Annie, Project Officer, TBBC.
"The relief and thrill are immense but the emotional investment is worth every word. The plot weaves stories about members of one family and the people around them. This is a book about the sibling relationship, with all its love, pain, hurt and betrayal. The result is a beautiful tapestry of words that affects and inspires. It is enriching without being too heavy. This year's must-read". The Sunday Mail.
"A decade after his bestselling debut novel The Kite Runner, Hosseini's third offering begins in familiar territory, pre-revolutionary Afghanistan, with a father's bedtime fairytale foretelling the tragic events to come. Spanning continents and generations, it is essentially a series of interconnected stories with a different character in each chapter offering some new insight into the cruel separation of a motherless boy, Abdullah, from his beloved sister Pari. As one character notes, there are "a thousand tragedies per square mile" in modern Afghanistan but this novel's themes are universal: sibling relationships, familial duty and love. There are no clear villains or heroes in this, at times, discomfiting novel. Hosseini leaves his readers, like his characters, unsure about whether our actions can ever truly be justified in the interests of the "greater good". Four stars". Carolyn Collins, The Advertiser.
Choice riffles through lives
"Khaled Hosseini's new novel, And the Mountains Echoed, skilfully investigates the ways in which our identities are shaped by decisions past and present.
This is a broad story stretching across generations and continents, bound with themes of familial obligation, shame and sacrifice - preoccupations that will be familiar to readers of the Afghanistan-born American writer's wildly popular earlier works, The Kite Runner (2003) and A Thousand Splendid Suns (2007).
And the Mountains Echoed opens with a folk story about a div, a monster that haunts Afghan villages. In each village, the div chooses a single house and steals one child in return for sparing the rest of the family. One father who loses a son travels to the monster's lair to retrieve him - only to discover his child's life there is very different from what he had imagined.
Pari and her brother Abdullah are a captive audience to this narrative. The two children are sitting in the middle of the desert listening to the storyteller, their father Saboor. Via flashbacks, we learn Pari and Abdullah lead a happy, if impoverished, existence in the Afghan village of Shadbagh in 1952.
The children are watched over by their father and their stepmother Parwana. An adoring brother, Abdullah collects exotic feathers for his sister, which she keeps in an old tin tea box under her bed.
Yet trouble is on the horizon for the family. Saboor is en route to Kabul with Pari and Abdullah to face a difficult choice: should he give up Pari to Nila - a wealthy and beautiful Afghan woman unable to have children of her own - or rear her with his wife in Shadbagh?
Nila is an artistic type who chafes against the restrictions on women in 1950s Kabul. She ignores her husband, drinks liquor and wears sleeveless dresses. Saboor decides to give up his daughter, and this choice reverberates throughout the lives of the wide array of characters in this novel.
In a series of small, sometimes overlapping stories we peer into the past of Saboor's family and the futures that proceed kaleidoscopically from his decision. Saboor's wife, Parwana, remembers an early, impulsive act of cruelty that had dire consequences for her more beautiful sister Masooma. Pari later in life struggles to build a happy life with Nila.
The novel widens its gaze to explore the fates of characters connected only tangentially to Saboor's family, recounting for example the life of a Greek plastic surgeon named Markos, who moves into Parwana's brother's house after the American invasion of Afghanistan, and an Afghan commander's child in a transformed Shadbagh in 2009, who uncovers his father's capacity for secrets.
So Hosseini casts a wide net. The fact he manages to anchor his epic narrative on Saboor's decision to give up Pari is a testament to his skills of carefully structured storytelling. There is a pleasant sense of unravelling when reading this book, of opening an elaborate series of Russian dolls: we observe the effect of Saboor's sacrifice on characters sometimes separated by many years or serious distances, connected to each other by the flimsiest of threads.
Interestingly the turbulent backdrop of this story, the history of Afghanistan, functions exactly as that. Hosseini seems to be reluctant to spend time narrating the chaos experienced by his native country. He prefers to present it through occasional side-on glimpses, relegating certain periods of time, such as the Taliban's rise to power or the American invasion - so endlessly documented, filmed, photographed and reported - to something akin to white noise.
As Parwana's brother Nabi explains in a letter to Markos: "You know well the recent history of this beleaguered country. I need not rehash for you those dark days. I tire at the mere thought of writing it, and, besides, the suffering of this country has already been sufficiently chronicled, and by pens far more learned and eloquent than mine."
Indeed this novel is strongest when depicting its characters' intimate thoughts, realisations - and hardenings. Parwana's jealousy of her beautiful sister Masooma is illustrated in all its hurtful power, for example.
Perhaps Hosseini is arguing for the value of taking a different approach to understanding his homeland, for focusing on individual lives and how they are affected by decisions global and local. We are all connected, he suggests.
The intricate structure of And the Mountains Echoed demonstrates the ways in which we ignore the complex forces that shape our sense of self. The lives lived by Hosseini's characters raise questions of individual autonomy: when other people and their decisions mould our identities, how independent are we - and, perhaps more significantly, what do we owe them?" Ella Delany, The Weekend Australian.
A Bitter Taste by Annie Hauxwell
"A Bitter Taste is the second crime novel by Annie Hauxwell, featuring Catherine Berlin. Berlin is a private investigator, attempting to find the 10 year old daughter of an old acquaintance, whom she introduced to heroin many years before. Still struggling with her own drug and alcohol problems, Berlin inhabits a world where no one is trustworthy, and everyone has their own agenda. A gripping read". Jodie.
"London is in the grip of a heatwave & Heroin addicted Investigator, Catherine Berlin has plenty to deal with, Corrupt Detectives, desperate junkies, a murder or two & trying to find a runaway ten year old girl. It's fast paced, gritty, dark & quirky. Berlin is definitely out of the ordinary". Nadine, Bookseller, Dymocks Burnside.
The Heaven I Swallowed by Rachel Hennessy
"The repression of post war Australia, with its racism and narrow, middle-class expectations, is captured perfectly by the author in this moving tale. Even though the story is of a stolen generation child it says far more about Grace, the woman who thinks she can give the young Aboriginal girl Mary a new start in life, and her narrow minded church community. Grace is running away from reality and it is fascinating and engaging as the reader increasingly empathises with Mary who appears to be the only one seeing the world with clarity.
In this introspective tale you cannot help but be touched, judge, think and react. How could Grace make so many assumptions when so much needs resolving in her own life? Were we as Australians ever as narrow, racist and judgemental as the story suggests? The book hits nerves all the way through and even though it leaves a lot unsaid the messages are very powerful. Take the journey for yourself; the tale comes to a satisfying resolution which seemed impossible to imagine at the outset but which makes it worth the effort". Jenny, Retired.
"There's not much love in Grace Smith's life, although it ... is formulated on Catholic custom and ideology. The Virgin Mary claims her early in a dream, the Heaven she swallows is the Eucharist and the local Catholic parish is the centre of her arid social life. Childless by mischance and the effects of recently ended World War II, Mrs Smith takes in an Aboriginal child, Mary, and shocked by the tell-tale darkness of her skin. She treats her as a servant and is ineptly, almost casually cruel to the girl, who runs away twice, but her life is profoundly altered by Mary's brief presence.
At first this book is extremely confronting and painful to read: Hennessy wrote it in response to John Howard's statement that Aboriginal children were taken from their families "for their own good" and drew on the stories of a part-Aboriginal grandmother, but she does a good deal more with Grace Smith then make her a white scapegoat. She is a complex, interesting character and the book develops in unexpected, and unexpectedly beguiling ways, leaving much to the reader's interpretation.
This fine, carefully crafted novel gives the reader much to ponder; coming out of the University of Adelaide's PhD program in Creative Writint". Katharine England, The Advertiser.
Sisters of Spicefield by Fran Cusworth
"The Sisters of Spicefield is about the complicated issue of parenthood in these times: be it IVF, donated embryos, overseas adoption, the issue of children with disabilities being less likely to be adopted, and unwanted pregnancy. The novel takes several twists and turns, and continues to raise more questions than it answers. Fans of Jodi Piccoult will love this novel". Jodie.
"I read and enjoyed Fran Cusworth's first book, The Love Child, then had her second, Hopetoun Wives, on my to read pile but unfortunately did not get to it at the time. I still have it and I just looked at her website and read the details again so I now want to go back and read this one - as always too many books too little time!
Her latest, Sisters of Spicefield, is another book where she deals with families and relationships, this time with the central issue of how we have children in this time of technology and how far we should go with it. Jessica and her husband Matt after failing to get pregnant naturally use IVF and have three children, a boy and twins, one of each. Jessica then falls pregnant naturally, as has happened to many women who have used IVF, and feels that her family is complete. They still have unused embryos created through the IVF process and she thinks that they have been blessed with the children they have while others are struggling to have them. In that spirit she decides to donate one of the embryos to a couple trying to have children. Her husband disagrees with her decision but allows her to go ahead asking her to never tell him whether a child has been born.
They then lose their youngest child and while they are coping with the grief of this loss a child turns up at school and Jessica recognises her as she looks so like her own children, and remembers the mother she met before she donated the embryo.
Her struggle with her feelings of loss for her son and of maternal longing for the child she has given away are handled sensitively. She initially does not tell her husband she has met the child and the fallout when she does is realistic. The parents of the child from the donated embryo have since separated and the mother has re-partnered creating more issues.
Jessica's twin sister, Abby, works in Thailand in an orphanage and her life and that of the children she cares for are contrasted sharply by the lives of her sister and her family and friends in Australia.
This book would be perfect for book groups as it raises many questions that would promote hearty discussions. See here for reading group questions from the publisher." Annie, Project Officer, TBBC.
Children of the Jacaranda Tree by Sahar Delijani
"Beginning with the birth of Neda in Tehran's Evin prison. Neda's mother Azar doesn't know if her husband is alive or if she will be allowed to keep her baby. Following the harrowing description of Neda's birth is the exploration of post-revolutionary Tehran and a series of character stories linked by their relationship to Maman Zinat. Each chapter tells the story of a different person, from political prisoners at the hands of interrogators to the children who spent their childhoods separated from their imprisoned parents. Delijani tells the tale of violence and atrocities with the pinnacle in 1988 when tens of thousands of political prisoners were assassinated in Iran. The book closes with Neda as a young adult, challenged by her relationship with Reza who admits that his father was a founder of the Revolutionary Guards, the wielders of the violence and fear described throughout the novel. Reza's father is mentioned in the early chapters,as the object of affection of the Sister in charge of Azar as she gives birth.
Iran remains central to the story at all times and as the book draws to a close, Delijani has entwined the stories and memories, reminding us that they should never be forgotten". Jen, Events Manager.
The Shadow Tracer by Meg Gardiner
"Sarah is a single parent to a 5 year old girl, Zoe. She works as a skip tracer and is an expert at finding people who don't want to be found. She uses these skills to live "off the grid" herself, and has spent the previous five years being prepared to disappear at a moments notice.
Following a bus accident, Zoe is taken to the local hospital, where the medical staff discover that Sarah is not Zoe's mother. Sarah manages to escape with Zoe, and then goes on the run. It is a complex plot, with the two being chased by members of a religious cult, the FBI an the police. All the characters are not who they originally seem to be, and each have their own reason to find Sarah and Zoe. Suspenseful and action packed". Jodie.
Man vs Child by Dominic Knight
"Dan McIntyre is an erstwhile, mildly-successful comedian who's been enjoying his child-hood for far too long. Faced with isolation and loneliness due to all his friends pairing off and reproducing, Dan finds that life isn't all it's cracked up to be when there's no friends left able to head out on the town anymore - well at least not past 9pm.
Jokes aside, this is an engaging book for so many reasons. Firstly, being based around the character of a comedian, it is significantly funnier than most books I've read, including the scripts of a number of his stand-up routines. Secondly, Dan is an incredibly likeable character, not least because he is brutally honest about his own feelings, neuroses and insecurities - how refreshing to read about a man that isn't all 'stiff upper lip'. And thirdly, the insertion of all things baby into Dan's very non-baby domain means that this book appeals to a much larger audience. Knight deals with topics that can traditionally be deigned 'women's territory' with aplomb and his descriptions of nappy changes, getting a child to sleep and public breast-feeding all had me laughing out loud.
This book is fast-paced, with well developed characters and enjoyable sub-plots. Knight also manages to keep the reader hanging for the finale, which is not what you would usually expect from a romantic comedy. Much enjoyed". Jasmine, Creator www.readtomychild.com.au.
Rough Diamond by Kathryn Ledson
"A debut Australian romantic comedy, action packed, entertaining and highly improbable. The heroine, Erica Jewell, is charming and naive. She has parents that are prehistoric, well at least Victorian, an ex-husband who is a gambler and, fortunately, a very good friend. Set mostly in Melbourne the events include a terrorist plot, a bomb scare, a secret unrequited homosexual obsession and the development of a love affair, consummated but with no apparent future. Racy and enjoyable". Marie, Retired.
The China Factory by Mary Costello
"The China Factory" is a collection of twelve short stories by Irish writer, Mary Costello.The theme common to most of the stories is of loss, be it through death, adoption, miscarriage, loss of love or trust, or moving on in life and leaving others behind.
The characters are so well written, that it is hard not to feel for the characters and their pain". Jodie.
Tourism in a treacherous environment
"In The Sewing Room, the final story in this fine debut collection by Irish writer Mary Costello, a young woman in trouble is giving up her little boy. He bites into an apple "with his small new teeth" and leaves "little nibbled marks on the tough skin". When she finds the nibbled apple in her bag two nights later, she'd rather have her head cut off than feel what she feels right then.
Costello's aim with each of the 12 stories in The China Factory is to make her characters feel different kinds of pain. There's the pain of lost opportunity, of personal failure and, most of all, of important moments that are all too brief, forever after begging to have been felt more strongly or more accurately seen.
This is a book that may take readers a little time to like. The title story, which opens the collection, is about a girl who works in a china factory - smells and textures are milked for all they're worth - until she finds a better life. It feels a little paint-by-numbers Alice Munro (with whom Costello has been compared): a crazed person enters the story from nowhere and changes its course; bad things befall the people the narrator has left behind.
The crucial elevation, which introduces Costello's singular narrative game, comes only on the final page. Here, it becomes clear the narrator both longs and does not long to have saved everybody else along with her. On the one hand, there's real altruism to her regret. On the other, if she had saved them, she would not have been the one who escaped.
This revelation is at once so cruel and bright and hopeless that it works almost like a classic plot twist. It also introduces the atmospheric conditions of this collection: turbulent and dark. It's tempting to frame The China Factory as a collection of Irish stories, using it to take the temperature of a foreign place - and indeed there's something particular to the characters' emotional make-ups that differs from those found in most contemporary Western fiction. We seem to value an ability to mix sadness and humour into a bittersweet, backhanded emotional punch. But Costello's people veer naturally and completely between these feelings; they're always equally vivid, but they're also kept discrete.
So while Costello pays almost no attention to physical landscape, it's literary tourism of a different kind. Her stories map internal topographies, people's brightest and darkest times. Since the moods of the stories are so liable to turn on a dime, the word you might choose for this environment is treacherous.
This Falling Sickness is a story that literalises this emotional landscape. It's about multiple people's coincidental deaths by falling, which parallel and embellish a marriage's metaphorical descent. But usually such events are kept snugly inside the characters, which puts a delicious set of perception-based problems into play. In Things I See, a woman in a lonely marriage chronicles the accumulated instances of distance between herself and her husband, being forced to think, "do I magnify the words and the pain and the silences? Do I?"
Almost all the stories examine issues between men and women; one story leaves a man thinking, "It is not the same for men at all." But of course it's pretty bleak for everyone.
Stitching thematically similar stories into a collection can be risky. But The China Factory is a collection that plays to its format's strengths. Since you know a character's gains in life will generally be fleeting, those gains begin to hum with their own pre-emptive nostalgias. You learn to appreciate the sublime moments - those teeth marks in that apple - more than the characters possibly can themselves. So while the prose is plain and confident - "In winter the cold silver river sliced through the valley" - Costello's real firepower is structural, both in terms of the individual stories and the total book. These stories resonate profoundly together, whether through powerful parallels or upsetting contrasts.
Best of all, Costello is unafraid to risk melodrama for the opportunity to display characters at their most vulnerable and raw. The stories are so well built that they can support real calamities and even, in one case, an honest-to-god twist. The main character in And Who Will Pay Charon? learns at the end of the story that a bad thing once happened to a woman, an event he could have stopped. But for how long? "Would a nod have saved her, altered her fate?" he wonders. "Or does fate defy alteration and play out as originally intended, a little later perhaps, a little differently?"
It's a good question. Fate has a way of findingthe characters in The China Factory, and it's rarely merciful when it does". Ronnie Scott, The Weekend Australian.
Not the Same Sky by Evelyn Conlon
"A story about Irish orphan girls brought to Australia on the Thomas Arbuthnot from Plymouth in 1849 during the Irish famine. Conlon uses the diary of the ship's Surgeon-Superintendent Charles Strutt but her characters are fictitious although their experiences are very believable. She emphasises the importance to the girls of forgetting their past, their families and their homes to survive in this new land. A moving study of dislocation and adjustment". Marie, Retired.
The Stalking of Julia Gillard by Kerry-Anne Walsh
"In trying to make sense of what has happened in Australian politics over the last 3 years and why we have all become so frustrated with political debate, or the lack of it, Kerry-Anne Walsh has picked up on a trail of evidence that has been left untouched by the mainstream media. She has written a real eye-opener here. Her entertaining style immediately catches your attention and turns this tortured political saga into a truly exciting expose. She uses only direct references to prove how Julia Gillard faced a never ending and destructive barrage from the media and goes on to give a valid rationale to explain why it got so much air time. The real traitor is Kevin Rudd, he is the one bent on revenge, and the book is highly convincing in detailing just how it was exacted.
The relentless media leaks and innuendo pushed out endlessly by 'Team Rudd' are eagerly snapped up by a willing and lazy media pack, hungry for hot news and easy headlines. Her thesis is that no-one bothered to ask the questions behind the constant stream of speculation about the leadership, why it kept appearing, turning up like a bad penny day after day, and who was orchestrating it. She leaves you in no doubt about the culprits and the reader is forced to question the validity and quality of not just an array of politicians but also many of the well-known political commentators, a vast number of whom come in for a battering.
This is a strong, well themed book, easy to read and very direct in its message. It gives a damming picture of politicians and the media alike and turns even the most ardent believer into a cynic. This is blood stirring stuff and anyone interested in Australian politics is bound to enjoy it". Jenny, Retired.
"SPOILER ALERT: The three-year destabilisation of former Prime Minister Julia Gillard worked. Kevin Rudd won. If only Walsh had held off publishing this insider look at the toppling of Julia Gillard til then. The Stalking, a forensic, excitable, searing and sarcastic summary of an astonishing time in Australian politics was published just before the climax, with a postscript just catching the whiff of the final, successful leadership kerfuffle. Walsh focuses on the role of the media in bringing down the nation's first female Prime Minister in a scathing look at how Canberra relationships and anonymous sources operate. Her bias is clear, her prose often rushed, but it's an important - and timely - chronicle of extraordinary events. Three stars". Tony Shepherd, The Advertiser.
Paradox at the heart of conflict
"If ever the deck was stacked against a prime minister, it was stacked against Julia Gillard. So goes the thesis of former The Daily Telegraph press gallery reporter - and, before that, Bob Hawke staff member - Kerry-Anne Walsh.
More a personal pro-Gillard diary than an objective analysis of recent events, Walsh's The Stalking of Julia Gillard does not pretend to be a definitive account of the government that was routed last month.
Rather, it is a series of observations about a politician who, Walsh believes, "was never given a fair go: not in the media, not by Rudd, not by some in caucus". The unambiguous subtitle - How the Media and Team Rudd Contrived to Bring Down the Prime Minister - makes it clear this is a partisan tome. It needs to be approached as such.
From the beginning Walsh, too, wears her political heart on her sleeve. For example, she maintains that, among the press gallery during the three years of Gillard's minority government, there "seemed to be a lack of appetite for rigorous assessment of Rudd the man and Rudd the politician, and of his motives, and the devastating impact he was having".
On the other hand, she says at the same time Rudd and his so-called minions in the press and the Labor Party were deliberately undermining her, Gillard was "continually cast as a liar and policy charlatan, and lampooned for her hair, clothes, accent, arse, even the way she walk[ed] and talk[ed]".
Hence the stacked deck premise.
Yet a problem with all of this is that Gillard arguably ran the most incompetent federal government since that of William "Billy" McMahon, who was Liberal prime minister from March 10, 1971, to December 5, 1972. And that really is saying something.
Of particular interest is Walsh's analysis of Rudd's aborted putsch on the afternoon of Thursday March 21 this year, and its aftermath.
After Rudd and some members of his team had egged on that thoroughly decent politician Simon Crean to organise a leadership challenge to Gillard, at the last minute Rudd announced he had always said that he wouldn't challenge the Prime Minister and he wasn't going to now: "I believe in honouring my word ... Others take such commitments lightly, I do not ... I have been very plain about that for a long period of time ... I have given that word. I gave it solemnly in that room after the last ballot and I will adhere to that word today."
According to Walsh, Rudd's last-minute announcement that he wasn't standing for the leadership was "an act of mammoth self-serving political bastardry, and an exercise in deluded spin and nonsense".
Crean certainly thought so: Rudd not running, he said, "was never part of the discussions we had". An indignant Crean told Canberra reporters: "[Rudd] reneged on our deal, it was gutless." To top it off, Crean then told this newspaper: "[The] argument that [Rudd] had said he wouldn't challenge, in my view is a nonsense."
Yet the day after what Walsh describes as "the greatest piece of theatre of the absurd ever to play in Parliament House", a seemingly breezy and unaffected Rudd called a press conference in Brisbane to say that he would "never, ever seek the leadership of the Labor Party again".
The most revealing words in The Stalking of Julia Gillard come out of Rudd's own mouth. Here are three of his statements to consider, and to savour.
On February 22 last year, Rudd said: "There is no way, no way, I would ever be party to a stealth attack on a sitting prime minister elected by the people." On February 27, after losing 71 to 31 in his challenge to Gillard, Rudd committed himself to putting his "every effort into securing Julia Gillard's re-election as Labor Prime Minister at the next election". Then, after the coup of March 21 this year that never happened, Rudd was absolutely unambiguous when he stated there would be "no circumstances" under which he would ever lead Labor again.
Politics is a strange and duplicitous world indeed and Walsh's readable book highlights this - although it needs to be understood in the context of her Gillard-loving, Rudd-hating partisan and personal perspective". Ross Fitzgerals, The Weekend Australian.
Word Hunters: The Dictionary by Nick Earls and Terry Whidbourne
"Nick Earls is a master of words.
Word Hunters centres on twins Lexi & Al who are poles apart in their own world, but end up totally drawn into a mysterious, often dangerous yet wonderful world of words.
The twins stumble upon a dictionary tucked away and their world changes forever; unbeknown to them they are Word Hunters, like their Grandfather before them.
Every so often a word is at risk, and it's up to word hunters to track down every step of its past to keep it alive in the present. From the Battle of Hastings, to ancient cities they've never heard of, to encounters with great inventors, word hunters might find themselves anywhere any time dealing with anything.
This action packed story is utterly unique, totally captivating and wonderfully sophisticated. And best of all it's a series... Book 2 and 3 are out now.
How did Nick develop Word Hunters...? Check out the blog he wrote for WestWords... its brilliant". Sue, General Manager, TBBC.
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