Thursday, December 30, 2010

When we think about Melbourne: the imagination of a city

Jenny Sinclair explores through the use of maps, fiction, music, art and film what makes Melburnians relate to Melbourne.

A major section of the book concerns the history of maps describing our city - the maps of the first European settlers defining boundaries (land and coastal), maps showing the terrain, maps leading to the goldfields, as well as the current dependence on Melways (with an S) for finding our way around. We can also view our city from a tower, by walking through laneways or riding along bike paths or other tracks or view the city from the windows of a tram. The second part of the book looks at visions of the city through artistic work.

In a recent interview with Alan Brough on 774 the author described how the book was written to encourage people to think about their city and the locations that are important to them. In many ways Jenny Sinclair may only scratch the surface but she left this reader wanting to carry out their own investigations as to what the city means to them. I especially found the discussions on maps interesting and started adding additional titles of novels set in Melbourne to the list provided. A project during the next year or two will be to read more fiction set in Melbourne / Victoria.

The book contains many photographs and has a useful list of references and index.An interesting introduction to the city that is Melbourne.

Mortal remains

The thirteenth book involving investigations by Dr Temperance Brennan has also been published under the title of Spider Bones.

When Tempe and Detective Andrew Ryan investigate a suspicious death in Quebec the victim is unidentified as John Charles Lowery. As John Charles Lowery was buried in North Carolina in the 1960s after dying in Vietnam Tempe is persuaded to travel to Hawaii to work with staff at the JPAC - a US agency that identifies Americans killed in action overseas. In Hawaii an unidentified body from the Vietnam War is discovered wearing a dog tag belonging to John Charles Lowery. Tempe and Danny Tandler work together to unravel the mystery.

Tempe is also asked to help identify the body of a young man found in the sea and shortly afterwards another body is located. The deaths appear to be gang related.

Family matters are also a focus of the book. Tempe's daughter, Katy, accompanied her to Hawaii. A close friend of Katy's had recently been killed in Afghanistan and Tempe hoped a new environment might help her daughter. Andrew Ryan also arrives in Hawaii with his daughter, Lily, who was recovering from drug addiction.

As with the other books in this series by Kathy Reichs includes forensic detail throughout the story as the plot unfolds and in this book carefully explains the many acronyms that occur. As the investigations continue Tempe receives a number of threats to persuade her to cease investigation. There are many twists and turns until all the questions have been answered. An interesting concept but at times the plot lines are predictable.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

A place in The Rocks

The first European settlement in Sydney was on the sandstone stepped area later referred to as The Rocks. Over the years many small houses and tenements were built in this area, initially timber to be replaced by stone. This book recalls a number of distinct stages in the history of The Rocks and the establishment of a house museum consisting of a terrace of four houses, known as Susannah Place, located at 58, 60, 62 and 64 Gloucester Street.

Susannah Place was built in 1844. Each house had two rooms on two floors and, because the houses were constructed on a slope, another room was dug out of rock at the back of the house.

Susannah Place survived the slum clearances as a result of bubonic plague in 1900, the clearance of land for the building of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the 1930s and other land clearances for 'development' in the 1970s and the 1980s. The Historic Houses Trust of New South Wales has converted the Susannah Place building into a house museum to record the lives of the many people who lived in this area and this important part of Sydney's social history. The stories of people recorded in the book are the result of an oral history project. Photographs throughout the book are from a variety of collections. There is also a tenant list providing the names of families who lived in the four houses from 1845.

  Susannah Place Museum

The Antiques Roadshow

The first program of the Antiques Roadshow was broadcast in May 1977. This book celebrates the first 21 years of the show. Sections of the book provide biographies and photos of the experts who have been involved in the show, chapters on the research and behind the scenes work required before the filming of each program plus information about some of the finds made on the show.This well illustrated book provides an insite not only into the making of the television show but also into the collecting passions of the public.

Torn apart

Peter Corris is primarily known as the writer of the Cliff Hardy private investigator novels. In this book Cliff is surprised to meet a second cousin, Patrick Malloy, who suggests they visit Ireland and connect with distant family who are Irish Travellers. On their return, Patrick is shot dead. Who shot Patrick? Was the bullet meant for Patrick or for Cliff? Why is Patrick's ex-wife, Sheila, suddenly on the scene? Cliff has lost his PI licence but this does not stop him investigating who killed his cousin. It might be him next. A well written book with plenty of action and intrigue.

Then and Now

Two books forming the sequel to Morris Gleitzman's book written for children about the Second World War, Once.

Then continues the story of Felix and Zelda attempting to find a safe place to stay to keep out of site of the Nazis. When Genia offers them shelter she is pacing her life in danger too.

Now is set in Australia and focuses on Felix's grand-daughter, also named Zelda, as she uncovers the story of her grandfather's life during the war and also comes to terms with her own problems.

These thought provoking books provide teenagers and adult readers with a greater understanding of the horrors faced by displaced people during war and also poses questions as to what is really valuable in this life.

The charming quirks of others

In this Isabel Dalhousie novel Isabel is asked to investigate the qualities of three perspective candidates for the position of principal at a local school. She then discovers that one of the applicants is the new boyfriend of her niece, Cat. To further complicate her life a person she does not like offers to write a review of the work of another person that Isabel mistrusts for the Review of Applied Ethics that Isabel edits.  Isabel also discovers that another woman has designs on her partner, Jaimie. Many dilemmas for Isabel to think through and make decisions on . Another enjoyable book from Alexander McCall Smith.

3AW is Melbourne - 75 years of radio

Margaret Campion has compiled a collection of interviews which together recount the the history of the radio station from 1932 to 2007.

Radio station 3AW first went to air on the 22 February 1932. From 1936 to 1990 the studios were located 382 La Trobe Street before moving to South Melbourne and then to the current studios at Docklands in 2010.

Initially the story is told in decades, 1930s, 1940s 1950s etc followed by chapters on specific themes including football, news, behind the scenes, advertising, the listeners and the presenters. Many photographs accompany the telling of the 3AW story.

Minding Frankie

When Stella realises that she will not survive the birth of her daughter she contacts Noel Lynch and asks him, as the father of the child, to look after Frankie. Noel, a drifter and an alcoholic, appears the least likely person to bring up a child but the close family and neighbourhood network that is St Jarlath's Crescent, Dublin, provides the support mechanism required, if he will respond to it.

As with other Maeve Binchy novels, this books examines the relationships of a close community as they face the challenges of life. One of the successes of Maeve Binchy's stories is the use and development of characters and places already known to her readers as well as the introduction of new characters that become pivotal parts of the multiple stories interleaved throughout the book. New characters include Emily, the daughter of the brother of Noel's father, who visits from America and quickly becomes an important member of the local community and a catalyst for some of the stories as does Moira, the social worker appointed to look out for Frankie's interests, who faces her own family problems as she attempts to carry out her job while Lisa, attempting to establish a new life after making an unfortunate career move, finds perspective again through involvement in this close-knit St Jarlath's Crescent community. The continuation of stories introduced in earlier books further add to the involvement of the reader in the lives of well loved characters.

Maeve Binchy fans will love this addition to her continuing stories of the struggles and joys of life in suburban Dublin.