The Complete Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie: Including Little Ragged Blossom and Little Obelia by May Gibbs

snugglepotTitle: The Complete Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie: Including Little Ragged Blossom and Little Obelia

Author: May Gibbs

Genre: Children’s Literature

Publisher: HarperCollins

Published: 2017 (Originally published in 1918)

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 272

Price: $39.99

Synopsis: The Complete Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie combines in one edition May Gibbs’ much-loved classics, the Tales of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie (first published in 1918) and its two sequels, Little Ragged Blossom (1920) and Little Obelia (1921).

Quintessentially Australian, these delightful tales have never been out of print; indeed the fantasy world of May Gibbs has been a source of continual fascination for generations of children. May’s is a world filled with fears and excitement and adventures both extraordinary and everyday. A world peopled with small creatures, where the real mixes tantalisingly with the imaginary and provides a window to the magic we all believe exists in the bush.

In this new edition, all of May’s original artwork has been sourced and re-scanned and the illustrations look as exquisite as the day May put down her paintbrush all those years ago. A fresh new design in full colour that is true to the original editions of these three stories makes this new edition a delight to rediscover – or read for the very first time.

~*~

aww2017-badgeIn 1918, a post-war generation of Australian children were introduced to the magical bush world of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie. Whether this was done on purpose, or coincidentally, the timing of the conclusion of World War One (The Great War) and the publication of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie presented an ideal world to escape to, as many children’s books do. Snugglepot and Cuddlepie are two Gumnut brothers, whose curiosity and sense of adventure got them into many a scrape that their friends Mr Lizard, Mr Kookaburra, and Mrs Possum help them out of, in an idealised bush community, bordered by the Big Bad City, where all manner of evil can befall the young Nuts. Together, they venture into the city, obtain clothes, and find a new friend, Little Ragged Blossom. They attend a picture theatre and are always running from The Big Bad Banksia Men and Mrs Snake, devious characters whose desire to harm Snugglepot and Cuddlepie drives the tension, but these characters will always come to a sticky end, with the Nuts managing to escape and save their friends.

These bush fairy tales are unique to Australia, and May Gibbs, as a contemporary of Beatrix Potter, and au author within the same vein of using nature to inspire, and her own words and drawings to tell a story – I think is the Australian Beatrix Potter, as both worked in conservation to preserve the native wildlife and nature they adored and lived amongst. They were amongst the first Australian stories I was exposed to, and some of the first children’s stories that most Australian children have been exposed to for the past one hundred years. In these stories, May Gibbs takes the Gum Nut and bush flower babies introduced in 1916’s Gumnut Babies, and create stories using them as characters that introduce children to the Australian bush, in a world where technology competes for their attention. These beautifully written and illustrated stories establish a love for the Australian bush, and are one of many books by Australian authors published in the history of Australian publishing that establishes what it is to be Australian. Snugglepot and Cuddlepie are a part of the Australian psyche and culture, accessible to anyone, and full of fun and whimsy.

Books are a part of a culture, and the Snugglepot and Cuddlepie books are amongst the most popular in Australia, and perhaps some of the most significant books that have shaped the nation – there are many others that have done so over the years, and in doing so, have contributed to a valuable literary culture that thrives to this day, which is where the Tales from…. series published by Scholastic and that I have also reviewed on my blog come in – introducing Snugglepot and Cuddlepie to a new generation.

The Snugglepot and Cuddlepie books and characters are delightful to read and are aimed at older children, aged eight and older who can read on their own. However, they are also appropriate to be read to children of any age, if they are interested. The world of May Gibbs is a treasured one in Australia, and one that I hope generations continue to adore, and that will continue to stay in print for the next hundred years – as it has never been out of print since the initial 1918 publication.

Buy Snugglepot and Cuddlepie here:

https://www.maygibbs.org

Advertisements

Tales from the Camp Fire by May Gibbs and Jane Massam

tales from the campfireTitle: Tales from the Camp fire

Author: May Gibbs and Jane Massam

Genre: Children’s Fiction/Picture Book

Publisher: Scholastic Australia

Published: 1st November, 2017

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 24 (32 Self-ended)

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: Join Snugglepot and Cuddlepie round the camp fire for stories of friendship and adventure in the Australian bush. Around the camp fire, they will encounter a human, go to a picture show, and discover a cave! Gather around the campfire and get ready for stories of friendship and adventure with May Gibbs’ classic characters.

~*~

aww2017-badgeIn the fourth book in the Tales from series, Snugglepot and Cuddlepie are ready to gather around the camp fire and share their new adventures with you. First, they awaken by a camp fire, and set out on an adventure to find out what a Human is like. Will the Human be kind or mean? Their next adventure takes them to the Lilly Pilly Picture Show, after meeting actress Lilly Pilly, and have an interesting encounter with her pet Bull-Ant. These two stories are reminiscent of stories in the original 1918 Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, and are still charming, as they use the original artwork from Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, especially with Lilly Pilly, and I think this adds a certain charm to the new and old stories. The final story takes place on a ship, and a Banksia Man – who isn’t bad in this book, but takes them on a journey that leads them to a mysterious cave, with Snugglepot and Cuddlepie as trainee sailors.

These stories, written for younger children, and a modern audience, are, as with the first three in the series, a great way to introduce a new generation to Snugglepot, Cuddlepie and the Gumnut Babies, and the Australian Bush, full of mystery and magic, a landscape that May Gibbs adored and sought to conserve as new developments moved in on it. These four books make excellent companion volumes to the original early twentieth century tales.

Pre-order this book at one of these websites:

https://www.maygibbs.org

Booktopia

 

2017 Australian Women Writer’s Challenge Update

aww2017-badge

a-waltz-for-matildaOn the first of January this year, I embarked on a reading challenge. That challenge was to read as many books by Australian women as possible, and at the beginning of the year, I made a list from books I had that I wanted to read, and came to about six, and so decided to take on the middle level – Miles – to read six books and review four. At the time, I was unsure of exactly how many I would read, and so chose this instead of Creating my Own Challenge and nominating a goal. I had no idea that I would be able to read more than four times my chosen goal by the beginning of August, juggling other review books as well, and trying to read across a broad range of genres.

if-blood-should-stain-the-wattlefairvaleAs at the second of August, I have read thirty books, and hope to read many more by year’s end, but I am not sure how many that will be. It could be ten, it could be twenty, I could even double or triple my goal – depending on what I read and how long it takes me, as some books have taken me a little longer than others, and some have been series, in particular, I began the year by working my way through The Matilda Saga by Jackie French within the first couple of months of the year, a six book saga beginning in 1894 with twelve year old Matilda O’Halloren and working through almost a century, taking the titles from well known bush poetry by poets such as Banjo Paterson and Henry Lawson, but positioning the stories through the eyes of the women in various to-love-a-sunburnt-countrylooking for rose patersontimes of turbulence and upheaval in Australia: 1894 to just after Federation, with the formation of unions, moves towards federation and women’s suffrage in A Waltz For Matilda, post World War One with the Girl From Snowy River, who despite all odds, saves the valley and gets the horses to safety, a Depression-era circus in The Road to Gundagai, where a young girl escapes from those who would do her harm, and finds a family who cares and nurses her back to health. In book four, To Love A Sunburnt Country, the story enters World War Two, and is told from Nancy’s perspective, a young part Aboriginal girl whose family has always lived and worked on Drinkwater. Books five and six are told in a few perspectives, during the sixties and seventies, during Vietnam and the moon landing. Matilda, Drinkwater and how women are perceived in society through each of these decades and the rights they fight for link the saga and with book seven due out later this year, I am eager to see where we get to go post-1975.

stars across the oceanFollowing this, I have read a variety of historical fiction, flying too highfantasy, Young Adult, general fiction and romance, ranging from ones that felt over the top and extremely clichéd to those that had more essence and plot than just the couple falling in love at first sight. Two of these, Girl in Between and The Hating Game, a Bridget Jones feel to them, and thus made them more enjoyable and a little more realistic, as the characters were not perfect. This challenge has brought me books I might not have ordinarily picked up and in doing so, has introduced me to new areas of interest but also determined what I prefer and what I don’t like.

my lovely frankieAs part of this challenge, I have also been writing articles on small presses: Pantera Press, Magabala Books, UWA Press, The Author People, Serenity Press, Odyssey Books (yet to be published on Australian Women Writer’s Challenge), Xoum, and Transit Lounge, all of the links have been provided here. I have enjoyed image004doing this, especially contacting some of the publishers. Those who have been rather enthusiastic about the challenge have been Odyssey Books, Serenity Press and The Author People.

BeautyinThorns_Cover

One of the highlights so far has had to be getting to be part of the blog tour for Kate Forsyth’s Beauty in Thorns. I always enjoy Kate’s books, and she writes so exquisitely that it is easy to get lost in her worlds and words. I have been trying to read more crime, and one series I would like to read again is Sulari Gentill’s Rowland Sinclair, though I have already reviewed those so they will be on my read but not reviewed list when I do so.

Below are the books I have read so far. Most have been fiction, with one collection of short stories and one non-fiction so far, and I am hoping to expand on these two areas as I go:

  1. A Waltz For Matilda (Matilda Saga #1) by Jackie French
  2. The Girl From Snowy River (Matilda Saga #3) by Jackie French
  3. The Road to Gundagai (Matilda Saga #3) by Jackie French
  4. To Love A Sunburnt Country (Matilda Saga #4) by Jackie French
  5. New York Nights by CJ Duggan
  6. Country Roads by Nicole Hurley-Moore
  7. The Ghost By The Billabong (Matilda Saga #5) by Jackie French
  8. If Blood Should Stain The Wattle (Matilda Saga #6) by Jackie French
  9. The Last McAdam by Holly Ford
  10. From the Wreck by Jane Rawson
  11. Draekora (Medoran Chronicles #3_ by Lynette Noni
  12. London Bound by CJ Duggan
  13. Looking for Rose Paterson: How Family Bush Life Nurtured Banjo the Poet
  14. See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt
  15. Flying Too High by Kerry Greenwood
  16. The Blue Cat by Ursula Dubosarsky
  17. The Song of Us by JD Barrett
  18. Singing My Sister Down and other stories by Margo Lanagan
  19. Stars Across the Ocean by Kimberley Freema
  20. Murder on the Ballarat Train (Phryne Fisher #3) by Kerry Greenwood
  21. Girl In Between by Anna Daniels
  22. The Lost Pages by Marija Peričić
  23. Beauty in the Thorns by Kate Forsyth
  24. The Dream Walker by Victoria Carless
  25. My Lovely Frankie by Judith Clarke
  26. Death At Victoria Dock By Kerry Greenwood (Phryne Fisher #4)
  27. Leaving Ocean Road by Esther Campion
  28. The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club by Sophie Green – post scheduled to go up next week.
  29. Siren by Rachel Matthews
  30. A Reluctant Warrior by Kelly Brooke Nicholls

This challenge is about reading books by Australian Women, often with strong female characters in them, but not always about Australia. It is a way that participants can work to raise the profile of Australian Women Writer’s, and of writers in general in Australia. The writing and publishing industry in Australia isn’t as big as it might be overseas, but it is none the less just as important to be able to read stories by Australian authors and for Australians all throughout the country to be able to see themselves reflected in the literature that they pick up.

I have been trying to read broadly, and this is only thirty of the seventy books I had read this year. I am hoping that the next few months will bring more variety and surprises. My complete write up for the entire challenge will be available early January 2018.

Booktopia

Once Upon A Time – Fairy Tales and The Pre-Raphaelites with Kate Forsyth

Kate_ForsythIt is very rare that I get to meet my favourite authors, or in fact, any authors, even though we interact over social media, so when I heard that Kate Forsyth would be at an author event at Kincumber Library, I booked to go before the tickets were all gone. It was a lengthy month waiting to go, but finally the day came to go and listen to Kate talk about her writing and fairy tales – creating a very interesting evening for all. Last night, Tuesday the 4th of July, was a magical evening and it was one of the most enjoyable evenings I have had.

The night began with Kate telling us about her writing journey. Like me, she has always wanted to be a writer and has always loved reading, and at age 7, wrote her first novel, followed by her second and third at ages 9 and 11 – around the same ages I began writing and dreaming up stories, and at age sixteen, she sent off her first manuscript – something I would not have dreamed of doing at that age, as I had only just started thinking of writing novels then. But it has since been a goal of mine to achieve publication, and Kate had many words of encouragement about writing and publishing – to keep writing and trying, and rewriting and getting your work out there, so I am going to try entering a local short story competition, using her words as my inspiration and drive to do so.

IMG_0341At age 25, Kate’s boyfriend, and now husband, gave her five years to get published – five years, where she could polish her work and query it, and learn her craft through study and writing and rewriting. As Kate tells it, the story came, as several of her stories have, from a dream. Using this as a launchpad, she set out to write what would become her first book, with the contract signed two days before she turned thirty, and that book is turning twenty years old this year. I still have my original copy of this book that Kate signed for me after the talk on last night. This book was the beginning of a six-book saga that introduced me to the world of fantasy, and led me into reading Kate’s books for life. This book was Dragonclaw, first book in the Witches of Eileanan series, which is followed by the Rhiannon’s Ride Trilogy. Kate has written forty books, and has had them published into 17 languages across the world, and has cemented her as an extraordinary storyteller, with a broad audience across ages and genres, as evidenced by the gathering at the event at Kincumber Library.dragonclaw

Fun fact: Dragonclaw was published a month before Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in 1997, and both just turned twenty this year!

B_bitter-greensDragonclaw’s publication then led to Kate’s career as a full time writer, resulting in that series, and the trilogy that followed, her children’s books which include The Puzzle Ring in 2009, The Starthorn Tree, The Wildkin’s Curse and The Starkin Crown, as well as recent kids series The Impossible Quest and Chain of Charms, as well as picture books and the adult books: Bitter Greens, The Wild Girl, Dancing on Knives, The Beast’s Garden and Beauty in Thorns, all fairy tale infused historical fiction, apart from Dancing on Knives, which has a more contemporary setting – a distinction Kate and I discussed last night – that tell powerful stories of humanity and love against all odds and set against the back drops of very different time periods within each novel, resulting in powerful stories and characters that seep into your subconscious and dreams as you read.

Kate and her siblings have a literary lineage that can be traced back to at least colonial Australia, and Charlotte Waring-Atkinson, who wrote the first children’s book in BeautyinThorns_CoverAustralia: A Mother’s Offering to Her Children by A Lady Long Resident in New South Wales in 1841, the mother of four children, fighting to keep them safe, and loved in a harsh world that tried to separate them, and this book is a testament not only to the literary blood in Kate’s family but to the love, sacrifices, triumphs and moments of grief that Charlotte went through to keep her family safe.

KnivesHearing about Kate’s writing process and literary family was fascinating and she had the audience captured with her words, and very interested to hear about her writing journey, and the moments in her life that affected her and her writing, and introduced her to a love of fairy tales, a love that I share with her, just as we both enjoy reading and watching different fairy tale retellings to see how someone else interprets a fairy tale. The fascination of fairy tales has as much to do with their history and where they came from as what we know them as today – from the oral traditions to the many interpretations that have come about since they were first recorded the early 1800s by Jacob and Wihelm Grimm, whose stories mostly came from Dortchen Wild, their neighbour. During the talk, Kate recounted the childhood incident and subsequent hospital stays that had sparked her interest in fairy tales and desire to write, specifically the fairy tale of Rapunzel. puzzle_ring_med

Most people would associate Rapunzel with the version recorded by the Grimm Brothers, and this is the version Kate began focussing on in her Doctoral research. During this research, she found out more about the fairy tale, and that the first versions pre-dated the Grimm Brothers by about two hundred years, dating back to the 1600s and Giambiattista Basile, and soon came to the story of Charlotte Rose de la Force in the seventeenth century, and her imprisonment in a convent, while she was writing the story. There are three threads, the other two, the witch, and the third, Rapunzel’s perspective, and together, they form an intricate and surprising story, much like Kate’s other books.

aww2017-badge
Moving on from Bitter Greens, Kate discussed her latest novel, Beauty in Thorns and the Pre-Raphaelites. Beauty in Thorns, and Kate’s journey in writing it, had been the first time I had heard about the Pre-Raphaelites talked about collectively. The art and poetry of the Pre-Raphaelites was inspired by myth and fairy tale, and a longing to be awakened from the dreariness of accepted art in Victorian times, to bring colour back into the world.

Before Beauty in Thorns and Kate Forsyth’s talk, I had heard the wild girlof individual names such as William Morris and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and had read some poetry by Dante’s sister, Christina – my favourite of hers was Goblin Market and re-reading it, I wondered if the characters of Lizzie and Laura in her poem had been inspired by Sleeping Beauty as well, and those in the Pre-Raphaelite circles, though perhaps not as obsessively as the series of paintings of her done by Dante Gabriel had been – an obsession that led him to running back to her after affairs, and burying his only copy of his poetry with her, and seven years later, digging her up to retrieve his poetry. Beauty in Thorns tells the stories of Lizzie Siddal, Georgie MacDonald, who married Edward Burne-Jones and Janey Burden, and the various affairs and love triangles that happened with each other and the models that the men longed to paint. But the main story became the story of Margot Burne-Jones, daughter of Georgie and Edward, whose father longed to keep her from growing up and falling in love an experiencing the pain of adult life, and the contrast in her longing to be awakened like Sleeping Beauty, an obsession that Edward had had for many years, since childhood. Together with Georgie’s story of being the faithful wife, Margot’s story shows how obsessions ate away at these artists, and what their passions did to their families and their great loves, how their obsessions became what finally consumed them in the end. Kate said she structured this story along the lines of Sleeping Beauty, with Margot representing Sleeping Beauty, and Georgie as the Queen, and the paintings were Edward’s way of awakening the world, as the Pre-Raphaelites were trying to do through their involvement in the suffrage movement, for example. I was lucky enough to be an early reader and reviewer for Beauty in Thorns, and it was full of hope, love, tragedy and despair, and everything else that makes Kate’s novels so good. Like her written word, Kate’s spoken word is powerful and weaves a spell on her audience, capturing their attention wholly and completely across the room, not even a gasp at times flying forth from the crowd. And like her books, the talk was over all too soon. It was a lovely evening for all, and Kate was so generous with her time afterwards as well.

IMG_4195

After the talk, she signed books for us all, and spent time answering our questions, and when I approached the signing table, she gave me a huge hug, and we talked about her books, the book launch I had just attended, and my reviewing. Hearing how supportive she was, and getting advice on writing and reading and reviewing – to only review what I like, and not to worry about not reading something I get sent that isn’t my thing, so I am going to try this method, as well as being more honest i my reviews about things I don’t like or am unsure about. I appreciated this talk with Kate, and all the interaction she has with me and her other fans on social media, and hope to attend more events with her soon.

Booktopia – Free Shipping!

Booktopia

Harry Potter Anniversary Event: Fairy Tale and Fandom at University of Newcastle, Ourimbah Campus

Harry Potter Anniversary Event: Fairy Tale and Fandom at University of Newcastle, Ourimbah Campus

hplogo

On the 26th of June, 2017, the twentieth anniversary of Harry Potter, and in particular, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, was marked in a variety of celebrations around the world, at bookstores and libraries, and in some places, public lectures at university campuses, such as the event held at four o’clock in the afternoon, at the exact time the first book was published and released, at The University of Newcastle’s Ourimbah Campus. It was quite an academic event, as it was a public lecture, and it was very enjoyable, especially as fairy tales and children’s literature is an area I am very interested in.

harry 1

This event was a public lecture, entitled Fairy Tale and Fandom, and through four speakers – Dr Caroline Webb, Rebecca Beirne, Dr Elizabeth Kinder and PhD Candidate, Nicole Shipley, who spoke on various aspects of Harry Potter in the fairy tale tradition, its fandom, the way images work and how gender is represented through Harry.

Dr Caroline Webb had, for me, the most interesting lecture, though all were interesting. I enjoyed hers the most as children’s literature and fairy tales are the area I am most interested in, and in particular, retellings of fairy tales, and the use of fairy tale motifs in children’s fantasy literature. Harry Potter takes on the Cinderella story for six chapters – an orphan, living with foster parents who treat him like a servant, who make them cook the breakfast, and sleep in a cupboard under the stairs – the sleeping arrangements illustrating the last vestige of servitude in a modern world where the kitchen is the hub of activity for Aunt Petunia, and where she deems it suitable for Harry to be in there to cook for Dudley’s (or her Ickle Diddykins, as she calls him though there is nothing little about him) birthday, so she can focus all her attention on her son.

harry-potter-20-paperbackThe lectures given were quite academic in nature, especially Caroline’s, and she was very passionate as this is her area of research and teaching in the university. Like Cinderella, Harry is at first passive and acted upon – Hagrid takes him to Diagon Alley and gives him his ticket to Platform 9 ¾, Molly Weasley helps him through the barrier. Yet once at Hogwarts, Harry becomes less passive, and acts for himself whilst at school. From here, it breaks away from the fairy tale tradition and extends beyond the happily ever after of an escape, however temporary, from the Dursleys.

uon

There was one theme that cropped up in each talk – the idea of Harry as the hero and how he became a hero, and fits into that role. Caroline mentioned that upon entering the Wizarding World of Diagon Alley and Hogwarts, Harry becomes the retrospective hero – he is celebrated for something he never knew about, something he didn’t seek out, – but all the same he is a hero, and always has been to the Wizarding World – Harry’s experience of becoming this hero is plagued throughout the book by self doubt, as referenced by Nicole Shipley, and presents him as an atypical hero who does not fit many of the traditional masculine attributes of a hero, because, as Nicole suggests, he first and foremost, a human who cares about people and craves love and family – something that is often missing in male heroes, or is at least not always a consideration. When thinking about Caroline and Nicole’s lectures in combination, Harry’s character is shown to be imperfect, but still fitting in as a hero – just in his own way and on his own terms. However, Caroline’s focus on the fairy tale aspects of the story do not go into as much detail in terms of gender as Nicole’s lecture does.

Once at school, Harry is celebrated by students, and most teachers, and perhaps even favoured by Professor McGonagall, because instead of punishing him for flying without permission, she awards him with a broomstick and a place on the Gryffindor Quidditch team, and with house points for taking on a mountain troll instead of punishing him for disobeying a direction from Dumbledore. However, she does not favour Gryffindor in the way that Snape favours Slytherin, and is also harsh on rule breaking at times, and fair in punishments and rewards. It is through Hogwarts and this world that Harry finds his place, and as Caroline says, a way out of the physical and emotional disconnect he experienced with his aunt and uncle.

hp20_230The second lecture had a focus on fandom and fan-made media, introducing us to the term transmedia – telling a story or story experience across multiple platforms. Rebecca mainly spoke about this in general terms, relating to how fans interact with the story in different ways, and what this can mean to them, and how they write their fanfiction. This transmedia phenomenon allows for the creation of complex worlds stemming from the original text, and the question of whether the fans actually own the story is a difficult one to answer. In a way they don’t, because they haven’t created the world and the characters – JK Rowling has and I think that needs to be respected and she needs to be respected as the author. A fan can own a physical copy, and own any transmedia texts they create, but at the same time, they do not have the same ownership over the origin story as the author. This is complex because many would argue that once the story is out there, the author no longer owns it – yet it is only the author who can alter the story if she wishes, whereas a fan needs to create their own story to explore something not explored in the story. I believe there are different ways to own a story, and it’s not as simple as stating that fans own it just because it’s been published. I think it is a lot more complex than that.

raven-20The world of fandom that Rebecca talks about has been spurred on by the creation of Pottermore and other games and collectables associated with the creator, and franchise owner for fans. Even though the computer games follow the story and get the same outcome, fans can act as characters in the story in their own way to get to this goal. The lecture hall was filled with fans, some dressed in house scarves and shirts, some dressed in robes or as specific characters – Harry, Hermione, Luna, Moaning Myrtle and Sirius Black, whereas others weren’t dressed up, but still keenly interested in the lecture, and eager to celebrate the anniversary.

Dr Elizabeth Kinder looked at the specular world of Harry Potter and the role that images play – whether in the Mirror of Erised, and the magic involved that allows Harry to find and get the stone, based on his desire not to use it and do the right thing, to moving photographs and portraits that adorn the castle, and the confusion that Muggle images, such as Dean’s poster of West Ham, give wizards, showing Ron prodding the poster to try and make the players move.

These portraits are shown as having their own agency, and ability to show emotion – and become important later in the books, with Phineas Black’s portrait, although, and rather disappointingly I think, this was not given any attention in the movie, even though I felt it was an important aspect that should have been included. Not many movies do much with the portraits , except with the Fat Lady in the first three, most notably when Sirius Black tries to get into Gryffindor Tower in book three.gryff-20

It is interesting that neither the books nor the movies touch on how a portrait of a deceased headmaster appears in the office in Hogwarts – as they appear upon the death of a headmaster, as in the case of Dumbledore, it would be interesting to know if there is a process. This specular world is one that is not always explored and is simply accepted as a part of the Wizarding World – like many other aspects of this new world for Harry, where Ron simply shrugs as if to say well, it just is that way. And because of the lack of explanation, as a reader, you are forced to suspend your belief and like Harry, just accept it. I think this is what makes these books so magical – that not everything is explained, that sometimes the characters and the readers just accept it for what it is and continue reading. Without this suspension of belief, the experience that the speakers at the public lecture were talking about would not exist as we know it.

Finally, Nicole Shipley’s talk on gender and Harry’s way of being male was also interesting and complemented Caroline’s. In short, she surmised that Harry, rather than being the typical male hero, free from flaws and imperfections and not distracted by love of family usually, is simply a human. He craves love and a family, he has self doubt and is not physically perfect – he is skinny and small with glasses, and yet, he is sporty and strong, and capable of finding a way to be heroic without compromising his humanity, a way of being male with compassion and feeling – aspects not typically associated with the male hero. As the final talk, I feel it summed up what the others had been saying, but in particular, Caroline’s, and together, these lectures gave a great insight into the world of Harry Potter that might otherwise go unnoticed.

As a book that started out for children, it has captured the imagination of adults as well, as has gone from being “just a kids book” to one of the biggest reading phenomena in the world today. Because all adults have been children, we can identify with Harry, self doubt and compassion and a desire for a family are not limited to the world of children. The twentieth anniversary shows that there has been a longevity of Harry Potter.

Between each presentation, there were trivia questions that just about everyone could answer correctly, a costume competition and after the lecture, a screening of the first film, which I had to miss out on to get somewhere else, but it was an enjoyable afternoon all the same. It was nice to celebrate it with friends and catch up with Caroline, and I hope to see more events for the other books in the coming years.

Beauty in Thorns by Kate Forsyth

BeautyinThorns_CoverTitle: Beauty in Thorns

Author: Kate Forsyth

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Penguin Random House/Vintage

Published: 3rd of July 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 465

Price: $32.99

Synopsis: A spellbinding reimagining of ‘Sleeping Beauty’ set amongst the wild bohemian circle of Pre-Raphaelite artists and poets.

The Pre-Raphaelites were determined to liberate art and love from the shackles of convention. 

Ned Burne-Jones had never had a painting lesson and his family wanted him to be a parson. Only young Georgie Macdonald – the daughter of a Methodist minister – understood. She put aside her own dreams to support him, only to be confronted by many years of gossip and scandal.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti was smitten with his favourite model, Lizzie Siddal. She wanted to be an artist herself, but was seduced by the irresistible lure of laudanum. 

William Morris fell head-over-heels for a ‘stunner’ from the slums, Janey Burden. Discovered by Ned, married to William, she embarked on a passionate affair with Gabriel that led inexorably to tragedy.

Margot Burne-Jones had become her father’s muse. He painted her as Briar Rose, the focus of his most renowned series of paintings, based on the fairy-tale that haunted him all his life. Yet Margot longed to be awakened to love. 

Bringing to life the dramatic true story of love, obsession and heartbreak that lies behind the Victorian era’s most famous paintings, Beauty in Thorns is the story of awakenings of all kinds.

~*~

aww2017-badgeKate Forsyth’s fortieth novel, Beauty in Thorns reimagines the Sleeping Beauty fairy tail, using the well-known version of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, and the world of the Pre-Raphaelite artists and poets working to free art from the conventional prison that the Victorian world tried to isolate and suffocate it in. The stories of Ned Burne-Jones and his wife, Georgie, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and his many affairs and obsession with model Lizzie Siddal, William Morris, and Ned Burne-Jones’s daughter were all caught up in this life of perfecting art and the paintings of Briar Rose, and the betrayal of lovers and husbands, rushing into the arms of muses who wished to tear them away from their families. The lives are tragic and romantic, hopeful and realistic, showing the depths and flaws of these characters.

Sweeping across the latter half of the nineteenth century, we meet Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Morris, and New Burne-Jones as they enter the art world and find models for their paintings, and they fall in love and out of love. Rossetti’s favourite model, Lizzie Siddal, falls ill during a sitting and following her illness, becomes addicted to laudanum and uses her addiction to the drug and obsession to pull Rossetti towards her, and their tragic relationship faces many ups and downs, the final tragedy striking suddenly and harshly amongst the group of friends and lovers.

Whilst the men painted and had their works exhbited and commissioned, the women wrote poetry and painted too, with Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s sister, Christina, author of poems such as Goblin Market, making a few appearances, and other authors, such as Rudyard Kipling, appearing as infants, part of one of the families, and eventually, as Kate_Forsythadults in the world of art and poetry their parents raised them in. Lizzie, Georgie, Janey and the other models share in their jealousy of each other, and desire to have the men they love to themselves, but they are more than that – they wish to be recognised in their own right as artists and poets, not just wives and mothers, or lovers and models. Beauty in Thorns is a novel full of complex characters whose desires in all aspects of their lives drive them, and influence the decisions they make. I found Georgie and Ned’s story to be the most hopeful – they stayed together through thick and thin, and Georgie didn’t sacrifice her sense of self to become a wife and mother. It is a story of women who fit into their time period, but at the same time, step out of the conventions they were born into and forge their own paths, sometimes separate from the men in their lives, sometimes alongside them, and at times, they do both, creating intrigue within the plot, pulling the reader along towards the conclusion of a story filled with tragedy at times, but hope at others.

Each peripheral character impacted dynamics too, and the group was shaken at times of death and tragedy, but pulled through, showing the strength of family and friendship, not just romantic love in the Pre-Raphaelite community. Even the well-known authors mentioned by name or who make brief appearances such as Rudyard Kipling bring an interest to the story, and cement the setting with mention of their works and inspirations, perhaps hinting at other possible stories to be told. I was unaware of Rudyard Kipling’s familial link to the Pre-Raphaelites prior to reading this, and I hope to be able to look further into it, and read his works, and Christina Rossetti’s works, in a new light.

Beauty in Thorns is a book of beauty, from the cover to the story and characters within. It weaves a magic spell around the reader, and using the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale, there are hints as to who the Sleeping Beauty of the Pre-Raphaelites was: Was it Lizzie Siddal, perfect even in death? Or Margot Burne-Jones, her father’s muse, and the child he desired to keep at home, young and innocent, free from the heartbreak of love that he and his friends had experienced? Or is it both, Lizzie sleeping, Margot awake, yet feeling as though she isn’t, and longing for love to awaken her? Having read the novel, I think both are Sleeping Beauty in a way, and Kate Forsyth has conveyed this through beautiful language and imagery that flows delightfully across the page and envelops the reader as though in a warm, comforting blanket.

In each of her books, Kate Forsyth works magic with her words, weaving a spell around characters – whether inspired by real people, imagined or a fictional yet believable image of a historical figure, artist or poet – and creating a world to escape into. Her historical fiction is exceptionally well researched, and Beauty in Thorns is no exception. Using history and fairy tales as inspiration, Kate Forsyth has created a world that I didn’t want to leave, and a book that I wanted to savour yet devour at the same time. I ended up devouring it in two days, as I often do with her books. This is usually the sign of a good book for me, and an intriguing story that combined many themes of family, love, friendship and tragedy, much like The Beast’s Garden, which I am hoping to read again this year.

Another exceptional novel from one of Australia’s favourite storytellers, a true master of the story, Kate Forsyth, Beauty in Thorns is sure to appeal to lovers of historical fiction, fairy tales and Kate’s other works. I look forward to her future novels as well.

Booktopia

Rotherweird by Andrew Caldecott

rotherweird.jpg

Title: Rotherweird

Author: Andrew Caldecott

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Historical Fiction

Publisher: Hachette Australia/Jo Fletcher Books

Published: 16th May 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 460

Price: $32.99

Synopsis: Welcome to Rotherweird: a town with no maps, no guidebooks and no history, but many many secrets . . . A stunning combination of JONATHAN STRANGE AND MR NORRELL and GORMENGHAST with a dash of THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN.

‘Intricate and crisp, witty and solemn: a book with special and dangerous properties,’ Hilary Mantel

‘Baroque, Byzantine and beautiful – not to mention bold’ M.R. Carey

Rotherweird is twisted, arcane murder-mystery with shades of Deborah Harkness, Hope Mirrlees and Ben Aaronovitch, Mervyn Peake and Edward Gorey at their disturbing best.

The town of Rotherweird stands alone – there are no guidebooks, despite the fascinating and diverse architectural styles cramming the narrow streets, the avant garde science and offbeat customs. Cast adrift from the rest of England by Elizabeth I, Rotherweird’s independence is subject to one disturbing condition: nobody, but nobody, studies the town or its history.

For beneath the enchanting surface lurks a secret so dark that it must never be rediscovered, still less reused.

But secrets have a way of leaking out.

Two inquisitive outsiders have arrived: Jonah Oblong, to teach modern history at Rotherweird School (nothing local and nothing before 1800), and the sinister billionaire Sir Veronal Slickstone, who has somehow got permission to renovate the town’s long-derelict Manor House.

Slickstone and Oblong, though driven by conflicting motives, both strive to connect past and present, until they and their allies are drawn into a race against time – and each other. The consequences will be lethal and apocalyptic.

Welcome to Rotherweird!

~*~

Rotherweird is a town in England, that has been self-governing since Elizabethan times, and though they are firmly in the twenty-first century now, modern technology does not exist or work here. Following expulsion from England during the reign of Queen Elizabeth the first, Rotherweird is a town of anachronisms and history, fantasy and tragedy, but also comedy – making the story a sort of historical tragi-comedy. In Rotherweird, outsiders are not always welcome, and treated with suspicion. The arrival of Jonah Oblong, to be the new history teacher for Form IV, and the sinister billionaire, Sir Veronal Slickstone, set a series of events that will end in tragedy in motion, and lead to further books, which I hope will answer any questions Rotherweird didn’t.

History appears to be important in Rotherweird – as long as it’s not local history or any history prior to 1800 – it will be interesting to see how this is explored in the next book, Wyntertide. Rotherweird is split into six months, and before each month in our time begins, a section of Old History is told – this is the history not taught at the school Oblong is employed at, but that he and Slickstone are working to bring back, though each through different means. In Elizabethan times, Queen Elizabeth I seeks to get rid of the talented children of Rotherweird that she sees as a threat, and Rotherweird’s concealment of them leads to the execution of one of it’s citizens, and thus, Queen Elizabeth I cutting it off from the rest of England.

The Old History sections act as world building through plot, and this is very effective, as is the technique of holding things back, and the hints dropped about Slickstone as Oblong delves into local history, which is forbidden, yet with the arrival of Slickstone, who has permission to renovate the derelict Manor House, Old History and Local History begin leaking out, and not only to the two men trying to look into it and reinvigorate it in Rotherweird.

It is an enjoyable book, where history, fantasy, tragedy and comedy collide in new and unusual ways, to create a novel that is full of intrigue and mystery, and characters that aren’t quite what they seem to be, in a world that is modern yet at the same time, not really that modern, filled with characters who will begin to question the way things are as tragedy begins to strike at people they care for, people who previously had no interest in the world outside of the history they knew, such as Orelia Roc, begin to wonder about that history.

Much like a Shakespeare play, the cast of characters is given at the front, divided into the groups that they represent. In the novel, notes between the characters are handwritten – in Modern English but in the script that can be found in historical documents, where an s can look like an f – though I found these to be readable, and it didn’t take me long to get used to this – having read some such documents, I felt this is what helped me to work this out.

Each section is interspersed with wonderful and magical illustrations by Sasha Laika. These illustrations enrich the story and give it further sense of wonder and fantasy. Rotherweird’s Elizabethan feel in a modern style of writing is magically appealing and I gobbled it up in under a week, the short chapters flying by within minutes, with a decent pace, and nicely balanced telling and showing, it is a delightful novel with a sense of mystery that I enjoy in my reading.

A great read, perhaps aimed at teenagers and adults, it will hopefully become a favourite for many,

images

Booktopia