Some of the authors appearing at the Sydney Writer’s Festival…

It’s that time of year again, when the programs and author schedules for the annual Sydney Writer’s Festival are announced. Held between the first and the sixth of May, mostly at Carriageworks but with some events at a variety of other places around Sydney, there will be many events to choose from, and many authors to meet and hear speak.

Below is a sampling of the authors published by Hachette who will be attending this year, which has a diverse and intriguing calendar of events that I am sure will sell out quickly! So here are some of the authors appearing, and when and where they will be appearing.

American author, Jennifer Egan, author of Emerald City and Other Stories, The Invisible Circus,The Keep,Look at Me, Black Box,A Visit From the Goon Squad, and Manhattan Beach. Jennifer will be appearing at the following events, all in Bay 17 at Carriageworks.

Thursday, the 3rd of May, at 3pm – On the Record: Historical Fiction

Saturday the 5th of May at 6pm – Jennifer Egan: Manhattan Beach

Sunday the 6th of May at 6pm: Closing Address: Jennifer Egan.

Also from America, Zack McDermott, author of Gorilla and the Bird, will be appearing on the following dates at the following locations:

Thursday, the 3rd of May at 7pm, Carriageworks, Bay 20: The Full Catastrophe

Friday, the 4th of May, at 11.30am, Carriageworks, Track 8: Zack McDermott: Gorilla and the Bird

Alexis Okeowo, author of A Moonless, Starless Sky, also from America, will be appearing at four different events over the course of the week, all at Carriageworks, where the majority of the events are held.

Tuesday, the 1st of May at 6.30pm, Carriageworks Bay 17: Opening Address: André Aciman, Min Jin Lee and Alexis Okeowo

Friday the 4th of May, 3pm, Carriageworks, Bay 17: Conflicting Narratives

Saturday, the 5th of May, 1.30pm, Carriageworks Bay 17: Resisting Unjust Authority

Sunday, the 6th of May, 1.30pm, Carriageworks Bay 20: Alexis Okeowo, A Moonless, Starless Sky

 

Michael Mohammed Ahmad, an Arab-Australian writer, editor, teacher and community art s worker will also be appearing. His book, The Lebs, is about breaking down stereotypes and showing people that a small minority don’t determine the majority of a culture. Michael will be appearing at the following events at the Seymour Centre, and the Riverside Theatres.

Monday, the 30th of April, at 9.30am, Seymour Centre, Workshop Room 1: Michael Mohammed Ahmad: Good Writing versus Bad Writing.

Wednesday, the 2nd of May, 11.15am Seymour Centre York Theatre: Student Session: The Next Wave.

Friday, the 4th of May, Seymour Centre, Sound Lounge, 4.30PM: New Australian Voices.

Saturday, the 5th of May, Riverside Theatres, Lennox Theatre, 10am: From the Sidelines AND at 5pm in the Everest Theatre of the Seymour Centre, Return of the Big Black Thing.

Walkley Award winning journalist, Michael Brissenden will also be appearing at the festival, at will have one event at the Seymour Centre.

Thursday the 3rd of May, at 1.30pm, Seymour Centre, York Theatre: Straight from the Headlines,

The third Australian author published by Hachette to appear is Indigenous author, Claire G Coleman, author of Terra Nullius, a speculative fiction looking at the concept of invasion and settlement, using aliens taking over the world as a metaphor and symbol. It was an interesting and eye-opening book to read, my review is here. Claire will be appearing at three events across each precinct of the festival.

terra nullius

Thursday, the 3rd of May, at 11.30am, Seymour Centre, York Theatre: Home Truths: Telling Australian Stories.

Friday the 4th of May, at 11.30am at Carriageworks Blacksmith’s Workshop: Claire G Coleman: On Fiction, Villains and the Nature of Evil

Saturday the 5th of May, 1.30pm, Riverside Theatres: Architects of New Worlds.

fairvale

Another Australian author appearing at the festival is Sophie Green, author of The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club, reviewed on this blog as well and it, and the previous book, Terra Nullius, were included in my Australian Women Writer’s Challenge last year. Sophie will be appearing at one event this year.

Thursday, the 3rd of May, at 10am at the Seymour Centre, Reginald Theatre: Family Ties.

Royce Kurmelovs is another author appearing, and he has written the following books: Death of Holden, Rogue Nation, and Boom and Bust (2018). He will be appearing at an event about the rise of Australian populism.

Saturday the 6th of May, at 11.30 at the Seymour Centre, York Theatre: The Rise of Australian Populism.

Peter Polites, author of Down the Hume will also be in attendance at the following events and is another new Australian author whose book has come out recently.

Peter will be appearing at two events this year:

Saturday, the 5th of May at 5pm in the Everest Theatre of the Seymour Centre, Return of the Big Black Thing, with Michael Mohammed Ahmad.

Sunday, the 6th of May, at 10am at the Seymour Centre, Sound Lounge: Pajtim Statovci: My Cat Yugoslavia

Award winning journalist, Hugh Riminton, a news presenter and foreign correspondent, will be at the festival chatting about his book, Minefields. Hugh will be appearing at three events across the week of the festival.

Thursday, the 3rd of May at 11.30am, Seymour Centre, Reginald Theatre: Becoming the Story.

Thursday, the 3rd of May at 7pm, Hurstville Library: Hugh Riminton: Minefields/

Saturday, the 5th of May, 11.30am, Carriageworks, Bay 17: Peter Greste: The First Casualty.

Michael Robotham will also be appearing, and has written the following books: The Suspect,The Drowning Man, The Night Ferry Shatter,Bombproof,Bleed For Me,The Wreckage,Say You’re Sorry, Watching You,Life or Death,Close Your Eyes,The Secret She Keeps, and The Other Wife (2018).  Michael will be appearing at the following events:

Thursday, the 3rd of May at 1.30pm at Carriageworks, Blacksmith’s Workshop: Michael Robotham: On Plotting the Perfect Crime.

Thursday the 3rd of May, at 6.30pm at Blacktown City Max Webber Library: Michael Robotham: The Secrets She Keeps.

Saturday, the 5th of May, at 10.30am, Seymour Centre, Reginald Theatre: Michael Robotham: The Secrets She Keeps.

Wednesday, the 2nd of May, 7pm, The Concourse Concert Hall: Jane Harper: Force of Nature.

Saturday, the 5th of May, at 1.30pm, Carriageworks Bay 20: Gabriel Talent: My Absolute Darling.

Sha’an d’Anthes, a new Australian author based in Sydney who has had a career as an artist and illustrator and has travelled all over the world. She will be speaking at two events on the final day of the festival. Her picture book, Zoom, was published by Hachette Australia.

Sunday the 6th of May, at 10.00am, Carriageworks, Bay 25: Storytime Clubhouse.

Sunday the 6th of May at 2.15pm. Carriageworks, Track 8: Illustrator Battle Grounds.

Libby Hathorn, well known Australian author of books for children and young adults will also be appearing. Some of her books are: Thunderwith, The Blue Dress, Georgiana, Dear Venny, Dear Saffron, Volcano Boy, The Painter, Feral Kid, Chrysalis, Love Me Tender, Eventual Poppy Day, A Soldier, A Dog and A Boy, and Butterfly, We’re Expecting You!

eventual poppy day

Libby will be appearing at the following events:

Sunday the 6th of May, at 10.00am, Carriageworks, Bay 25: Storytime Clubhouse.

Sunday the 6th of May, at 11.15am, Carriageworks, Track 12: Outside: A Feast of the Senses.

Binny Talib will also be appearing, at the same event as Libby Hathorn and Sha’an d’Anthes on the Sunday morning of the festival. Binny has two books published by Hachette Australia, Origami Heart and Hark It’s Me, Ruby Lee!

Sunday the 6th of May, at 10.00am, Carriageworks, Bay 25: Storytime Clubhouse.

Another Australian author to appear will be Shaun Tan. who has worked in theatre and films as concept artists and designers. His works include Lost Thing, Memorial, The Red Tree, The Rabbits, The Viewer, Rules of Summer, The Arrival (an acclaimed wordless novel), and Cicada, published in 2018. Shaun will be appearing at one event on the Saturday.

Saturday, the 5th of May, at 3pm, Riverside Theatres, Parramatta: Bringing Imaginary Worlds to Life.

Hachette’s final author to be appearing is Debra Tindall, author of The Scared Book. she began her career as a social worker before becoming an author. The Scared Book is a CBCA notable book for children. She will be appearing at the same event as Libby Hathorn, Binny Talib and Sha’an d’Anthes.

Sunday the 6th of May, at 10.00am, Carriageworks, Bay 25: Storytime Clubhouse.

Check out the Sydney Writer’s Festival website for more events and authors.

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The Opal Dragonfly by Julian Leatherdale

the opal dragonfly.jpgTitle: The Opal Dragonfly

Author: Julian Leatherdale

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 21st Febraury 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 592

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: A daughter sacrifices her reputation, two men bid for the love of a woman, freedom is found in the heart of a dust storm, a father’s legacy reveals past crimes.

Inspired by the glamour and beauty of Elizabeth Bay House and the other grand villas of Woolloomooloo Hill in the 1850s, The Opal Dragonfly tells the story of Isobel Macleod, a young woman born into wealth and privilege and yet destined to be cast out of both.

Miss Isobel Clara Macleod, youngest of the seven children of Major Sir Angus Hutton Macleod, Surveyor-General of the colony of New South Wales, had the singular misfortune to know that at seven o’clock that morning her father was going to die.

September, 1851. Sydney, city of secrets and gossip. Seventeen-year-old Isobel Macleod is determined to save her father because she loves him. But when she dares to trespass in a forbidden male world, she will be plunged into social disgrace. A wave of ill fortune threatens to swallow up her family and their stately home, Rosemount Hall, ‘the finest house in the colony’ on the foreshores of Sydney Harbour.

Is Isobel to blame for her family’s fate or does the cause lie further in the past? When Isobel was four, Major Macleod returned from an expedition with two ‘souvenirs’: an Aboriginal girl who became her friend and two opals fashioned into a dragonfly brooch for her mother.

When Isobel inherits this ‘unlucky’ heirloom, she wonders if the terrible dreams it summons are a curse or a gift. Now Isobel’s hopes for her future depend on a charming bohemian who encourages her hidden passion to become an artist. Will she now be permanently exiled from her family home? Or will she be transformed into a new self, like a magnificent dragonfly emerging into the sunlight?

A daughter sacrifices her reputation, two men bid for the love of a woman, freedom is found in the heart of a dust storm, a father’s legacy reveals past crimes.

Inspired by Elizabeth Bay House and the other grand villas of Sydney’s Woolloomooloo Hill, The Opal Dragonfly tells the bittersweet story of an ambitious family’s fall from grace and a brave young woman’s struggle to find her true self.

~*~

Isobel Macleod is the youngest of seven, and the favourite of her father, much to the chagrin of sisters, Anna and Grace, though she is adored by her oldest sister, Alice, and brothers, William, Joseph and Richard, who do their best to smooth things over with her, Grace and Anna – until a series of events and disasters befalls the family over a matter of months and years. Major Angus Hutton Macleod, their father, is the Surveyor-General of the Colony of NSW during the decades prior to Federation, and is often off exploring the country, and taking notes and sketches for the Colony. When home, he encourages Isobel’s artistic talents, allowing her into his office to sketch his finds. When she is four, he returns from one such expedition with ‘souvenirs’ – a brooch of opals, made into a dragonfly for Isobel’s mother, Winnie, and a young Aboriginal girl, Ballandella – a playmate for Isobel and who would become her friend.

In these happy early years, it feels to the reader as if nothing will go wrong, but the opal dragonfly’s presence is presented as a dark omen, a harbinger of doom and bad luck for the family – which presents a mystery throughout for Isobel, as she struggles to come to terms with the tragedies, her fall from grace and the hatred of her sisters, Grace and Anna, in the absence of her mother, and sister Alice. These are complex and diverse characters, whose actions, reactions and motivations are what keeps the story and the family dynamics interesting, especially when it comes to the opal dragonfly, coveted by Grace, but left to Isobel by their mother.

But the opals bring several rounds of bad luck: an exiled brother, death in the family, and disgrace for Isobel as she bravely prevents her father from participating in a duel, and unwittingly setting forth her own fall from grace, and tragedies that befall each of her siblings, and that threaten to engulf the family and destroy them. Exiled to her aunt’s home, Isobel finds solace in creating fancy work and art for charity, until a charming, bohemian artist comes into her life as her art teacher, and eventually her lover and husband, and becomes the man that Isobel must hope will save her and her family from the curse.

With many hidden secrets in the field diaries left to her by her father, Isobel must endure harsh times as she comes to terms with the destruction of her family, but a chance to rebuild her own life, and find her true self, without the trappings of society and those who have turned their backs on her. Through it all, Isobel shows great bravery in her quest to find out what happened to Ballandella, and the secrets that drove her family to destruction. It is these secrets that Isobel has been entrusted with that form the darker side to the novel, and the tragedies that Isobel endures before coming out the other side scathed, and alone, but alive and able to recreate a new life for herself.

Julian Leatherdale’s inspiration came from the old historic houses in Sydney, and the colonial history of New South Wales, and the way different groups interacted, and explores how individuals treated people based on their experiences – no singular mindset is the given for all the characters in the book. Isobel, who has lived a life of privilege, shares her young life with Ballandella and then strives to be charitable, whilst her suitor, Charles Probius, looks to help people down on their luck, regardless of who they are, based on his past experiences.

Throughout the novel, each character seems to present a facade, a mask, of who they want those in their lives to see, rather than the person they really are, and so, the burying of the truth is a theme that runs through the novel, culminating in Isobel carrying so many secrets, the burden almost crushes her.

The history is woven throughout, with Rosemount based on Elizabeth House, and Isobel’s father based on a real Surveyor-General from the 1830S and 1840S, as well as other figures, who played a role in the early colony and whose lives inspired the characters in The Opal Dragonfly. It is at times touching, and other times harrowing and despairing, it encapsulates the desires to uncover secrets, and the flaws and fragility of human life and society, against a backdrop of colonialism and the assumptions of class, race and gender that came with that society, to create a world where the colliding forces of what is expected, what is desired, and what is right ensure a complex novel where relationships and people are not always what they seem. The reality of people taking advantage of others is clear throughout this novel, and it is a reality that will never fade,  nor will the complexity of relationships that Leatherdale explores with depth, shock and great emotion, so that there are some things that are unexpected, but work exquisitely to tell Isobel’s story.

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2017 Sydney Writer’s Festival

SWF-2017---Blog-Header

 

The Sydney Writer’s Festival is held annually across various precincts of Sydney, with many ticketed and free events across the five days of the festival. This year, the dates are the 22nd to the 28th of May.

Each year, the Sydney Writer’s Festival presents over 300 events, with audiences of over 100,000 people over the week travelling to the harbourside events and many other precincts that host the festival. Whilst the hear of the festival is at heritage wharves in Walsh Bay, there are also events at the Sydney Opera House, Sydney Town Hall, the suburbs of Sydney and the Blue Mountains. The spread of these events means many can participate, but planning a day or days will need to be done carefully, to ensure getting to and from venues that aren’t that close.

One such event this year is the Keeping Company: Characters Across A Series, where Lynette Noni (Medoran Chronciles, Pantera Press) will be appearing and talking about writing characters in a series, as the title suggests. Other YA authors including Garth Nix will be in attendance. This could be a very interesting panel, but all of them sound good, and it is very hard to choose which ones to attend and which locations to focus on when booking and choosing.

The list of authors is diverse, from well-known authors to ones that might not be well-known but are just as good.

The Sydney Writer’s Festival unites writers from various forms of writing and backgrounds, including the best contemporary novelists, screenwriters, musicians and writers of non-fiction – some of the world’s leading public intellectuals, scientists and journalists. The finest writing and story telling are at the core of the Sydney Writer’s Festival; the programming is diverse and is driven by ideas and issues that animate a broad spectrum of literature.

The program is live, and you are able to purchase tickets and book events, as well as exploring the program to see what events will be the best options for you to attend.

There are many wonderful authors appearing at the festival this year, including S.D. Gentill, author of the Hero Trilogy, published by Pantera Press, who is hosting a Mining Mythology event on the Tuesday. Her trilogy delves into Greek Mythology and the idea of heroes and betrayal. Other events and authors will cover specific books, or genres of writing, and even hot button topics that can have an impact on what and sometimes how we write.

This is a festival that I hope to be able to go to, if I can decide on the events I would like to attend, as there are a few that interest me.

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The Song of Us by JD Barrett

the song of us.jpg

Title: The Song of Us

Author: J.D. Barrett

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Hachette Australia

Published: 11th April 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 330

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: Zoe Wylde is a woman at a crossroad. Five years ago, she fled her successful career as a concert harpist in London to return to her Bondi home. She still plays, but now her audience is on the way out … literally. It’s complicated and complication is something Zoe understands well. Her best friend is chasing a new love, her brother’s chasing too much love and her father has been married far too many times. Compared to them she thought she was doing okay. She’s met the guy she is sure is the ONE. He wooed her and has been sleeping with her for almost five years. It would all be perfect … if he wasn’t married.

Zoe is learning that hearts, like harps, are capable of beautiful music if treated the right way and can be tricky to manoeuvre. She’s over the old tune. But does Zoe have the courage to rewrite the song of her own life?

~*~

aww2017-badgeIn The Song of Us, we are introduced to Zoe Wylde, the child of a broken home, and many failed relationships, including the current one she is in, and despite being with the same man for five years, he is married, and stringing Zoe along, promising her the world, but disappointing her, and in a way, himself and his family, though they are unaware of his relationship with Zoe. Her father, who has been married several times since the death of Zoe’s mother, has been living with his current wife and stepchildren, abandoning Zoe and her brother as teenagers. And Zoe’s brother Tom is keen for love, but perhaps a little fearful of the commitment that comes with it. Lexie, her best friend has fallen for a woman who is married, but is determined that this is the one.

Zoe is a musician, a harpist who once played in concerts in London, but fled to her Bondi home five years ago, and has been a bedside musician since, helping people in a local hospice with their final journey. Her patients make quite the impression, with one, Clara, giving her a quest: to wear Clara’s clothes and take them to all the places she didn’t get to see, places like New York and London. Zoe undertakes this quest, setting aside her failed relationship with Ross until he turns up on the plane, and decides to accompany her on the journey, part of which includes her audition for the concert group she left five years ago. When things go just as Zoe expects them to go, and Ross leaves, Zoe continues her journey, armed with Clara’s clothes and wine recommendations for each location from the father of one of Zoe’s youngest audience members, Sam. She auditions for Jules and Gigi, members of the symphony, and then heads to Bali, where she meets up with her brother, Tom, and Lexie, and Lexie’s new love, Vivianne. From here, Zoe finds out that when it matters, the ones who really love you aren’t necessarily the one you think you’ll spend the rest of your life with. It’s family, and the friends you make along the way whose love is unconditional.

imagesZoe Wylde is definitely not the typical perfect female protagonist of many love stories out there. She is awkward, she has flaws – she spends five years on and off with a married man, and her family isn’t so perfect – unless you count her brother Tom, who is the best male character in the book. The flaws in Zoe, Lexie and Tom make them relatable, and easy to connect with. It is definitely not a conventional love story, but one of family love and friendship – which made it more appealing to me. It allowed for the characters to fail, and allowed imperfections to be shown. And it showed same sex love as well – in the way that love should be – with the same ups and downs that characters like Bridget Jones and Nina Proudman have in their love lives. Lexie was definitely a favourite character – she was amusing and cheeky, and someone who was a good friend to Zoe. She was caring and sympathetic, but also, could give the hit of reality when it was needed. She was impulsive in contrast to the cautiousness Zoe showed at times. I think Zoe, Tom and Lexie made the perfect trio of main characters, and the supporting characters were just as flawed, just as realistic as well.

The Song of Us is an enjoyable, light hearted novel about love of all kinds, love lost and love found, of family love, the love of friends and love that takes years to come back to us. It shows all of this in a way that readers can relate to, and is funny and witty. Just like Bridget and Nina, Zoe is awkward – which is why I liked her. She seemed to embrace her flaws and face her fears as the book progressed, showing that we don’t need to be absolutely perfect to fit it: We can just be ourselves. We need more characters like Zoe who show that it is okay not to be absolutely perfect. I look forward to reading this again.

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The Blue Cat by Ursula Dubosarsky

the blue cat.jpg

Title: The Blue Cat

Author: Ursula Dubosarsky

Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Historical Fiction

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 29th March 2017

Format: Paperback

Pages: 176

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: From the multi-award-winning author of The Red Shoe comes a haunting story about a boy who can’t – or won’t – speak about his past in war-torn Europe, and his friendship with a young Australian girl.

A boy stood in the playground under the big fig tree. ‘He can’t speak English,’ the children whispered.

Sydney, 1942. The war is coming to Australia – not only with the threat of bombardment, but also the arrival of refugees from Europe. Dreamy Columba’s world is growing larger. She is drawn to Ellery, the little boy from far away, and, together with her highly practical best friend Hilda, the three children embark on an adventure through the harbour-side streets – a journey of discovery and terror, in pursuit of the mysterious blue cat …

~*~

aww2017-badgeThe Blue Cat by Ursula Dubosarsky is a glimpse into a world affected by war through the eyes of children. The main character, Columba, is a dreamy, curious child, who notices the strange boy, Ellery at school during the early part of 1942. A blue cat, sleek and mysterious, has appeared at her neighbour’s house. The arrival of Ellery and the cat spark a curiosity in Columba that has her asking more questions, wanting to know more about the world as she tries to become Ellery’s friend. Columba’s friend, Hilda, is the realist, the pushy one out collecting money for the war effort, and isn’t as dreamy as Columba.

Ellery’s arrival hints that war is closer to home than everyone thought. He is mysterious and quiet, and doesn’t speak English – through the eyes of a child, he is strange, a mystery and yet, someone that Columba sees is in need of a friend. Though they do not talk, they become friends, something Ellery’s father finds pleasing for his son, lost in a new world without a mother. The story culminates in a search for the mysterious blue cat, and events that bring the war and the realities of what that means closer to home for Columba.

The Blue Cat is dreamy, and has a fairy tale feeling about it – as though the blue cat is not quite real. This fits with the dreamy sense I got from Columba, and also the childlike ways of understanding the war – You-Rope for Europe, said phonetically perhaps, as a child might say it. I found there was a sense of magic about it – the threat is real, especially during the air raid siren practice when Columba and Ellery are out walking, and yet, it retains some of the innocence of childhood, though it is scarred by a war that is so far away yet in other ways, so close to the characters.

The Blue Cat combines history with a sense of dreaming, placing the characters in a world where sometimes their imaginations help to get them through the day, but at the same time, the reality of war will always be there. Prisoners of war, bombs and people like Ellery, hiding away, hoping for safety away from the dangers of a nation far away. Throughout the book, Ursula Dubosarsky incorporated primary sources from the time period, which added to the reading experience and gave Columba’s story an authentic feel, and added to the gravity of the situation and reality that the characters were living. An enjoyable novel showing war through the eyes of a child, and a good read for children aged ten and over.

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Cocaine Blues: A Phryne Fisher Mystery by Kerry Greenwood

cocaine blues.jpg

Title: Cocaine Blues: A Phryne Fisher Mystery

Author: Kerry Greenwood

Genre: Crime

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: June 2005

Format: Paperback

Pages: 208

Price: $22.95

Synopsis: This is where it all started! The first classic Phryne Fisher mystery, featuring our delectable heroine, cocaine, communism and adventure. Phryne leaves the tedium of English high society for Melbourne, Australia, and never looks back.

The first of Phryne’s adventures from Australia’s most elegant and irrepressible sleuth.

The London season is in full fling at the end of the 1920s, but the Honourable Phryne Fisher – she of the green-grey eyes, diamante garters and outfits that should not be sprung suddenly on those of nervous dispositions – is rapidly tiring of the tedium of arranging flowers, making polite conversations with retired colonels, and dancing with weak-chinned men. Instead, Phryne decides it might be rather amusing to try her hand at being a lady detective in Melbourne, Australia.

Almost immediately from the time she books into the Windsor Hotel, Phryne is embroiled in mystery: poisoned wives, cocaine smuggling rings, corrupt cops and communism – not to mention erotic encounters with the beautiful Russian dancer, Sasha de Lisse – until her adventure reaches its steamy end in the Turkish baths of Little Lonsdale Street.

~*~

Phryne Fisher’s life in London is slightly dull, despite the elegant parties she attends, the tedious nature of activities deemed appropriate for the women in her circle have her longing for excitement. Her preference for outfits that leave little to the imagination and that society may deem scandalous, and her raucous driving make her stand out – something Phryne does not mind in the least.

Her zest for adventure takes her across the seas to Melbourne, and the Windsor Hotel, where she meets a variety of characters, and her maid, Dot, begins to accompany her. Soon, Phryne is caught up in a seedy, yet to her, fascinating and exciting world of poisoned wives, cocaine smuggling rings and false accusations from corrupt cops, looking to take advantage of their position and power on an unsuspecting public. The backdrop of the twenties and the rise of communism in the interwar period, and leading into the tumultuous years of the Great Depression and the rise of fascism in Europe to come, Phryne finds herself looking into where the drugs are coming from and who is poisoning people, and performing back alley abortions that have led to death and serious injury. It all leads to a steamy end in Lonsdale’s Turkish baths, where true identities are revealed, and where people who were once thought to be trustworthy are proven otherwise.

Phryne Fisher’s first outing balances the expectations of gender and class of the twenties, and the delicate sensibilities certain people are assumed to have. It introduces the conflict of communism with other political ideologies and shows that everyone has shades of grey, and you can’t always trust someone because of their standing in society.

The first of twenty books, Cocaine Blues is only a hint of what is to come in Phryne’s world, where political ideologies and societal expectations will certainly always play a part in the way the stories unfold. It introduces the characters nicely, and the way Phryne is described is nicely done – she of the grey-green eyes – it certainly presents an image in one’s mind of the character and what to expect. Set in the twenties, everyone lives in the shadow of World War One, and the Bolshevik revolution. Anti-communist sentiment permeates the storyline and sets the scene. It is a cosy crime series, where the murder is conducted off-screen, and the amateur detective just happens to outwit the police officers, and perhaps everyone else involved as she goes along.

A great read, a divine introduction and a series I would like to continue reading.

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