Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Written as a series of letters dated 1946 Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows have written a novel depicting life on the island of Guernsey. When author Juliet Ashton is contacted by Dawsey Adams requesting information about the life and books of Charles Lamb she is unaware of the extent to which her life is about to change. In the letter Dawsey mentioned The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and subsequent correspondence on that topic introduced Juliet to the members of the society and also to a project recording the occupation of the island by the Germans during the war. Aspects of living in an occupied country are revealed throughout the book as well as attempts to adjust to life after war. The book is populated with a wonderful and sometimes quirky cast of characters and throughout the novel there are many references to and quotes from books read by the literary society members. And of course there is a little romance to add to the enjoyment of reading this book.

Postscript: Later this month,  April 2018, the film, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, will be released.

La's orchestra saves the world by Alexander McCall Smith is also about the inhabitants of a small village coping during the Second World War.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Tracing your Irish ancestors

Those of us with Irish ancestors are aware of the difficulties faced when trying to locate information. The destruction of records by fire at the Public Record Office in 1922 makes it difficult to locate early Irish Records. The third edition of this book, published in 2006, by John Greenham, provides a detailed guide to locating genealogical records that do exist. Chapters cover General Register Office records, Census records, Church records, Property and valuation records, Wills, Genealogical Office records, Emigration and the Irish Abroad (includes a section on Australia), The Registry of Deeds, Newspapers, Directories, The Internet, Occupational records and County source-lists.

Six geese a-slaying

What can go wrong when organising a Christmas parade? Meg Langslow finds out when she is placed in charge of the annual Caerphilly Holiday Parade with the theme of The Twelve Days of Christmas. Needless to say Meg's large unconventional extended family is there to 'assist' and to take part in various sections of the parade. If ensuring that all the participants are in the right costumes and in their correct place is not enough, Meg faces an additional challenge when Santa is discovered murdered in his sleigh. Meg and Chief Burke face the task of solving the murder and also the parade.

Another amusing crime told by Donna Andrews with a large cast of zany characters, part of the series of books with birds in the title including Murder with puffins, Murder with peacocks, Revenge of the wrought iron flamingos, Crouching buzzard, leaping loon, We'll always have parrots, Owls well that ends well, No nest for the wicket, The penguin who knew too much, and Cockatiels at seven. Yes there is a bird theme going in the titles of these books.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Shattered Anzacs: living with the scars of war

Marina Larsson provides a study of the effects of World War I on the lives and on the families of returned soldiers injured during the war. Often through case studies based on interviews with descendants of returned soldiers, examples are provided showing the challenges faced by families.
  • How the soldiers coped with chronic injuries including disfigurement, mental illness and other health problems including tuberculous and in some cases venereal disease.
  • Finding and keeping employment, especially when the former soldier had a disability and was unable to return to the type of employment he had before the war.
  • Implementation of the Soldier Settlement Scheme and why it was often unsuccessful.
  • How returned soldiers fared during the economic depression of the 1930s.
  • Provision of government assistance in the form of disability pensions was available but the amount was usually inadequate when the recipient had a family to support.
  • Reliance of the family on support from family members who were also often supporting other family members in a similar situation or who were family of war dead.
  • Reliance on charities such as the Red Cross, patriotic funds, the Centre for Soldiers' Wives and Mothers and the Tubercular Soldiers' Aid Society for additional and immediate assistance.
  • Commemoration of those who returned but died from war related injuries.
Sixty thousand Australians died during the First World War. Ninety thousand Australians returned home with a disability. Some died shortly after returning home. Some managed to live 'normal' lives after a period of rehabilitation. But the war related injuries of many of the returned soldiers affected their lives and impacted on the lives of their families throughout the returned soldier's life. This book provides an insight as to how injuries incurred by World War I soldiers affected not just the soldier but also immediate family members creating material and psychological impact on the subsequent generation of Australians.

The alphabet of light and dark

Danielle Wood's first novel is primarily set on Bruny Island in Tasmania where, after the death of her grandfather, Essie returns to spend three months to investigate and record the history of her family. The focal point of the island is the lighthouse which for many years was operated by members of Essie's family so much of her time is spent in this building examining the papers and artefacts left to her by her grandfather and writing the story. Her discoveries provide not only an understanding of her family's story but also the opportunity to review her own life, especially after meeting Peter again, a friend from her childhood.


In the sequel to The Broken Shore Peter Temple examines the role of Truth when compared with the need for preservation of reputation and personal survival. The Homicide Squad's investigation into the death of a prostitue found in a new expensive apartment is curtailed by the owners of the building as they have friends in high places. The investigation of subsequent murders involving torture, relationships and disintegration of families, corruption plus bushfires threatening the family property are interwoven with Stephen Vanelli and his team's investigation of the fate of the murdered girl.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Iconic building

Throughout the world cities are striving to build the iconic building as an architectural landmark. Charles Jencks looks at this trend and some of the recent buildings created to impress. Not all iconic building projects are successful. Building projects described include New Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao; Selfridges, Birmingham; Ontario College of Art and Design, Ontario; Lyon Airport Station; Olympic Stadium, Beijing; Ronchamp Church; London City Hall, Disney Hall and the Swiss Re building in London better known as The Gherkin. Australian iconic buildings discussed are the Sydney Opera House, Parliament House in Canberra, and Federation Square in Melbourne. Jencks also has a chapter on the Ground Zero project in New York. An interesting illustrated study of modern city architecture.

International Harvester - Tractor equipment in Australia and New Zealand

Published in 2009 this book by Graeme R Quirk recounts the influence of the company, International Harvester, in Australasia from it American origins to its recent incorporation as Case IH. This book acts as a catalogue of International Harvester tractors, harvesters, other agricultural equipment and early cars with copious photographs of the different machines. There is also a chapter on the role of the International Harvester factory at Geelong where many of the products were made.