52 Mondays by Anna Ciddor

52 Mondays.jpgTitle: 52 Mondays

Author: Anna Ciddor

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 4th March 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 208

Price: $14.99

Synopsis: A new historical novel from Anna Ciddor, in the same beautiful, classic storytelling tradition as The Family With Two Front Doors.

We’re going to look everywhere,’ said Anna. 

And they did.

When Anna sets out to find the doll of her dreams, her two younger sisters are eager to help. But it’s not easy. This is 1960s Australia and there’s no computer or internet yet. This is a time when teachers still write with chalk, cars have no seatbelts, and Mr Whippy sells ice-cream cones for half a penny.

Anna and her sisters fill their days with fun, mischief and adventure – like the time Anna glues a block of wood to her middle sister’s foot, then worries it will be stuck there forever! They celebrate birthdays and Passover together, cope with friends being mean, and feed peanuts to the bears at the zoo.

But through it all, Anna never loses sight of her dream.

Inspired by the author’s real childhood, this is a warm, funny and fascinating family story from the author of The Family with Two Front Doors.

~*~

Anna loves dolls, but she longs for a special doll, an antique doll that stands out from her others after reading a book called Hitty, about a doll unlike any of the ones she has in her own collection. But Anna’s life is also filled with school, friends and family traditions brought over from Europe. Anna’s family is Jewish, and traditions are important to them, though Anna and her cousins and siblings don’t always understand. It is woven through easily, as Anna continues her search for the perfect doll. Set in the 1960s, during a time of no Internet and no computer, and cheap ice creams. It is a time when seatbelts don’t exist, and teachers still write in chalk.

It is a simpler world, at least for Anna, as we see everything through her eyes. The world of a child, who doesn’t see that ice cream will melt, who doesn’t always understand how important family traditions are, but still knows to respect them, and who also has the desires of a young girl of her time and keeps wishing it will happen. Threaded throughout, is Anna’s quest for a doll as she visits the auction house week after week with her mother and sisters, looking for the perfect doll.

Based on author Anna Ciddor’s own life, 52 Mondays looks at a post-war Australia through the eyes of the child and takes away the complexities of adult life. It is a charming story about childhood, and the desires and mistakes made in childhood, such as putting an ice cream in your bag, not knowing it would melt, and finding that one thing that you want more than anything in the world.

2019 BadgeThis was a very enjoyable book, and even though the story seemed simple and straightforward, there were aspects of it that hinted at more happening behind the scenes of Anna’s life. I liked the realism of Anna’s life: school, family, friends and illness as she searched and searched for her doll. Throughout the book, her goal is to get the doll, but there are always things in her day to day life that take her away from her search, and instances where she doesn’t think about the doll at all, or so it seems. It allows the children to be children, and shows a 1960s Melbourne through the eyes of a child, in a way that this generation may not have experienced before and shows them a world they may only have heard about from older family members.

In the few instances where the family’s Jewish heritage is touched on, I heard the echoes of the 1930s and 1940s, though it wasn’t clear when Anna’s family started living in Australia, the shadows of those decades felt like they were there in some way. It doesn’t directly reference this, but it is possible that the family made their way to Australia before things got bad. As this is seen through Anna’s eyes, we’re not privy to the family history, though now i want to go back and read Anna’s other book, The Family with Two Front Doors to see how the family ended up in Australia.

It is a period of history not often touched on, perhaps because even though it was a time of change – in the 1960s, Australia changed from imperial to metric, and pounds to decimal currency, and there were many other social changes, and in the later 1960s, the Vietnam War. Often, it is the key instances in history that are touched on: the wars, the Depression, and other key moments in Australian history such as the Anzacs. So it was nice to read about a quieter period of time seen through the eyes of a child and her family, and what the world is like to them.  It shows a post-war Australia, a relaxed sort of story, where there are no threats mentioned. It is the story of a childhood and the things that Anna enjoyed and the mischief she got up to with her sisters.

Challenge Check-In: February

In February, I didn’t read or review as many books as I did in January. I managed to read twelve books this month, bringing my yearly total to twenty-six, and have made some progress on my challenges. Some reviews are yet to go up, but this will wrap up what I have done:

#Dymocks52Challenge

General and #Dymocks52Challenge

  1. Beauty in Thorns by Kate Forsyth
  2. What Lies Beneath Us by Kirsty Ferguson
  3. The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble
  4. The House of Second Chances by Esther Campion
  5. The Familiars by Stacey Halls
  6. The Orchardist’s Daughter by Karen Viggers
  7. The French Photographer by Natasha Lester
  8. Harry Potter: A History of Magic, The Exhibition Guide by British Library, JK Rowling
  9. D-Bot #8: Dino Corp by Mac Park
  10. Kensy and Max: Undercover by Jacqueline Harvey
  11. The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer
  12. 52 Mondays by Anna Ciddor

pb history of magic

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#AWW2019 Challenge

  1. Beauty in Thorns by Kate Forsyth – Reviewed/Revisited post
  2. What Lies Beneath Us by Kirsty Ferguson – Reviewed
  3. The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble – Reviewed
  4. The House of Second Chances by Esther Campion – Reviewed
  5. The Orchardist’s Daughter by Karen Viggers – Reviewed
  6. The French Photographer by Natasha Lester – Reviewed and Q&A
  7. Kensy and Max: Undercover by Jacqueline Harvey – Reviewed
  8. The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer – Reviewed
  9. 52 Mondays by Anna Ciddor – Reviewed

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Book bingo:

Themes of Justice: What Lies Beneath Us by Kirsty Ferguson – AWW2019

Themes of Inequality: The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer – AWW2019

Book with a place in the title: The French Photographer by Natasha Lester -AWW2019

Book set on the Australian Coast: The House of Second Chances by Esther Campion – AWW2019

Book set in the Australian Mountains: The Orchardist’s Daughter by Karen Viggers – AWW2019

Written by an author you’ve never read: The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble – #AWW2019

Historical: The Familiars by Stacey Halls

Some of these have posts up, and some don’t – this is based on my reading log.

February Round Up

 

Book Author Challenges
Beauty in Thorns Kate Forsyth AWW2019, #Dymocks52Challenge, PopSugar, General
What Lies Beneath Us Kirsty Ferguson #AWW2019, #Dymocks52Challenge, PopSugar, General, Book Bingo
The Dog Runner Bren MacDibble #AWW2019, #Dymocks52Challenge, PopSugar, General, Book Bingo
The House of Second Chances Esther Campion #AWW2019 #Dymocks52Challenge, PopSugar, General, Book Bingo
The Familiars Stacey Halls #Dymocks52Challenge, PopSugar, General
The Orchardist’s Daughter Karen Viggers #AWW2019 #Dymocks52Challenge, General, Book Bingo
The French Photographer Natasha Lester #AWW2019 #Dymocks52Challenge, General, Book Bingo
Harry Potter: A History of Magic, The Exhibition Guide (paperback) British Library, JK Rowling #Dymocks52Challenge, General
D-Bot #8: Dino Corp Mac Park #Dymocks52Challenge, General
Kensy and Max: Undercover  Jacqueline Harvey #AWW2019, #Dymocks52Challenge, PopSugar, General,
The Things We Cannot Say Kelly Rimmer general, #AWW2019, #Dymcoks52Challenge, PopSugar
52 Mondays Anna Ciddor general, #AWW2019, #Dymcoks52Challenge

 

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Book Bingo Five: A book set in the Australian Mountains.

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We’re now into March (How did that happen?) and my fifth book bingo for the year, and i have checked off seven of my thirty squares now. Initially when I got this card, I though this square – a book set in the Australian Mountains – might be a challenge, because I wasn’t sure what book would fit this square until I got The Orchardist’s Daughter from Allen and Unwin to review.

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Today, my friends Amanda and Theresa will also be posting a new book bingo post each, and each fortnight, it is always interesting to see what squares we fill and with what books, and whether or not we will be doing single or double bingos to make sure we fill all the squares by the end of the year. Some of my forthcoming reviews have been slated for certain squares but as they have not gone live yet, I will wait until those reviews are up to check off the squares.

orchardists daughter

The Orchardist’s Daughter is set in the south-east of Tasmania, around the mountains and forests. It is filled with various contentious relationships: a brother and sister, a husband and wife, Park Rangers and loggers, and humans and nature. It is a story with many threads that at the beginning, feel disconnected, but are still beautifully written, and that eventually weave together to create the overall narrative.

Check back in on the sixteenth for more book bingo action, and then again on the thirtieth of the month. With twenty-three squares to go, there might be some more double bingos coming your way.

The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer

the things we cannot say.jpgTitle: The Things We Cannot Say

Author: Kelly Rimmer

Genre: Historical Fiction/Literary Fiction

Publisher: Hachette Australia

Published: 26th February 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 420

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: A searing page-turner of family secrets and the legacy of war by the Top 10 bestselling Australian author of BEFORE I LET YOU GO
2019 
Life changed beyond recognition for Alice when her son, Eddie, was born with autism spectrum disorder. She must do everything to support him, but at what cost to her family? When her cherished grandmother is hospitalised, a hidden box of mementoes reveals a tattered photo of a young man, a tiny leather shoe and a letter. Her grandmother begs Alice to return to Poland to see what became of those she held dearest.

WWII Alina and Tomasz are childhood sweethearts. The night before he leaves for college, Tomasz proposes marriage. But when their village falls to the Nazis, Alina doesn’t know if Tomasz is alive or dead.

2019 In Poland, separated from her family, Alice begins to uncover the story her grandmother is so desperate to tell, and discovers a love that bloomed in the winter of 1942. As a painful family history comes to light, will the struggles of the past and present finally reach a heartbreaking resolution?

Inspired by the author’s own family history, The Things We Cannot Say unearths a tragic love story and a family secret whose far-reaching effects will alter lives forever.

~*~

There is always something powerful about novels set in times of war or tragedy – they reveal something about who we really are, and the lengths people will go to so they can protect those they love, their family, their friends, and in Poland during the war, those they might not even know. The Things We Cannot Say is a dual storyline, told from the perspective of two generations – Alina, in the early 1940s, and her granddaughter, Alice, in 2019.

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We meet Alina and Tomasz first, at a wedding in the Soviet Union, and then we slip into 2019, where Alice is with her son Eddie, who has autism, and is doing all she can to support him and her family when her beloved babcia,her grandmother, Hanna, becomes ill and is rushed to hospital. From here, Alice’s journey begins as her routine with Eddie is suddenly her routine is thrown into jeopardy, but when she discovers the app she uses to communicate with Eddie works for Hanna, and is sent on a quest to Poland to uncover Hanna’s past, and the secrets of a family she never knew.

In 1941, Alina and her family watch as the German invasion of Poland, which started in 1939, slowly round up Jews, take over farm houses and turn Polish families out, and send Polish citizens off to work for the Reich in camps. From her farmyards, she can see the black smoke billowing from what he learns later is Auschwitz-Birkenau, the smell unlike any other. She helps her friend, Tomasz, after his father is killed, and her family helps him further, until it becomes too dangerous, and Alina must leave Poland – and never look back.

Alice and Alina alternate on average, one to three chapters at a time, depending on what aspects of the story need attention, and in each perspective, family plays a large role: Alina and her family, and their attempts to defy the Nazis will sacrifice so much for the freedom and safety of some. Whilst in 2019, Alice is grappling with helping Eddie, and being there for her daughter and husband as well. When herbabcia sends her off to Poland, she can only hope that her family won’t implode while she is gone.

Woven throughout, is the love story of Tomasz and Alina, which at first, didn’t feel as obvious as some, and i liked this – I liked that it wasn’t the focus and developed and some things just happened spontaneously. In the time of war for Alina, her family and Tomasz, there are words that cannot be spoken, because of fear, and in the future for Hanna and Eddie, words that cannot physically be spoken – which makes the title very fitting, and shows the different ways that people find to communicate when they cannot physically speak – whatever the reason.

Much World War Two literature focuses on the Holocaust – in this one, it is present, and has an impact on the reader and characters, but it is the story of how one Catholic family is willing to sacrifice everything to help those being discriminated against by people who are brutal and will go at any lengths to achieve their own means as well.

Kelly Rimmer created a very realistic world – I could smell the burning bodies, see the woods, and even though I haven’t been, imagine a post-war and wartime Poland, a country that after the war, was under Soviet Control until 1991, and having visited another country that had been in the Communist Bloc, the Czech Republic, I could imagine the contrast of older buildings, versus the Communist buildings and the more modern ones – a mixture of various times in history and a contrast of the bleak Communist era, and the old, historical buildings, as well as hints of modernity creeping in. I imagine it is similar in Poland.

The power of this story is in the characters, and what they do to protect and care for their families, and because it was inspired by the author’s own family history, it is a very meaningful and personal story – the characters are alive and vibrant, and the world that they inhabit is one that history will never forget, that these people and their families will never forget. There are many events in history we need to remember, many things that should never be forgotten. That is why novels like this are powerful and needed: so we don’t forget the human cost is more than just numbers on a page.

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The Orchardist’s Daughter by Karen Viggers

orchardists daughter.jpgTitle: The Orchardist’s Daughter

Author: Karen Viggers

Genre: Literary Fiction

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 4th January 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 400

Price: $29.99

Synopsis:A story of freedom, forgiveness and finding the strength to break free. International bestselling writer Karen Viggers returns to remote Tasmania, the setting of her most popular novel The Lightkeeper’s Wife.

Sixteen-year-old Mikaela has grown up isolated and home-schooled on an apple orchard in south-eastern Tasmania, until an unexpected event shatters her family. Eighteen months later, she and her older brother Kurt are running a small business in a timber town. Miki longs to make connections and spend more time in her beloved forest, but she is kept a virtual prisoner by Kurt, who leads a secret life of his own.

When Miki meets Leon, another outsider, things slowly begin to change. But the power to stand up for yourself must come from within. And Miki has to fight to uncover the truth of her past and discover her strength and spirit.

Set in the old-growth eucalypt forests and vast rugged mountains of southern Tasmania, The Orchardist’s Daughter is an uplifting story about friendship, resilience and finding the courage to break free.

~*~

Miki’s world has been one of isolation her whole life. She was home-schooled on a Tasmanian apple orchard, in the forests and mountains. When her life is altered by the ravages of a bushfire, she is forced into an even more isolated life by her brother Kurt. Kurt keeps many secrets from Miki – and ensures she never ventures out of the takeaway shop he owns and forces her to work in until the arrival of the new resident, Leon, a Parks Ranger whose presence starts to link Miki with other people in the town: Geraldine, and a family whose young son – Max – befriends Leon. Max’s father and friends are loggers, and Leon’s presence rubs Shane and his friends the wrong way.

2019 BadgeThe new guy in town, Leon finds he has few allies: Miki, Max, Geraldine, and Wendy – Max’s mother. They are the first people to welcome him and stick up for him in the face of hatred from the loggers, Shane and Kurt – and the story traverses several weeks and encounters between the characters, as Geraldine and Leon encourage Miki to leave the confines of her prison when Kurt is gone. Max faces a bully at school, and Wendy, like Miki, faces her own kind of isolation, and both face things that will eventually come to a head with a series of events that sees the coming together of a community.

In this story, the mountains and forest of Tasmania are as much characters as Miki, Leon and the others. It is a living, breathing, and natural character in this story. The human characters lives revolve around the forest and become connected by it – through the good and the bad, and what the forest can provide and take from them.  It is a love story of sorts – an ode to the forests and mountains of Tasmania and nature as a whole. It reveals the flaws in the people Miki and Wendy thought they loved and knew. The flaws and cracks in the small town are revealed slowly – through alternating chapters from the perspectives of Max, Miki and Leon, and the bonds that grow between them.

In this story, the focus is on personal growth, as well as community connection, and what isolation can do to someone and how it makes them feel – and the final chapters are filled with heart stopping moments that make you want to read on and find out what happens and how it all turns out. The rest, I enjoyed meandering about, and taking in the story slowly, but not too slowly, of course. It is the kind of book that can be savoured and devoured in equal amounts. Some sections need to be gobbled up, but some need time spent on them, and Karen Viggers has done this well – when you’re in each character’s life, you are wholly in their life, but at the same time, wanting to know how the others are doing. Seeing how they came together was very satisfying and I liked that the story focussed on friendships between Leon, Geraldine, Miki and Max, and used their backstories to build what it was that drew them to each other, and the flaws in humanity that can lead us to do the unexpected, and why.

I really enjoyed this novel  – it was complex and intriguing with a cast of characters who reflected a diverse selection of human nature, and showed what pressure can do to us – and the ways people respond differently to the same situation they might find themselves in.

The Familiars by Stacey Halls

the familiars.jpgTitle: The Familiars

Author: Stacey Halls

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Allen and Unwin/Zaffre

Published: 4th January 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 432

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: ‘Assured and alluring, this beautiful tale of women and witchcraft and the fight against power was a delight from start to finish’ – Jessie Burton, bestselling author of The Miniaturist.

Fleetwood Shuttleworth is 17 years old, married, and pregnant for the fourth time. But as the mistress at Gawthorpe Hall, she still has no living child, and her husband Richard is anxious for an heir. When Fleetwood finds a letter she isn’t supposed to read from the doctor who delivered her third stillbirth, she is dealt the crushing blow that she will not survive another pregnancy.

Then she crosses paths by chance with Alice Gray, a young midwife. Alice promises to help her give birth to a healthy baby, and to prove the physician wrong.

As Alice is drawn into the witchcraft accusations that are sweeping the North-West, Fleetwood risks everything by trying to help her. But is there more to Alice than meets the eye?

Soon the two women’s lives will become inextricably bound together as the legendary trial at Lancaster approaches, and Fleetwood’s stomach continues to grow. Time is running out, and both their lives are at stake.

Only they know the truth. Only they can save each other.

~*~

Fleetwood Shuttleworth is four years into a marriage that has thus far, produced no heir for her husband, and she is enduring yet another pregnancy when she takes on a young midwife named Alice amidst the Jacobean ear witch-trials under James I and VI of England and Scotland. The book sees Fleetwood struggle through a difficult pregnancy as Alice helps her as best she can, and as Fleetwood works to decipher a letter from her husband that indicates she will not survive the current pregnancy – but is there more to this letter than Fleetwood can tell, and will she confront her husband about it?

Simmering in the background are fears of witches, and accusations against entire families of women, and some midwives, The Familiars explores the stories and legends behind the Pendle witch trials – taking place in 1612, when this book is set, and accounted for about 2% of all witches who were executed. Taking on this historical period in fiction is very interesting – it is not one I usually see, and when it is, it is focussed on royalty, or the actual witch trials, rather than the people at the peripheral, and how the absence of a midwife accused of witchcraft affects a life. Also, I felt the term witch hunt was never more accurate, as these people were accused of something they never did, and where accusations between families and against people were dealt with swiftly and without much consideration based on the testimony of a child. Eerily, the case of Louisa Collins, discussed in an earlier blog post, rested upon the same kind of testimony. This resulted in twelve people being executed during the summer of 1612.

Where many witch trial stories and  novels focus on the actual trials, and the polarising sides of the accused versus the accusers, and who is right based on the evidence left behind recorded by the victors and winners in history, The Familiars takes real people – Alice and Fleetwood and those they know – into a realm where the women involved and affected directly and indirectly tell the story.

Primarily told through Fleetwood’s eyes, and where secrets are slowly revealed throughout the novel at the right time, and that makes for an intriguing plot and mystery that is woven throughout the story. The strength of the story is the very feminine and female driven character and plot – where the men – Roger and Robert, are only there on the side. in fact, for much of the novel, they are absent or travelling, allowing Fleetwood and Alice to take charge of the story. The simmering fear of witches felt primarily male in this story – Fleetwood, though concerned, was not as convinced as the men in her life.

Based on real people, it is interesting to wonder if the real Fleetwood was like her fictional counterpart, and how she definitely did react to what was going on around her. Historical fiction is always a favourite of mine, especially when it explores eras not often explored or perspectives we don’t often hear from.

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The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble

the dof runner.jpgTitle: The Dog Runner

Author: Bren MacDibble

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 4th February 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages:

Price:

Synopsis: From the author of the multi-award-winning and bestselling How To Bee comes an intense and thrilling new adventure.

‘We’re gonna starve if we stay here,’ Emery said. ‘If we’re gonna go, best go now.’ 
And he said it like going was something easy. Like all we have to do is walk away.

Ella and her brother Emery are alone in a city that’s starving to death. If they are going to survive, they must get away, upcountry, to find Emery’s mum. But how can two kids travel such big distances across a dry, barren, and dangerous landscape? Well, when you’ve got five big doggos and a dry-land dogsled, the answer is you go mushing. But when Emery is injured, Ella must find a way to navigate them through rough terrain, and even rougher encounters with desperate people…

~*~

Emery and Ella – a brother and sister – have been left by their father and Ella’s mum, alone in their house in the closed off city. Everything has fallen apart since a red fungus swept across the country, and world, and decimated the food supply. Around Australia, people are desperate, and without Ella’s parents around, Emery and Ella set off in search of Emery’s mother – where they hope to find shelter and food with people they can trust. To do so, they must hitch up five big dogs to a dry-land dogsled, and traverse dangerous country, dodging people who would harm them if they had the chance.

As the novel progresses, Emery and Ella face dangers they had hoped not to face and see just how badly affected the country beyond the city they’ve been living in is – and this furthers their quest to find safety and security. Told through Ella’s perspective, The Dog Runner looks at the consequences of climate change, and how a single even can affect the world’s food supply – and what can be done to change things. For Ella and Emery, the world is big and dangerous – and during their journey, they are faced with dangers and obstacles they didn’t think they’d ever see.

Emery’s mother is Aboriginal, and Ella and Emery hope she will be able to use the knowledge of her ancestors to help them, and still have some of the seeds and crops Emery’s grandfather saved to help replenish the land. In a clever and accessible way, the novel looks at the connection to country and landscape, family, and the diversity of Australia and humanity. The climate is affected drastically, and the landscape has been altered so distinctly that it is unrecognisable, yet at the same time, it could be something that happens in the near future and could drastically affect and alter how we live our lives.

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In a world where we take food supply for granted, this takes an interesting look at how the land reacts to a fungus or virus, or even climate change. In doing so, it posits how we might deal with in the world, who might get assistance first, and how older traditions can end up helping revitalise the land – and the revealing of knowledge that some people might not have had previously, as well as the importance of family, whoever they are, whatever colour they are – and the acceptance of family in dire times. In the end, it is family that is important – and the lengths they go to in order to help each other and the world they live in. It is a world we all have to live in, and like Emery and Ella’s family, working together is what will help us survive.

The story gives us an idea of where to look in the future and how we can seek to survive – through communication, shared knowledge and looking to the past to see what others have done, and how the Indigenous people cultivated and took care of the land before 1788. Which is why this was an interesting – because it shows through tragedy, how millennia old techniques can be used to help save the food supply, and the possibilities of bringing new and old together. In a world where climate change is a constant threat, maybe, like Emery and Ella and their family, we need to start looking at alternatives and preparing for a future that might devastate the landscape.


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