Monday, January 8, 2018

The Red Coast

In August 2006 we spent time in Broome, Cape Leveque as well as Lake Argyle and surrounding areas. We returned to Melbourne knowing that the Kimberley region of Western Australia is a special place.

This is the third book set in the Kimberley by Di Morrissey. The other two are Tears of the Moon (1995) and Kimberley Sun (2002). When I saw that a third book set in the Kimberley was published last year I just had to read it. I was not disappointed.

Jacqui Bouchard owns the bookshop in Broome, Red Coast Books. Although she has only lived in Broome for a few years she has made many good friends and has become part of the community. She also loves Broome and the surrounding region. Jacqui is an organiser of the Broome Literary Festival and much of her time and energy, along with the efforts of other committee members, is devoted to seeing that the festival is a success including ordering extra copies of books to be sold at the event.

When Jacqui's son, Jean Luc, visits her from France for his annual school holidays in Australia, Jacqui's friends help entertain Jean Luc and introduce him to Australian life and culture, including indigenous culture. Meanwhile Jacqui meets Cameron, a childhood friend who is secretive about why he has appeared in the region, and Damien, who is shooting a documentary film about the area.

The calm of living in Broome is broken when it is discovered that an off shore gas mining project is planned 60 km from the town. This creates division among friends and family as some support the project as it may provide economic opportunities while others are concerned about damage to the land, including indigenous sacred sites.

Di Morrissey obviously has enjoyed visiting this special part of Australia and in her novel weaves a story of love for country as well as love of individuals. Jacqui faces many dilemmas as the story unfolds as she tries to understand how she really wants her life to be.

A book worth reading. I am now going to reread the other two books by Di Morissey relating to Broome.

NB: A Google search produces links to a number of articles relating to offshore gas mining in the region near Broome. Two are listed below:

Broome and the gas hub - a town divided

Proposed Kimberley offshore gas base could 'gut' Broome economy

Friday, December 29, 2017

Nine lessons

Nicola Upton includes real people as characters and places in her books. The author, Josephine Tey, regularly is a key character while in this novel the memory of M R James, Provost of Kings College, Cambridge, in 1913, and writer of ghost stories, also features.

In November 1937, Detective Chief Inspector Archie Penrose, from Scotland Yard, found himself in Cambridge investigating the deaths of members of the Kings College Choir who had performed in the 1913 Lessons and Carols Service.What is the connection between the men who are brutally killed and is there a link with the stories told by M R James? At the same time police in Cambridge investigate a series of rapes occurring in the city.

Although the investigation and resolution of the crimes plays a major part of the novel, the author is also concerned with the impact of crime on the victims and the families of victims. The author also uses the Armistice Day commemoration to illustrate the divisions within the community regarding war. For some, fears grow that there is about to be another war, while for many, issues from World War I have not been fully resolved. The relationships between Josephine, Marta, Archie and Bridget continue to  feature throughout the novel.

Like the other books in this series, Nine Lessons is a thought provoking, well written crime novel that is difficult to put down once you start reading it.

The University of Adelaide has made available free digital copies of books by Josephine Tey as well as ghost stories of M R James.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Sydney during the Second World War

Recently I wrote an assignment based on an oral history interview I conducted in 1994 with my mother. I decided to use the section where she described her experiences living in Sydney during the Second World War. Mum was twelve when, in 1939, she moved to Sydney to live with her aunt at Rose Bay and attend secondary school. A number of books provided background information about life in Sydney during this time.

Homefront
A useful book on this topic was Australians at home: World War II by Michael McKernan, Scoresby, Five Mile Press, 2014. The book provides an excellent insight into what it was like living in Australia during the war. Chapter four was particularly useful.

1942
This was the year the Australia feared invasion from Japan and the book, 1942: Australia's greatest peril, by Bob Wurth, Sydney, Macmillan, 2008, provides a detailed account of the threat and the reaction to it.

Another book on this topic is Australia in 1942: in the shadow of war, Melbourne, Cambridge University Press, 2013. This collection of essays, by Australian and Japanese historians and edited by Peter J Dean, looks at different perspectives regarding the intentions of the Japanese in the South Pacific.

A book that I found particularly useful for information about the shelling of Rose Bay was by Terry Jones & Steven Carruthers, A parting shot: shelling by Japanese submarines 1942, Narrabeen, NSW, Casper Publications, 2013. Part one looks at the shelling of Sydney suburbs by a Japanese submarine on 6 June 1942. The authors are particularly interested in where the shells landed and why only a few exploded. Photographs and maps accompany the text. Part two examines the shelling of Newcastle by another submarine while part three looks at the Japanese submarine strategy in general.

In 1992, David Jenkins wrote Battle surface! Japan's submarine war against Australia 1942-1944, Sydney, Random House. Jenkins writes about the Japaneses operations in Australian waters. Chapter 12 is about the attacks on Sydney Harbour, including the shelling of Rose Bay.

Australian politics
Bob Wurth wrote about John Curtin and how he and his government coped with the perceived threat of Japanese invasion in the book, The battle for Australia: a nation and its leader under siege, Sydney, Macmillan, 2013.

General information
Thomas Keneally has written a series of books on Australian history entitled Australians. The third volume is Flappers to Vietnam: a time of wars, changes and social revolution, Sydney, Allen & Unwin, 2014. Much of this book provides information about Australians during the Second World War including the war with Japan.

Another aspect
Not all children stayed in Sydney during the war. Ann Howard has written a book based on interviews with people who were evacuated to the country which was considered safer than living in coastal areas. A carefree war: the hidden history of Australian WWII child evacuees, Newport, New South Wales, Big Sky Publishing, 2015.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Hardcore 24

It must be nearly Christmas as another title in the Janet Evanovich Stephanie Plum series has just been released.

In this volume the police are concerned with the number of headless corpses that are appearing on the streets as well as bodies in the funeral home that have had their brains removed. There appears to be a zombie epidemic in the neighbourhood and whenever Stephanie tries to appehend bail absconders she keeps noticing strange people and behaviours - that is more strange people than she usually encounters in her work.

Added to this Diesel appears in her appartment and settles in to stay until he completes his current assignment. Stephanie and Morelli are continuing their relationship but Ranger, of course, is also in the mix. Stephanie's life is complicated. However the assistance of these three men is required to resolve the Burg's zombie invasion.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

How the finch stole Christmas

This is Donna Andrew's fourth Christmas related book and it does not disappoint. Former titles are Six Geese A-Slaying, Duck the Halls and the Nightingale before Christmas.

Caerphilly, as usual, is celebrating Christmas in a big way. One of the highlights will be a performance of A Christmas Carol, directed by Meg's husband, Michael. Josh and Jamie have parts in the play while Meg is stage manager. An elderly actor has been hired to perform as Scrooge, however he does not always turn up to rehearsal in a fit state to perform his part.

But nothing is really straight forward in Caerphilly. Meg's grandfather has acquired a collection of Australian Gouldian finches that he is minding for a friend and the number will possibly increase. Robyn at the church, has received a request to hold a Weaseltide in the hall and no-one knows what this means. And then Meg finds a large collection of animals, including a tiger, in a barn. Add to this the discovery of a body in the snow and an elderley lady in a wheelchair living with a room full of cats.

Meg takes it all in her stride as she endeavours to ensure that the play will be a success and also helps solve the murder. This is number 22 in the bird related series of cosy crime novels by Donna Andrews.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Force of Nature

When reading this book while watching cricket in Adelaide recently several people, who had read The Dry, noticed what I was reading and asked me what I thought of the book. I was able to tell them that Force of Nature was also definitely worth reading.

Jane Harper's second novel is once again set in Victoria - this time in dense bush on a mountain range. A corporate character building hiking exercise ends in disaster when Alice, one of the participants, disappears. As Alice had been assisting Aaron Falk and Carmen Cooper in a financial investigation regarding the company, BaileyTennants, these two members of the Federal Police assist local police with the investigation. Not only is the area where Alice disappeared thick bush but the area has a reputation as four women disappeared in the region twenty years earlier.

The author reveals the story gradually. Each chapter consists of a section describing the search for Alice while a second section gradually reveals what happened during the the three day hike. It soon becomes clear that there is tension and history between the women in the group and what was meant to be a character developing exercise results in total disarray among group members. We also learn more about Aaron Falk and his relationship with is father.

It is great to have another Australian crime writer who allows the landscape to be a focal part of the story as the mystery is revealed.  I look forward to reading the next novel by Jane Harper.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Anne of the Island

Recently while shelving books in the library I discovered that the books in the Anne of Green Gables series by L M Montgomery have been published as large print books. I have fond memories of reading these books as a young teenager with Anne of the Island being a favourite. With some trepidation I decided to borrow a copy hoping that rereading the book many years later would not be a disappointment. Fortunately I thoroughly enjoyed being reacquainted with this book and its characters.

Anne, Gilbert and Charlie leave the Island to study at Redmond College on the mainland. Anne with her friends Priscella, Philippa and Stella share a house as they navigate their studies and friendship plus the challenges of love and life.

The book is about people, including Anne's adopted family at Avonlea, and about relationships,  particularly discovering the true meaning of love.

Reading some of reviews in Good Reads I am obviously not the only person who loves this book and its characters.

The book can also be read online:
Project Gutenberg edition
Page by Page books