Post Script: Salt Story – Sarah Drummond

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Salt Story of Sea-Dogs and Fisherwomen

Sarah Drummond

Fremantle Press

ISBN: 9781922089069

 

Description:

In this warm, lively, salty account of living on and by the sea, Drummond writes of fishing and feuds, of life as an apprentice fisherwoman, and of all the fish that got away.

Salt Story pays homage to sea-dogs, fisherwomen, oystermen and storytellers everywhere.

‘Too few writers capture the essence of now: the flavour, smell, feel, language. But Sarah Drummond has done it. This is real, but you know this way of life won’t last. Her account of a fishing community on the south coast of Western Australia is a gift. Salt—a real person but not his real name—delivers his philosophy while teaching Sarah the tricks, craft and dodges of making a living from the sea. Salt should be sent to lecture in the corridors of Canberra and corporate board rooms.

 

My View:

Let me shre one of my favourite descriptions in this book, for this is a book of poetic language and earthy salty colloquialisms and rustic sepia drawings melded into a beautiful narrative: (p. 25) “Wheat silos, smooth white chrysalids, stood among the praying mantis gantry and chugging conveyor belts, orange lights, steaming mountains of woodchips, ships high on the water out in the Sound. All night, the port worked to clear the backlog. Ships in, ships out. Breathe in, breath out.” This is just one example of the visual writing that is Salt Story. I can see so clearly in my mind’s eye this large metal Praying Mantis – the description is just perfect!

 

This is a beautifully written story filled with personal accounts of small scale commercial fishing in the town of Albany Western Australia, a life and a community you can feel is on the brink of extinction…or is it? Small scale commercial (Estuarine fishing in this case) are largely family run business and as such have a vested interested in keeping fish stocks at a sustainable level for the next generations.

 

Snapshots of life in this community are told in a real and personal way, Sarah Drummond spent many years working an unofficial apprenticeship with a larger than life local fisherman, “Salt” – this is their story, their history and a glimpse of a world so few of us will experience or happen upon.

 

And did I mention the illustrations in this book? I fell in love with these sepia reproductions – a piece of history in themselves.

 

A thoroughly enjoyable read told with passion and integrity. This is creative memoir at its best.

 

Erebus & Terror scan 1-1

(image – Salt Story – Same Tribe As Me – Introduction)

Post Script: Hello From The Gillespies – Monica McInerney

Hello from the Gillespies

Monica McInerney

Penguin Books Australia

Michael Joseph

ISBN: 9781921901812

 

Description:

For more than thirty years, Angela Gillespie has sent friends and family around the world an end-of-year letter titled ‘Hello from the Gillespies’. It’s always been cheery and full of good news. This year, Angela surprises herself – she tells the truth . . .

 

The Gillespies are far from the perfect family that Angela has made them out to be. Her husband seems to be having a mid-life crisis. Her grown-up twins are having career meltdowns. Her third daughter, badly in debt, can’t stop crying. And her ten-year-old son spends more time talking to his imaginary friend than to real ones.

 

Without Angela, the family would fall apart. But when Angela is taken from them in a most unexpected manner, the Gillespies pull together – and pull themselves together – in wonderfully surprising ways . . .

 

From the bestselling author of The House of Memories comes a funny and heartfelt novel about miscommunication and mayhem in a family like no other.

 

 

My View:

Contemporary issues enveloped in a cloak of love.

 

This is such a surprising read – glance quickly over it and you will discover a family story with characters that you identify with or have met along your way in life but this novel is so much more than the individuals in it; it is a story about the struggles of modern day Australians whether they live in regional or city communities, for all the issues here affect us all in one way or another.

 

Aside from a family that is as functional as any I or you may know, with adult children returning to the family home, midlife crisis’s, relationship issues, communication break downs, career crisis’s and the various stresses of modern life we meet a family that is also dealing with a tough life on the land; drought, potential mining on agricultural land, depression, isolation, to name a few issues, throw plenty of challenges into this mix. But it is not a depressing story – it is a heartfelt story peppered with humour and a touch of romance or two and hope – it is about life.

 

But more than these issues this is a story of a family and a mother who has recently discovered she has lost her own sense of self; she has been swallowed up by the social and physical environment she lives in and by her role as mother. For me this is the pivotal part of the narrative. Monica McInerney shines a subtle light on issues that mature aged women face today; life can stagnate, women especially become caught up in supporting all those around us leaving little energy or time for themselves. The joy of life can be missing.

 

You can read this novel lightly and enjoy a palatable tale of rural life and crazy exploits. You can read it on the train or plane or by the beach. You will enjoy the sense of fun and the satisfying conclusion. You can choose to look deeper, at the issues it presents and you can think and learn and maybe decide to talk, really talk and listen; to your mother or sister or good friend or your husband or partner and really get to understand some of what they are thinking.

 

A great read.

 

 

Post Script: The Golden Boys – Sonya Hartnett

Evil lurks under the surface.

Golden Boys

The Golden Boys

Sonya Hartnett

Penguin Australia

Hamish Hamilton

ISBN: 9781926428611

 

 

Description:

Sonya Hartnett’s third novel for adults is perfectly formed and utterly compelling, an unflinching and disquieting work from one of Australia’s finest writers.

 

Colt Jenson and his younger brother Bastian live in a world of shiny, new things – skateboards, slot cars, train sets and even the latest BMX. Their affluent father, Rex, has made sure that they’ll be the envy of the new, working-class suburb they’ve moved to.

But underneath the surface of the perfect family, is there something unsettling about the Jensons? To the local kids, Rex becomes a kind of hero, but Colt senses there’s something in his father that could destroy their fragile new lives.

 

My View:

A book that slowly draws you into its grasp into a time of childhood innocence, of BMX bikes and playing in the local storm water drain, of BBQ’s with the neighbours… a time when kids could be adventurers and start to develop their own identity and work out their place in the world. However all is not quite what it seems, the story told through the eyes of the children in the two families that are spotlighted in this narrative are wise for their age but have not yet learnt how to deal with their wisdom. We watch them struggle to cope with realisations that their family is not quite like everyone else’s and that feelings of love and hate are not mutually exclusive within the family unit.

 

The story opens with a display of parental teasing and Colt clearly sees the action for what it really is – a display of power over, her reflects; “There’s always some small cruelty, an unpleasant little hoop to be crawled through before what’s good may begin; here is the gift, but first you must guess its colour.” And so even at this early point in the novel Hartnett foreshadows the power plays that will form the crux of this story, power over and manipulation form the structure this narrative is welded to.

 

This is a finely drawn picture of life in the 70’s in Australian suburbia that does not skimp on domestic detail and family dysfunction. Issues that are “family secrets” are explored and laid bare. I think one of the reasons I felt drawn to this story aside from the poignant characterisations was the ability this narrative had to take me back to my own childhood, I too was a teenager in the 70’s and found life not always that easy. I could empathise with the main characters. I could relate to these times.

 

 

This is a disquieting read. The conclusion is confronting.

Post Script: Dark Horse – Honey Brown

Such a surprising conclusion – I didn’t see this coming

Dark Horse

Honey Brown

Penguin Books Australia

Michael Joseph

ISBN: 9781921901539

 Description:

It’s Christmas morning on the edge of the rugged Mortimer Ranges. Sarah Barnard saddles Tansy, her black mare. She is heading for the bush, escaping the reality of her broken marriage and her bankrupted trail-riding business.

 

Sarah seeks solace in the ranges. When a flash flood traps her on Devil Mountain, she heads to higher ground, taking shelter in Hangman’s Hut.

 

She settles in to wait out Christmas.

 

A man, a lone bushwalker, arrives. Heath is charming, capable, handsome. But his story doesn’t ring true. Why is he deep in the wilderness without any gear? Where is his vehicle? What’s driving his resistance towards rescue? The closer they become the more her suspicions grow.

 

But to get off Devil Mountain alive, Sarah must engage in this secretive stranger’s dangerous game of intimacy.

  

My View:

Honey Brown has again written a deeply moving and confronting narrative – again she chooses to put the difficult subjects in the forefront of our minds and challenges us to reassess the story and the issues she has presented us.

The setting is incredible – the Australian bush setting is so authentic, believable and beautiful yet dangerous; you can feel the author’s passion for the setting.

 

This book took me totally by surprise – I was expecting something along the lines of Through The Cracks, Honey Brown’s most recently released novel, something more … honest and open but what I got was a good case of “the unreliable narrator” who fooled me with her innocence and sorrow, her story of love lost, infidelity and divorce…and then the “truth” is revealed and I am so confused, I look again, I think back, I rethink…was I fooled or was I reading one person’s truth, one person’s perspective, a selective memory but a memory all the same or am I reading one person’s delusion? What a conundrum. What a fascinating read. I guarantee you will not see this ending coming!

 

Post Script: A Morbid Habit – Annie Hauxwell

A Morbid Habit

A Catherine Berlin Novel

Annie Hauxwell

Penguin Books Australia

Michael Joseph

ISBN: 9780143799665

 

Description:

Christmas is looming, and investigator Catherine Berlin is out of a job. Broke, and with a drug habit that’s only just under control, she quickly agrees when an old friend offers her work. It’s a simple investigation with a generous fee, looking into the dealings of a small-time entrepreneur. The only catch? It’s in Russia.

 

But when Berlin arrives in Moscow, things are not so straightforward. Shadowy figures stalk her through the frozen streets. She’s kicked out of her hotel, her all-important medication confiscated by police. Strung out and alone, Berlin turns to her interpreter, an eccentric Brit named Charlie. But Charlie’s past is as murky as Berlin’s own, and when the subject of the investigation disappears, Berlin realises Charlie may be part of the web. The only way out is to hunt down the truth, even if it kills her.

 

 

My View:

Morbid Habit is a contemporary mystery/crime novel that is liberally laced with scenarios that could feasibly occur in today’s political and social climate. Deception, political manoeuvring, phone hacking, elements of “big brother” and the very popular “legally correct” process of being seen to be acting with “due diligence” (forgive my cynicism, it has been earned over time), these aspects are cleverly woven into this novel, all exist in the landscape of the modern world that we live in today; Hauxwell has established a setting that is both real and possible and this potential adds an extra layer of tension to the narrative.

 

And settings are what this book revels in! The cold, the sense of isolation and hopelessness is finely drawn. The bleakness, the greyness of London and Russia is demonstrated with fine brush strokes. The tough existence for those on/below the poverty line is painful to read, the solidarity expressed by those in similar circumstances is uplifting, Hauxwell writes as if she has experienced these worlds.

 

The plot is complicated and interesting – you are never really sure who side anyone is on or what the truth is. The truth is… unpalatable.

 

Hauxwell’s characters are tough, corrupt, flawed. The protagonist however is strong, principled and carries the scars of many battles. Her life has not been easy, I hope there is some reprieve for her down the track.

Post Script: Lost & Found – Brooke Davis

Tantalisingly honest and thought provoking. The voice of Just Millie is enchanting and engaging and will break and then mend your heart. 

Lost & Found

Brooke Davis

Hachette Australia

Hachette Australia

ISBN: 9780733632754

Description:

Millie Bird (aka Captain Funeral), seven-years old and ever hopeful, always wears red gumboots to match her red, curly hair. Her struggling mother leaves Millie in a local department store and never returns.

Agatha Pantha, eighty-two, has not left her house – or spoken to another human being – since she was widowed seven years ago. She fills the silences by yelling at passers by, watching loud static on the TV and maintaining a strict daily schedule.

Karl the Touch Typist, eighty-seven, once used his fingers to type out love notes on his wife’s skin. Now he types his words out into the air as he speaks. Karl is moved into a nursing home but in a moment of clarity and joy, he escapes.

A series of events binds the three together on a road trip that takes them from the south coast of WA to Kalgoorlie and along the Nullarbor to the edge of the continent. Millie wants to find her mum. Karl wants to find out how to be a man. And Agatha just wants everything to go back to how it was.

They will discover that old age is not the same as death, that the young can be wise, and that letting yourself experience sadness just might be the key to life.

 

My View:

What an incredible debut novel – this narrative is sad, sweet, funny, enchanting, engaging and tackles life’s big questions without fear, with honesty and store mannequin called Manny! The main characters in this story share so much about what makes them human – warts, strengths, wrinkles and all. In this book we discover that old age is not the same as death… that we are all going to die one day…why don’t we talk openly and honestly about the future, about life and death and how we cope with loss– these experiences are inevitable and will affect those around us and ourselves of course, one day…and yet these events/experiences are so much a mystery, a taboo, we could all do with a little Just Millie aka Captain Funeral inside us prompting us to ask the awkward or uncomfortable, seeking honesty not platitudes.

 

I loved this narrative. I loved the main characters; gum booted Just Millie, Agatha Pantha and Karl the Typist, such fun and outrageous personalities, I loved reading their coming of age stories.  The voice of Just Millie charmed and engaged me and made me shed a tear. This author writes with such wonderful insights, this is a charm to read.

 

 

 

Post Script: What Came Before – Anna George

What Came Before

Anna George

Penguin Books Australia

Viking

ISBN: 9780670077731

 

Description:

‘My name is David James Forrester. I’m a solicitor. Tonight, at 6.10, I killed my wife. This is my statement.’

 

David sits in his car, sick to his stomach and barely able to order his thoughts, but determined to record his statement of events. His wife, Elle, hovers over her lifeless body as it lies on the laundry floor of the house they shared. David thinks back on their relationship – intimate, passionate, intense – and what led to this violent endpoint. Elle traces their shared past as well and her version of events gradually reveals how wrong she was about the man she’d loved.

 

Dark, atmospheric and gripping, What Came Before is a stunning literary thriller about the risks you take when you fall in love.

 

My View:

After reading this book the hardest question I must ask myself is which part of me responds to this book and therefore determines how the review will be written; is it the view point of a Women’s Studies Graduate (B Soc Sc), is it the view point of a once upon a time worker in a Women’s Refuge, is it the viewpoint of a worker in the Film and Television Industry, is the view point of a passionate crime fiction/psychological thriller reader or the view point of a modern mature woman who has experienced some of the manipulation and violence described in this novel? I think the answer to this question is a complicated one but I guess I will write a little from all perspectives and maybe a whole lot about how I responded to this brilliant expose of domestic violence and *limerence which coincidentally is the title of the film Elle writes in this novel – her story one of a of life imitating film… the script Dave helped to create.

 

Anan George writes a compelling narrative about spinning out of control with the giddiness of love; the type of love written about in romance books, portrayed on the big and little screen, of intense attachments and the willingness to suspend any doubts or faults of the person you attach the limerence to- besotted, infatuated, devoted…in love… doesn’t begin to describe the intensity of the feeling that you need to be reciprocated. You cannot survive without your partner and when cracks in the relationship start to show you work hard to cover them up and believe you can help mend these ugly traits.  You ignore the little warnings, hairs that rise on the back of your neck, the words spoken harshly or loudly, the grip on your arm… the simmering below the surface barely controlled violence you can feel – you tell yourself you can change them (you can’t), you blame yourself for causing the black moods (you didn’t), you look for excuses to tell yourself or try to placate the violator and try and diffuse any anger before it explodes; you become responsible for his rage (how can that be?). Eventually the limerence fades and you are stuck in a relationship that most find hard to escape without help – and the violator has already done a really good job of isolating you from your friends and support networks – work and personal and has brow beaten your self-esteem to a tatter, all that is left is an unravelling thread…Such is the love Elle feels for Dave. Such is the damage he inflicts upon her.

 

To say this is a powerful emotional read is an understatement. To say this is a powerful psychological thriller is simply stating the truth. Anna George generates such authentic voices in the voices of Dave and of Elle; the script between them, internalised and spoken is so potent and accurate the hairs on the back of my neck were standing up!  These two characters are intricately and vibrantly drawn.

 

Thorough this narrative we experience some very poignant revelations and some very clever use of stories within the story; Elle reads a book by Katherine Hepburn who painfully disclosures her own sad relationship with Spencer Tracey – a love that diminished her sense of self; “after almost three decades with Spencer Tracy, the great Kate hadn’t known why she stayed with him. She hadn’t known his feelings for her. But she’d tended to him happily and tried hard not to ruffle him. She’d even tried to forsake some of her best qualities because she suspected he didn’t like them. Because what they had, for her at least, was bliss.” Elle eventually recognises that she too has surrendered her own sense of self to appease her husband and subdue the menace that lives within him. Her film now imitates the life she now has – of two dancers out of sync, out of step… involved in a dangerous dance.

Elle’s life, like so many others, is one where domestic violence is a lesson learned firsthand. As Elle states; “She was taught nothing of the risks posed by those who claim to love you, the risks that manifest at night in family kitchens, or after the party. It would have helped, she thought, if someone had explained the warning signs: the mood swings and outbursts. And what they were; covert attempts to control. Then she could have had a language and a context for how she felt today. Better she would have been forewarned.” Thanks Anna George for opening up this dialogue, for giving us words and language and emotions and consequences that enable such conversations to be had.

 

Control…treating women as objects, possessions, using violence, threats, manipulation and abuse; physical, sexual and psychological (and in some cases economic control over) are all part of the bag of tricks used to control others (usually women). As Reg (retired Queen’s Counsel) states to Dave “You cannot kill your wife because you have lost control of her…And we cannot continue to blame women for their death.”… “I gather you were hoping for reconciliation and she was being difficult? What precisely did she say or do?”Reg suggests it is preferable to face the consequences than hide from them…no chance. Dave cannot take any control or responsibility for his actions. It is always someone else’s fault. “She made me….”

 

Back to the book- a stunning cast, a wonderfully complex plot, a few twists and turns and a surprise ending; drama, tragedy, love, marriage, death, violence- real and perceived …dark and atmospheric, this book has it all and shares it’s story powerfully and honestly.

 

 

 

*Limerence is an involuntary state of mind which results from a romantic attraction to another person combined with an overwhelming, obsessive need to have one’s feelings reciprocated. The psychologist Dorothy Tennov coined the term “limerence” in her 1979 book Love and Limerence: The Experience of Being in Love to describe the concept that had grown out of her work in the mid-1960s, when she interviewed over 500 people on the topic of love.[1]

More recently, limerence has been defined in relation to obsessive compulsive disorder as “an involuntary interpersonal state that involves intrusive, obsessive, and compulsive thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that are contingent on perceived emotional reciprocation from the object of interest”.[2] Limerence has also been defined in terms of the potentially inspirational effects and the relationship to attachment theory, which is not exclusively sexual, as being “an involuntary potentially inspiring state of adoration and attachment to a limerent object involving intrusive and obsessive thoughts, feelings and behaviors from euphoria to despair, contingent on perceived emotional reciprocation” Attachment theory emphasizes that “many of the most intense emotions arise during the formation, the maintenance, the disruption, and the renewal of attachment relationships”.[4] It has been suggested that “the state of limerence is the conscious experience of sexual incentive motivation” during attachment formation: “a kind of subjective experience of sexual incentive motivation”[5] during the “intensive…pair-forming stage”[6] of human affectionate bonding. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Limerence