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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

THE BLURB 29/6/10
… with Robyn, Bernard, Sarah and guest speaker Susan Dodd.

Book News: from Melbourne correspondent Steph!
Miles Franklin Literary Award: The winner of the 2010 Miles Franklin Literary Award was Peter Temple for his novel Truth. His prize $42,000. Truth is the sequel to Peter Temple’s The Broken Shore.

The Modern Woman’s Anthology 2010: Last week, Thérèse Rein, launched The Modern Woman’s Anthology 2010. Twenty one remarkable women have contributed their insights into what it means to be a woman in today’s world. They share their personal stories. Contributing writers include Cathy Freeman, Dr Cindy Pan and Kate Ellis.
All proceeds from The Modern Woman’s Anthology 2010 will be donated to the Black Dog Institute, a not-for-profit, educational, research, clinical and community-oriented facility offering specialist expertise in mental health.

Your Writing Your Career: Your Writing Your Career Seminar series commences 7 July. Book for all four seminars for a discount of nearly 20%: seminars include
Make Money from Writing, Beyond the Slush Pile, Time Management for Writers, So Now You’re Published.
Writing Retreat: Friday 2 July – Sunday 4 July. Writing retreat for both experienced and emerging writers. To be held in Warburton. Cost $220 or $175 concession

BERNARD’s REVIEW: SCOTT TUROW, Innocent, rrp $ 32-99, p/b, 406 pp.


Abstract: From 23 years ago [‘Presumed Innocent’], Rusty Sabich and Tommy Molto re-emerge to do battle in thr courtroom, Rusty once again on trial for murder, this time of his wife. Into the mix comes his former lover who is now the partner [unbeknown to Rusty] of his son, Nat. As well as the friendship and family loyalties under scrutiny, there is some intriguing IT forensics to be worked through before the murder trial reaches its dramatic conclusion. It is a very ‘wordy’ novel [a s in lots of dialogue!] and I am not sure Turow always held my interest. It is a cut above the TV versions of courtroom drama, but be ready for a solid read!

IN FULL: The courtroom has an honorable history. Think Cicero’s, Verrine Orations Or, if your Latin is rusty, read ‘The Merchant of Venice’ again. One of the classics of the modern TV era was ‘Perry Mason’ with the wheelchair-bound, lugubrious Raymond Burr in the role of Erle Stanley Gardner’s defence attorney.
In more recent times – not to mention daytime ‘live’ TV – courtroom scenes pay a part in every other of the plethora of investigation/procedural shows that are on every night. Today’s author not only writes fiction in legal settings, but practices law in Chicago and has often served the community on bodies such as the Illinois Commission On capital punishment. I think this context is relevant because beginning to end, ‘Innocent’ is a novel about American court procedure. It is long, at times complex, but finally quite engrossing.
The two main contenders – Rusty Sabich and Tommy Molto – are old foes. In 1987 they featured in Turow’s best-selling ‘Presumed innocent’ [ made into a very good film soon after publication.] Rusty is now a somber senior judge; probably because of those long ago events, Tommy’s career has stalled somewhat. As the book opens, Rusty’s bi-polar has just died in unusual and , of course [ this is a MYSTERY novel, after all] i suspicious circumstances. Rusty becomes chief suspect. As in the earlier book, Rusty’s relationship with a younger woman, Anna, is a vital part of the back story – and continues to haunt him in ways he could never have imagined. Having just missed out on convicting Rusty 20 years ago, Tommy and his team line up for the prosecution. A vital ingredient in the new contest is Rusty’s son, Nat; indeed, I found him the most interesting character as he struggles to win his father’s affection in the worst of predicaments. We are kept close to each of the main characters as Turow uses the chapter-by-chapter, varying individual points of view technique that it seems common nowadays. He handles the shifts in time and perspective effectively.
Because this is 2010, ITC becomes an essential factor – the catalyst? – as the case twists and turns. This is a long and dense read, at times resembling the text of a courtroom transcript. I am not sure that it is all that successful finally. There were moments when I was tempted to skip ahead. Sure, the reader is kept guessing throughout, and [ as we would expect from Turow] we are thoroughly immersed in the labyrinth that is the US jurisprudence.
My verdict: worth a read, but be ready for a slog.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Publishing New.

* QUEENSCLIFF'S THE BOOKSTORE invites you to an Open Reading eveNing this saturday [ 26th] from 8 pm. bring your own work, or a favourite. Guest presenter is local author JUSTIN D'ATH.

* The wonderful Les Murray was on " Talking Heads" monday night: probably available on-line somewhere. His " Spurwing Plover" is our poem for today.

* His colleague BRUCE DAWE, now age 80, is apparently teaching Bruce Dawe's poems to a U3A class in his home town....[ Yours truly is offering classes in Dawe and Murray from October 6th to Geelong U3A.]

* The latest issue - the "WET" edition - of Deakin's WINDMILLS is now available. Lots of new creative writing, edited by our Alyson and Jo [ plus team.] I found mine at the Drysdale library.

* Does every popular novel have to be turned into a film or TV series? I see that " The Elegance of the Hedgehog" [ which i reviewed a few weeks back] will be playing at the " NOVA" in a month's time. By the way, have you read it? Comment?

* A friend sent me a beautiful new book " The Hard Light Of Day" last week. I received it the very day its author, ROD MOSS, was on Phillip Adams' LNL Again, I think all LNL interviews can be found on-line. I will be talking about the book when I've had time to read it.

* Do you remember Scott Turow's " Presumed Innocent" ....from 23 years ago? AND the excellent film, starring Harrison Ford? Turow has written a sequel which I will talk about soon. If you've not seen it, have a look at the DVD.

*SHIRLEY WALKER's " The Ghost at the Wedding" which we talked about last year has won an award for non-fiction.

* When discussing Clifton Evers' " Notes for a Young Surfer" last week, I bemoaned the scarcity of books that look seriously at sport AS CULTURE and its impact on Australian society. [ I also neglected to mention LES CARLYON and GIDEON HAIGH, two outstanding writers who have continually written on the topic.] Lo and behold: a new book is out called " Sport and the Australian national identity" has just been published. Aforesaid Gideon Haigh gave it quite a good review. Just $125! Bernard

REVIEW: Helen Fitzgerald: My Last Confession, Faber/Allen&Unwin paperback, 2009, rrp $32-99

On this program we do our best to promote LOCAL writers [ as with John today again.]....I am cheating a bit in this regard with Helen's book: she USED to be a "local" in that she grew up around the corner from us in Kilmore. Nowadays Helen lives in Glasgow with her husband and two cjhildren.....But i reckon we should trumpet the achievement of anyone from our Central Highlands who can get SIX novels written and published in the UK. Helen's husband Sergio is a screenwrter and she says it was largely a case of " If he can do it, why can't I?" hat got her starting in professionl writing [ though knowing Helen's Mum, a former colleague, and three of her older siblings, I suspect there was always a writer waiting here inside...] There is in fact feel of he screenplay in today's book for review.

The handful of characters are neatly drawn, here is a strong sense of place [ though her Glasgow isn't as gritty as, say, Ian Rankin's - which may be because of her assured contemporary placing of the action. Kriissie is at the heart of all the action [ as she will be in the later " Dead Lovely'.] Here helen is undoubtedly drawing on her own experience when she worked for some years in the Glasgow prison system as something like our probation officer - a demanding and occasionally life-threatening profession, no doubt. Krissie is quirky, intelligent, reflective, vulnerable - and always very up-front honest.

Someone close to Helen old me to be ready for a " racy" read, and it is true,. All the frankness and brashness of 21st century urban life is on display here. This is not however " grunge' literature; there is too much fun lurking just below the surface [ in THIS novel by Helen at least.] I found the tone appropriately ironic which makes even the darker bits bearable. Krissie is a single Mum who has decided she will move herself and son, Robbie, in with long-time boyfriend, he sculptor, Chas. She begins her new job, as a probation officer. These workplace scenes are, not surprisingly, among the novel's best: the colleagues, the " workplace relations, the casework. In her efforts to avoid child abuse cases, Krissie attracts some doozies of clients to put it mildly. This provides the second key plot-line [ after the Krissie-Robbie-Chas relationship.]

The books defies any net classification of " crime novel', " thriller" or " procedural' and yet she includes features of each. AsKrissie becomes more involved in the case of accused murderer, Jeremy, she inevitably finds work cannot be left at the office. The family space becomes horribly vulnerable. We will met Krissie again in " Dead Lovely" where any notions the reader might have carried that she was some sort of heroine or role model will undergo a drastic re-think! [ Please read on after the first page.] Apparently the Krissie characyter is being worked into TV series and I can see the possibilities.

She is a new New Woman - stereotyping-challenging, abrasive, yet very human. I wonder how many readers will empathise with her.......No matter: two of my favourite crime fiction characters are Rankin's John Rebus and JL Burke's Dave Robicheaux - but I'm not sure I LIKE them. They are INTERESTING, entertaining. So too Krissie. I congratulate Helen on what she has so far done. I suspect we are seeing h apprentice at work, however. She is already way ahead of so many whose bulk takes up the space in our libraries and book stores. helen writes great dialogue, doesn't use cliches and gives us credible characters - not a bad start for good novel writing, i say. The books are in your Geelong regional library, and I hope in the shops. Well worth reading.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Blurb June15th

Book News

· ‘Street/Studio’
Tonight at 6.30pm at Readings in Carlton, 309 Lygon Street, Alison Young a Professor at the University of Melbourne will speak with some of Melbourne’s top street artists. Alison has recently released a new book, Street/Studio: The Place of Street Art in Melbourne.
Recently street art has been enjoying more exposure and popularity in Melbourne. It has been in the news after a stencil by well known British graffiti artist, Banksy, was accidently removed by city cleaners.
Street/Studio is an illustrated book with more than 200 full and double page colour spreads. It retails for $59.95 and offers an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at how street art has entered the mainstream and become one of the most collectable new art forms. It explores the diverse range of street art styles, including painting, drawing and sculpture.

· ‘Journey’
Stories about people’s experiences with breast cancer are sought for a new collection entitled Journey. Journey is tentatively scheduled for an October 2011 publication Busybird Publishing & Design is looking for factual stories about breast cancer. Through the collection Journey, they are hoping to raise awareness, offer insight, and help others through the sharing of stories. A percentage of proceeds from the completed book will be donated to the Breast Cancer Foundation. See or email

Fatherhood Poetry Project
Relationships Australia and the Australian Poetry Centre have joined forces to produce a book on dads and what being a dad or fatherhood means to Australians. What does having a father, or being a father, mean to you? 15 poems will be chosen for publication in a very special limited collection to be launched in time for Father’s Day. Poems should be funny, touching, stirring, inspiring and need to be no more than 15 lines. The poems will be chosen by a selection committee comprising of established poets and representatives from Relationships Australia and the Australian Poetry Centre. Successful poets will also receive a free copy of the publication and one year’s membership with the Australian Poetry Centre. The books will be available in bookshops and the proceeds will go to fund community programs. Entries close Thursday 1st of July

BERNARD’S Review of Clifton Evers: Notes for a Young Surfer, MUP p/b, rrp $24-99

I confess I don't spend much time on sport - reading about it, watching it...much less playing it. It is, however, apparently one of our national obsessions. When I think of BOOKS and sport, I see the sellers' shelves are full of glossily-illustrated " biographies', etc. How many look beyond That Year or That Game or That Series or This personality? How many discuss where this 'obsession' fits into the people's collective psyche? I think of a classic from years back," The Coach" by John Powers about Ron Barassi, and the continuing work of the wonderful Martin Flanagan and NSW's Petere Fitzsimmons. Peter Roebuck on cricket often reaches considerable literary heights in his columns on cricket, but he is usually focussed on This Game. There seems to be very little reflection on sport's place in Australian life.

The research and teritary teaching by someone like this week's guest CLIFTON EVERS is going some way to filling the gap with the sport of SURFING. Clif' lectures at the university of Wollongong in the areas of gender, media,sport and cultural studies. His own lifelong love of the surf and his more recent research focus have led to his book of " Notes". It is quite a slim volume and is somewhat sporadic in its organisation, but he manages to cover a wide range of activities and issues relating to a sport that so many Aussies follow with a passion and commitment unique among recreational pursuits, I would suggest [ especially after reading this book.] It is a book one can dip into rather than read-to-the-end and includes a useful index. There is a strong NSW and Queensland bias: I am not sure how widely Clif's insights apply to our local scene, for example.

Part of the book's readabilty comes from the author's authority - and honesty: while valuable points are made about sociological and cultural factors and outcomes, they are usually first-hand observations - and usually the result of experience. The more 'theoretical' sections are pleasingly interspersed with anecdotal sections about everything from a story about wipeout to a frightening vignette describing a pack rape. Clif' doesn't flinch from the ugly side of the culture. His sections on the [south of Sydney] " Bra Boys" and the 2005 Cronulla riots are very confronting for all Australians. [ Have we learned from the latter? Listen to our political leaders outbidding each other on " toughening up" our treatment of asylum reaction to the polls! ] This is about surfing, but its overall framework is how the sport provides rites of passage for thousand of young Australians. If you surf or have surfed, you will love it. If your CHILDREN surf, you will find " Notes..." of practical use, I am sure.

Publishing news,etc:

* BEWARE BLURBS. On this program we offer you hard news....and OPINION. When our reviewers evaluate a book, you can be guaranteed we will have read the book at least once and probably done some other research as well. BLURBS are a marketing tool and should be treated with the usual caution. Nor is one of our reviews anything like ' gospel'..... My latest effort was to read that Barbara "The Poisonwood Bible" Kingsolver's latest, " The Lacuna", has just won The Orange Prize [ Best Novel in UK for 2010], the book which I - um - less than enthused over on our show not long ago.

* OVERLAND mgazine is always worth a read. The latest has a more positive discussion of Australian film than we've seen of late. There is also a searching article on Canberra press gallery veteran, Pul Kelly. The writer suggests Kelly may have become less-than-objective of late.

* Aspiring writers might like to look at which gives you all sorts of free advice re. publishing,etc.

* JUDITH WRIGHT. A friend gave me the lovely new memoir of that late great Australian, JW, by Fiona Capp, ex- " Age" journo and novelist [ " Night Surfing"]. JW's " The Surfer" [ 1946] is our poem for today. Apparently it gave Fiona an idea for her surfing novel... DO YOU WANT TO REVIEW FOR US? SEND IN ABOUT 750 WORDS ABOUT A BOOK YOU HAVE RECENTLY READ AND WE'LL CONSIDER IT FOR INCLUSION ON THE SHOW

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Publishing News

PUBLISHING NEWS from Bernard [ for The Blurb, June 8 Show.]

* Highlights from the latest ALR: What is modern poetry up to? [ Indeed.] Review of new book on canberra press gallery's late "Red Fox", Alan Reid. [ A lot of Australian Book Review can be accessed in-line. A great resource]

* I caught a DVD [ " Lulu on the bridge" from Geelong library] written and directed by Paulk Auster whose " The invisible' we reviewed set 09. Well worth a look - for William Dafoe's brilliant performance. Please tell me what it as all about!

* John Banville ["The Infinities" which we reviewed recently] was interviewed on ABC 22 Sunday 7.30: great stuff. you can probably find it via their on-line resources.

* The Monthly': latest is the best since new editor. [ Again lots of ' freebies' available on-line.] Don Watson on the Obama bio [ " The Bridge" ] I have been raving about.

* GRANTA....hmmmm: never take my word for it, but I feel this internationally-respected/quoted review is overrated. The theme for this one is "Sex". Available in the shops - and at your library.

* I caught " Sylvia" [ as in a film bio about Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes on midday TV lately. Interesting: Gwyneth Paltrow was an excellent Sylvia....The TH character [ 'can't remember his name] was miscast. It drove me back to her poems and " The Bell Jar" loved by secondary and other students in the 80s. Anyone any thoughts to share?

* Latest " Overland": timely article on the [ apparent] current god of the Canberra press gallery, Paul Kelly....Not all that positive; has been seduced by the Right?

* Have you been watching Simon Sharma's " The American Future" on TV Thurs nights? I think he is brilliant. You may pick up the accompanying book in p/b.

* Anna Funder's "Stasiland" which we celebrated last year [ her book on post-Communist east Germany] has been re-published in the UK. Good p/b price here.

* I relax with crime novels and read Michael Connolly's " the scarecrow" in which he resurrects McEvoy, the journo, from " The Poet". Worth a look. I find too many of the [ US} genre too formulaic altogether....And, ' researching" the popular Lee Childs, I discovered his latest " Jack Reader" is rather similar to the first, years ago. Hmmmm.

The Blurb: May 8th 2010

THE BLURB withh Robyn, Sarah, Bernard, Lizzy & John.

BOOK NEWS: with Steph.

· Woodend Winter Arts Festival
Coming up this Queen’s birthday long weekend will be the sixth Woodend Winter Arts Festival. The festival will host 39 events over weekend. This year the festival will feature both international and Australian artists in various fields. It will celebrate the significant anniversaries of great composers as well as the works of contemporary artists. Literary events will include a poetry slam (a poetry slam is a competition at which poets read or recite their original work) Emilie Zoe will host the poetry slam with ten poets taking part. On Sunday, Nicolas Rothwell author of The Red Highway and Journeys to the Interior will share his thoughts on being a writer. And freelance film maker KimTraill will talk about her insightful experiences into Russian culture during its recent turbulent years.

· Big Red Book Fair
Sat 19 and Sun 20 June - 11am to 5pm - Trades Hall, Melbourne.
This month, a great book fair returns to Melbourne for another year with back-to-the-future bargains at prehistoric prices. There is something for everyone at the big red book fair, including an amazing collection of books on history and politics.

· Rebecca James – Author of Young Adult Fiction
Rebecca James is a 39 year old mum of four sons who lives in NSW. The publishing world is in a complete frenzy over her debut novel, Beautiful Malice, an intense thriller intended for teens and up. Beautiful Malice, with its page-turning plot and characters that leap off the page, is the story of an obsessive friendship and dark secrets that can no longer be hidden. Beautiful Malice has already scored more than $1 million in publishing deals. The Wall Street Journal recently dubbed Rebecca James as "the next J.K. Rowling". Beautiful Malice will soon be translated into 30 languages and is set to have a staggering international print run of 500,000, the largest from publishers Allen & Unwin since Harry Potter. Rebecca was literally facing bankruptcy after her kitchen sales business went bust. Her novel was picked out of a pile of unsolicited manuscripts. Overnight she has become a millionaire and a globally known author. What an amazing fairy tale for this 39 year old Aussie mum!

BERNARD’S REVIEW: Patrick Allington: FIGUREHEAD [ 2009]
Think “ Year of Living Dangerously” or “ Highways to a War”, C J Koch’s classics dealing with Australians’ incursions into Asia. Today we look at the first novel of a young South Australian – Patrick Allington – who has achieved a rare feat. Not content with a boys’-own adventure romp into a machismo SE Asia, Allington had thought deeply, researched exhaustively and [ I am sure] DRAFTED exhaustINGly to bring us the world of Kampuchea/Cambodia of the 1960s and later such that the book’s political and social insights are as shrewd as his dramatist’s lively enactments […indeed some of the set pieces are as vivid as the best of today’s news reporting. ]
I really like and admire this book. Early in the novel, Ted Whittlemore [ loosely based on the late loved-or-loathed Wilfrid Burchett ] saves the life of a man who goes on to play a leading role in the tragedy of Cambodia’s Killing Fields. The consequences of saving Nhem Kiry haunt him for the rest of his days. As the Khmer Rouge take power, Whittlemore watches as the ideals he holds dear are translated into unfathomable violence. As the decades unfold, it seems Kiry’s life has become intertwined with his own. Over the 293 pages, we travel SE Asia [ mainly Cambodia] and ultimately “home” to Australia withTed, charting the awful track of Cambodian history. We become immersed in the world of world power politics as Khmer Rouge, Vietnam, America, Russia and China play with the minds and hearts of the innocent millions of ordinary Cambodians. The recent film “ Balibo” has reminded us of the paper-thin stage reporters tred in such [places [ not to mention the Fairfax people in the ME last week.]
As with the Koch novels [ cf above] Allington is dealing with the timeless themes of guilt and memory here: were the Khmer Rouge butchers REALLY idealists at the outset? How do the West’s “ ideals” stack up anyway? Can I ever be a ‘ I hate talking politics” disinterested observer ? There are some superb chameo appearances, not least by the buffoon Prince Sihanouk, playing badminton as the sun goes down on his kingdom….And there is the obligatory “ Ugly American”, relentlessly exploiting Stateside politics – while running a “ Think tank”/NGO on Cambodia back home.
A **** rating. A Black Inc p/b, rrp $ 29.95.
Further references:
Film and [ Graham Greene] novel “ The Quiet American’.
Film: “ The Killing Fields”
Kenneth Cook: “ The Wine of God’s Anger”.
Paul Ham: “ Vietnam: Australia’s War”.

LIZZY’S REVIEW: ‘Secret Daughter’ by Shilpi Somaya Gowda,William Morrow 2010. Fiction.
This is a debut novel centred on two inter-generational families, one from India and one from the US 1984-2009. The author, Canadian born to parents who migrated from Mumbai India, graduated from Stanford and lives in California. The book has had good reviews for reading clubs and the Women’s Weekly; it hit number two on the Globe and Mail Bestseller list, (Canada), and is still currently a best seller.

There are several strong themes throughout, entrenched mainly in a landscape of Mother India. These include grief and loss, achieving cultural awareness, global interconnectedness and family cohesion. The major theme, though, reinforces what we imagine to be a mother’s love–never-ending, unconditional, and what Helen Steiner Rice might describe as “sacrifice and pain”. It takes us on a journey of understanding a mother’s love as against misunderstanding it, which can happen readily through ill-informed judgement of a mother’s motives or cultural patterning. Kavita, the mother from rural India surrenders her daughter to an orphanage, yet her emotional bond with this child is never severed.

Shilipi’s starting point for Kavita’s story is the illegal Indian practice of female infanticide. This is a good hook, very current, slaughtering of female babies is still rampant in rural India—fifty million girls and women are considered “missing” in India. And Shilipi clearly lands reasons for this in the patriarchal and economic corner pointing out that this practice, in the Indian cultural context, would be seen as a “wise course of action.” One reason being might be the enormous sums extracted from a bride’s family for dowry and wedding costs.

Her descriptions of life in India do bring an authenticity to the text, such as Kavita and her sister Rupa sharing coconut in Bombay, the insertion of common Indian terms in italics, vignettes of the street life and religious ritual. But I wouldn’t describe it as a sensual text, for it lacks a richness, which might have enhanced the texture of the scenes and heightened the emotion of Kavita’s plight. This, on the other hand might have been deliberate if the author simply was after motives and action written as matter-of-fact, without a shred of sentimentality; karmic justice for the masses just is. Like the movie Slumdog Millionaire, chances for redemption in Secret Daughter are slim.

An interesting feature of Secret Daughter is its structure on various shifting omniscient points of view. The most engaging for me was Kavita with quite a good picture of her early marriage and her pitiful means of rebellion against patriarchal determinism. She does this by stealth— adding extra hot chilli in her husband Jasu’s food and tricking him out of his conjugal rights. And more dramatically, she runs off to an orphanage in Bombay with her new baby girl, to avoid the impending murder this child. Kavita’s grief and pain is shown by her cut feet from the long journey to the orphanage, naming the baby and her shrieking at the orphanage after handing the baby over. A year later, she undergoes an ultrasound to determine the sex of her new baby – a boy. The clinic may have represented one of the sex-selection abortion clinics that started up in 1974 and still exist.

On the other hand, there is Somer, a US medical doctor with miscarriage problems, who adopts Asha with her Indian neurosurgeon husband, Krishnan. The young adult Asha explores her Indian roots, taking journalistic forays into poverty there. She connects with an Indian friend Sanjay and is able to make a culturally informed realisation about her birth mother’s motives for her abandonment. That is, there were good intentions after all; it was a wise move on the part of Kavita to offer Asha better opportunities.

What was particularly pleasing was that there was not a stereotypical view of male characters. For instance, Jasu features alongside Kavita, eventually becoming a caring father and husband. This might have been due to his improved social status following the birth of a son, but the author does not go into this. However, it is clear that over time, he grows to value the skills of his wife and is a decent, hard-working, family man. Kavita shows she is very practical and a more equitable relationship develops between the pair. Later on in the book, we learn that Jasu was haunted by his first daughter’s infanticide, even in the face of profound family pressure to tow the cultural line.

There were some disappointments however, which marred the drama of the storyline. One is the woodenness of the characters. Kavita delivers a second girl who is destined to follow her female sibling’s fate of being murdered. Fearful of what is about to happen, Kavita is teary, simply eyeballs Jasu, and threatens him with the prospect of having another child. She is not screaming and running as we might envisage. It was indefinite as to why there was a kind of resignation in Kavita’s attitude, or if she felt she had some sense of control. In general, though, the sheer ordinariness of the characters, except Kavita’s drug dealing son, does not create any tension.

Another is the dodging of infanticide reality. Modes of these murders are horrific such as babies fed unhulled rice, which punctures their windpipes, feeding poisonous fertilizer or oleander sap and even just starving the child. Not entering into details such as these may have been so as not to digress from the themes.

The tension was whittled down in other ways. The enormous amount of tell is not saved by the immediacy of the present tense. Then there is the optimistic almost romantic storyline where hardly anyone is flawed, events are almost tidied up at the end of the book. Everyone is understanding and well intentioned. As time goes by there is understanding and growth: Somer and Krishan reconnect, Somer beomes a devotee of yoga, and Jasu initiates the collection of Asha’s details to comfort Kavita. Also, the three points of separation go a little too far. After twenty-five years, the orphanage director is still in situ when Asha arrives and after possibly many thousands of visitors to the orphanage, can still remember Kavita’s eyes. Sarla, the paternal grandmother, is a benefactor of the orphanage; Asha just happens to be a journalist with Indian parentage, able to follow through on her family history.

All in all, though, Secret Daughter is a gentle conversation about these themes against a colourful, well-defined cultural backdrop. It is an easy, non-confronting read, perhaps a little too goodie-two-shoes for my taste . . . However, it is a refreshing change from current media representations of violence, mayhem, and sexual explicitness. It is well positioned for the gift market, certainly a good book for mums and daughters, reinforcing what we knew about mothers all along and exploring feelings that mothers everywhere can identify with.

Interestingly, a new inter-generational movie about women, featuring Jane Fonda, is in pre-production, to be directed by our Bruce Beresford. It’s called Peace, Love and Understanding; it could have easily been the title for this book.

RRP is $29.20 AU and is available through most outlets.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


With Robyn Hodge, Sarah McInnes and Bernard Ryan.

Book News: Stephanie Crawford, our Melbourne correspondent called in to tell us about…
- The Froth & Bubble Literary Festival in Torquay. The weekend of 19/20 June, all events are free. The Geelong Regional Library Corporation will be providing the Living Library on both the Saturday and Sunday between 1.00 pm and 4.00 pm at Torquay College, 45-55 Grossmans Road, Torquay. To reserve a book, readers will need to email their name, contact details, book selection and preferred time to Tiarni Blair at the Geelong Regional Library Corporation. For more information
- First Tuesday Book Club with Jennifer Byrne, 10.05pm tonight ABC1. Tonight’s guest panelists, Lionel Shriver and one of Ireland’s best known authors Colm Toibin, they will discuss reading by Moonlight by Brenda Walker and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.
- The Cricket Poetry Award. Poets from test playing nations are invited to submit a poem celebrating aspects of life in and around the game and sport of cricket, in settings of backyard cricket, beach cricket, club cricket or social cricket. The genre may be narrative, dramatic, satirical, lyrical, elegy or verse fable. The Cricket Poetry Award will be run in conjunction with the Cricket Art Prize, and the winner will be announced at the Cricket Art Prize opening event at the Members Pavilion of the SCG – 7th Oct 2010. The Cricket Poetry Award offers AU$2000 to the winning poet with international exposure for the top twenty poems. Entries close on the 1st of September. For more information
SONG: Yves Klein Blue – ‘Make up your mind’.

REVIEW: Bernard reviews Muriel Barbery’s ‘The Elegance of the Hedgehog’.
Reflects 1990s Paris and its ambience. The hedgehog of the title is Renee Michel, a middle-aged concierge in a multi-story upper-class apartment Paris. A humble widow, she is all but ignored by the residents of the block, her only friend a Portuguese cleaning lady. She has however a deep secret. In spite of coming from a peasant family, Renee Michel is an autodact. She is profoundly educated in European philosophy, literature and music. Meanwhile, unknown to her a precocious 12 year old, Paloma, is slowly thinking her way towards a spectacular suicide at age 16. She fills in her time developing profound thoughts about human existence. When Mr Kakuro Ozo moves in he befriends them all and the turning point of the novel is born.
Main characters are well drawn up, with strong motifs. Have a dictionary handy as there are some words that popup that you may not know. Very interesting read, easy to follow, ‘unputdownable’!


INTERVIEW: Local author Garry Kinnane.
Garry reads a passage of his childhood memoir, ‘Shadowed Days’, from the Mt Macedon section. Shows the great imagery of the writing. Bernard discusses what he loved about the story after having read the memoir. Sarah interviews Garry on how the memoir came to be, his struggles growing up and love of writing.

SPONSORS / SONG: Jack’s Castle – ‘The Dalai Lama on a Colour TV’.

INTERVIEW: JD Shaw, poet from NSW.
Sarah interviews Jamie on his childhood, leaving school early, conservation and the wildlife work that saw him seriously burnt in a fire, changing his life forever.

SONG: Claire Hollingsworth – ‘Craft Savvy Criminal’.