Book reviews

Reading the World

My friend Jeanne gave me, -upon request… OK, upon harassment, :)-,  a list of the best Australian books that, if one ever wanted to know Australians a bit better, -as I do-, one would after reading them. If you care for it, this is it,


Everything by A B Paterson, but especially

The Man from Snowy River
The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke, but especially Doreen, by C J Dennis
No More Boomerang by Oodgeroo Noonuccal

Short Story:

The Drover’s Wife by Henry LawsonChildren’s/ YA Books:

Seven Little Australians 1894) by Ethel Turner -read
The Billabong Series (1910 and following) by Mary Grant Bruce
The Getting of Wisdom (1910) by Henry Handel Richardson
The Magic Pudding (1918) by Norman Lindsay -read
(I adore this book)

Picnic at Hanging Rock (1967) by Joan Lindsay
Longtime Passing (1971)by Hesba Brinsmead
Storm Boy (1976) by Colin Thiele

Adult classics:

Robbery Under Arms (1888) by Rolf Bolderwood
Such is Life (1897) by Tom Collins
His Natural Life (1872) by Marcus Clarke
My Brilliant Career (1901)by Miles Franklin -read
We of the Never Never (1927) by Mrs Aeneas Gunn -loaded in Kindle
A Fortunate Life (1981) by A B Facey

Adult novels:

The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith (1972) by Thomas Keneally
Monkey Grip (1977) by Helen Garner
Tirra Lirra by the River (1978) by Jessica Anderson
Milk and Honey (1984) by Elizabeth Jolley
The Fatal Shore (1986) by Robert Hughes
My Place by (1987) Sally Morgan
Cloudstreet (1991)by Tim Winton
True History of the Kelly Gang (2000) by Peter Carey LIBRARY

Certain Lives, Margaret Reeson
(this one was recommended by another Aussie friend)
For my first adult book title, I chose My Brilliant Career. I just have one word, superb. I will not give out spoilers, but I have to say it did not have the end I wanted, but the end it had to have, lol. The book is, as described by another dear friend, queer and ironic. I’d dare say it is a gem of Australian literature. I like to think of it as an Australian mix of Jane Austen, Dickens, and Jane Eyre, all in the Australian outback.

I have the True History of the Kelly Gang waiting for me at the library, and I believe I will like it much too.

Below two pictures, one a nice cover, the other of Miles Franklin herself.


I also read Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. This was a great book to read. I feel clumsy talking about this book, written by a black woman. You see… the fact is that I just think that these two books were great reads, poetically written, with so much flavor and insight… to a point, I don’t mind if it is man or woman, black, white, or other… but to a point, I mind. I mind in the sense that the uniqueness of the author (Australian in one case, and Black in the other), bring me some flavors, idiosyncrasies, experiences, perspectives, worldviews, and literary golden quality that enrich me as a person. While reading My Brilliant Career I got Australian word flavor, I was described certain landscapes and I was given more, some reflections that transcend time and place. Same with Zora Hurston, she wrote in the Black American vernacular, and it was distinctive, sweet and poignant. She wrote about the universality of life and death, love and other human feelings, through the eyes of a unique woman. Unique because of her character and make up, not strictly because of her color or gender, though color and gender added to it and made a great book a classic. Upon reading the epilogue, in which Zora Hurston is analyzed and situated in the Black American women writers, sigh, I got reminded why I dislike reading critics, literary experts, and “learning about literary schools or groups”. Bah. Why would I care if she is better, worse, or up to par with such and such, or if she was criticized and lately she is idolized… She has given me a master book and I thank her for the experience, and I now look forward to reading other books in the same channel, as they cross my path or as I hunt for them.

There is got to be more than, “the book is an Australian hit, an ever present title in a book list, a title regarded as a Latin American Magic Realism classic… it has to come recommended from a reader friend, or from an interesting back-cover text at a library sale, or from our cultural and human unconsciousness that registers titles and names that belong to all of us.

I had never before thought about “why not read Australia?”, or “I want to read Black Heritage books”, even more defined, “I want to read Black Women Author books”. But now I do want to read Australia, tee hee, and I want to read books that tell me about fellow men and women that have a history and a culture and a heritage unknown to me because they are black… and I want to continue reading British literature, specially from the 18th and 19th centuries, because it brings Europe and Anglo Saxon culture to my attention… and I want to read books in the wars period,  that take place all over the world, because I can then see how connected the world was and is, how divided too, how the wars changed our world, and shaped our nations, and made us who we are. I also want to find an American literature orthodox or unorthodox list and please, feel free to recommend. But don’t take me wrong, I don’t super imposed reading agendas, they are rabbit trails, and I am oh so open to reading whatever tells me of new worlds, people, places, lives… and the classics -because the classics are the foundation for all the books that are not classics, lol.

I am realizing I know nothing about the Eastern world. The only book that comes closer to my bit of understanding of Asian culture is Ishiguro’s An Artist of the Floating World. Thanks to my daughters’ education, I know we will be learning about Africa and Orient soon. Once I think about it, we have done a bit of exploring with Marco Polo, and I know a tiny bit about American Indians and the cultures we in Spain call “pre-colombine”, pre Columbus, it means. Please, forgive us our designation based on looking from our own belly button. I enjoyed that book, El Azteca, by Gary Jennings.

And now, after these two surreptitious books, I am loyally back to my Headmistress, before my inter-loan expires, and wrapping up edges, I am back to The King’s General by Daphne du Maurier. I liked this title, more than that Jamaica Inn a few friends and I read together months ago, which had such a powerful beginning, but which lost steam, and it disappointed a bit. Maybe it is because The King’s General is a historical fiction, but it seems more robust. I want to give du Maurier another chance to show me quality, poetry.

And you? How do you pick what to read? Do you have guiding ideas, or do you just pick from the same pool?

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