#Book Snap Sunday – The God of Small Things

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This week I’m borrowing an idea from Sharon from Gum Trees and Galaxies, who used the beautiful pond at Laurel Bank Park for her snap of Claude Monet’s Mad Enchantment a few weeks ago. The floating water lilies and reeds was the perfect backdrop for Arundhati Roy’s debut novel, The God of Small Things, which was awarded the Booker prize for 1997.  Set in India, the novel tells the story of a multi-generational family, from 1969 to the early 90’s. It is a time of change, however… “Change is one thing. Acceptance is another.”

Beliefs about caste, especially about the relations between the Touchables and the Untouchables, run very deep. “The Love Laws lay down who should be loved. And how. And how much.”  The price for crossing the line is very steep.

Much of the story focuses on twins Rahel and Estha, whose lives are irrevocably changed by a complicated mix of malice, violence, cultural beliefs and social discrimination. Rahel and Estha are two-egg twins, unalike yet sharing a “siamese soul.” Separated for 23 years, they bear the guilt for a sin they never committed.

“You’re not the Sinners. You’re the Sinned Against. You were only children. You had no control. You are the victims, not the perpetrators.” 

Their mother, Ammu, is a woman “already damned.” After a foolish marriage to escape “the clutches of her ill-tempered father and bitter, long-suffering mother” resulted in divorce when her husband turned out to be “a full-blown alcoholic with all of an alcoholic’s deviousness and tragic charm”, she knows for herself “there would be no more chances”. But Ammu has “little left to lose, and could therefore be dangerous.”

And then there is Velutha, a Paravan, Untouchable, “not allowed to touch anything that Touchables touched.” However, Velutha is given opportunities not usually afforded Paravans. Trained as a carpenter, he is “allowed to touch things that Touchables touched” and for this “he ought to be grateful” because it was “a big step for a Paravan.”

His father, though, is still an “Old World Paravan”. He remembers the days of crawling backwards and “sweeping away their footprints so that Brahmins or Syrian Christians would not defile themselves,” and covering their mouths “to divert their polluted breath.” His gratitude to Ammu’s family for their benevolence and generosity, “widened his smile and bent his back.”

Velutha’s quiet assurance, pride and sense of worth disturbs his father’s entrenched beliefs about caste segregation but when he realises his “Untouchable son had touched…entered…loved” what he had no right to touch or love, the Terror is unleashed.               

The God of Small Things is a somewhat complicated narrative, moving between past and present without the usual text markers so it does require the reader to pay careful attention, however the rich imagery used by Roy brings all the sights, sounds, tastes and smells of India and the passing seasons to life. It reminds us that it is the small things that can bring about massive change and that things can change in just one day.  

Sep-Oct Reading Update

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The last two months have been quite busy again with final essay writing and moving house being top priorities. Still, over the last two months I managed to read…

11358751The Man Who Was Thursday by GK Chesterton

 First published in 1908, The Man Who Was Thursday is a thrilling and humourous read featuring a guy called  “Thursday” as well as a bunch of other characters all named after the days of the week. Thursday infiltrates an organisation of anarchists and discovers that nothing is quite as it seems. 

 

 

23018751Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

It is difficult to find the words to do justice to this novel. Adichie brings to life the devastating and heartbreaking consequences of the Nigerian Civil War (1967-1970). It has been suggested that up to 2 million people, mostly women and children, died from starvation – a deliberate tactic of war willingly embraced by the Nigerian government, and its allies, against the Biafran rebels. The title is a direct reference to the emblem on the Biafran flag – a rising sun on a background of red, black and green horizontal stripes.

  • Red for the blood of the siblings massacred in the North
  • Black for mourning them
  • Green for the prosperity that an independent Biafran state would bring
  • A rising yellow sun for the glorious future that beckoned  

A half of a yellow sun could also have a different meaning. It could also depict a setting sun, as the Biafran hopes and dreams for independence slipped away from view, crushed by violence, starvation and the vested interests of major world powers. A very sobering read.    

910576The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler

Winner of the National Book Critics Circle award in 1985 and made into a film of the same name, Tyler’s story depicts the wonder of life – beautiful, painful, wonderfully chaotic but also very full. As Macon slowly opens himself up to love again, he learns that life is messy, no one escapes unscathed but that there is always hope and love.

 

 

 

25015111Leap by Myfanwy Jones

 Shortlisted for the 2016 Miles Franklin Literary Award, Leap follows the journey of Elise and Joe, living on opposite sides of the city, yet both dealing with the pain of loss, grief and guilt. While Elise is drawn to the tigers – sleek, solitary, deadly – Joe runs, climbs and jumps, preparing to make the leap. Highly recommended. 

 

 

3244505Wyoming Stories by Annie Proulx

This collection of short stories set in  Wyoming, features a wonderful array of characters, depicting the lives and times, the poverty and hardship of rural families.  One of the most well-known stories is “Brokeback Mountain”, adapted for film starring Heath Ledger. Some of the stories are sad as the old world of ranching passes away. Some are a little gruesome, yet darkly funny. My favourite story was “The Contest” in which the men of Elk Tooth sign up for a beard growing contest over the Winter. 

 

Book Bingo

Another three squares completed and just nine more to go. I’ve been really enjoying this challenge as it has encouraged me to read outside my usual fare and deliberately seek out books that will meet the criteria.

  • Romance: The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler
  • Title with a Place Name: Wyoming Stories by Annie Proulx
  • Literary: Leap by Myfanwy Jones

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Until next time, happy reading!

#Book Snap Sunday – Wyoming Stories

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Wyoming Stories by Annie Proulx is a collection of short stories that features a wonderful array of characters and depicts the poverty, hardship and resilience of the people of Wyoming. It was originally published as two volumes: Close Range in 1999 and Bad Dirt in 2004. This combined edition was published in 2007 and features one of Proulx’s most well-known stories, “Brokeback Mountain” which was adapted for film in 2005 and starred Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal.

Wyoming is one of the largest states of the US but also the least populous. The state capital of Cheyenne had a population of around 63,000 in 2017 while Toowoomba’s population around the same time was about 135,000. I was quite surprised to read that, however given that two thirds of the state is covered by mountain ranges, the climate is described as semi-arid, and it is drier and windier than anywhere else in the US, well that puts it into perspective. Wyoming is also home to the Yellowstone National Park.

Some of the stories are sad as the old world of ranching is passing away. Some are a little gruesome but with a dark sense of humour, like “The Blood Bay” in which a cowboy, in need of a new pair of boots, discovers another cowboy frozen to death in the snow. Eyeing off the dead man’s “fine pair of handmade boots” he requisitions the boots with the help of his knife and leaves them to thaw out – still containing the previous owners…

My favourite story was “The Contest” in which the men of Elk Tooth sign up for a beard growing contest over the Winter. At first the contest is just a bit of light-hearted fun, but it soon becomes “cruelly competitive” and some competitors resort to desperate lengths to promote beard growth, even consulting a book, of all things. While the residents of Elk Tooth would have been astounded that “there were shops devoted entirely to books”, they soon discover the mystery of “sideways leaning words” (italics) and ponder whether Umberto Eco, in fact,  resides in a “home for old cowboys”. I particularly enjoyed the beard-growing efforts of Kevin, aged 14,  whose father told him he “didn’t have the chance of a pancake in a pigsty” however, in time his “few whiskers made up in length what they lacked in profusion”. Sounds just like the hairs on Dan’s chin!

The photo was taken out at our new place which is not in Wyoming, but the drought in eastern Australia is certainly making it look rather dry and barren.

Happy Reading!

 

 

 

#Book Snap Sunday – Leap

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Tyger Tyger, burning bright,

In the forests of the night;

What immortal hand or eye,

Could frame they fearful symmetry?

(William Blake 1794)

 

 

From the striking cover, tigers have a presence in Myfanwy Jones’ novel Leap, shortlisted for the 2016 Miles Franklin Literary Award. Every week, on the same day, at the same time, Elise visits the zoo. Escaping a faltering marriage and the pain of grief, she is drawn to the tiger enclosure, where she sits, watches and draws. 

Joe works shifts in cafes and bars, mentors the troubled Deck and spends his spare time training in parkour, a discipline that involves moving within a complex environment without the use of any assistive equipment. He runs, climbs, jumps and rolls, all in preparation to make the leap. Joe is also consumed by grief and guilt.

As the story moves between Joe and Elise, the tragic death of Jen is slowly revealed, piece by piece. Jen is vibrant, intense, passionate.

she would come for him, stealthily then full throttle, ready to tear out his heart…But he couldn’t stay away from her, and she couldn’t leave him be. 

 LEAP is a beautiful urban fairytale about human and animal nature, and the transformative power of grief. While at its heart is a searing absence, this haunting and addictive novel is propelled by an exhilarating life force, and the eternally hopeful promise of redemptive love.

Like Elise, I am drawn to tigers. Of all the animals in the zoo, it is the tigers I love best – huge, solitary, deadly. Their curved canines are the longest of any of the big cats, reaching up to 90mm.  Males can measure up to almost 4 metres in length and weigh up to 306 kilograms, depending on species.  While one of the most popular and charismatic of the mega fauna, tigers have been listed as endangered since 1986, with a current global population of between 3,000 – 4,000. 

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We have a long history of being fascinated with the beauty and power of the tiger. They are featured in mythology and folklore, claimed as national animals and team mascots, and can take pride of place among the stuffed toy collection of many a child. My own tiger, pictured with Leap, has traversed this country, accompanying me as I have moved from place to place and has survived in one piece. It would indeed be a most terrible shame if future generations only knew tigers from the pages of a book.      

I really enjoyed reading Leap and I look forward to reading more from Myfanwy Jones. I think tigers must be close to her heart too, for she has dedicated proceeds from the sale of Leap to the WWF Save Tigers Now campaign.

Happy Reading 

#Book Snap Sunday – The Accidental Tourist

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“Just put your hand here. I’m scarred, too. We’re all scarred. You are not the only one.” 

How does a man addicted to routine – a man who flosses his teeth before love-making – cope with the chaos of everyday life? Blending glorious comedy with aching sadness, Anne Tyler’s novel maps out the landscape of a man’s hesitant heart with tenderness, sharpness and unputdownable truth.

The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler was published in 1985, won a National Book Critics Circle award for the most distinguished work of fiction for that year and was made into a film starring William Hurt, Kathleen Turner and Geena Davis.  

Macon Leary writes travel guides for the business man who would rather be at home. After the murder of their son Ethan, Macon’s marriage to Sarah falls apart and he moves back home to live with his sister Rose and brothers, Charles and Porter. Macon and his siblings are a somewhat eccentric bunch who like their routines and arrange the pantry alphabetically (a nifty idea!). And then he meets Muriel, who is as different to Macon as night is to day.

Muriel’s entry into Macon’s life brings about a change from which he can never return. Despite the pain of grief, life is still fresh and beautiful, wonderfully chaotic and very full. While Macon’s siblings have concerns about this “Muriel person”, Macon discovers that he is becoming more himself than he has ever been in his whole life. As he slowly opens himself up to love again, he learns that life is messy, no one escapes unscathed but that there is always hope and love. 

This was a delightful read. Funny and sad, full of witty and accurate observations about people, grief, love and life.

#Book Snap Sunday – Home

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Home by Larissa Behrendt is about the loss of identity, connection and belonging experienced by the stolen generation and their descendants. We all want somewhere to belong, somewhere where we can put down roots, somewhere to feel connected, somewhere to call home. For the stolen generation, their identity, connection and belonging is bound to land, family and culture. It is also about memory – knowing where you belong,  your history,  your culture and your home.

This photo of Home by Larissa Behrendt is taken out at our new house. After four years of renting in Toowoomba in three different houses, we will finally have a place to put roots down, a place to call home and a place in which we are not the only ones coming home. The book is sitting on what looks like a very ordinary bookshelf. I have a number of bookshelves, but this one is special. It was made by Rob, my first husband, who died suddenly when Dan and Bec were young. So it is special to us. It is more than just a bookshelf – it is about memory. For the last four years it has remained out west. It is big and heavy. Too big and heavy to move from place to place while renting. But now finally we are reconciled. It has come home. 

Like many people, we have moved around from place to place, from home to home and while we may not experience the same kind of connection with land as our Indigenous Australians, we still have the need to call somewhere home and to know where we belong.

Happy Reading

 

#Book Snap Sunday -The Man Who Was Thursday

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The title of today’s #Book Snap is The Man Who Was Thursday by G K Chesterton (1874-1936). My edition contains two of Chesterton’s novels: The Napoleon of Notting Hill and The Man Who Was Thursday. I read the first of the stories almost three years ago and then never got around to reading the second. However, I am trying to make it a project to finish off some of the half-read books I have laying around.

The Man Who Was Thursday was first published in 1908 and is regarded as Chesterton’s most well known novel. Described as a “spellbinding story of paradox”, the story features characters named with the days of the week and starts with Thursday, “an undercover poet-turned-policeman” who infiltrates an organisation of anarchists. However, he discovers that the rest of the members are not who they seem and neither is Sunday, the head of the so-called anarchists. A  humorous and at times, thrilling read.

Feel free to join in and get creative with Sharon at Gum Trees and Galaxies, reading, snapping and posting on a Sunday afternoon.

Happy Reading!

July-August Reading Update

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Another two-month update. This idea of doing monthly updates hasn’t been working out so well of late.  July didn’t turn out to be the greatest month for reading with only two books but I regained some ground in August reading eight books. Some of those I have already commented on in the Book Bingo Catch Up which you can read here.

Since my last reading update I have joined in with Sharon’s #booksnapsunday. The idea is to take a creative photo of a book and post it somewhere on social media on Sunday. So far I have managed to post three booksnaps – Mrs M, The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart, and Pride and Prejudice. It’s challenged me to think about the book and its themes as I am reading and how I might represent that in a photo. It’s also an opportunity to explore the local area for just the right setting. I’m still thinking about this week’s challenge.

Onto the books…

 

The Pier Falls by Mark Haddon

Haddon is known for his novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which I am yet to read, however I came across this book of short stories in our town library.  I’m not usually a reader of short stories. I generally find them, well, rather short. You just get into a story and then it’s finished. But this collection was engaging, shocking at times, and thought provoking. My favourite story, “The Pier Falls”, is set in a beachside town during the 1970s. A pier collapses. People drown. Others are seriously injured. And this is all before the advent of mobile phones.

Lady Helen and the Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman

Goodman is a home-grown author who has won the Aurealis award. I picked up this book last year at the Brisbane Writers Festival and I loved it. It is the first in a series, so I will be tracking down the next two as soon as I can. An urban fantasy set in 19th Century England, Lady Helen discovers that she is a Reclaimer, gifted with special abilities that enable her to see the Deceivers – evil spirits that feast on the human life force. How is a young woman supposed to act in a lady-like manner, attract a husband of good fortune and save humanity at the same time! Excellent fun.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

It’s Pride and Prejudice – what else is there to say! 

Home by Larissa Behrendt

I first read this novel a few years ago while studying Australian Stories. It tells the story of Elizabeth or Garibooli, as she was known to her family, a child of the stolen generation. Taken from her home at the age of 12 to become a servant in a wealthy white man’s house, she is subject to abuse, exploitation and loneliness. Elizabeth never saw her family or her home again. But it doesn’t end there. The consequences of the loss of family, home and identity continue to impact on her children and grandchildren – until they come home.  

Book Bingo

Over the last month I have ticked off another eight squares on my bingo card for…

  • Memoir about a Non-Famous Person: One Life by Kate Grenville
  • Written by an Australian Woman: The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart by Holly Ringland
  • Written by an Author Under 35: Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta
  • Written by an Author Over 65: A Caribbean Mystery by Agatha Christie
  • Historical: The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
  • Fictionalised Biography about Person from History: Mrs M by Luke Slattery
  • Beloved Classic: Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • Book Written by Australian Woman More Than 10 Years Ago: Home by Larissa Behrendt

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Here’s hoping that September will be a good month for reading too.

Happy Reading!

 

#Book Snap Sunday – Pride and Prejudice

 

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This week’s #Book Snap is the classic Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I have just finished reading this for my course Texts in Adaptation, and as I was reading, and taking notes for the essay, I was thinking about how I could frame the photo. My lecturer made a comment in our lecture about carriages and how they were used by the gentry to affirm their elevated status and make sure others knew their place.

Hmm, carriages. Ah – the Cobb and Co Museum! The Cobb and Co Museum in Toowoomba has one of the largest collections of restored carriages, from fancy carriages for the well-to-do, to the Cobb and Co passenger carriages, down to a cute little goat cart. The museum also has a number of other displays with an excellent science area for kids with hands-on activities. Best of all, if you are a local, entry is free!

Pride and Prejudice is one of my favourite books. It has been a while since my last read and I had forgotten how cutting Jane can be. Lizzie’s observations and witty remarks about people and life in their small village are just as relevant today, but I am relieved that despite the prevailing issues regarding the gender pay gap, discrimination and who takes out the garbage, the lives of women no longer depend upon catching a man of great fortune. Although there is nothing wrong with enjoying a good romance and Colin Firth still makes the best Mr Darcy in my opinion.

After wandering around the museum displays, the Cobb and Co Cafe is a lovely place for morning tea. I don’t usually go in for snapping my snacks and posting them online, but I was impressed with the design on my latte and the chocolate and vanilla slice was delicious. And they have a great range for those of us who are gluten-free.

Happy Reading!

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Anyone for a holiday?

#Book Snap Sunday – The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart

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I am joining in again with Sharon for #Book Snap Sunday and it seems that we both had the same idea; taking inspiration from our natural environment. As you can see from the picture above, The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart, by Holly Ringland, is perched somewhat precariously on a branch in what I think is a Grevillea bush.

The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart is a beautiful book. Not only is the cover beautifully illustrated with Australian Native flowers, but each chapter is named after an Australian flower. Visually the book is reminiscent of a nature journal, complete with definitions, descriptions and drawings of each Australian flower. Ringland’s prose is equally beautiful and yet the story packs a punch, with themes of loss, trauma, betrayal and domestic violence.

The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart is Ringland’s first book and I think it is a stunning debut. One of the themes that resonated with me concerns protection of the ones we love. It is natural as a parent, grandparent or carer to want to protect our children from harm. Sometimes though, in our attempt to keep them safe, we can inadvertently make them vulnerable and actually put them at risk. Without giving too much away, I found this aspect of the story to be thought provoking. It’s hard to watch your child experience the spills and hurts of life, but it is through these experiences that they will develop resilience and learn to thrive – much like the wildflowers of the Australian bush.

Australian flowers play a big part in Alice’s journey so it only seemed right for native flowers to be present in the Book Snap. Sadly, my small courtyard doesn’t have any native plants, but luckily I spied this flowering bush along the walking path that follows the West Creek parklands. It is one of our favourite walking tracks in Toowoomba and you can read more about it here.

Until next time, happy reading.