Robin Dalton’s exhilarating books – great Christmas presents

December 2, 2017 at 1:32 am | Posted in Aunts up the Cross, Australian memoir, Comic memoirs, humour, One Leg Over, Present giving, Robin Dalton | 1 Comment
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High dramatic comedy

Death was ‘always present, cosily accepted’ in Robin Dalton’s 1930s childhood in Kings Cross, Sydney. As a single child in a house full of eccentrics, the fairy tales she was told were the amusing accounts of how her relatives met their ends.

Her 85-year-old great-aunt Julia was knocked over by a bus. This bus was travelling slowly, in the right direction. It was Great-Aunt Julia who was, characteristically, walking very fast, in the wrong direction. Great-Uncle Spot fell off a ladder while changing a light bulb. A great-aunt died as a child from eating green apples and another from blowing up a balloon. The author’s great-grandfather died while reading Uncle Vanya and her Uncle Ken, a soldier in Gallipoli, was killed not in action but from a fatal bite of sugar. (Clearly an early casualty of the ‘Sweet Poison’ we’re hearing a lot about now – see davidgillespie.org and www.sarahwilson.com )

Dalton’s Aunts up the Cross is still in print, I’m happy to see – originally Penguin and now a Text Classic – and it would make a great Christmas present. There is not a word wasted, every word is elegant, and nearly every word is funny. Continue Reading Robin Dalton’s exhilarating books – great Christmas presents…

Brave books about love

October 20, 2016 at 7:01 pm | Posted in Australian memoir, Australian novels, Democracy, English journalism, Father/son memoirs, Writing | Leave a comment
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unexpectedelementsI’m back after an orgy of reading. I was still putting piles of library books in the basket of my Trek bicycle and racing home to devour them when I suddenly got another writing job. Before that, one of the many authors I read was the person everyone’s talking about: Liane Moriaty and her recent Truly, Madly, Guilty.

I was a bit annoyed at that title, derived as it is from a favourite Anthony Minghella film, Truly Madly, Deeply (1991; you can watch it on You Tube though of course you’ll get more out of it on a big screen). It’s a film I loved and which could be categorised as Blithe Spirit meets Night of the Living Dead, in other words, a bereavement film told in a truly original voice. Continue Reading Brave books about love…

A divided world – depicting the lives of refugees

June 19, 2016 at 11:31 pm | Posted in Australian memoir, refugee writing | 1 Comment
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Australia to Z


‘Refugees live in a divided world, between countries in which they cannot live and countries which they may not enter.’ Elie Wiesel, Romanian-born Holocaust survivor, writer and Nobel Peace Prize winner, said this. He believes that it is the moral responsibility of all people to fight hatred, racism and genocide.

After World War II the international community set up a system for helping refugees, those who could not return to their countries ‘owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular group or political opinion’ (United Nations). Continue Reading A divided world – depicting the lives of refugees…

Boy, Lost – a compelling memoir

April 5, 2016 at 11:57 pm | Posted in Australian memoir, Kristina Olsson | Leave a comment
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Boy,LostCroppedJPGBoy, Lost (University of Queensland Press, 2013) is a fascinating and compelling memoir by Kristina Olsson and her luminous prose elevates it to an even higher level. This book feels transcendent with a mother’s love. The author gains profound insight on her journey to trace the steps of her mother and of her lost brother, and she shares these with her readers in a gripping narrative.

As Yvonne, the author’s mother, boarded a train on Cairns railway station in 1950, attempting to escape from a brutal marriage, her abusive husband appeared and snatched her baby son Peter from her arms.

Later the authorities persuaded Yvonne that the boy was better off with his father and that in any case, as a deserting wife, she had no rights, nor any means of financial support. Yvonne was pregnant with a second child when she escaped. Some months later, Peter’s sister (the author’s older half-sister) is born ‘to a mother already grieving the things she cannot give her: a father, a brother, a home.’ (p. 68)

Continue Reading Boy, Lost – a compelling memoir…

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