Esther by Jessica North

EstherTitle: Esther

Author: Jessica North

Genre: Historical Biography

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 1st April 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 277

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: The little-known rags to riches love story of a convict girl who arrived in Australia on the First Fleet. Much like another, better-known colonial woman, Elizabeth Macarthur, Esther successfully managed her husband’s property and became a significant figure in the new colony.

Esther only just escaped the hangman in London. Aged 16, she stood trial at the Old Bailey for stealing 24 yards of black silk lace. Her sentence was transportation to the other side of the world.

She embarked on the perilous journey on the First Fleet as a convict, with no idea of what lay ahead. Once on shore, she became the servant and, in time, the lover of the dashing young first lieutenant George Johnston. But life in the fledgling colony could be gruelling, with starvation looming and lashings for convicts who stepped out of line.

Esther was one of the first Jewish women to arrive in the new land. Through her we meet some of the key people who helped shape the nation. Her life is an extraordinary rags-to-riches story. As leader of the Rum Rebellion against Governor Bligh, George Johnston became Lieutenant-Governor of NSW, making Esther First Lady of the colony, a remarkable rise in society for a former convict.

‘North skilfully weaves together one woman’s fascinating saga with an equally fascinating history of the early colonial period of Australia. The resulting true story is sometimes as strange and thrilling as a fairytale.’ – Lee Kofman, author of The Dangerous Bride

~*~

Even though I have studied Australian history at various levels of my education, there are still many stories about the start of the invasion and colonisation that are not widely told or known. This is usually because they have not been recorded, the records have been hidden or they simply have not been included in our history books and the stories forgotten or neglected by those who held the power over what could be told.

Many people know about Bligh, MacArthur, Philips, and all the various white explorers who crossed mountain ranges and laid out trails. Some stories are known about free settlers, but even less is known about convicts and the Indigenous people – two areas where I am noticing more stories being told, and I think these stories are going to make the record of Australian history richer.

In this instance, the story I read focuses on the first Jewish woman to be transported to Australia on The First Fleet, Esther Abrahams. Transported for stealing twenty-four yards of black lace, Esther and her daughter, Rosanna, who was born in Newgate Prison, would be sent into service upon arrival for the duration of Esther’s sentence. Once she had arrived in the colony of NSW, and the free settlers and officers had established things, Esther was assigned to serve First Lieutenant George Johnston. She would soon become his lover, his wife, and after her sentence ended and they were married, circumstances would thrust her into the life of First Lady of the colony of New South Wales, and the mother of eight children.

Jessica North has used archives, diaries and letters to build her story, and show how the new arrivals from England and the Indigenous people tried to make connections, or butted heads when it came to misunderstandings of each other’s cultures and legal systems. It also, through the diaries of the white settlers and convicts, early attempts to communicate and in some ways, bring the cultures together, but also, the fear of each other and desires to be separate as much as possible. It felt like in these early days, at least in this story and based on the sources used, efforts may have been made to work together, in some respects. Showing these nuances that were previously hidden from my school and university education shows how hard it was on both sides – but that it was much harder for convicts and Indigenous people, because when it came to the colonial powers, these were two groups that had very little power and were beholden to the colonial laws brought with the English.

2019 Badge

It was a book that opened my eyes and mind up to what female convicts did to survive, and how brutal those early days were for all, but especially for some. It is easy to judge actions from afar, to boil things down to simplistic us versus them and ignore that not everything was like that. No doubt fear was something that affected everyone in the new colony and the way they operated and built their lives. I don’t think we will ever know the full story of some things, especially where we only have partial facts, or not many, or things missing from records. But in starting to find books that tell the stories of those who weren’t in power at time for a change, maybe we can build a fuller, and richer historical record of Australia, and get the opportunity to hear more voices, and hopefully stories that show all sides, the good, the bad and the in between. Knowing these stories will hopefully unite all Australians and show the depth of our multicultural society that has been going for much longer than the history books some of us have had access to tell us.

Booktopia

Challenge Check-in: January 2019 

In an effort to keep on top of my check in posts this year, I’m hoping to do monthly wrap ups, and break downs every fifteen books where possible. These Challenge check-ins will allow me to track my progress and determine how many books I read each month to make my end of year posts easier to write.

2019 Badge

#AWW2019 – Australian Women Writers: six books so far

  1. All the Tears in China by Sulari Gentill – Reviewed
  2. Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner – Reviewed
  3. Vardaesia by Lynette Noni – Reviewed
  4. Saving You by Charlotte Nash – Reviewed
  5. Zelda Stitch Term Two: Too Much Witch by Nikki Greenberg – Reviewed
  6. 99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne – Reviewed

General challenge: Fourteen books completed.

  1. All the Tears in China by Sulari Gentill
  2. Bella Donna: Coven Road by Ruth Symes
  3. Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner
  4. Bella Donna: Too Many Spells by Ruth Symes
  5. Dragon Masters: Treasure of the Gold Dragon by Tracey West
  6. Vardaesia by Lynette Noni
  7. Best Foot Forward by Adam Hills
  8. Saving You by Charlotte Nash
  9. Zelda Stitch Term Two: Too Much Witch by Nicki Greenberg
  10. Australia’s Sweetheart by Michael Adams
  11. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Volume One: Squirrel Power by Ryan North
  12. 99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne
  13. Enola Holmes: The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets (Enola Holmes #3) by Nancy Springer
  14. Enola Holmes: The Case of the Peculiar Pink Fan (Enola Holmes #4) by Nancy Springer

#Dymocks52Challenge

#Dymocks52Challenge: Fourteen books read so far.

  1. All the Tears in China by Sulari Gentill
  2. Bella Donna: Coven Road by Ruth Symes
  3. Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner
  4. Bella Donna: Too Many Spells by Ruth Symes
  5. Dragon Masters: Treasure of the Gold Dragon by Tracey West
  6. Vardaesia by Lynette Noni
  7. Best Foot Forward by Adam Hills
  8. Saving You by Charlotte Nash
  9. Zelda Stitch Term Two: Too Much Witch by Nicki Greenberg
  10. Australia’s Sweetheart by Michael Adams
  11. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Volume One: Squirrel Power by Ryan North
  12. 99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne
  13. Enola Holmes: The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets (Enola Holmes #3) by Nancy Springer
  14. Enola Holmes: The Case of the Peculiar Pink Fan (Enola Holmes #4) by Nancy Springer

 

PopSugar Challenge: Nine categories ticked off so far.

 

A book written by a musician (fiction or nonfiction): Best Foot Forward by Adam Hills

A book with a plant in the title or on the cover: Bella Donna: Coven Road by Ruth Symes

A book with an item of clothing or accessory on the cover: 99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne

A retelling of a classic: Enola Holmes: The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets (Enola Holmes #3) by Nancy Springer

A book about someone with a superpower: The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Volume One: Squirrel Power by Ryan North

A book with SALTY, SWEET, BITTER, or SPICY in the title: Australia’s Sweetheart by Michael Adams

A book that’s published in 2019: Vardaesia by Lynette Noni

A book featuring an extinct or imaginary creature: Dragon Masters: Treasure of the Gold Dragon by Tracey West

A book featuring an amateur detective: All the Tears in China by Sulari Gentill

A book with a two-word title: Saving You by Charlotte Nash

Book Bingo: Seven read, and four squares ticked off.

48987121_1508329715968294_4870693570241101824_n

Beloved Classic: Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner – AWW2018

Memoir about a non-famous person: Australia’s Sweetheart by Michael Adams

Crime: All the Tears in China by Sulari Gentill – AWW2019

Comedy: Best Foot Forward by Adam Hills

 

January Round Up

Book Author Challenge
All the Tears in China Sulari Gentill #AWW2019, Book Bingo, overall, PopSugar, #Dymocks52Challenge
Bella Donna: Coven Road Ruth Symes PopSugar, general, #Dymocks52Challenge
Seven Little Australians Ethel Turner #AWW2019, Book Bingo, general
Bella Donna: Too Many Spells Ruth Symes general, #Dymocks52Challenge,
Dragon Masters: Treasure of the Gold Dragon Tracey West general, PopSugar, #Dymocks52Challenge
Vardaesia Lynette Noni #AWW2019, general, #Dymocks52Challenge, book bingo, PopSugar
Best Foot Forward Adam Hills Book Bingo, general, PopSugar, #Dymocks52Challenge
Saving You Charlotte Nash #AWW2019, #Dymocks52Challenge, general, Book Bingo, PopSugar
Zelda Stitch Term Two: Too Much Witch Nikki Greenberg general, Book Bingo, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019,
Australia’s Sweetheart Michael Adams General, Book Bingo, #Dymocks52Challenge, PopSugar
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Volume One: Squirrel Power Ryan North General, PopSugar, #Dymocks52Challenge
99 Percent Mine Sally Thorne General, PopSugar, #AWW2019, #Dymocks52Challenge
Enola Holmes: The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets (Enola Holmes #3) Nancy Springer General, PopSugar, #Dymocks52Challenge,
Enola Holmes: The Case of the Peculiar Pink Fan (Enola Holmes #4) Nancy Springer General, #Dymocks52Challenge

Book Bingo Three – Double Bingo: Crime and Non-Fiction About a Non-Famous Person

20181124_140447

Book Bingo Saturday with Theresa Smith and Amanda Barrett has rolled around again, and week three has provided me with my first opportunity to tick off two squares, as per our arrangement to make sure we fill out all thirty across the year. Both of these books are new releases from January this year. Of course, no reading challenge would be complete without a book by Sulari Gentill, and her new book, All the Tears in China, fits this square. My second square is the Non-Fiction About a Non-Famous Person, filled with a book about someone i had never known about before.

48987121_1508329715968294_4870693570241101824_n.jpg

3D-Cover_C-format_ATTICIn his ninth outing, artist Rowland Sinclair his friends, fellow artist, Clyde Watson Jones, sculptress Edna Higgins, and poet, Jew and Communist, Milton Isaacs have headed to China to help Rowland’s brother, Wilfred, with a business deal involving the family business. However, as it is Rowly, not everything will or can go smoothly. From beatings to a murdered Russian in his suite, arrests and people from all sides looking to harm Rowly or wrongly accuse him of nefarious crimes. As the series moves further towards the outbreak of World War Two, the threats of fascism, nationalism, jingoism and violence against any perceived as being the wrong sort are growing. Hitler’s shadow keeps rising as the books go on as well – and politics are becoming ever more cemented in narcissistic and devious, evil themes and extremes, mirroring our world today. Reading the series, Rowly and his friends are caught between sides, and being pulled in different directions with demands for support. Set in 1935, the world is teetering between two wars: The War to End all Wars and the war that nobody thought they would have to face. It has been eighteen years since the Russian Revolution, and rumours abound about the survival of the youngest daughter. In this world, and story, who is telling the truth, and who is trying to hurt Rowly and his reputation?

australia's sweetheart

The second book this week is Australia’s Sweetheart by Michael Adams, the story of Mary Maguire, a young woman who moved from Australia to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career, and the ups and downs of the world of Hollywood, and the expectations and pressures she was under during this time to fit in and fulfil the desires of people she didn’t even know. Her life was much more than this though, and Michael begins from her early days as a child growing up in her parent’s hotel, to dance classes, small films in Australia and the eventual Hollywood siren call. From here, to England, and marriage sickness and motherhood – a fraught time where her husband was arrested for being a Nazi sympathiser, and she was watched by MI5. Finally, her life took her into a new marriage, and away from the darkness of the war years. The full story is fascinating, and too full to recount it all here. I chose this for this square because Mary is a forgotten star and figure in Australia – she’s not as well-known as others from history – so I think this was a perfect fit for this square.

Look out next week for my next square!

Australia’s Sweetheart by Michael Adams

Australia's Sweetheart.jpgTitle: Australia’s Sweetheart

Author: Michael Adams

Genre: Biography

Publisher: Hachette Australia

Published: 29th January 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 404

Price: $32.99

Synopsis: This is the fascinating story of Mary Maguire, a 1930s Australian ingenue who sailed for Hollywood and a fabulous life, only to have her career cut short by scandal and tragedy. Packed with celebrity, history and gossip, AUSTRALIA’S SWEETHEART is perfect for readers of SHEILA and THE RIVIERA SET.

Mary Maguire was Australia’s first teenage movie star and she captivated Hollywood in the mid 1930s. Mary lived on three continents and was celebrated in Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney, Los Angeles and London. Her life was lived in parallel with seminal incidents of the twentieth century: the Spanish Flu; the Great Depression; the Bodyline series; Australia’s early radio, talkies and aviation; Hollywood’s Golden Era; the British aristocracy’s embrace of European fascism; London’s Blitz; and post-war American culture and politics. Mary knew everyone, from Douglas Jardine, Don Bradman, Errol Flynn and Ronald Reagan, to William Randolph Hearst, Maureen O’Sullivan and Judy Garland.

AUSTRALIA’S SWEETHEART in an irresistible never-before-told story that captures the glamour of Hollywood and the turbulent times of the twentieth century, with a young woman at its centre.

~*~

These days, it’s very hard to imagine Hollywood not being infiltrated by Australians. Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman, Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, Heath Ledger, Margot Robbie and many more these days. But where did it all start? Who were the Australians who led the way, and paved the now well-trodden path that many Australian actors and actresses walk to Hollywood? The book I am about to review from Hachette is about Australia’s first teenage movie star – and her journey from small, local films in Australia, to captivating Hollywood in the 1930s, in a time of growing uncertainty in Europe. Throughout her life, Mary would live across three continents, and would be celebrated in Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney, Los Angeles and London. She lived through events such as The Spanish Flu, The Great Depression and The Bodyline series. she saw the development of radio in Australia, talkies (films with sound) and aviation. She starred in films during Hollywood’s Golden Era and saw the British aristocracy – including her own husband – embrace European fascism and lived through London’s Blitz and post-war American culture and politics. She knew so many people that today, we know by name from film and history, but these times were also turbulent and uncertain for Mary, and Michael Adams carefully explores these in this biography.

When Mary Maguire’s stardom began, the world was falling at her feet, and her journey to America would be the beginning of many more Australians flocking to Hollywood to make their fortunes. Perhaps her influence also had an influence on the film industry at home, which over the past decades has produced memorable films such as Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, Moulin Rouge, The Dish and many more, and renowned directors such as Baz Luhrmann. These are stories we know about, and figures and movies that are always in our consciousness as Australians these days. But where did all this come from? From many places, but Mary Maguire was one of those people, and her story has been one that has been widely unknown until now.

This was a fascinating story to read, because it reveals an unknown story, of a woman who might be known to older generations, but has possibly been hidden from history, or simply ignored or forgotten until recently. A story that contributes in many ways to our entertainment history, but also a sense of what people went through during the 1930s and 1940s and the cut-throat world of Hollywood: how short careers could be, and the lengths people went to remain in films and maintain their career – keeping to a specific look and weight were important, and it seemed that whilst male actors maintained lengthy careers, female actors like Mary and Judy Garland might have had shorter ones – with factors like age, marriage and motherhood hinting at why they might not have the same success at thirty as they might at twenty. Nevertheless, it seems after suffering tuberculosis, her first husband being sent to jail, and losing her son, Mary attempted a comeback, but then decided to live a quieter life, though she still spent some time in the papers, with major events in her life being reported when they happened.

Mary Maguire’s life is fascinating and complex, from performing in her home town to starring in movies and being suspected of pro-fascist sentiments by MI5 during World War Two, and her struggles with illness and her marriage, to a second, more peaceful marriage in her later years. The whole time she was supported by her parents and sisters, who would eventually join her in London and America. It is a fascinatingly complex story, with too many layers to go into here. Each layer added something to who Mary would become, from a carefree young girl taking dance classes, to one with stars in her eyes and finally, to a woman who led a quiet, if troubled life until she died. She had suspicions follow her during the war years. In these days, she would be misquoted by the media – something not uncommon today either. She is an important figure because it shows how Australians were treated and seen in Hollywood, and perhaps the novelty that young Mary was at first. At the same time, the political dealings of her first husband darkened her later life, and knowing how she pulled through shows the strength of her character as a woman and an Australian.

Booktopia

Book Bingo Week Two 2019

20181124_140447

Comedy Square

Welcome to week two of 2019’s book bingo with Theresa, Amanda and I, and everyone else using our card as part of their own 2019 reading challenges and goals. I’ve only crossed one square off again this week – as many of the books to come are scheduled reviews, so my bonus squares will come later on in the coming months.

48987121_1508329715968294_4870693570241101824_n.jpg

With Comedy being a fairly subjective genre, I was at first unsure of how to approach this square, as there have been books I have read that have funny stuff in them but might not necessarily qualify as comedy in terms of genre or style. So when I received Best Foot Forward by Adam Hills for Christmas, I knew I could easily check off the comedy square with this wonderful book.

best foot forward

Adam Hills, former host of Spicks and Specks, is one of my favourite comedians. My full review of the book is here – what I loved about this book was that Adam was honest and entertaining – and he never let having a prosthesis hold him back. Though he had some challenges, Adam found he could do most of the things he wanted to do, and I enjoyed reading about his life and how he came to be the host of Spicks and Specks,as well as co-hosting a show at the Paralympics and finding a community of disabled people there.

The second of February will be my next book bingo – keep an eye out for it!

Booktopia

Best Foot Forward by Adam Hills

best foot forward.jpgTitle: Best Foot Forward

Author: Adam Hills

Genre: Non-Fiction/Comedy

Publisher: Hachette Australia

Published: 31st July 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 355

Price: $32.99

Synopsis: One of Australia’s biggest comic personalities, much-loved host of Spicks and Specks and the hit UK TV show The Last Leg, Adam Hills’ charming and witty memoir is a lesson in following your heart, being positive and discovering that what makes you different also makes you unique.

Adam Hills was a quiet primary school kid with a prosthetic foot who did all his homework and only spoke when spoken to. His dad sparked in him a love of comedy, and together they’d spend hours watching and listening to the likes of Peter Sellers and Mel Brooks. So when it was Adam’s turn to speak, he made sure he was funny.

Once he hit high school, comedy was Adam’s obsession (along with a deep love for the South Sydney Rabbitohs). While his mates were listening to Iron Maiden and AC/DC, he was listening to Kenny Everett and Billy Connolly. And when a report card came home with a comment praising his sense of humour, he was far prouder of that than his grades (his mum not so much).

Adam’s shyness and his missing foot never held him back, though wearing thongs was tricky. While other teens snuck off to meet girls and drink cheap booze, Adam snuck off to see a young Jim Carrey perform. After that, a steady diet of Rodney Rude, Vince Sorrenti and Robin Williams led this sheltered, virginal university student from The Shire to his first stand-up open mic night on his 19th birthday.

In Best Foot Forward, Adam describes his early years on the Australian comedy scene sharing gigs with Steady Eddy and Jimeoin, how he coped the first time he died on stage, his early-morning apprenticeship in radio, touring the world’s comedy festivals, the magic of Spicks and Specks and his hosting gig for the 2008 Paralympics that led to his hit UK TV show The Last Leg. Kermit the Frog, Whoopi Goldberg, Barry Humphries, Billy Connolly – Adam’s learned from the best. In this charming and witty memoir Adam Hills shows how hard work, talent and being proudly different can see you find your feet.

~*~

Growing up in the Sutherland Shire, Adam Hills ‘ love of comedy was sparked by his dad – watching and listening to Mel Brooks, and Peter Sellers on family trips to the South Coast for holidays in the car, which led to him listening to Billy Connolly in place of the popular music his high school friends were listening to at the time. And having a prosthetic foot was normal for him – it just was, in the way that many disabled people who have grown up with their disability know it’s part of them and their identity – an everyday, normal part of life that they live with and adapt to.

Adam Hills is one of my favourite comedians in Australia – and I adored and still adore watching Spicks and Specks on TV. Best Foot Forward is Adam’s journey from growing up in the Sutherland Shire to entering the comedy scene in various clubs and festivals across Australia and Europe, to the making of Spicks and Specks. In it, Adam talks candidly about family life, his missing foot, and the people he meets and interacts with, all with the uniqueness that makes him wonderful to watch and listen to. From early morning radio to comedy tours, Adam is completely himself in this book, and he seamlessly integrates all his experiences with his sense of humour throughout the book.

What I liked about this book was Adam’s honesty and openness – it was like having an extended chat with a very good friend, and the kind of conversation that engages everyone wholly and takes you along for the ride, laughs and all. Much of the book is focussed on Adam’s journey to comedy, and through radio, though when he was asked to help co-host a show for the Paralympics in 2008, this was where Adam found a community of disabled people. People like him, his age, and younger, who had missing limbs, or no limbs. Adam had previously mentioned that he had never really thought of his prosthetic as a barrier because there were many things he could do that people who had what he saw as more restrictive disabilities couldn’t do – but the Paralympics changed his mind – and this is a very important part of the book. Many disabled people will and might be able to identify with the way Adam felt. The feeling that because you can do many things, you’re not as worse off as some, despite there being some limitations. Adam articulates this really well, and in a really relatable and understandable way for readers. Adam’s eloquence when discussing his disability and the way he dealt with it, the use of humour to cope, and as an ice breaker, and how the Paralympians made him feel was the most powerful aspect of the book for me. Adam is truly one of my favourite people in the entertainment industry.

Fans of Adam Hills will enjoy this candid and entertaining book, and yes, I had a go at his Substitute test in the chapter on Spicks and Specks. Throughout, I heard Adam’s voice clearly – which made it a genuine and exciting experience. I hope others who enjoy Adam’s comedy and Spicks and Specks will enjoy this as much as I did.

Best Foot Forward will be filling next week’s Book Bingo Square for Comedy – thank you Adam!

Booktopia

Jane Austen Reading Challenge

Jane Austen Reading Challenge 2019.jpg

This year, I am adding another challenge to my list. This one will be more of a casual one, that I will disperse throughout the year. Inspired by a blog called Bunny’s Girl, and her challenge to read six Jane Austen novels and six Jane Austen inspired novels between January and December of 2019, I am hoping to at least read the six novels by Jane Austen and if possible, some inspired by her novels, but with this one, I have decided not to specify a number.

I plan to start with one of Jane Austen’s novels – I haven’t decided yet but I plan to read each of the following six written by Jane Austen herself:

Pride and Prejudice

Emma

Sense and Sensibility

Northanger Abbey

Mansfield Park

Persuasion

Following this, or perhaps in between each one, I plan to read books that have been inspired by Jane Austen’s novels, or non-fiction books about Jane Austen, such as biographies as part of the challenge. I have not decided what all of these will be yet, but here are a few that I hope to look at:

Lost in Austen by Emma Campbell Webster

Jane and Me: My Austen Heritage by Caroline Jane Knight

Austenland by Shannon Hale

The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler

This will be more of a casual challenge that I am aiming for, and won’t stress if I don’t get to some of the books, or can’t find Jane Austen books I am interested in  – of course there will be many choices, but I will be looking for ones I enjoy first and foremost – this may take some of the pressure of, as I won’t be forcing myself into a specific book to check something off, and hopefully these books will also check off some other categories in my other challenges.

I’ll try and post updates here as I go along throughout the year, hopefully once a month.

Booktopia