Bridge Burning and Other Hobbies by Kitty Flanagan

burning bridges.jpgTitle: Bridge Burning and Other Hobbies

Author: Kitty Flanagan

Genre: Essays/Non-Fiction/Comedy

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 21st March 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 272

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: One of Australia’s favourite and most multi-talented entertainers, Kitty Flanagan, provides hilarious and honest life advice in this candid collection of cautionary tales.

Kitty Flanagan has been locked in an industrial freezer in Western Australia, insulted about the size of her lady parts in Singapore and borne witness to the world’s most successful wife swap in suburban Sydney. It’s these valuable lessons from The University of Life that have taught her so many things, including the fact that clichés like ‘The University of Life’ are reeeally annoying.

In these funny, true stories, Kitty provides advice you didn’t even know you needed. Useful tips on how not to get murdered while hitch-hiking, how to break up with someone the wrong way, and the right way, why it’s important to keep your top on while waitressing, and why women between the ages of thirty-seven and forty-two should be banned from internet dating.

Bridge Burning and Other Hobbies is a collection of laugh-out-loud, cautionary tales from one of Australia’s favourite comedians.

‘Finally, a book that doesn’t tell you to stop eating sugar.’
KITTY – CAKE ENTHUSIAST

‘Shut your mouth Flanagan or you’ll do fifteen in the freezer.’
GARY – FACTORY FOREMAN

‘I was hoping there’d be more about arson.’
BERNIE – LOCAL FIRESTARTER

~*~

AWW-2018-badge-roseKitty Flanagan’s biography – well, more a series of essays on her adventures throughout life, showcases her sense of humour from the very first page. From her early childhood through to now, Kitty has had many careers, including waitressing, a brief appearance as a child actor and as a copywriter – all of which have led her to becoming one of Australia’s best loved comedians. From her adventures hitch-hiking to her disastrous attempts to break off relationships, Kitty’s true stories are filled with her special brand of humour and proves that clichés like the University of Life are really annoying and cultural misunderstandings can lead to disastrous or at least, unseen, consequences.

Kitty’s sense of humour is unique to her, but also incorporates elements of the Australian sense of humour within her comedy, and makes her relatable and funny, and she has excelled in doing this in writing as well. Each chapter is a snippet, a story from Kitty’s life that illustrate what life was like for her as a child – being dropped off at a party where the only parents there were those of the birthday child – and the other parents weren’t around. Having experienced parties like this myself, this was a story I could relate to. Of the others, I laughed, and enjoyed the ride with Kitty.

It’s very hard not to laugh or smile while reading this book – it is like reading a stand-up comedy routine from the comfort of your home, with Kitty’s voice as clear as it would be live. As Kitty cast a humourous eye over her travels across the world and through a series of unsuccessful relationships, she showed how words – spoken or written have power and can impact you in a variety of ways. Her time in Singapore illustrated the cultural differences she has encountered in her career, and how what in one country might be funny, in another can be offensive and have repercussions that she was unaware of – but in true Kitty style, she managed to turn this into an instance of rolling with the punches, lessons learned and the sort of story that can be funny and awkward.

It is biographical but also, reads like a series of comedy sketches – perfect for when you can’t get to her shows and need a dose of Kitty to brighten your day. It is one that having read the whole way through once, I could dip into random stories when I felt like it, and it will be just as entertaining as reading them in order. It was clear that she was a comedic genius from a young age, and I absolutely loved her recollection of the party when she was five and the dress her Mum had made from a pattern – cute and funny in equal helpings!

Kitty is one of my favourite comedians, which was a deciding factor in me choosing this book as part of my 2018 Australian Women Writer’s Challenge. It is an excellent read and I hope many of Kitty’s fans will enjoy her book and have a good laugh along with Kitty as she navigates life through comedy.

Booktopia

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Book bingo nine – a book of short stories, and an award-winning book.

book bingo 2018

This week, I’m knocking off two more squares, leaving me with two more before I embark on a second card for the second half of the year – which will include new reads and some previous reads from this year that had several categories to fit into, but I ended up choosing one. In this week’s bingo, I have also completed two more rows across,

Row #2 – BINGO

 

A book with a yellow cover: Tin Man by Sarah Winman

A book by an author you’ve never read before: The Secrets at Ocean’s Edge by Kali Napier – AWW2018

A non-fiction book: Spinning Tops & Gum Drops: A Portrait of Colonial Childhood by Edwin Barnard

A collection of short stories: Australia Day by Melanie Cheng – AWW2018

A book with themes of culture: The Sealwoman’s Gift by Sally Magnusson

Row #3:  BINGO

A book written by an Australian woman:The Tides Between by Elizabeth Jane Corbett – AWW2018

A book written by an Australian man: The Opal Dragonfly by Julian Leatherdale

A prize-winning book: Miles Franklin: A Short Biography by Jill Roe – AWW

A book that scares you: The Good Doctor of Warsaw by Elisabeth Gifford

A book with a mystery: Olmec Obituary by LJM Owen – AWW2018

And one row down, Row three, the middle row:

Row #3: – BINGO

A memoir: Skin in the Game: The Pleasure and Pain of Telling True Stories by Sonya Voumard

A non-fiction book:Spinning Tops & Gum Drops: A Portrait of Colonial Childhood by Edwin Barnard

A prize-winning book: Miles Franklin: A Short Biography by Jill Roe

A book with non-human characters: Monty the Sad Puppy by Holly Webb

A book everyone is talking about: The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris – AWW2018

Australia DayThe square for a book of Short Stories in row three across and down, was filled by one that is also an award winner and has a yellow cover – but that I had not read in time to fill the yellow cover square, is Australia Day by Melanie Cheng. It won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards this year for the fiction category. It is a series of short stories about Australians from various backgrounds and walks of life, full of diversity and difference, and the attitudes towards people in each of these groups. It is a reflection on who we are as a nation as well, digging into the Australia that is perhaps less laidback, more complex and at times, not as ideal as the image of Australia we want everyone to have is – whether it is race, gender, socioeconomic status or a combination of those. It is bookended by two stories that take place on Australia Day itself and the clashing of cultures and ideas about the day and the nation that illustrate the day is not the same for everyone, in a myriad of ways.

Miles Franklin Short BioMy second, and 23rd book of this book bingo card, is an award-winning book. Miles Franklin: A Short Biography by Jill Roe – an abridged version of her longer one, which won three awards in nine and eight years ago:

Queensland Premier’s Literary Award – 2009

South Australian Prize for Non-Fiction – 2010

Australian Historical Association Magarey Medal for Biography – 2010

The interesting story of Miles Franklin’s life fills this category, because I thought it was rather fitting that the biography of a woman who has two literary prizes named for her – one endowed upon her death in her Will – The Miles Franklin Literary Award, and the Stella Prize for Australian women’s writing, which was inaugurated in 2013. Miles Franklin is primarily known for her literary prowess and the awards named for her – and for being a feminist. This biography shows much more of her life and what she did over her lifetime for literature and politics.

I’ve been enjoying doing this book bingo with Mrs B and Theresa Smith – I perhaps let my enthusiasm get away with me in marking off squares but in doing a second round, I at least will have some of the books read already and can space them out a bit more.

Until next time!

Booktopia

Australian Book Industry Awards Longlist 2018

The ABIA Longlist has also been announced today for 2018, and celebrates the diversity and quality of Australian writing, publishing and bookselling. The ABIA Academy – a group of booksellers, agents, media and industry representatives – voted for the longlist, and the 2018 campaign was long and exhaustive, resulting in this year’s academy having 250 members.

A shortlist will be announced of the nineteenth of April, and the winners announced at the ABIA Awards on the 3rd of May, at the International Convention Centre in Sydney. The ABIA awards have been sponsored by: The Australian Women’s Weekly, JC Decaux, Media Super, Audible, Opus, Booktopia, Curtis Brown, Ingram, Nielsen Bookscan, Leading Edge Books, Simpsons Solicitors, John Fisher Printing, and industry partners, ABA, ALIA, APA, ASA, BorrowBox, The Copyright Agency, Books + Publishing and the Children’s Book Council.

The award has twelve categories, and below are the long-lists for each category:

BioAbia2018

Biography Book of the Year

  • A Writing Life: Helen Garner and Her Work, Bernadette Brennan (Text Publishing, Text Publishing)
  • Danger Music, Eddie Ayres (Allen & Unwin, Allen & Unwin)
  • The Enigmatic Mr Deakin, Judith Brett (Text Publishing, Text Publishing)
  • Tracker, Alexis Wright (Giramondo Publishing, Giramondo Publishing Company)
  • Unbreakable, Jelena Dokic and Jess Halloran (Ebury Australia, Penguin Random House Australia)
  • Unmasked, Turia Pitt (Ebury Australia, Penguin Random House Australia)
  • Wednesdays with Bob, Derek Rielly and Bob Hawke (Macmillan Australia, Pan Macmillan Australia,)
  • Working Class Man, Jimmy Barnes (HarperCollins Publishers, HarperCollins Publishers)

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General Fiction Book of the Year

  • Force of Nature, Jane Harper (Macmillan Australia, Pan Macmillan Australia)
  • On the Java Ridge, Jock Serong (Text Publishing, Text Publishing)
  • The Dark Lake, Sarah Bailey (Allen & Unwin, Allen & Unwin)
  • The Girl from Munich, Tania Blanchard (Simon & Schuster Australia, Simon & Schuster Australia)
  • The Inaugural Meeting Of The Fairvale Ladies Book Club, Sophie Green (Hachette, Hachette Australia)
  • The Secrets She Keeps, Michael Robotham (Hachette, Hachette Australia)
  • The Tea Gardens, Fiona McIntosh (Michael Joseph Australia, Penguin Random House Australia)
  • The Trip of A Lifetime, Monica McInerney (Michael Joseph Australia, Penguin Random House Australia)

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General Non-fiction Book of the Year

  • Anaesthesia: The Gift of Oblivion and the Mystery of Consciousness, Kate Cole-Adams (Text Publishing, Text Publishing)
  • Being 14,Madonna King (Hachette, Hachette Australia)
  • Depends What You Mean By Extremist, John Safran (Hamish Hamilton Australia, Penguin Random House Australia)
  • First, We Make The Beast Beautiful, Sarah Wilson (Macmillan Australia, Pan Macmillan Australia)
  • Not Just Lucky, Jamila Rizvi (Viking Australia, Penguin Random House Australia)
  • Saga Land, Richard Fidler and Kári Gíslason (ABC Books, HarperCollins Publishers)
  • Taming Toxic People, David Gillespie (Macmillan Australia, Pan Macmillan Australia)
  • The Harbour: A City’s Heart, A Country’s Soul, Scott Bevan (Simon & Schuster Australia, Simon & Schuster Australia)
  • The Trauma Cleaner: One Woman’s Extraordinary Life in Death, Decay & Disaster, Sarah Krasnostein (Text Publishing, Text Publishing)

ABIA2018_Illustrated

Illustrated Book of the Year

  • Basics to Brilliance Kids, Donna Hay (Fourth Estate, HarperCollins Publishers)
  • Cornersmith: Salads and Pickles, Alex Elliott-Howery and Sabine Spindler (Murdoch Books, Murdoch Books)
  • Hummus and Co, Michael Rantissi and Kristy Frawley (Murdoch Books, Murdoch Books)
  • Maggie’s Recipe for Life, Maggie Beer and Professor Ralph Martins (A Julie Gibbs Book for Simon & Schuster Australia, Simon & Schuster Australia)
  • Native: Art and Design with Australian Plants, Kate Herd and Jela Ivankovic-Waters (Thames & Hudson Australia, Thames & Hudson Australia)
  • Ostro, Julia Busuttil Nishimura (Plum, Pan Macmillan Australia)
  • Paris: Through a Fashion Eye, Megan Hess (Hardie Grant Books, Hardie Grant Publishing)
  • The Vegetable, Caroline Griffiths and Vicki Valsamis (Smith Street Books, Smith Street Books)

International-Book-of-the-Year-Square

International Book of the Year

  • Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, Gail Honeyman (HarperCollins Publishers, HarperCollins Publishers)
  • Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls, Elena Favilli and Francesa Cavallo (Particular Books -UK Juvenile, Penguin Random House Australia)
  • Here We Are: Notes For Living On Planet Earth, Oliver Jeffers (HarperCollins Publishers, HarperCollins Publishers)
  • Home Fire, Kamila Shamsie (Bloomsbury Circus, Bloomsbury Publishing)
  • La Belle Sauvage: The Book of Dust Volume One, Philip Pullman (David Fickling Books, Penguin Random House Australia)
  • Lincoln in the Bardo, George Saunders (Bloomsbury Publishing, Bloomsbury Publishing)
  • Mythos, Stephen Fry (Michael Joseph – UK, Penguin Random House Australia)
  • The Sun and her Flowers, Rupi Kaur (Simon & Schuster UK, Simon & Schuster UK)

LITERARY-FICTION-BOOK-OF-THE-YEAR-longlist-SQUARE

Literary Fiction Book of the Year

  • A Long Way Home, Peter Carey (Hamish Hamilton Australia, Penguin Random House Australia)
  • Australia Day, Melanie Cheng (Text Publishing, Text Publishing)
  • First Person, Richard Flanagan (Knopf Australia, Penguin Random House Australia)
  • See What I Have Done, Sarah Schmidt (Hachette, Hachette Australia)
  • Taboo, Kim Scott (Picador Australia, Pan Macmillan Australia)
  • The Choke, Sofie Laguna (Allen & Unwin, Allen & Unwin)
  • The Life to Come, Michelle de Kretser (Allen & Unwin, Allen & Unwin)
  • Wimmera, Mark Brandi (Hachette, Hachette Australia)

SMALL-PUBLISHERS-ADULT-BOOK-OF-THE-YEAR-SQUARE

Small Publishers’ Adult Book of the Year

  • Atlantic Black, A. S. Patric (Transit Lounge, Transit Lounge)
  • Call of the Reed Warbler – A New Agriculture – A New Earth, Charles Massy (The University of Queensland Press, The University of Queensland Press)
  • Cardinal, Louise Milligan (Melbourne University Press, Melbourne University Publishing)
  • Journeys into the Wild: The Photography of Peter Dombrovskis, Introduction & Commentary by Bob Brown (NLA Publishing, National Library of Australia)
  • The Australian Bird Guide, Peter Menkhorst, Danny Rogers, Rohan Clarke, Jeff Davies, Peter Marsack and Kim Franklin (CSIRO Publishing, CSIRO Publishing)
  • The Restorer, Michael Sala (Text Publishing, Text Publishing)
  • Museum of Words, Georgia Blain (Scribe Publications, Scribe Publications)
  • Mirror Sydney, Vanessa Berry (Giramondo Publishing, Giramondo Publishing Company)

small-publishers-childrens-book-longlist-SQUARE

Small Publishers’ Children’s Book of the Year

  • At the Beach I See, Kamsani Bin Salleh (Magabala Books, Magabala Books)
  • At the Zoo I See, Joshua Button and Robyn Wells (Magabala Books, Magabala Books)
  • Big Fella Rain, Beryl Webber and illustrated by Fern Martins (Magabala Books, Magabala Books)
  • Hello, Melbourne!, Megan McKean (Thames & Hudson Australia, Thames & Hudson Australia)
  • It’s OK to Feel the Way You Do, Josh Langley (Big Sky Publishing, Big Sky Publishing)
  • The Elephant, Peter Carnavas (The University of Queensland Press, The University of Queensland Press)
  • Slow Down, World, Tai Snaith (Thames & Hudson Australia, Thames & Hudson Australia)
  • Under the Love Umbrella, Davina Bell and Allison Colpoys (Scribble Kids’ Books, Scribe Publications)

THE-MATT-RICHELL-AWARD-FOR-NEW-WRITER-OF-THE-YEAR-Simpsons-WIDE-Square

The Matt Richell Award for New Writer of the Year

BOTY_OlderChildrenlonglist-SQUARE

Book of the Year for Older Children (ages 13+)

  • Beautiful Mess, Claire Christian (Text Publishing, Text Publishing)
  • Begin, End, Begin: A #LoveOzYA Anthology, Amie Kaufman, Melissa Keil, Will Kostakis, Ellie Marney, Jaclyn Moriarty, Michael Pryor, Alice Pung, Gabrielle Tozer, Lili Wilkinson and Danielle Binks (HarperCollins Publishers, HarperCollins Publishers)
  • Frogkisser!,Garth Nix (Allen & Unwin, Allen & Unwin)
  • My Life as a Hashtag, Gabrielle Williams (Allen & Unwin, Allen & Unwin)
  • Take Three Girls, Simmone Howell, Cath Crowley and Fiona Wood (Pan Australia, Pan Macmillan Australia)
  • Tales From a Tall Forest, Shaun Micallef and illustrated by Jonathan Bentley (Hardie Grant Egmont, Hardie Grant Egmont)
  • The Silent Invasion, James Bradley (Pan Australia, Pan Macmillan Australia)
  • Untidy Towns, Kate O’Donnell (The University of Queensland Press, The University of Queensland Press)

Younger-Children-square

Book of the Year for Younger Children (ages 7-12)

  • Frankie Fish and the Sonic Suitcase, Peter Helliar and illustrated by Lesley Vamos (Hardie Grant Egmont, Hardie Grant Egmont)
  • Funny Kid for President, Matt Stanton (ABC Books, HarperCollins Publishers)
  • Maybe, Morris Gleitzman (Viking – AU YR, Penguin Random House Australia)
  • Nevermoor, Jessica Townsend (Lothian Children’s Books, Hachette Australia)
  • Polly and Buster: The Wayward Witch and the Feelings Monster, Sally Rippin (Hardie Grant Egmont, Hardie Grant Egmont)
  • The Bad Guys Episode 6, Aaron Blabey (Scholastic Press, Scholastic Australia)
  • The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone, Jaclyn Moriarty (Allen & Unwin, Allen & Unwin)
  • The Girl, the Dog and the Writer in Rome, Katrina Nannestad (ABC Books, HarperCollins Publishers)
  • The 91-Storey Treehouse, Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton (Pan Australia, Pan Macmillan Australia)

PICTURE-BOOK-longlist-Square

Children’s Picture Book of the Year (ages 0-6)

  • Do Not Lick This Book, Idan Ben-Barak and illustrated by Julian Frost (Allen & Unwin, Allen & Unwin)
  • Florette, Anna Walker (Viking – AU YR, Penguin Random House Australia)
  • I Just Ate My Friend, Heidi McKinnon (Allen & Unwin, Allen & Unwin)
  • I’m Australian Too, Mem Fox and illustrated by Ronojoy Ghosh (Scholastic Press, Scholastic Australia)
  • Mopoke, Philip Bunting (Scholastic Press, Scholastic Australia)
  • Pig the Star, Aaron Blabey (Scholastic Press, Scholastic Australia)
  • No One Likes a Fart, Zoë Foster Blake (Viking – AU YR, Penguin Random House Australia)
  • The Bum Book, Kate Mayes and illustrated by Andrew Joyner (ABC Books, HarperCollins Publishers)
  • The Very Noisy Baby, Alison Lester (Affirm Press, Affirm Press)

Some books have been nominated for several other prxizes, and I would not be surprised if Nevermoor takes out Book of the Year for Younger Children. There are a few on these lists I have read, and several more I am planning on reading. I look forward to future announcements for this prize.

Booktopia

The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony with Grahame Spence

elephant whisperer.jpgTitle: The Elephant Whisperer

Author: Lawrence Anthony with Grahame Spence

Genre: Non-Fiction, Biography

Publisher: Pan MacMillan

Published: 1st July 2012

Format: Paperback

Pages: 288

Price: $24.99

Synopsis: When South African conservationist Lawrence Anthony was asked to accept a herd of rogue elephants on his reserve at Thula Thula, his common-sense told him to refuse. But he was the herd’s last chance of survival – notorious escape artists, they would all be killed if Lawrence wouldn’t take them. He agreed, but before arrangements for the move could be completed the animals broke out again and the matriarch and her baby were shot. The remaining elephants were traumatised and very angry. As soon as they arrived at Thula Thula they started planning their escape…

As Lawrence battled to create a bond with the elephants and save them from execution, he came to realise that they had a lot to teach him about love, loyalty and freedom. Set against the background of life on the reserve, with unforgettable characters and exotic wildlife, this is a delightful book that will appeal to animal lovers everywhere.

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Lawrence Anthony is a highly-respected conservationist and co-founder of The Earth Organization. His previous title, Babylon’s Ark, about his involvement in saving the animals in Baghdad Zoo, is being made into a major film. Graham Spence is a freelance journalist and author.

~*~

In the Kwa-Zulu Natal (KZN) region of South Africa, there are many game reserves that host smaller, private game lodges that are dedicated to the protection and conservation of African animals such as elephants and rhinos, hunted for their horns. Thula Thula, the reserve and lodge where Lawrence Anthony lived and worked up until his death several years ago was one such park. When Anthony and his partner, Francoise arrived at Thula Thula, they were soon asked to take a rampaging herd of elephants from another game park before they had to be culled. Lawrence took these elephants in, and spent years building up trust, to a point where they knew him and his family, and where they would visit him to show off new additions, and greet him as he arrived home from overseas.  Lawrence’s experiences with the elephants always amaze him and leave him, and those he works and lives with in awe of these majestic creatures.

Written in 2012 about the previous ten years or so, The Elephant Whisperer shows the beauty of elephants, and what they can teach us, and the amazing side to them that so many don’t get to see. The elephants are central to the book and Lawrence’s experiences with poachers, staff, snakes and family, and their comforting presence at times of distress and highly emotional times illustrates the special relationship Lawrence had with the herd and what he observed in these creatures.

Filled with frustrating, triumphant and heartbreaking moments, Lawrence Anthony’s personality and sense of self and justice shines through and the story is engaging and engrossing – from his battle to get the elephants to Thula Thula, to his negotiations with the Zulu tribes and desire to communicate across cultures and respect each human and animal he works with, to his battle with the poachers in the early part of the book, there is a passion that ensures his love of elephants and legacy lives in through his words and work at Thula Thula.

Mr Lear: A Life of Art and Nonsense by Jenny Uglow

mr learTitle: Mr Lear: A Life of Art and Nonsense

Author: Jenny Uglow

Genre: Non-Fiction/Biogprahy

Publisher: Faber/Allen and Unwin

Published: 25th October 2017

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 560

Price: $49.99

Synopsis: A beautifully illustrated, literary appreciation of Edward Lear – best-known for his poem ‘The Owl and the Pussycat’ – and his ‘nonsenses’ by one of Britain’s most highly regarded historians.

Edward Lear’s poems follow and break the rules. They abide by the logic of syntax, the linking of rhyme and the dance of rhythm, and these ‘nonsenses’ are full of joy – yet set against darkness. Where do these human-like animals and birds and these odd adventures – some gentle, some violent, some musical, some wild – come from? His many drawings that accompany his verse are almost hyper-real, as if he wants to free the creatures from the page. They exist nowhere else in literature, springing only from Lear’s imagination.

Lear lived all his life on the borders of rules and structures, of disciplines and desires. He vowed to ignore politics yet trembled with passionate sympathies. He depended on patrons and moved in establishment circles, yet he never belonged among them and mocked imperial attitudes. He loved men yet dreamed of marriage – but remained, it seems, celibate, wrapped in himself. Even in his family he was marginal, at once accepted and rejected. Surrounded by friends, he was alone.

If we follow him across land and sea – to Italy, Greece and Albania, to The Levant and Egypt and India – and to the borderlands of spirit and self, art and desire, can we see, in the end, if the nonsense makes sense? This is what Jenny Uglow has set sail to find out.

~*~

Jenny Uglow’s latest biogpraphy examines the life, art and nonsense poetry or Edward Lear. Born in 1812, Lear was the youngest boy of seventeen, nineteen or twenty-one children (depending on which source is consulted, Uglow suggests that Lear claimed it was twenty-one). As the second to last born child, he was passed off to a much older sister to care for and raise. Lear’s life led him into an adult life of travel, nonsense and art, and through his struggles with his identity and epilepsy, he wrote and created watercolours, limericks and one of the best loved poems known today: The Owl and the Pussy-Cat (1871), and his numerous limericks that appear to hint at dark outcomes for the Old Men and other characters that populate his limericks from a variety of places. It is not merely the story of Lear’s life, but how his art, travels and writing shaped his life, and how the people he interacted with throughout his life. such as the Pre-Raphaelites, including William Morris and Dante Gabriel Rossetti and William Morris, and their infamous exhibit that caused a scandal because of the nature of their paintings. Lear spent much of his adult life travelling across Europe, especially to Greece and Corfu, painting and writing for children of friends, whilst never marrying himself, despite coming close. At the same time, Lear grappled with his sexuality and who he was attracted to, as well as his asthma, and epilepsy that hindered him in some ways.

I had previously encountered Edward Lear in a university course about Children’s Literature, where I studied the classics and some of the most well-known works from what is known as The Golden Age, through to modern day literature from Australia and America, as well as fairy tales. So, this was a special treat for me, and something I wished I had had back then. I knew of his large family, his writing and his epilepsy and sexuality – what I did not know was how extensively he travelled and just how much his sister, Ann, meant to him – how much of a mother she was to him over his own mother, and I didn’t know anything about his relationship with the Pre-Raphaelites. On this account in the book, I would have liked to have known more about this time he spent with them and whether he knew the women in the Pre-Raphaelite circle as well as their husbands. This biography is beautiful, traversing Lear’s life in travel, art and nonsense, opening each chapter with a limerick and peppering them throughout in places where each one relates to what has just been written.

Uglow also incorporates the Owl and the Pussy-Cat, and part of the solemn, depressing Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo. Of these two, The Owl and the Pussy-Cat is my favourite, and his limericks are full of whimsy, delight and the nonsense that Lear and his contemporary, Lewis Carroll, perpetuated in their early works that introduced entertainment over didacticism and morally uplifting stories to children, thus ushering in what is known as The Golden Age of Children’s Literature. What this biogpraphy offers is a colourful and well-rounded view of the life of Edward Lear, flaws and all are recognised as he travels and through his encounters of world events and hearing about them.

Through a life lived on the borders of convention, a life that helped bring the delightful nonsense to life, Lear’s life lived in the margins, accepted by some, and yet alone amongst friends, a life that was not lived in a conventional or normal manner, where he gave drawing lessons to Queen Victoria, and at the same time, used his nonsense to mock imperial attitudes, we can perhaps begin to understand how his nonsense verses emerged.

Authors of Children’s Literature today owe much to people like Lear and Carroll – they opened the door to literature for children as entertainment, using nonsense, magic and humour to entertain and potentially teach rather than didactic texts and primers that had abounded up until the 1860s, when their first works were published. Lear was one of the first authors of children’s literature to push these boundaries, and this biogpraphy shows that he was more than this, that he led a fascinating life in a time when there were different expectations for everyone.

Booktopia

 

Barney Greatrex: From Bomber Command to the French Resistance – The Stirring Story of an Australian Hero by Michael Veitch

barney greatrexTitle: Barney Greatrex: From Bomber Command to the French Resistance – The Stirring Story of an Australian Hero

Author: Michael Veitch

Genre: History/Biography

Publisher: Hachette Australia

Published: 26th September 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 320

Price: $35.00

Synopsis: The incredible untold World War II story of Australian hero BARNEY GREATREX – from Bomber Command to French Resistance fighter.

A school and university cadet in Sydney, Barney Greatrex signed up for RAF Bomber Command in 1941, eager to get straight into the very centre of the Allied counterattack. Bombing Germany night after night, Barney’s 61 Squadron faced continual enemy fighter attacks and anti-aircraft fire – death or capture by the Nazis loomed large. Very few survived more than 20 missions, and it was on his 20th mission, in 1944, that Barney’s luck finally ran out: he was shot down over occupied France.

But his war was far from over. Rescued by the French Resistance, Barney seized the opportunity to carry on fighting and joined the Maquis in the liberation of France from the occupying German forces, who rarely took prisoners.

Later, Barney was awarded the French Legion of Honour, but for seventy years he said almost nothing of his incredible war service – surviving two of the most dangerous battlefronts. Now, aged 97, Barney Greatrex has revealed his truly great Australian war story to acclaimed bestselling author Michael Veitch.

~*~

The legends, stories and tales that make up Australian history cover nearly everything about our country, and every Australian student is taught about the ANZAC legend, and the formation of this legend on the battlefields of Gallipoli and Word War One at various fronts throughout Europe, creating an image that has been carried through the decades since for each war, each battle and every serving member over the past century. In school, we learn in general terms about major battles, and about some important figures. It is the individual stories, – the heroic and the flawed aspects of the people they are about, that give our national story about our role in the wars an interesting colour and human face to them.

There are probably many stories that need to be told of the men and women that fought, but recently I read the story of Barney Greatrex, a RAAF/RAF bomber who, after being shot down over France, spent several months fighting the Gestapo in France with the French Resistance, striving to free France from German occupation and destruction – acts which would in the end, see him rescued and ultimately, France freed from German occupation at the end of the war.

Barney’s story begins in the leafy suburbs in Sydney Pymble, where he attended Knox Grammar in the decade before the war. During his time here and at The University of Sydney, Barney had been part of the cadets, something that prepared him somewhat for the rigours of military life. His training took him to 61 Squadron, and the task of bombing Germany during the Allied counterattacks. Facing enemy fighter attacks, and anti-aircraft fire night after night, each return to base, Barney was grateful to be alive. Until the aircraft he was in with six other men was shot down.

Barney was rescued by the French resistance, and joined the fight with the Maquis to liberate France from occupying German forces. It was to be many months before Barney’s family knew he had survived and was safe, and before he was able to return home, but not before endlessly recounting his experiences to the military.

Awarded the French Legion of Honour, Barney remained silent about his story for seventy years. In Michael Veitch’s latest book, he has done so. It is a story that should be read and taught alongside the stories of other heroes and battles, as it as much a part of the ANZAC story as they are, and gives a human face to a part of history that I have only ever known through statistics and facts, and that many more people may have only been exposed to through Fawlty Towers. Being able to read stories such as Barney’s when I studied Australian history in high school and at university would have made the far-reaching impacts of the war more interesting. We know the facts of much of the war, and the numbers of those who served, who died, through the Australian War Memorial and other books. These facts are, in general, not difficult to find, and are important to give background to the stories of individuals. As someone who has studied history, sometimes statistics and well known legends aren’t enough – sometimes it is the unknown stories, the stories that give the war a human face – whether on the home front, in battle or through people like Anne Frank, where war can really hit home for many people. These human stories allow people who may not have studied history, as I have to understand the war, and what people affected by it might have gone through during those years. This is why we need individual stories to be told alongside the facts. So that the ordinary people, not just the well-known generals and politicians, have their voices heard, their experiences understood.

It is a powerful story of the Australian spirit to dig in and never give up. Barney put his life at risk twenty times in the air, and then for months on end on the ground, before returning home to try and live a normal life – or as normal as he could for himself and his family. Those interested in history, military history, and Australian history can now know Barney’s story, and hopefully it is one that will be looked at in history class alongside other important battles and figures from Australia’s experience in the Second World War.

I found that the story was told sympathetically and without judgement, where Barney’s words told the story, and Michael Veitch was the vehicle that drove them out into the world. Eloquently told, and written so that it’s not jargon heavy, but terminology used can be worked out in context or looked up if the reader needs to, it is a gripping story of one man’s willingness to fight for what he believed in and keep himself alive.

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Under The Same Sky by Mogjan Shamsalipoor and Milad Jafari with James Knight

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Title: Under the Same Sky
Author: Mojgan Shamsalipoor and Milad Jafari with James Knight
Genre: Non-fiction, biography
Publisher: Hachette Australia
Published: 26th April 2017
Format: Paperback
Pages: 331
Price: $32.99
Synopsis: The powerful and incredibly moving story of Mojgan Shamsalipoor and Milad Jafari – two young Iranian asylum seekers who are showing that the power of love can conquer all obstacles.
After fleeing their homeland, Australian refugee policies threaten to tear this young couple apart. An unforgettable story of love, hope and a quest for freedom.
At seventeen, all Mojgan Shamsalipoor wanted was to be safe from physical and sexual abuse, go to school, and to eventually marry for love. In Iran, she was denied all of this.
Milad Jafari was a shy teenage boy who found his voice as a musician. But the rap music he loved was illegal in his country. All Milad’s father, a key maker, builder and shopkeeper, wanted was for his family to live free from the fear of arrest, imprisonment or execution. To do that they all had to flee Iran.
Mojgan and Milad met in Australia. But in the months between their separate sea voyages, the Australian government changed the way asylum seekers were treated. Though Milad is recognised as a refugee and will soon become a proud Australian citizen, Mojgan has been told she cannot stay here even though the threat of imprisonment and further abuse, or worse, means she can’t return to Iran.
UNDER THE SAME SKY, is a powerful insight into the human face of asylum seekers and the way history has shaped the lives of these two young people. It also shows the compassion alive in our suburbs. For Mojgan and Milad, their love keeps their hopes alive.

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Under the Same Sky is the story of Mojgan and Milad’s lives in Iran, and their escape as asylum seekers to Australia. In Iran, both led very different lives under a regime that restricted what women could do, and promoted one religion over all others, persecuting anyone who didn’t fall into line with what the government dictated to them. Eventually, both their families saw the need to flee: Milad’s together, and Mojgan with one of her older brothers, Hossein. With the government as it was, each had to pretend they were only headed to Indonesia for holidays, and that they would return to Iran. Doing it this way, they were able to leave, yet still had to find a way to Australia, where they hoped to find safety. In each chapter, Mojgan and Milad tell their story as their journeys progress, and in some ways, they had similar journeys, but in other ways, their experiences as asylum seekers and refugees differed.

After traumatic events that led to Mojgan and Hossein fleeing Iran for Australia – with the uncertainty of their fate and the fate of the family members they had had to leave behind, and months spent in detention, the two met at a Baha’i camp, and became good friends, and eventually, started dating. However, the government had decided on Mojgan and Hossein’s fate – they had not been granted visas and after months of living in community detention, and a relationship, and marriage between Mojgan and Milad, the brother and sister were sent back to detention, where they were again in limbo, awaiting decisions.

Throughout these turbulent times, Milad, his family and the friends and teachers Mojgan had met at Yeronga at school began fighting for her to be freed, and returned to a safe home with people who cared about her. This fight is included in the story, in some of the chapters told by James Knight, who gives a lot of background to the instability of Iran and the changing attitudes towards asylum seekers and refugees and their treatment. Mojgan’s experiences in detention affected her deeply –even though she wasn’t always harshly treated, the instances she was, and the guards who were rough with her stood out in her mind. Even the guards who tried to help her , who were nice, couldn’t fully erase these experiences.

At the time of the publication of the book and the writing of this review, a final decision is yet to be made and Mojgan and Hossein, though now living with Milad and his family, are still in limbo.

Mojgan and Milad’s story sheds light on an issue that is fraught with complexities and often simplified in the media – which does not always allow for in depth discussion. Mogjan, Milad and James all acknowledge throughout the complexities, especially in the constantly changing attitudes at the political level and in public opinion about refugees, illustrated by interviews with teachers who knew Mogjan and Milad, and quotes from papers about refugees and asylum seekers and references to speeches by the former Minister for Immigration, Scott Morrison. What these do is to establish the political backdrop of Australia, and in a way, contrast it against what Milad and Mojgan ran from – the stark contrast of a dictatorship like Iran, whose government demanded to know the whereabouts of Mogjan long after she left, and the freedom of Australia that they sought but that they were unsure they would ever gain. James Knight’s statements are supportive of those who helped Mogjan and Milad, and less supportive of the government of the time. Some come across as political because issues of asylum seekers and refugees can never be divorced from politics, but I feel like he fell short of outright condemnation and name-calling.

It was an interesting book to read, because it presented a side to the issue not often seen, and one that maybe, should be given more attention. Cases such as Mogjan and Milad’s, where they’ve fled danger and persecution, and simply want a safer life, are the ones we should be hearing about as well as any negative stories that come out. Reading it, I felt moved and shocked by what Mogjan had gone through in Iran and detention. It is only their experiences of fleeing and people smugglers, and becoming asylum seekers. It touches on the issue of how difficult it can be to leave a place like Iran for good. I recommend it for anyone interested in human rights and those wanting to know about the experience from the perspective of someone who has been there.