Saturday, December 12, 2015

Instances of the Number 3

When working on the FutureLearn course on Hans Christian Andersen recently we were asked to consider the author's use of numbers in many of his stories, particularly the numbers 3 and 7. In the discussion on the forum this book by English novelist, Salley Vickers, was mentioned so I decided to borrow it from the library.

Peter Hansome is married to Bridget but also has a mistress, Frances. Both of the women know about the existence of the other but are not aware that Peter is on his way to visit another woman when he dies in a car accident. The book explores the lives of Bridget and Frances as they form a friendship of sorts after Peter's death. It looks at relationships and love and has as a major theme the need to know and understand oneself. Bridget loves the plays of Shakespeare and the poetry of John Donne and quotes from their writings appear throughout the novel. Frances works in a gallery and there are also references to art. The story primarily revolves around incidents during the first year after Peter's death but there are also descriptions of events that occurred before he died. Other characters appearing in the lives of the two women are Zahin -a friend of Peter's, Painter - a friend of Frances, Mickey - Bridget's neighbour and Stan - a friend of Bridget. Throughout the book there are discussions on religion (unknown to his wife, Peter had converted to Catholicism) and forgiveness. From time to time Peter's ghost appears observing the lives of the people he loved as they continue living without him.

This is a book that I wanted to continue to read. Although I worked out part of the plot before the outcome was revealed, it did not detract from my wanting to read the book to the end. I shall certainly look out for more books by Salley Vickers.

The cover of the edition of the book I read showed the Three Graces - part of the painting La Primavera by Botticelli.

Old Hobart Town and environs 1802-1855

Carolyn R Stone and Pamela Tyson collected selections from official reports and accounts of the settlement of Hobart which have been published with a collection of maps and early drawings and paintings depicting the new settlement. This volume, published in 1978, provides valuable information about the establishment of Hobart Town from the initial colony led by David Collins in 1804 until the end of transportation in 1853 and obtaining self government in 1855.

The first members of my family to live in Tasmania arrived from Norfolk Island in 1805. Consequently it is interesting to read the accounts of what the settlement would have been like when George Guest and his family arrived and how the town developed. Thomas William Birch arrived in the colony in 1808 and prospered as a merchant and land owner. In 1834 the merchant, George Mackillop, brought his family to Hobart Town and lived there for approximately six years before returning to the UK. Simeon Lord junior arrived in Tasmania in 1826, initially to look after some of his father's interests in the colony until developing his own enterprises in the state. Recently I was in Hobart for a week where I spent as much time as I could exploring the area where my ancestors once lived. It has therefore been interesting to read these early accounts comparing the descriptions in the book with the city of today.

I found looking at the maps and illustrations fascinating and there is also a select bibliography listing further reading. Hopefully I will find some of these titles in the State Library. All in all this book is a good introduction for anyone interested in the establishment of European settlement in Hobart.

Friday, December 11, 2015

World War I a history in 100 stories

In April / May this year Monash University ran an online course via FutureLearn. The course was World War I a history in 100 stories and it was also repeated later in the year. During the course we looked at stories illustrating the effects of war on participants and their families. The stories studied were short versions taken from a selection of 100 stories, researched by Bruce Scates, Rebecca Wheatley and Laura James, which have now been published in one volume.

Collectively the chosen stories portray the effects of war. However, as noted in the introduction, the collection is not truly representative, in a statistical sense, of the possible stories that could be told. The authors have perhaps over represented the stories of nurses and Indigenous Australians as these stories have often previously been under represented in other collections.

As well as looking at the direct effects of war, including death or being wounded, the stories look at lasting effects of war, both physically and mentally, as those returning from war tried to readjust to civilian life. Some did not succeed. Mourning and commemoration are themes examined in some of the stories.The work of women as nurses and in other support roles are also recorded in the book.

The book is illustrated and at the end of each section there is a section: Sources and Further Reading. These are only some of the stories that could be told about the effects of war on Australian and New Zealand families. The stories have been compiled from official records, other material in archives, newspapers and, in some cases, information from family members. The book is a welcome addition to the growing collection of material on Australia and World War I.