Post Script: A Single Breath- Amanda Apthorpe

A Single Breath

A Single Breath
Amanda Apthorpe
Atlas Productions
ISBN: 9780994182296

Description:
When the first hate letter arrives in the days after her patient, Bonnie’s death, obstetrician Doctor Dana Cavanagh reads it with shaking hands before placing it next to the small news article of the court’s verdict: not guilty.

Hate letters continue to trickle in, but one stands out from the others—a cryptic message with a tiny marble stone, its origin—Kos, Greece, the birthplace of Hippocrates. She had once proudly sworn his oath, “I will give not deadly medicine.”

Accompanied by her sister Madeleine, Dana follows the mystery of the letter to Kos. The arrival of two more letters, and the strange appearances of a woman, beckon her to Italy and England. Despairing for her sanity, Dana persists in her crusade to come to terms with being implicated in the death of another.

 

My View:
Some great analogies and references to mythology surrounding women, women as nurturers, women in nature, as creators, healers, women and giving birth etc mashed up with a little bit of mystery and spiritualism. This book is quite an interesting read but not quite the full on mystery I was expecting. More a book about self-awareness, self-discovery, blame, grief and coming to terms with the circle of life.
Some beautifully written passages and reflections on life/death and birth/re birth.

There is a very feminist tone to this narrative – women as supporters, healers and nurturers reclaiming the medicalization by men of women’s bodies, in particularly the process of birthing.

An interesting read.

Post Script: Girl Waits With Gun – Amy Stewart

Girl Waits With Gun

Girl Waits With Gun

Amy Stewart

Scribe

ISBN: 9781925321326

 

Description:

From the New York Times best-selling author of The Drunken Botanist comes an enthralling novel based on the forgotten true story of one of the nation’s first female deputy sheriffs.

 

New York Times Book Review

“Constance Kopp doesn’t quite fit the mould. She towers over most men, has no interest in marriage or domestic a airs, and has been isolated from the world since a family secret sent her and her sisters from the city to the country fifteen years before. When a powerful, ruthless factory owner runs down their buggy, a dispute over damages turns into a war of bricks, bullets, and threats as he unleashes his gang on their farm. The sheriff enlists her help, and it turns out that Constance has a knack for outwitting (and disarming) the criminal element, which might just take her back out into the world and onto a new path in life.

 

Through Amy Stewart’s exuberant storytelling, Constance Kopp catapults from a forgotten historical anecdote to an unforgettable historical- action heroine — an outsized woman not only ahead of her time, but sometimes even ahead of ours.

The real Constance was born in Brooklyn in 1878. According to newspaper reports, she was six feet tall and weighed 180 pounds. Over the years she had tried to study to be a nurse or a lawyer but her mother discouraged it. She once told a reporter that she had no interest in marriage which, in those days, would have almost certainly meant staying home. She said, “Some women prefer to stay at home and take care of the house. Let them. Others want something to do that will take them out among people and affairs. A woman should have the right to do any sort of work if she wants to, provided she can do it.’’

 

 

My View:

A creative biography? Possibly. A historical crime fiction? The author comments in the Historical and Source Notes, Acknowledgments (p. 405) that this is a work of historical fiction based on real events and real people. And what a great read it is; it is a delightful character based narrative (the sort of narrative I really love), it has strong female protagonists (another tick of approval here) that are creating history by actively yet quietly and without fuss, leading a life that is not the proscribed for women in that era i.e. they are independent, they live without the protection of a man which defies the norm of the day (1914), and marriage is an option not likely to be discussed in their daily conversations. This are liberated women, living life quietly and respectfully, expecting to be treated as equals, an attitude that deserves an applause in any era.

 

Living quietly…until a bully makes life difficult and shooting lessons are required. Such an intriguing story, told with passion but without bloodiness or excesses but still evoking fear and tension whilst delivering threatening situations. Full of social commentary there are many lessons to be learned here. There is humour, there is life in this book and I just loved it. I think you will too. Constance, I have am very pleased to have met you, likewise Amy Stewart.

 

 

Post Script: The Butterfly Enigma – Lorraine Campbell

Cover The Butterfly Enigma

The Butterfly Enigma

Lorraine Campbell

McIntosh Publishing

ISBN: 9780994338723

 

Description:

A thrilling new novel from the author of the ‘Resisting the Enemy’ series. Lena, the lost child… Found wandering the streets of wartime Paris. No-one knows her real name or where she came from. Australia in the ‘Swinging Sixties.’ Lena is working in the Melbourne Law Courts. One day in court she hears a man’s voice. A voice that sounds hauntingly familiar. A voice that chills her to the core. Is it possible that this man has something to do with her unknowable past? Lena embarks on a search for more. A newspaper story. A history. A connection. And slowly, layer by layer, the past is peeled away, revealing a picture of evil involving thousands of lives and touching on Lena’s own personal tragedy. ‘The Butterfly Enigma’ ranges from the submarine-patrolled sea lanes of the Baltic to the staid courtrooms of mid-sixties Australia, to the island of Crete, to Paris, Tel Aviv and the inner workings of the Mossad, and to Rio de Janeiro. A gripping story of one young woman’s search for her lost past. Above all, her passionate and overwhelming desire for justice and retribution.

 

 

My View:

It is very interesting how two people can read the same book so differently – a good reason to have an open mind and check out books which might not necessarily be in your favoured genre – as long as the reviews are positive. I read an online review that stated that this book is about love and romance – not my view at all!

 

I read this book as a powerful narrative about a strong women embracing the beginning of the feminist movement in Melbourne in the 1960’s – a woman who wanted to and did make decisions for herself, a woman who was comfortable in her own skin, a woman striving to be self-reliant, a positive woman and overall a very determined and pragmatic woman; I could not believe the choices she made in Rio. (No spoilers here).

 

This narrative of feminism, Melbourne in the 1960’s and one woman’s strength is but one element of this multi-dimensional story. We hear the personal stories of war time 1940’s from the viewpoints of Lena’s mother as she struggles to protect her child firstly in Latvia and later in Paris as the ethnocentric war against Jewish people begins, from the captain who provided safe passage to those escaping Latvia on his ship, from Lena’s auntie in Paris and the historical accounts of war via the records of the newspapers and courts of the time, the Berlin Document Centre, trials of war criminals and other such resources. I dare you not to be moved but these accounts.

 

The stories and voices here overlap and intertwine offering the reader a rich and vibrant narrative. I loved every word on every page; such an exquisite and engaging narrative. Love story? That is not how I read this book; a multifaceted story of feminism, war crimes, retribution, courage and strength and complex relationships. Yes there are relationships in this novel – what novel concerning people wouldn’t be complete without the interactions between characters? Maybe the word lovers as opposed to love story is more fitting here? You be the judge.

 

 

 

 

Post Script: I Call Myself A Feminist – The View From Twenty-Five Women Under Thirty – Edited by Victoria Pepe, Rachel Holmes, Amy Annette, Alice Stride, Martha Mosse

Cover I Call Myself A Feminist

I Call Myself A Feminist

Victoria Pepe (Ed, Rachel Holmes (Ed), Amy Annette (Ed), Martha Mosse (Ed), Alice Stride (Ed)

Hachette Australia

Virago

ISBN: 97803490065550

 

 

Description:

Is feminism still a dirty word? We asked twenty-five of the brightest, funniest, bravest young women what being a feminist in 2015 means to them.

 

We hear from Laura Bates (of the Everyday Sexism Project), Reni Eddo-Lodge (award-winning journalist and author), Yas Necati (an eighteen-year-old activist), Laura Pankhurst, great-great granddaughter of Emmeline Pankhurst and an activist in her own right, comedian Sofie Hagen, engineer Naomi Mitchison and Louise O’Neill, author of the award-winning feminist Young Adult novel Only Ever Yours. Writing about a huge variety of subjects, we have Martha Mosse and Alice Stride on how they became feminists, Amy Annette addressing the body politic, Samira Shackle on having her eyes opened in a hostel for survivors of acid attacks in Islamabad, while Maysa Haque thinks about the way Islam has informed her feminism and Isabel Adomakoh Young insists that women don’t have to be perfect. There are twelve other performers, politicians and writers who include Jade Anouka, Emily Benn, Abigail Matson-Phippard, Hajar Wright and Jinan Younis.

 

Is the word feminist still to be shunned? Is feminism still thought of as anti-men rather than pro-human? Is this generation of feminists – outspoken, funny and focused – the best we’ve had for long while? Has the internet given them a voice and power previously unknown?

 

Rachel Holmes’ most recent book is Eleanor Marx: A Life; Victoria Pepe is a literary scout; Amy Annette is a comedy producer currently working on festivals including Latitude; Alice Stride works for Women’s Aid and Martha Mosse is a freelance producer and artist.

 

 

My View:

One of the best nonfiction reads of the year!

 

I call myself a feminist – quietly, carefully, almost fearfully… for conflict is not my middle name…well, ok, maybe… sometimes it is. I call myself a feminist – loudly, proudly and want to change the world, for the world to be so much better for everyone! The term feminism/feminist is still so conflicting; a dirty word, conjuring a stereotype (of women emasculating men) that instils a fear that manifests in many forms of violence, aggression and condescension against women who identify with this noun. It is only a word. Fear it not.

 

But I digress, this review is not about me or my views about feminism this book is about women’s experiences in a global world and why we need more feminists – if you doubt that need I implore you to read this book. If you agree that the world needs more feminists – read this book – you will not believe the amount of work that still needs to be done. If you consider yourself a humanitarian – read this book – humanitarian action/theology is feminist based. If you are parents of young children, read this book. If you teach/coordinate Women’s Studies at any level – why isn’t this book on your shelves and on your students’ book lists? Why wasn’t this book and the many discussions it solicits around when I was a student? This book is stimulating and eye opening and not elitist.

 

If you are the parents, family, friends or colleagues of the young people who have written the essays for this collection – be proud!

 

Back to the book….I feel deeply saddened that there exists and is a real need for something called an ASF – ( The Acid Survivors Foundation,) the ASF “is the only centre in Pakistan dedicated to the treatment and rehabilitation of victims of acid violence. The centre provides accommodation for victims while they receive medical, legal and psychological support… Acid violence is exactly what the name suggests: it involves a corrosive substance, usually sulphuric acid, being thrown at a victim. It takes seconds to carry out an attack, but can cause permanent disability, as well as disfigurement and excruciating pain. Skin melts, muscles fuse together, vision is lost…It is an astonishingly brutal crime that strikes at the very identity of the victim…for the most part, it is a gender based violence. As such it is more prevalent in countries where women are disenfranchised: not just Pakistan but also India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Colombia, Vietnam and Cambodia. ”pps 104-105. “ You ask why we still need feminism. I roll my eyes.

 

If you pick up this book (and you really should) if you read nothing else read the chapter titled “Staring at the Ceiling: It’s Not Always As Simple As Yes Or No” by Abigail Matson- Phippard. It is interesting and concerning to read that these type of experiences have not changed with the generations. Matson-Phippard articulately opens a discussion that needs to be had, makes room for voices that need to be heard, bravo! (And need I say this particularly chapter struck a chord with me, mirrored experiences and emotions I thought only related to me as a young woman growing up in the 70’s…) Abigail Matson-Phippard’s level of introspection and articulation in enviable.

 

Read on and you will discover many other examples of why feminism needs to make itself heard (again) and the philosophy embraced (strongly) – by men and women alike. There is something here that will speak to everyone in this wonderful collection of views.

 

One of the best nonfiction reads of the year!

 

Post Script – Song of the Sea Maid – Rebecca Mascull

Song of the Sea Maid Rebecca Mascull cover

Song of the Sea Maid

Rebecca Mascull

Hachette Australia

Hodder & Stoughton

ISBN: 9781473604360

 

Description:

In the 18th century, Dawnay Price is an anomaly. An educated foundling, a woman of science in a time when such things are unheard-of, she overcomes her origins to become a natural philosopher. Against the conventions of the day, and to the alarm of her male contemporaries, she sets sail to Portugal to develop her theories. There she makes some startling discoveries – not only in an ancient cave whose secrets hint at a previously undiscovered civilisation, but also in her own heart. The siren call of science is powerful, but as war approaches she finds herself pulled in another direction by feelings she cannot control.

 

 

My View:

“I dream of running away…it is the idea of escape that is alluring, yet also the thought of living as a boy, as a man, appeals keenly. To escape the strictures of feminie dress and limitations – the narrow and small lives women live in our age – to escape that and be a swaggering man free to follow his own destiny that is something to covet.” Dawnay Price 1740 (pps59-60)

 

“To escape the feminie limitations – the narrow and small lives women live in our age – to escape that and be a swaggering man free to follow his own destiny…” Carol Seeley 1960’s. I had the same thoughts as a child Dawnay .

 

 

I started this book with no expectations – sorry Rebecca Mascull I hadn’t heard of you or your earlier book The Visitors (though want to read this one now). I found this novel  to be beautifully written, engaging … an adventure story, a creation story and a feminists story….delightful. This book makes my heart sing. Read it, you won’t be sorry.

 

 

 

 

Post Script: The Other Side Of The World – Stephanie Bishop

Beautiful prose that subtly explores so many issues – post natal depression, migration, relationships, identity, racism, the meaning of home…

Cover The Other Side of The World

The Other Side of the World

Stephanie Bishop

Hachette Australia

ISBN: 9780733633782

 

Description:

In the tradition of Rachel Cusk’s A Life’s Work or Maggie O’Farrell’s The Hand That First Held Mine comes a complex, tender and gorgeously written novel of parenthood, love and marriage that is impossible to put down. Cambridge 1963. Charlotte struggles to reconnect with the woman she was before children, and to find the time and energy to paint. Her husband, Henry, cannot face the thought of another English winter. A brochure slipped through the letterbox gives him the answer: ‘Australia brings out the best in you’. Charlotte is too worn out to resist, and before she knows it is travelling to the other side of the world. But on their arrival in Perth, the southern sun shines a harsh light on both Henry and Charlotte and slowly reveals that their new life is not the answer either was hoping for. Charlotte is left wondering if there is anywhere she belongs, and how far she’ll go to find her way home…

 

My View:

Gently written with visually explicit landscapes and relationships put under the microscope this book is a delight to read. I particularly enjoyed reading about the era the migration to Perth Western Australia took place in and the experiences of the migrants Charlotte and Harry and their young family; I was child when we migrated from England to Perth in 1966 and my early memories are of similar experiences – not for me as a child – I think children just except whatever is thrown at them and the notion of migration and living in another country really didn’t impact me directly but it did my mother.

I think the adults were not particularly well prepared for the physical conditions, the cultural changes and the isolation. Like Harry my father had a job to go to, he had a purpose in his day. Accommodation was provided with the job – but a timber framed house with wood stoves for cooking and water heating in the middle of an extremely hot Australian summer do not make life easy for the homemaker, the wife left at home with no transport, no support network and basic cramped living conditions and unbearable heat. We were a family of six (at the time, which became seven) living in a two bedroom house. My parents had no experience of such heat and the sunburn, heat rash, and dehydration that came with it. Mosquitoes and flies… and other little pests can make life unbearable. I think it was a particularly difficult time for my mother. However, we stayed, maybe there were no other real options?

 

Was Charlotte brave? I think so. She had insight and was able to identify the problems in her life but not the causes. She made a difficult decision, actually several very difficult decisions – but still seemed lost and at odds with her identity. To admit that motherhood as she experienced it, was not for her is a huge undertaking – to go against the popular culture and socially determined role expected of a woman in the 1960’s, of a married woman with children, must have been enormously difficult. I think it would probably still be as difficult today to buck societies expectations but maybe the opportunity for depression to be identified and treated would be better but the underlying struggle to rediscover ones identity when in a long term relationship, when responsible for children…that battle is still be waged. Some deal with it better than others.

 

A fantastic novel that gently looks at the intersections of migration, sexism, racism and women’s place in society. This book is guaranteed to make you think and is a delight to read.

Post Script: Three Twisted Stories – Karin Slaughter

Three Twisted Stories

Karin Slaughter

Random House UK, Cornerstone

Cornerstone Digital

ISBN: 9781473535329

 

Description:

From the hallucinatory noir story ‘Go Deep’ to the twisted short stories ‘Necessary Women’ and ‘Remmy Rothstein Toes the Line,’ this collection showcases the Sunday Times No. 1 bestselling author’s dark humour, limitless imagination, and masterly command of voice and character. (‘Go Deep’ and ‘Remmy Rothstein Toes the Line’ also available as single stories and ‘Necessary Women’ also available as part of a bundle with ‘The Mean Time’)

GO DEEP

Growing up dirt poor, Charlie Lam worked his ass off to make something of himself, no thanks to his deadbeat father or his long-suffering mother. And now a lot of people depend on Charlie: by his last count, sixty-eight employees at his Atlanta auto dealership, eleven shiftless brothers and sisters, an ungrateful wife, a spoiled daughter, a shameless girlfriend. Who could really blame him for wanting a little extra?

The arrangement is simple: Charlie picks up a suit from the dry cleaner’s. In the suit pocket is the name of a very important man. The next day, that man walks into the dealership, drives out in a new car, and Charlie gets a fat envelope full of cash. Everyone’s happy. No one gets hurt. So long as Charlie doesn’t cross his business partner. But with one twist of a knife, the unthinkable happens. And suddenly Charlie is in deeper trouble than he could have possibly imagined.

 

NECESSARY WOMEN

In a border town between Georgia and Alabama, in a three-room house made of cement block, a fourteen-year-old girl watches her mother die. Her father is a long-haul trucker, away for weeks, sometimes months, at a time. Her mother, with two menial jobs cleaning restrooms and working nights at the laundry, had been just thirty years old.

 

A week before she died, noticing her daughter getting attention from a boy, the girl’s mother warned her not to make the same mistakes she did. Now, her father tells her, she’s the woman of the house, and she must do all the necessary things the woman must do: the cleaning, the cooking, the laundry. But there’s a lot more to being a woman than fixing dinner and doing the wash. Her mother was right: She won’t end up like her – and she’ll do anything to prove it.

 

REMMY ROTHSTEIN TOES THE LINE

As an intrepid adjudicator of World Records, Mindy Patel has met lots of strange people in lots of strange places. But they’re no match for the Swampers of the Georgia bayou. Mindy has braved the oppressive August heat in search of Remmy Rothstein, who they call ‘The Cajun Jew’. If the photos are indeed accurate, she might be about to certify Remmy as the World Record Holder for Longest Tongue in the World . . . and maybe even the Widest!

First Mindy meets Remmy’s half-brother, Buell Rabinowitz, surely the world’s only one-legged, albino, Jewish African American. Then she makes the acquaintance of Remmy’s mother, a foul-mouthed old woman with an impressive beard. None of which prepares her for an eyeful of Remmy: a man who measures up to his singular reputation in ways that will change the course of Mindy’s life.

 

My View:

Karin Slaughter – you have a very dark sense of humour! At first I was quick to dismiss these short stories as a bit of twisted storytelling but the stories stay with you and as you mull them over you realise there is a lot of social commentary going on here. I love the strong women in these stories (even if some are a little messed up), I love your feminist bent Karin Slaughter – your stories say so much more than any Women’s Studies lectures I have attended.

 

And for the record – my favourite story here is Go Deep – this is putting the saying “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes” very literally. I loved it.