Sunday, November 27, 2011

Oranges are not the only fruit

In November The Age newspaper reviewed a memoir, Why be happy when you could be normal?  by Jeanette Winterson where she describes her life living with her adopted family. It was not a conventional upbringing as her mother's life revolved around the activities of a zealous church and its missions and abhorrence of all that is not holy. Jeanette is also actively involved in the church until she leaves home at  sixteen. Many years later she became a successful author writing, among other novels, Oranges are not the only fruit.

In the introduction to the book she writes, "Is Oranges an autobiographical novel? Not at all and yes of course." There are definitely parallels between the Jeanette in the novel and experiences of the author. Jeanette in the novel has always been different and has difficulty fitting in at school largely due to her religious environment as she actively participates in the church services and other activities, including preaching, and is destined to be a missionary. However at sixteen she is forced to leave home after forming a relationship with another woman, definitely an unholy practice in the eyes of the congregation and particularly her mother. Jeanette's story is interwoven with other parables of people who are different being forced to leave home yet still having a thread leading them back.

Friday, November 25, 2011

A moveable feast

From 1957 and 1960 the American author, Ernest Hemingway, recorded his memories of living in Paris between 1921 and 1925 published as A moveable feast. In one of the later chapters of the book  Hemingway describes a conversion with the bar chef at the Ritz bar where he is asked to describe the writer Scott Fitzgerald. He answers, " I am going to write something about him in a book that I will write about the early days in Paris. ... I will put him in exactly as I remember him the first time that I met him." Scot Fitgerald had recently completed The Great Gatsby when Hemingway met him. He also writes about other authors  that he met in Paris during this time including Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, James Joyce and Wyndham Lewis and also mentions artists such as Pablo Picasso.

The book in part describes the life of a young writer with a wife and child living in and enjoying life in Paris with little money as Hemingway works at the craft of writing, initially as a journalist but then as a writer of short stories and eventually a novel. The book is also about Paris and its cafe culture and other cultural pursuits in the 1920s.

The title of the book comes from a conversation that Hemingway had with a friend in 1950 - "If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast".

In 2011 the film, Midnight in Paris, captures much of the lifestyle and atmosphere of Paris in this period as writer, Gil Pender, explores the streets of Paris at night and at midnight is transported back to the Paris of the 1920s where he meets the writers, artists and musicians enjoying the many bars, cafes and salons around Montmatre. The film was reviewed in At the Movies

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party

Although the actual wedding between Grace Makutsi and Phuti Radiphuti does not occur until the final chapter much planning for the wedding is required before the event can take place. While this is occurring the services of the detectives at the No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency continue to be in demand. Who has been causing injury to the cattle of Mr Moeti? Is Charlie really the father of twins? And has Mma Ramotswe's little white van come back to life? This is the twelfth book is the No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Series by Alexander McCall Smith and continues the tradition of the previous titles taking the reader into the life of Mma Ramotswe and her family and friends living in Botswana.

In September 2011 ABC television showed an episode of Compass consisting of a Geraldine Doogue  interview with Alexander McCall Smith. The episode can be viewed or downloaded plus a transcript of the interview can be found at

 In October 2011 Alexander McCall Smith was guest of the program, Jennifer Byrne presents -

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Lola's secret

Members of her family have made plans to holiday away from the family motel in the Clare Valley, South Australia, but 84 year old Lola Quinlan decides to spend a quiet Christmas at the motel alone. At least that is what she tells the family. Lola practices her newly acquired computer skills to advertise a special holiday package at the motel. Eight people reply to the ad and part of the book looks at the lives of these people. The rest of the book revolves around Lola's relationships with her family and friends, especially her two grand-daughters Bett and Cassie and their young families.

Lola's secret is a sequel to The Alphabet Sisters first published in 2004. The Alphabet Sisters are Anna, Bett and Carrie Quinlan who, when very young, form a singing group managed by their grandmother, Lola Quinlan. When the girls have a an argument resulting in them not talking to each other for three years their grandmother insists that they all come home to help her celebrate her eightieth birthday. What she does not tell them is her plan to bring the girls together again.

In both books Monica McInerney presents a study of often complex family relationships involving sadness as well as joyous times with Lola Quinlan as the catalyst or motivator for family and community events.