The Rosie Project, Graeme Simsion

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THE ROSIE PROJECT by Graeme Simsion

By the time I came to read THE ROSIE PROJECT, its reputation was monumental.  I knew it was a romantic comedy.  I had already heard the premise of the novel.  I knew lots of people loved it.  I felt like I had already read it.  I wondered if knowing so much about the novel would ruin it all, but really, I have to say it didn’t.  I loved it.

reviews, meghan brewster reviews, book reviews, australian writers reviewed, Australian literature review, aussie writers, book review, the rosie projectIn terms of reviews, there isn’t much left to say about THE ROSIE PROJECT, and I certainly feel like I am coming to the book very late.  But I still wanted to read it.  It’s famous and Australian and had a great reputation.

In case, on the off chance you have heard nothing about The Rosie Project, here is a little blurb.  Don Tillman is an Australian scientist who has set his mind to finding a wife.  With few friends and a terrible dating record, Don sets about formatting a wife questionnaire to find a most suitable wife.  He’s a little special when it comes to engaging with others, and if you were ever a teacher like me you will be thinking Aspergers before the end of the first paragraph.

His plans are set off course when he meets Rosie, who doesn’t fit many of Tillman’s criteria, but find her way into his life regardless.  As a genetic scientist, Don is in a position to help Rosie look for her genetic father.

Things go well and then things go badly.  It’s obvious from their first date that these two will get together, but the journey there really is worth the read. Continue reading

Mothers & Others, Collection

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Mothers & Others is an anthology of short stories and non-fiction essays from twenty-eight different Australian women; many of which are writers.  It was edited by Natalie Kon-Yu, Christie Nieman, Maggie Scott, Miriam Sved, Maya Linden and published on 1st May 2015 by Macmillan Australia.

Each ‘chapter’ is a meditation on parenting, children, and mothers.  The anthology includes stories about infertility, choosing to remain childless, adoption, step-children and pregnancy.

The contributors are amazingly different and their experiences so diverse, Alice Pung, Brita Frost, Deborra-Lee Furness, Simmone Howell, Maggie Scott, Brooke Davis, Cate Kennedy Celeste Liddle, Rosie Waterland, Christie Nieman, Shakira Hussein, Miriam Sved, Debra Adelaide, Dianne Blacklock, Emily Maguire, Estelle Tang, Frances Whiting, Rosie Batty, Kathleen Mary Fallon, Liane Moriarty, Maxine Beneba Clarke, Geraldine Brooks, Melina Marchetta, Maya Linden, Natalie Kon-yu, Jessica Rudd, Enza Gandolfo and Sue Gillett.  These women formed a well-rounded read on the topic of motherhood, in all its forms.

The flap copy of Mothers & Others promises unflinching honesty and clear-eyed wisdom.

A work that holds a mirror up to the most romanticised, demonised and complex roles women play; those of mother or non-mother, and daughter.’

Twelve Years of Looking After Luke, by mother Rosie Batty, as told to Maggie Scott, was a standout of the collection.  Rosie Batty’s harrowing journey as a parent through domestic violence, paternal mental illness and, of course, the very public death of her son Luke at the hands of his father, is told with warmth and calm. Continue reading

Amazing Babes, Eliza Sarlos & Grace Lee

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AMAZING BABES by Eliza Sarlos and Grace Lee.  This is the book that inspired a traveling writers singing spectacular!

Amazing babes, amazing babes book, emerging writer, emerging writers, reviews, australian books, aussie book reviews I first heard about Amazing Babes at the EMERGING WRITERS FESTIVAL.  At the festival, it was in song form, but I got the drift of it.

So it’s a beautiful book.  It’s well made, lovely to look at and easy to read.

Amazing Babes is a celebration of innovative, brave and world-changing women.  When I first read this book I felt a little tingle run down my spine.  It’s a really inspiring book, for grown-ups as much as little people.

AMAZING BABES was published in 2013 by Scribe in Australia.  It’s a collaboration between writer and illustrator which started as a one of a kind book, written by Eliza Sarlos for her son Arthur.  It was a birthday present for Arthur.  Eliza asked longtime friend Grace Lee to help bring the words to life and the result is gorgeous portraits that introduce new readers to the lives of these strong, powerful and world changing women.

I actually have a copy of this in my library and we have a house without children.  Friends and family love reading it when it’s laying around on the coffee table.

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The Strays, Emily Bitto

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THE STRAYS, by Emily Bitto

I have to confess, I knew nothing about this novel before it won The Stella Prize.  Emily Bitto’s The Strays tells the story of young friends Lily and Eva.  Lily is an only child, born to ‘regular’ parents struggling through the economic depression.  She is embarrassed by her parents and the simplicity of their life.

Eva is the middle child in a gang of young girls, born to successful artistic parents who reject conservatism and are able to afford duck for dinner.  Eva’s father is a modernist painter, her mother a chic intellectual with old money. They live in a large home which is slowly transformed into collective studio’s.

The story is told from the perspective of Lily, and from this position we witness Eva’s life as an outsider.  Over the years, their friendship develops from young girls to maturing teenagers and finally adults.

The unlikely bond between these central characters has resonated with readers, Bitto said. “It’s not really been written about that much: that intensity of friendship between girls in childhood. When you look at literature as a whole, those kind of relationships often get sidelined in favour of romance.”

Lily comes to nuzzle her way into this vibrant art commune (with the indirect support of her mother) taking on the role of silent observer.

the strays, emily bitto, Books, ebooks, books online, book, gift ideas, buy books online, free ebooks, ebooks online, emerging writer, emerging writers, reviews, australian books, aussie book reviewsRight from the beginning there is a promise of destruction.  A fire is alluded to from the first chapter, but it becomes clear as you read that someone more subtle and destructive has taken hold in the house.

There is a beautiful moment when the central characters mature at different speeds, and Lily looks back on their friendship seeing it all again for the first time.  It’s obvious they were moving apart.

I loved the art world depicted in The Strays.  I almost feel like I am insulting the book by trying to write about it.  The characters are quirky and real, the house is magical and the garden is enchanting.  So often writers tell stories of writers, poets or playwrights (perhaps writing what they know) and this is a refreshing change from the literary world.   It reminded me to paint a little more.

The novel is loosely based on the Heide school of painters.  Known as the Heide Circle, the real life group of painters lived just outside Melbourne.  These artists were well known for their intertwined personal and professional lives.

“I was particularly drawn to 1930s and 1940s Australia because of the stark divide between the mainstream values of the time and the lifestyle and values of the avant-garde art world.” Bitto  THE GUARDIAN.  

When Lily finally returns to the house as an older woman, everything is smaller, less magical more grounded and normal.

I read somewhere that this novel was compared to Ian McEwan’s Atonement, which is one of my favourite books of all time.  It’s a great comparison.  The tone and style of the story telling is very similar.  But it is the role that a child plays in the long-term outcome for the family that is the obvious connection.  The responsibility placed on children so young is explored in both novels, both with disastrous and long term consequences for the whole family.

To me, there was a familiar flavor to Kate Morton’s writing; with the large magical house of the family and the stories and mysteries it held.  and the past slipping back to effect the present.  Read like a slow simmering mystery.

The beauty of this book for me was the depiction of childhood and female friendship.  That bond between the girls was so perfectly represented without being dumbed down or dismissed as irrelevant.  It was the story.  And certainly caused me to look back on my friendships at that age with more gravity and nostalgia.

EMILY BITTO

THE STRAYS was published in 2014 by Affirm Press in Australia, and is EMILY BITTO‘s debut novel.  Emily Bitto has a masters in literary studies and a PhD in creative writing from the University of Melbourne.  Her PhD examined the role of the artist in contemporary literature.  While studying, she found the persistence of the myth of the male genius.

And won the 2015 STELLA PRIZE which as well as bestowing a life changing career boost for the writer also includes a $50 000 cash prize.  Says she will use the money to buy time to work on her second novel.

The Strays took me no time at all to read.  It was captivating without being heavy or exhausting.  I found it to be one of those books I stayed up reading late into the night.

Reading the book as an emerging writer, what can you learn and study – Elements of story, perspective, time and place that an Emerging writer should think about.  First person perspective is nice as an outsider, like the audience.  Also a wonderful study in writing memory.

In an article by The Guardian is stated that the novel went through 10 FULL REDRAFTS before being published by Affirm Press

Everything I learned from EMILY BITTO was I think to be gentler with my prose, and plot.  That the tail will unravel at its own pace I do not need to be so forceful in moving things along.

She also reminded me of how interesting Artists can be, but how hard they are to hang around with for a long time.

Interestingly while writing she also works full time in a wine bar she opened in Carlton.  Love it.

Here is a much better review of this work from the GUARDIAN – Enjoy.

Australian Women Writers Challenge

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This is probably me being very ambitious, but I’m going to join a reading challenge seven months too late.  The AUSTRALIAN WOMEN WRITERS’ CHALLENGE is part of a worldwide movement to raise awareness of Australian Writing by women.

The Challenge is primarily intended to challenge subconscious stereotypes that govern our choice of books to read.  With that in mind, I just agreed to read and review 20 books by Australian Women by the end of 2015.

Ok.  If you’d like to join in the challenge, SIGN UP here.  I better get cracking.

I wonder how this will go?

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We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, Karen Joy Fowler

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Warning: Contains Epic Spoilers.

WE ARE ALL COMPLETELY BESIDE OURSELVES by Karen Joy Fowler.

I was so intrigued by the cover of this book that I overlooked my ‘Australian Authors Only’ rule.  The cover grabbed my attention; the front promised me a surprising twist and the back outlined a childhood intrigue.   I also knew that the book had been shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2014, so I took it home and settled in.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, by KAREN JOY FOWLER is an easy and addictive read.  I read the whole first half of the book in the bath in one session.  Time slipped away, and I had no idea how long I had been lying there reading. Continue reading

The Waterfowl Are Drunk! Kate Liston-Mills

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THE WATERFOWL ARE DRUNK! by Kate Liston-Mills

How I came to be reading The Waterfowl Are Drunk! is a long story.  In short, I received an advance unedited proof for reviewing purposes.  The long answer starts eighteen years ago when KATE LISTON-MILLS and I walked into the same English class.

From the first page it’s clear why Liston-Mills was awarded WRITER OF THE MONTH from the South Coast Writers Centre for her poetry.  The Waterfowl Are Drunk! is a poetic treasure consisting of seven short interwoven stories.Kate Liston-Mills, kate liston, waterfowl are drunk, kate liston mills writer, Emerging writer, emerging writers festival, what is an emerging writer, young writer, your writers, australian writers blog, blogger or writer

The opening story Bound sets a quiet, chilling tone as a fox stalks a nest of hatching swans.  Immediately the reader is initiated into what will become recurring motifs in the work; loss, the bonds of family and the lasting effect absence can have on a community.

Hey Porter, Hey Porter deals with the difficult issue of a child’s diagnosis with Down syndrome.  Parents, Edward and Hazel, sit with their three year old Lottie and listen as the doctor explains the term.

After a few moments of stares and throat clearing, Hazel shakes her head and stands, “Rubbish! Lottie’s normal… just a slow learner, that’s all.” Her eyes are glazed. Ed tries to squeeze his wife’s hand, but shaking, she lugs Lottie out of the room, leaving him with the mongrel doctor.

How does a diagnosis change the child?  While Edward is driven to find answers, for Hazel it changes nothing.  Disability or issues of difference is another recurring theme in The Waterfowl are Drunk!

Time is marked by historical events; war, cricket, technology and changing attitudes of disability.
Continue reading

Burial Rites, by Hannah Kent

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BURIAL RITES by Hannah Kent

The first time I saw Hannah Kent was on AUSTRALIAN STORY when she was profiled for the episode MORE THAN A GHOST.  All I remember from the show were these words, ‘No one’s really a monster’.  I thought, maybe this chick is the smartest woman alive.

It was not very much later that an interview with Hannah Kent appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald.  The story of Hannah Kent and her first manuscript was a fire feeding itself.  Suddenly everyone was talking about how everyone was talking about her. Continue reading

Clade, James Bradley

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CLADE, by James Bradley.

The first time I met James Bradley he stepped in to resolve an argument.  The staff (Me) at a cafe were in an argument about whether or not vegans should eat honey.  A notoriously obnoxious customer had been troublesome for days over the definition of a vegan smoothie in which they insisted honey should be included.

I was under the impression that honey is bee milk, and if you can’t take it from a cow you shouldn’t take it from a bee.  The customer did not agree and continued to complain about the lack of honey in their smoothie. Continue reading

The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCullough

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the thorn birds, reviews, meghan brewster reviews, book reviews, australian writers reviewed, THE THORN BIRDS, by Colleen McCullough

After reading the incredibly retarded OBITUARY of Colleen McCullough in The Australian, our book club decided THE THORN BIRDS simply had to be our next selection.

As I went out the next day to purchase it, the first thing that struck me was it’s size.  Skimming through the pages, I could see small front, few paragraphs and tiny margins.  I wondered how on earth we would be able to read this monster in a month.

The story begins in New Zealand on Meggie Cleary’s fourth birthday.  The youngest daughter to four older brothers Meggie is both the burden and the blessing on the home.

With the most adorable little fighting four year old Meggie opening the first chapter, I was hooked.  McCullough had captured what it was like to live as the youngest child in a large family.  The description and perception of that doll she receives on her birthday is unforgettable.  The view of the inside of that’s dolls head was fantastic.  The descriptions in this book, I would soon find out would also turn into a burden and a blessing.

The Cleary family is a poor, seasonal working, happy loyal family.  When employment of the patriarch Paddy finally grinds to a halt, the family accept a generous but somewhat vague offer from Paddy Cleary’s sister Mary Carson.  Mary is old and kind of ill and offers the position of Station Manager to Paddy with the promise he will one day inherit the formidable and profitable sheep station Drogheda on the north west corner of NSW.  Mary Carson, is well off, powerful and delights in her final days of messing in people’s lives. Continue reading