Review: Return to Roseglen – Helene Young

Return to Roseglen by Helen Young cover art

Return to Roseglen

Helene Young

Penguin Random House Australia

Michael Joseph

ISBN: 9780143787747

 

Description:

At times like these families should be coming together, not tearing each other apart.

 

On her remote North Queensland cattle station, Ivy Dunmore is facing the end of her days. Increasingly frail, all she holds dear is threatened not just by crippling drought, but by jealousy and greed – and that’s from within her own family.

 

Can Felicity, who’s battling her own crisis as her fiftieth birthday approaches, protect her mother and reunite her family under the homestead’s faded iron roof? Or will sibling rivalries erupt and long-held secrets from the past break a family in crisis?

 

 

My View:

This is probably the best contemporary read of the year!  It resonated in some many places.  Intelligent. Brilliant.

 

Families… (Do you hear me sigh?) We may wish for the shiny, happy, well-adjusted family circle that we see on television or in the movies but it’s often not what we get. Families are made up of individuals – with flaws and traits that are unique to themselves, with their own struggles, aspirations, weaknesses and strengths.  Create a situation where all those unique individuals come together to address a family crisis or two and what do you have?  Return to Roseglen.

 

This intelligent novel has glorious remote Australian settings, well developed characters – some you will immediately love, some you will grow to love and some you would cross the road to avoid.  Sound like a family to you? It does to me J

 

 

This novel has so much to offer; Helene Young has incorporated many contemporary social issues in this read without the narrative shouting “Lessons here for all.”  This is life. The narrative is honest. I am sure this journey will resonate with so many readers, it certainly did for me.

 

My only problem with this read – it finished far too quickly, I was invested in this family and wanted more.

 

 

 

 

 

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Post Script: The Three of Us – Kim Lock

The Three of Us

The Three of Us

Kim Lock

Pan Macmillan Australia

ISABN: 9781743538647

 

Description:

A life lived in the shadows. A love that should never have been hidden.

 

In the small town of Gawler, South Australia, the tang of cut grass and eucalyptus mingles on the warm air. The neat houses perched under the big gum trees on Church Street have been home to many over the years. Years of sprinklers stuttering over clipped lawns, children playing behind low brick walls. Family barbecues. Gossipy neighbours. Arguments. Accidents. Births, deaths, marriages. This ordinary street has seen it all.

 

Until the arrival of newlyweds Thomas and Elsie Mullet. And when one day Elsie spies a face in the window of the silent house next door, nothing will ever be ordinary again…

 

In Kim Lock’s third novel of what really goes on behind closed doors, she weaves the tale of three people with one big secret; a story of fifty years of friendship, betrayal, loss and laughter in a heart-warming depiction of love against the odds.

 

“With great care and compassion for the lives and losses of human beings, Kim Lock artfully weaves a moving and surprising story of the simple complexity of relationships and how they shape us” Sophie Green, author of The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club.

 

 

My View:

Subtle, gentle and topical, this book has something to offer all discerning readers. It is a powerful love story, an optimistic read. It is also a historical novel, an Australian study of domestic life in the conservative suburbs in the 1960’s; a time that saw the middle class boom and the slow beginnings of the equal rights movement for women. Fifty years on and the author reminds us that there are still some barriers that need to be broken.

 

Kim Lock has cannily crafted a narrative that subtly exposes our prejudices and highlights some of the historical social injustices that have impacted and influenced Australian society.

 

This book has all the emotions though is not in any way melodramatic, subtleness is its strength.

 

Thought provoking scenarios and engaging, realistic characters dictate that this is a novel that will be revered, enjoyed and cherished.

 

 

Post Script: The Tattooist of Auschwitz – Heather Morris

The Tattooist of Auschwitz

The Tattooist of Auschwitz

Heather Morris

Echo Publishing

ISBN: 9781760403171

 

Description:

The incredible story of the Auschwitz-Birkenau tattooist and the woman he loved.

Lale Sokolov is well-dressed, a charmer, a ladies’ man. He is also a Jew. On the first transport from Slovakia to Auschwitz in 1942, Lale immediately stands out to his fellow prisoners. In the camp, he is looked up to, looked out for, and put to work in the privileged position of Tetovierer – the tattooist – to mark his fellow prisoners, forever. One of them is a young woman, Gita, who steals his heart at first glance.

His life given new purpose, Lale does his best through the struggle and suffering to use his position for good.

This story, full of beauty and hope, is based on years of interviews author Heather Morris conducted with real-life Holocaust survivor and Auschwitz- Birkenau tattooist Ludwig (Lale) Sokolov. It is heart-wrenching, illuminating, and unforgettable.

Extraordinary – moving, confronting and uplifting… a story about the extremes of human behaviour: calculated brutality alongside impulsive and selfless acts of love. I recommend it unreservedly’—GRAEME SIMSION

 

The Tattooist of Auschwitz has the quality of a dark fairy-tale. It is both simple and epic, shot through with compassion and love… Everyone should read it’—HUGH RIMINTON

 

An extraordinary story of a single and singular life and its great love’—ASHLEY HAY

 

 

My View:

How can a book be chilling yet so beautiful simultaneously? Be so horrific yet speak of never ending love on the same page? Be so confronting yet engage and enthral?

 

A book of some many contrasts, such pain and yet there is so much love on these pages, this is perhaps the best creative memoir you will read. There would not be many people who do not already know of the atrocities committed at Auschwitz, but do you know of the stories of survival, of friendship, of courage, of love, of doing “what I can to survive” (p.33)? This is a remarkable narrative told with brutal tenderness; a view through a lens of love.

 

This has already garnered a place in my best reads of 2018, I am sure it will soon be on your best read list too.

 

 

Post Script: A Sea-Chase – Roger McDonald

A Sea Chase

A Sea – Chase

Roger McDonald

Vintage

Penguin Random House

ISBN: 9780143786986

 

 

Description:

Growing up in inland Australia, Judy, a young teacher, has rarely seen the sea. But when she flees a rioting classroom one dismal Friday, a dud and a failure, she gets drunk and wakes up on a boat. Overnight her life changes; she is in love with being on the water and in love with Wes Bannister who lives on the boat. Sailing was not something Judy had ever thought about wanting, but now she craved it. Wind was the best teacher she’d had, by far…

 

From then on, Judy believes that the one trusted continuation of herself is with Wes, and always will be, but then events at sea challenge their closeness. Must they become competitors against each other in the push to be equals? It seems they must.

 

A Sea-Chase is a novel that vividly tracks ambition, self-realisation, and lasting love tied up in a sea story. The idea that nobody who sets off to do something alone, without family, friends, rivals, and a pressing duty to the world, ever does so alone, finds beautiful, dramatic expression in Roger McDonald’s tenth, and most surprising novel.

 

 

My View:

An evocative narrative that almost has me wishing I could sail and I do not like the water – unless it is the water in a swimming pool or the calm safe waters of the reefs around Mauritius.

 

The sea, powerful, temperamental and mesmerising and the landscapes – generally portrayed as isolated and harsh, domineer and control the fate of so many in this book. Country, small town, Australia and New Zealand are the depicted as both cloying and freeing…supportive and yet restrictive…’family’ much the same…supportive yet restrictive – complex relationships based on expectations, assumptions, wealth or lack of, education or lack of, support or lack of, social expectations, fulfilled or not. Where does family end and the individual start?  Where is the individual in ‘us’?  Can there be individuals in a loving relationship?  So much is explored in this narrative.

 

However passion is the emotion that controls and directs the drama in this read. How I have often wished to experience such passion – a passion that clearly illuminates your path in life, a passion that shapes your ambitions, your choices, a passion that provides the framework on which you build your life…there is passion in abundance in this book; the love of and affinity with the sea, the passion of first loves, of new loves, of enduring relationships… a passion that inspires a kind of gentle spiritualism encompassing ‘family’ in its many shapes and forms…the human connection.

 

This an evocative read about relationships…and the sea, simply and passionately drawn.

 

 

 

 

Post Script: Imagine – John Lennon, Illustrated by Jean Jullien

Imagine

Imagine

John Lennon

Illustrated by Jean Jullien

Allen and Unwin Australia

Frances Lincoln Children’s Books In Assoc with Amnesty International UK

ISBN: 9781847808967

 

Description:

Imagine all the people living life in peace.

You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.

I hope some day you’ll join us, and the world will be as one.

 

Join one little pigeon as she sets out on a journey to spread a message of tolerance around the world. Featuring the lyrics of John Lennon’s iconic song and illustrations by the award-winning artist Jean Jullien, this poignant and timely picture book dares to imagine a world at peace. Imagine will be published in partnership with human rights organization, Amnesty International.

 

 

My View:

5 big stars for this beautifully imagined and illustrated book – this really is art with heart!  Call me sentimental, I will agree with you that I am, this book just strikes so many chords with me. A book for those who can remember John Lennon’s important song of love and peace (and for those who still sing his inspiring relevant message even if just in their own heads) and for the next generation – who will love the prose, the illustrations and the optimism.

 

Buy this for someone you love – young or old.

 

Post Script: The Museum of Words – Georgia Blain

The Museum of Words

The Museum of Words

Georgia Blain

Scribe Publications

ISBN: 9781925322255

 

Description:

In late 2015, Georgia Blain was diagnosed with a tumour sitting right in the language centre of her brain. Prior to this, Georgia’s only warning had been a niggling sense that her speech was slightly awry. She ignored it, and on a bright spring day, as she was mowing the lawn, she collapsed on a bed of blossoms, blood frothing at her mouth.

 

Waking up to find herself in the back of an ambulance being rushed to hospital, she tries to answer questions, but is unable to speak. After the shock of a bleak prognosis and a long, gruelling treatment schedule, she immediately turns to writing to rebuild her language and herself.

 

At the same time, her mother, Anne Deveson, moves into a nursing home with Alzheimer’s; weeks earlier, her best friend and mentor had been diagnosed with the same brain tumour. All three of them are writers, with language at the core of their being.

 

The Museum of Words is a meditation on writing, reading, first words and last words, picking up thread after thread as it builds on each story to become a much larger narrative. This idiosyncratic and deeply personal memoir is a writer’s take on how language shapes us, and how often we take it for granted — until we are in danger of losing it.

 

 

My View:

The Museum of Words is gently and wisely written; it speaks of truths, of family history, of love and of course, of dying. It was deeply moving yet not depressing or self-indulgent.  Georgia Blain was a wordsmith extraordinaire, her love of words enriched the page. I wish there were more pages to turn, more books to read by this amazing writer.

 

A lyrical, moving read.

 

Guest Review: Under the Same Sky – Mojgan Shamsalipoor, Milad Jafari, James Knight

Under the Same Sky

Under the Same Sky

Mojgan Shamsalipoor, Milad Jafari, James Knight

Hachette Australia

ISBN: 9780733637827

 

Description:

An unforgettable story of love, hope and a fight for freedom.

At seventeen, Mojgan Shamsalipoor wanted to be safe from abuse, go to school and eventually marry for love. In Iran, she was denied all of this..

Milad Jafari was a shy teenage by who found his voice as a musician. But the music he loved was illegal in his country. Milad’s father – a key-maker, builder and shopkeeper – wanted his family to live free from the fear of arrest,imprisonment or execution. To do that, they all had to flee Iran.

Mojgan and Milad met in Australia. But in the months between their separate sea voyages, the Australian government changed the way asylum seekers were treated. Though Milad is recognised as a refugee and will soon become a proud Australian citizen, Mojgan has been told she cannot stay here even though the threat of imprisonment and further abuse, or worse, means she can’t return to Iran. This is their story.

Under the Same Sky is a powerful insight into the human face of asylum seekers and the way history has shaped the lives of these two young people. It also shows the compassion found in our suburbs. For Mojgan and Milad, love keeps their hopes alive.

 

Brenda’s Review:

Mojgan Shamsalipoor grew up in Iran with her mother and siblings. She was a happy child, full of fun and laughter, but as she grew to teenage years, things changed for her and the family. When her mother re-married, ostensibly to give Mojgan a better life, things became much worse. Mojgan and her brother Hossein eventually fled to Australia, with the blessing of their mother, in the hopes of a better life.

Milad Jafari was painfully shy until he found music through a friend. But music was illegal in Iran and could even result in the perpetrator being put to death. Milad’s father was a hard-working man who adored his wife and children. He wanted the best for them; their happiness and safety was paramount – they couldn’t have that in Iran; the plan to flee their home country happened quickly.

When Milad and Mojgan eventually met, Milad had been in Australia for some time. He and his family had been granted refugee status and could work and live peacefully. But Mojgan and Hossein weren’t so lucky. Time and time again, their applications were denied until Hossein was re-detained, and then Mojgan – but they were not together. Hossein was in Darwin and Mojgan was in Brisbane. The constant threat of being unable to stay in Australia – of having to return to Iran where they would be punished, more than likely executed, was too much for the siblings to bear.

Milad and Mojgan’s love for each other, and Milad’s determination to do everything he could for her kept their hopes alive. But against the immigration laws and the government’s decisions, their worries were many. What will be the final decision for Mojgan and Hossein?

Under the Same Sky is a traumatic, emotional and heartbreaking look at the fight for freedom by the Shamsalipoor siblings; also, the compassion and kindness of strangers who found themselves in the paths of these two young people. Milad’s kind and caring nature toward the woman he loves; his parents’ acceptance of Mojgan and their desire to help; even the teachers at Mojgan’s school, in particular Miss Jessica – but would it be enough? Under the Same Sky is written by Mojgan and Milad, with the assistance of James Knight who has done an exceptional job. I have no hesitation in highly recommending Under the Same Sky which I think is a very important, even critical read. 5 stars!