Book Bingo Fourteen – Non-Fiction Book About an Event

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Welcome back to Book Bingo for July! For this fortnight with Theresa and Amanda, I am ticking off the non-fiction book about an event with The Suicide Bride by Tanya Bretheton, accompanied by an interview.  

A book with a red cover is covered in Book Bingo Eighteen, I updated this card after checking that square off.

 

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In 1904, Alicks Sly killed his wife, Ellie, and then killed himself, leaving four children orphaned, and at the hands of the state. Whilst their daughter was adopted, the three sons were sent to orphanages, and the experiences they had would affect them for the rest of their lives.

Here, she takes an ethical and sociological look into a crime that changed a family forever, and that, according to the interview I am including here, happened fairly often and possibly with similar disastrous and life altering results. In times when people could not get the help they needed, it seems this may have been the only solution for some, and in this case, a crime that I felt still had questions that may never be answered left at the end.

suicide bride

Row Two:

A book by an author with the same initials as you:

Non-Fiction book about an event: The Suicide Bride by Tanya Bretherton – #AWW2019

Fictional biography about a woman from history:

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

Book written by an Australian woman more than 10 years ago: Deltora Quest: The Lake of Tears by Emily Rodda – #AWW2019 (2001)*

Row Two:

Beloved Classic: Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner – AWW2018

Non-Fiction book about an event: The Suicide Bride by Tanya Bretherton – #AWW2019

Themes of culture:

Book set in the Australian outback:

Written by an Australian woman: Zelda Stitch Term Two: Too Much Witch by Nicki Greenberg – AWW2019

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

April Round Up

In April, I read twenty-three books, and added to most of my challenges. No updates for my Jane Austen Challenge this month, but I am working on it. I have read 60 books towards my overall challenge and the #Dymocks52Challenge, and I’m at 28 books for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge – 29 if I include my first read for May. I have completed most of my reads for my book bingo challenge and have scheduled all those posts as well. So I have the next eight months to fill the final squares and fill in the card.

 

I have several bingo rows ticked off and have also filled in many of my Pop Sugar categories – some with books I plan to read so I know what I’m reading. Some may prove to be a bit more of a challenge, but that’s half the fun, trying to find something that suits, that I will enjoy and that I have or will receive, saving time as I go through each challenge.

 

So that’s my month of reading for April – hopefully May will be just as productive as I work my way through these challenges, reviewing and reading kids books for work that also contribute to some of these challenge categories.

 

Pop Sugar Challenge

  1. A book becoming a movie in 2019: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  2. A book that makes you nostalgic: The Lost Magician by Piers Torday
  3. A book written by a musician (fiction or nonfiction): Best Foot Forward by Adam Hills
  4. A book you think should be turned into a movie: Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte
  5. A book with at least one million ratings on Goodreads:
  6. A book with a plant in the title or on the cover: Bella Donna: Coven Road by Ruth Symes, Eliza Rose by Lucy Worsley
  7. A reread of a favourite book: Beauty in Thorns by Kate Forsyth
  8. A book about a hobby: The Bad Mother’s Book Club by Keris Stanton
  9. A book you meant to read in 2018: Eliza Rose by Lucy Worsley
  10. A book with POP, SUGAR, or CHALLENGE in the title:
  11. A book with an item of clothing or accessory on the cover: 99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne, The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer
  12. A book inspired by myth/legend/folklore:
  13. A book published posthumously:
  14. A book you see someone reading on TV or in a movie:
  15. A retelling of a classic: Enola Holmes: The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets (Enola Holmes #3) by Nancy Springer
  16. A book with a question in the title:
  17. A book set on college or university campus:
  18. A book about someone with a superpower: The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Volume One: Squirrel Power by Ryan North
  19. A book told from multiple POVs: Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte
  20. A book set in space: Captain Marvel: Higher, Faster, Further by Kelly Sue DeConnick
  21. A book by two female authors:
  22. A book with SALTY, SWEET, BITTER, or SPICY in the title: Australia’s Sweetheart by Michael Adams
  23. A book set in Scandinavia: The Wolf and the Watchman by Niklas Natt och Dag
  24. A book that takes place in a single day: Archibald, The Naughtiest Elf in the World Causes Trouble with the Easter Bunny by Skye Davidson
  25. A debut novel: What Lies Beneath Us by Kirsty Ferguson
  26. A book that’s published in 2019: Vardaesia by Lynette Noni
  27. A book featuring an extinct or imaginary creature: Dragon Masters: Treasure of the Gold Dragon by Tracey West
  28. A book recommended by a celebrity you admire:
  29. A book with LOVE in the title:
  30. A book featuring an amateur detective: All the Tears in China by Sulari Gentill
  31. A book about a family: The House of Second Chances by Esther Campion
  32. A book by an author from Asia, Africa, or South America: Children of the Dragon: Race for the Red Dragon by Rebecca Lim
  33. A book with a zodiac sign or astrology term in title: The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna by Juliet Grames
  34. A book that includes a wedding: The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer, Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen, A Dream of Italy by Nicky Pellegrino
  35. A book by an author whose first and last names start with the same letter:Mermaid Holidays: The Talent Show by Delphine Davis and Adele K. Thomas, The True Story of Maddie Bright by Mary-Rose MacColl
  36. A ghost story:
  37. A book with a two-word title: Saving You by Charlotte Nash
  38. A novel based on a true story: The Familiars by Stacey Halls – The Pendle Witches
  39. A book revolving around a puzzle or game:
  40. Your favourite prompt from a past POPSUGAR Reading challenge:

2016 – A book based on a fairy tale:

2017 – A steampunk book:

Prompt:

Advanced

  1. A “cli-fi” (climate fiction) book: The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble, Daughter of Bad Times by Rohan Wilson
  2. A “choose-your-own-adventure” book:
  3. An “own voices” book: Children of the Dragon: Race for the Red Dragon by Rebecca Lim
  4. Read a book during the season it is set in: Archibald, The Naughtiest Elf in the World Causes Trouble with the Easter Bunny by Skye Davidson (Easter Season)
  5. A LitRPG book:
  6. A book with no chapters / unusual chapter headings / unconventionally numbered chapters:Kensy and Max: Undercover by Jacqueline Harvey (Ciphers used to give the chapter headings)
  7. Two books that share the same title: Deltora Quest: The Forest of Silence by Emily Rodda
  8. Two books that share the same title: Deltora Quest: The Lake of Tears by Emily Rodda
  9. A book that has inspired a common phrase or idiom:
  10. A book set in an abbey, cloister, monastery, vicarage

 

General/#Dymocks52Challenge

#Dymocks52Challenge

  1. Middle School: Born to Rock by James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts
  2. The Honeyman and the Hunter by Neil Grant
  3. A Dream of Italy by Nicky Pellegrino
  4. Archibald, The Naughtiest Elf in the World Causes Trouble with the Easter Bunny by Skye Davidson
  5. Poppy Field by Michael Morpurgo
  6. The Artist’s Portrait by Julie Keys
  7. Alice to Prague by Tanya Heaslip – Reviewed
  8. The Lost Magician by Piers Torday (Published 7th of May)
  9. The Suicide Bride by Tanya Bretherton
  10. The Bad Mother’s Book Club by Keris Stanton
  11. Rabbit and Bear: Attack of the Snack by Julian Gough
  12. Eliza Rose by Lucy Worsley
  13. Deltora Quest: The Forest of Silence by Emily Rodda
  14. The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna by Juliet Grames
  15. Deltora Quest: The Lake of Tears by Emily Rodda
  16. Children of the Dragon: Race for the Red Dragon by Rebecca Lim (Published 6th of May)
  17. Toto the Ninja Cat and the Incredible Cheese Heist by Dermot O’Leary
  18. The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary
  19. Christopher Robin: The Little Book of Pooh-isms: With help from Piglet, Eeyore, Rabbit, Owl, and Tigger, too! by Brittany Rubiano
  20.  Daughter of Bad Times by Rohan Wilson (Published 6th of May)
  21. Deltora Quest: The City of Rats by Emily Rodda
  22. Fabio, the World’s Greatest Flamingo Detective: Mystery on the Ostrich Express by Laura James
  23. Life Before by Carmel Reilly (Published 6th of May)

2019 Badge

Australian Women Writer’s Challenge

  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
  7. Beauty in Thorns by Kate Forsyth – Reviewed/Revisited post
  8. What Lies Beneath Us by Kirsty Ferguson – Reviewed
  9. The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble – Reviewed
  10. The House of Second Chances by Esther Campion – Reviewed
  11. The Orchardist’s Daughter by Karen Viggers – Reviewed
  12. The French Photographer by Natasha Lester – Reviewed and Q&A
  13. Kensy and Max: Undercover by Jacqueline Harvey – Reviewed
  14. The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer – Reviewed
  15. 52 Mondays by Anna Ciddor – Reviewed
  16. Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte – Reviewed
  17. Zebra and Other Stories by Debra Adelaide – Reviewed
  18. Esther by Jessica North – Reviewed
  19. Mermaid Holidays: The Talent Show by Delphine Davis and Adele K. Thomas – Reviewed
  20. The True Story of Maddie Bright by Mary-Rose MacColl – Reviewed
  21. Miss Franklin: How Miles Franklin’s Brilliant Career began by Libby Hathorn – Reviewed
  22. Archibald, The Naughtiest Elf in the World Causes Trouble with the Easter Bunny by Skye Davidson – Reviewed
  23. The Artist’s Portrait by Julie Keys – Reviewed
  24. The Suicide Bride by Tanya Bretherton – Reviewed, Interview
  25. Deltora Quest: The Forest of Silence by Emily Rodda – Reviewed
  26. Children of the Dragon: Race for the Red Dragon by Rebecca Lim – Reviewed
  27. Deltora Quest: The Lake of Tears by Emily Rodda – Reviewed
  28. Deltora Quest: The City of Rats by Emily Rodda – Reviewed
  29. Alice to Prague by Tanya Heaslip – Reviewed

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Book Bingo:

Rows Across:

Row One:

A book with a red cover: Children of the Dragon: Race for the Red Dragon by Rebecca Lim – #AWW2019*

Beloved Classic: Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner – AWW2018

A novel that has more than 500 pages:

A novella no more than 150 pages: Deltora Quest: The Forest of Silence by Emily Rodda – #AWW2019

Prize winning book:

Row Two:

A book by an author with the same initials as you:

Non-Fiction book about an event: The Suicide Bride by Tanya Bretherton – #AWW2019

Fictional biography about a woman from history:

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

Book written by an Australian woman more than 10 years ago: Deltora Quest: The Lake of Tears by Emily Rodda – #AWW2019 (2001)

Row Three:

Themes of Science Fiction: The Lost Magician by Piers Torday*

Themes of Culture:

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

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

Themes of Fantasy: Vardaesia by Lynette Noni – AWW2019

 

Row Four:

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

Book set in the Australian Outback:

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

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

Book set in an exotic location: Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte – #AWW2019

 

BINGO!

Row Five: Bingo

Written by an Australian Man: The Honeyman and the Hunter by Neil Grant

Written by an Australian Woman:Zelda Stitch Term Two: Too Much Witch by Nicki Greenberg – AWW2019

Written by an author under the age of 35: Archibald, The Naughtiest Elf in the World Causes Trouble with the Easter Bunny by Skye Davidson – #AWW2019

Written by an author over the age of 65: Miss Franklin: How Miles Franklin’s Brilliant Career began by Libby Hathorn – #AWW2019*

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

BINGO!

Row Six: Bingo

Literary: Zebra and Other Stories by Debra Adelaide – AWW2019

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

Historical: The Familiars by Stacey Halls

Romance: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Comedy: Best Foot Forward by Adam Hills

Rows Down:

 

Row One:

A book with a red cover: Children of the Dragon: Race for the Red Dragon by Rebecca Lim – #AWW2019*

Book by an author with the same initials as you:

Themes of science fiction: The Lost Magician by Piers Torday*

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

Written by an Australian man: The Honeyman and the Hunter by Neil Grant

Literary: Zebra and Other Stories by Debra Adelaide – AWW2019

 

Row Two:

Beloved Classic: Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner – AWW2018      

Non-Fiction book about an event: The Suicide Bride by Tanya Bretherton – #AWW2019

Themes of culture:

Book set in the Australian outback:

Written by an Australian woman: Zelda Stitch Term Two: Too Much Witch by Nicki Greenberg – AWW2019

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

Row three:

Novel that has 500 pages or more:

Fictional biography about a woman from history:

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

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

Written by an author under the age of 35: Archibald, The Naughtiest Elf in the World Causes Trouble with the Easter Bunny by Skye Davidson – #AWW2019

Historical: The Familiars by Stacey Halls

BINGO!

Row Four: – BINGO

Novella no more than 150 pages: Deltora Quest: The Forest of Silence by Emily Rodda – #AWW2019

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

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

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

Written by an author over the age of 65: Miss Franklin: How Miles Franklin’s Brilliant Career began by Libby Hathorn – #AWW2019*

Romance: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Row Five:

Prize winning book:

Book written by an Australian woman more than ten years ago: Deltora Quest: The Lake of Tears by Emily Rodda – #AWW2019 (2001)

Themes of fantasy: Vardaesia by Lynette Noni – AWW2019

Book set in an exotic location: Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte – #AWW2019

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

Comedy: Best Foot Forward by Adam Hills

April Round-Up – 21

 

Title Author Challenge
Middle School: Born to Rock James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts General, #Dymocks52Challenge
The Honeyman and the Hunter Neil Grant General, #Dymocks52Challenge, book bingo
A Dream of Italy Nicky Pellegrino General, #Dymocks52Challenge
 Miss Franklin: How Miles Franklin’s Brilliant Career began Libby Hathorn General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019 Book Bingo
Archibald, The Naughtiest Elf in the World Causes Trouble with the Easter Bunny Skye Davidson General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019, Book Bingo, Pop Sugar
The Artist’s Portrait Julie Keys General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019
Poppy Field Michael Morpurgo General, #Dymocks52Challenge
The Lost Magician Piers Torday General, #Dymocks52Challenge,

Book Bingo, Pop Sugar

The Suicide Bride Tanya Bretherton General, #Dymocks52Challenge,

Book Bingo, #AWW2019

The Bad Mother’s Book Club Keris Stanton General, #Dymocks52Challenge,

Pop Sugar

Rabbit and Bear: Attack of the Snack Julian Gough General, #Dymocks52Challenge
Eliza Rose Lucy Worsley General, #Dymocks52Challenge, PopSugar
Deltora Quest: The Forest of Silence Emily Rodda General, #Dymocks52Challenge,

Book Bingo, #AWW2019, Popsugar

Children of the Dragon: Race for the Red Dragon Rebecca Lim General, #Dymocks52Challenge,

Book Bingo, #AWW2019, PopSugar

The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna Juliet Grames General, #Dymocks52Challenge, Popsugar
Deltora Quest: The Lake of Tears Emily Rodda General, #Dymocks52Challenge,

Book Bingo, #AWW2019, Popsugar

Toto the Ninja Cat and the Incredible Cheese Heist Dermot O’Leary General, #Dymocks52Challenge,
The Flatshare Beth O’Leary General, #Dymocks52Challenge,
Christopher Robin: The Little Book of Pooh-isms: With help from Piglet, Eeyore, Rabbit, Owl, and Tigger, too! Brittany Rubiano General, #Dymocks52Challenge,
Daughter of Bad Times Rohan Wilson General, #Dymocks52Challenge, Popsugar
Deltora Quest: The City of Rats Emily Rodda General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019
Fabio, the World’s Greatest Flamingo Detective: Mystery on the Ostrich Express Laura James General, #Dymocks52Challenge,

Interview Tanya Bretherton The Suicide Bride

suicide bride

  1. Welcome to The Book Muse Tanya, it’s a pleasure to have you here.

Thank you very much for having me.

  1. You’ve written two true crime books about Australian crime – what drew you to this genre, and these cases?

As a reader, I am a big fan of crime stories, particularly those that seek to explore the darker side of human nature.  As a writer I am attracted to the true crime genre because it provides a very dramatic backdrop to tell deeply personal stories.  Loss, tragedy, heartbreak and desperation are all there – both before the crime is committed and they are present in its aftermath as well.  Both The Suitcase Baby and The Suicide Bride begin with true crime events, but they unfold as personal stories.  Crime stories, in some way or other, are always stories about families and secrets.

  1. Can you give a brief explanation of the term suicide bride for my followers who may not have read the book yet?

I began the journey of writing the book by examining at one horrible true crime event in particular. In January 1904 in the inner-city suburb of Newtown in Sydney, two young brothers discovered the bodies of their parents in the family home.  Thirty-two-year-old Alexander Sly murdered his wife Ellie, with a cut throat razor, and then killed himself.  Their four children, all under the age of eight (Bedford, Basil, Mervyn and baby Olive) were orphaned.

As I began to explore the social and economic context in which the crime was committed, I discovered to my horror that this was not the only case like this.  In the late nineteenth century there were many cases of husbands who planned their own suicide and factored the murder of their wife as part of that act (hence the term ‘suicide bride’).  In the year of 1904 alone, there were murder-suicides attempted and committed by husbands in every single month in every state of Australia. The cases all shared some remarkable and macabre similarities with the Sly murder-suicide case.

  1. What was it about the Sly case in particular that you found interesting, and why?

It is hard to imagine a family story more tragic than that of Alexander and Ellie Sly.  I had to know what happened to the children.  As a researcher, I have studied child protection and from what I knew about trauma and its long-term impacts, I knew the outcomes for the children in this case were not likely to be good.  I wanted to know how a child’s life might unfold in the wake of something so tragic and at a period in history which had a reputation for being very tough on children.

During the research process I also discovered something unique about the Sly family.  I don’t what to give too much away, but there is a twist in the book which I think readers will find as fascinating as I did.

  1. Was it hard trying to determine what really happened with limited resources and evidence for the Sly case, and in turn, the fate of the children, and where did these challenges arise from?

I undertake a lot of research before I even start to write a true crime book, because I want to see if there is enough material to sustain both a big picture account of the event, and a personal story as well.  I was well down the research road before I decided that there was enough viable material to write The Suicide Bride.  With this book I had the unusual situation of having too much material, so I had to make decisions about which stories I was going to focus on, which characters were going to play the leads, and who would play the minor roles.  In the end, those choices came down to decisions of the heart not the head.

  1. When writing true crime, what are the most important, or most informative sources for you, and why?

I tend to write social history and life history narratives disguised as true crime stories.  For this reason trial transcripts, inquest documents and those resources that might traditionally form the foundation for a true crime account play a lesser role in my research process.  I do a lot of genealogical research for my books, as I think there are powerful discoveries to be made in uncovering how deeply a crime event impacts loved ones and how long it reverberates down through a family.

  1. Do you find looking at these crimes from a sociological perspective rather than a criminology or criminal investigative perspective gives a different insight into the crime? What do you think the differences are?

There is no doubt that sociology deeply influences both how I analyse true crime events and how I write about them.  In sociology, a lot of emphasis is placed on understanding the roles we play in collective settings, social norms, and the labels that we use to categorise people.  I think this is important because it gives us a deeper understanding of the really complex context that underpins crime. In exploring murder, for example, law and order perspectives consider the question of motive: why would person A kill person B?  I think sociology can help fill the bigger canvas of ‘why?’ by asking what is the social, the economic and the familial context for ‘why’.

  1. What sparked your initial interest in true crime stories in particular, and do you plan to look into further cases that we might not know much about, or that might not have been solved?

I think my interest in the true crime genre goes way back to childhood.  We didn’t have many books in our house when I was growing up, but my Dad was an avid reader of murder mysteries.  So almost every book in our house had a dead body in it – that probably had an impact on an early reader!  To this day I write stories that have a twist in some way or other, and if I don’t find that twist, I will abandon a subject as a possible book and move on to another case.

Yes, I definitely have a number of books planned!  I always like to select cases that have not had a lot of exposure to date.  I am developing two more Sydney-based true crime books at the moment.  Both of these books will also deal with issues of women and crime.

  1. Do you think we will ever find out why Alicks Sly committed the murder-suicide and left four children orphans?

The murder suicide of Alicks Sly and his wife made national news.  It was a big story at the time.  Alicks Sly was a local spiritualist and medium who believed he could communicate with the dead.  He saw visions and heard voices.  The family were also profoundly poor as well.  All of this absolutely fascinated the public at the time, and retrospectively we continue to reflect on the different ways in which this crime can be viewed.  Was Alicks mentally ill?  Was there a pattern of violence in the home prior to the final tragic incident?  I think the same questions that investigators were asking about the Sly case in 1904, we are still asking about murder-suicides that occur today.  We might draw a clinical set of conclusions as to why this kind of crime occurs, but this analysis will always fall short in the face of something so tragic and heartbreaking.

  1. How often do you find living descendants of the families involved to talk to about the cases, and what are the ethical issues you navigate when you encounter them?

To date, I have chosen historical true crime stories that are very old.  This means there aren’t any relatives (still living) who were directly impacted by the tragedies.

  1. Are there any legal issues or obstacles you face when looking into these old crimes, and like the previous question about ethics, how does it affect the outcome of your book?

I purposefully select cases that I know won’t present me with the kinds of ethical dilemmas that will disrupt the writing process.  I want to be able to write unencumbered by those responsibilities.

Any ethical questions I face during the writing process tend to be more abstract and relate to writing in the spaces of grey that exist between rigid depictions of good and evil. Can a person be a villain and a victim at the same time?  Can a criminal act ever be a noble choice?  I hope that I offer up enough evidence to the reader, that they get to decide.  I want them to make the moral call on the crime, the criminal who committed it and how they feel society should have handled what happened.

  1. Finally, what do you hope writing about these crimes does to help society and possibly those who have links to those involved, and can this have a positive impact on crime solving?

I think true crime stories are often written as psychological portraits, and this plays an important role in helping us to understand the pathology that can underpin some criminal behaviour.  But there is also a wider social and economic context for crime.  Putting moral questions about crime and criminals aside for a moment, people who commit crimes may be labelled criminals, but they are also people looking for solutions.  We may not agree with their approach to problem solving, we may even abhor it, but understanding what drives people to commit crime remains important and conflicted terrain for us all to reflect on.  In both The Suitcase Baby and The Suicide Bride, a criminal act resulted from absolute desperation.  The people in those stories were looking for solutions.  They made unthinkable choices, terrible choices.  In the end what they found was not a solution at all.  Their choices also created even more heartbreak for the people they cared most about.  I can’t claim that my books have any impact on the field of criminology, nor the methodologies we use to catch criminals, but it is fascinating terrain to work with in terms of character and story.

Thank you for joining me on The Book Muse, Tanya and good luck with your future projects.

The Suicide Bride: A Mystery of Tragedy and Family Secrets in Edwardian Sydney by Tanya Bretherton

suicide brideTitle: The Suicide Bride: A Mystery of Tragedy and Family Secrets in Edwardian Sydney

Author: Tanya Bretherton

Genre: True Crime/History

Publisher: Hachette

Published: 23rd April 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 315

Price: $32.99

Synopsis: From the author of the acclaimed THE SUITCASE BABY – shortlisted for the Ned Kelly and Nib awards – comes the chilling story of a charlatan, a murder-suicide, and a family tree so twisted that it sprouts monsters.

Whenever society produces a depraved criminal, we wonder: is it nature or is it nurture?

When the charlatan Alicks Sly murdered his wife, Ellie, and killed himself with a cut-throat razor in a house in Sydney’s Newtown in early 1904, he set off a chain of events that could answer that question. He also left behind mysteries that might never be solved. Sociologist Dr Tanya Bretherton traces the brutal story of Ellie, one of many suicide brides in turn-of-the-century Sydney; of her husband, Alicks, and his family; and their three orphaned sons, adrift in the world.

From the author of the acclaimed THE SUITCASE BABY – shortlisted for the 2018 Ned Kelly Award, Danger Prize and Waverley Library ‘Nib’ Award – comes another riveting true-crime case from Australia’s dark past. THE SUICIDE BRIDE is a masterful exploration of criminality, insanity, violence and bloody family ties in bleak, post-Victorian Sydney.

~*~

I’ve only read a few true crime books, and the last one I read revolved around the last woman hanged in New South Wales – Louisa Collins in 1889. A mere fifteen years later, a spate of suicide brides would crop up in Sydney – women who were murdered by their husbands, and the husbands would later commit suicide. In the case explored in Tanya Bretherton’s new book, a husband a wife died, but also, four children were left parentless, orphaned and their fates were left to the state, which in the early twentieth century was a lot less caring than it is today, especially towards orphaned children like Mervyn, Bedford, Basil and their sister, Olive, who at the time of her parents deaths, was ill in hospital.

2019 BadgeThe lives of Alicks and Ellie Sly were taken with a razor, at the hand of Alicks – and nothing was left to help the children, apart from any money left over from the sale of all their possessions to pay off any debts, and then money would be given to orphanages for the care of the three boys, whilst Olive was adopted and given a new name, a new identity, and nothing much is heard about her after that happened. Her brothers went sent to Catholic orphanages, and as Tanya recounts, each had a very different experience and reaction while staying there, resulting in very different outcomes in their later lives as a result of the violence they had seen early on in their lives.

Tanya Bretherton looks at the circumstances surrounding the deaths, and the evidence and records that are available, and at the way society at the time dealt with the deaths and aftermath, particularly in regards to the children, and finding guardians, and paying off debts to them, and the sad fact that Alicks and Ellie had nobody come forward to mourn, or help with the children – much of their debts were paid off with the sale of their few possessions, and charity took care of the rest. Throughout the book, the stories of the children are woven throughout as Tanya tries to uncover what really happened – using the historical timeline and gazing at it through a sociological lens and the social implications of this within Edwardian society, and the importance placed on funerary rights and debt over the welfare of young children.

Where did Alicks get the idea to kill his wife, and then himself? This is a question that remains unanswered, as does the why scenario. Without any suicide note, the true motives of Alicks will likely never be known. We can only guess at why he committed the murder-suicide in 1904. Maybe Alicks had debts he couldn’t pay and saw no other way out. Maybe knowing someone, the church, would step in to help. Perhaps he assumed family or neighbours would step up. Or maybe his motives were much more nefarious, and he didn’t care what happened to his sons and daughter. Tanya Bretherton doesn’t appear to have uncovered any criminal links or issues beyond debt they owed. Yet it is the not knowing that suggests it could be more than the idea that only debts were owed, and because there is little, if any, evidence to suggest why this happened.

As we can only speculate, as Tanya has done, perhaps it was a combination of things: debts, societal pressures, and a combination of the age old debate of nature versus nurture: where the brain functionality of a person is determined at birth, or whether the way we are raised has an impact on who we become and what we do. Having studied some sociology, I like to think its a combination, that neither one nor the other can inherently determine the actions one will take. Of course, there is always the element of choice in these scenarios. What i found fascinating about this is that there are no definitive answers – given the policing and forensic processes of the time, a lot less notice would have been taken of compromising the evidence and crime scene. So we may never know the truth, but there were many suicide brides in the months surrounding this case, including one case from the same family, a sibling of Alicks weeks or months later. The Sly family appeared to have many secrets throughout the generations,  and at least two of the brothers thrived quite well, and not much is known of Olive after her adoption. So for their father and relatives, were they predestined to kill, or did something awful happen to each Sly man to make the commit the crimes? This is where the nature versus nurture argument becomes tricky, because the nature of the family based on the murder-suicides would suggest a proclivity towards crime not really seen in the kids – at least, not violently. Nurture however, takes a look at how they were raised, first in the family and then the orphanage where it sounds like they weren’t nurtured in the way one might expect a child to be cared for. Which suggests that how we turn out is a combination of nature, nurture, our experiences and unique character – perhaps the younger children were able to adjust at a faster or easier rate than the oldest boy. What is certain though, is that we will never know all the answers, and the book, and my analysis is just mere speculation based on what we have present.

Pop Sugar Challenge Round Up

One of the challenges I did during 2019 was the PopSugar Challenge. It had forty categories, plus an additional ten advanced ones – a couple of which I managed to check off, and I filled most of the main categories, some with multiple books. It was a good challenge, but one thing I think lets it down is that it is overly prescriptive – and I think this made it too hard to fill in – almost impossible for some, in fact.

One was an author with the same first or last name as you – and this could let many people down, as there will be many names, not just mine, that do not appear as any part of an author’s name. Some I didn’t fill due to lack of time, but there were some that relied on accessibility as well – being able to get the book, or something being available in a library, bookstore or your collection. The point of a challenge is to challenge you and your reading – but perhaps not in a way that lets you down when you find you can’t fill a category.

Still, it was a fun challenge and I’ll be doing it again this year – but I feel that the categories get too prescriptive and specific each year, and rely too much on the accessibility of books – just because you can find a title in a Google search does not mean that book will be readily available for you – and my plan is to fill as many as I can with what I have.

Challenge #1

A book made into a movie you’ve already seen: Victoria and Abdul: The Extraordinary True Story of the Queen’s Closest Confidant by Shrabani Basu Victoria and Abdul (2017)

True crime: Last Woman Hanged by Caroline Overington

The next book in a series you started: Mayan Mendacity by L.J.M. Owen, The Silver Horse by Kate Forsyth (Chain of Charms #2)

A book involving a heist: The Book of Answers: The Ateban Cipher Book 2 by A.L. Tait, Bright Young Dead by Jessica Fellowes (Mitford Murders #2)

Nordic Noir:

A novel based on a real person: Mr Dickens and His Carol by Samantha Silva

A book set in a country that fascinates you:

Country: Scotland
Book: The Last Train by Sue Lawrence

Country: England
Book: The Silver Horse by Kate Forsyth (Chain of Charms #2)

A book with the time of day in the title: early – Early Riser by Jasper Fforde

A book about a villain or anti-hero: The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley and The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley and Babylon Berlin by Volker Kutschner, The Ship that Never Was by Adam Courtenay

A book about death or grief: Before I Let You Go by Kelly Rimmer, Embassy of the Dead by Will Mabbitt

A book with your favourite colour in the title: Bluebottle by Belinda Castles

A book with alliteration in the title: Rose Raventhorpe Investigates: Hounds and Hauntings by Janine Beacham
Olmec Obituary by LJM Owen
Mayan Mendacity by LJM Owen

A book about time travel: The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas, Time Jumpers: Stealing the Sword by Wendy Mass

A book with a weather element in the title: Draigon Weather: The Legends of Arnan – Book One by Paige L Christie, Dragon Masters: Search for the Lightning Dragon by Tracey West

A book set at sea: The Passengers by Eleanor Limprecht, Bluebottle by Belinda Castles, Captain Cook’s Apprentice by Anthony Hill

A book with an animal in the title: The Sealwoman’s Gift by Sally Magnusson, The Opal Dragonfly by Julian Leatherdale

A book set on a different planet: Graevale by Lynette Noni

A book with song lyrics in the title: The Last Train by Sue Lawrence (Last Train Out of Sydney)

A book about or set on Halloween: Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend

A book with characters who are twins: The Paris Seamstress by Natasha Lester, Other Worlds: Beast World by George Ivanoff

A book with a female author who uses a male pseudonym: Lethal White by Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling)

A book with an LGBTQ+ protagonist: The Wicked Cometh by Laura Carlin, Tin Man by Sarah Winman

A book that is also a stage play or musical:

A book by an author of a different ethnicity to you: The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton, Grandpa, Me and Poetry by Sally Morgan

A book about feminism: Olmec Obituary by L.J.M. Owen, No Country Woman by Zoya Patel

A book about mental health: Differently Normal by Tammy Robinson (mental disabilities, dealing with grief and loneliness)

A book you borrowed or that was given to you as a gift: The Enchanted Places by Christopher Milne, Goodbye, Christopher Robin by Anne Thwaite

A book by two authors: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

A book about or involving sport: Surf Rider’s Club #2: Bronte’s Big Sister Problem by Mary van Reyk

A book by a local author: The Secrets at Ocean’s Edge by Kali Napier (AU author), Grandpa, Me and Poetry by Sally Morgan, Olmec Obituary by LJM Owen, Mayan Mendacity by LJM Owen, Four Respectable Ladies Seek Part-time Husband by Barbara Toner

A book mentioned in another book: Heidi by Johanna Spyri, mentioned in Little Gods.

A book from a celebrity book club:

Book Club:
Book:

A childhood classic you’ve never read: Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers

A book that’s published in 2018: Four Respectable Ladies Seek Part-time Husband by Barbara Toner

A past Goodreads Choice Awards winner: Talking as Fast As I Can by Lauren Graham

A book set in the decade you were born: Little Gods by Jenny Ackland

A book you meant to read in 2017 but didn’t get to: Miss Lily’s Lovely Ladies by Jackie French

A book with an ugly cover: Skin in the Game: The Pleasure and Pain of Telling True Stories by Sonya Voumard

A book that involves a bookstore or library: Bookshop Girl by Chloe Coles

Your favourite prompt from the 2015, 2016 or 2017 POPSUGAR Reading Challenges:

2015: A book with a one-word title: Thunderwith by Libby Hathorn, Lovesome by Sally Seltmann.

2016: A book based on a fairy tale: The Beast’s Heart by Leife Shallcross

2017: A novel set during wartime: Eventual Poppy Day by Libby Hathorn

TOTAL READ: 61 in 37 categories
ADVANCED

A bestseller from the year you graduated high school (2004):

A cyberpunk book:

A book that was being read by a stranger in a public place:

A book tied to your ancestry (Scottish):

A book with a fruit or vegetable in the title: Leaving Lucy Pear by Anna Solomon

An allegory: Munmun by Jesse Andrews

A book by an author with the same first or last name as you:

A microhistory: Spinning Tops & Gum Drops: A Portrait of Colonial Childhood by Edwin Barnard

A book about a problem facing society today: When the Mountains Roared by Jess Butterworth – poaching. No Country Woman by Zoya Patel – Racism.

A book recommended by someone else taking the POPSUGAR Reading Challenge:

TOTAL READ: 5

As you can see, some categories were easier to fill than others, some I didn’t manage to find anything for aforementioned reasons, and some had multiple entries. Some were filled in with a stretch – perhaps this is why I like looser themes, rather than ones that dictate what must be in a title or part of the authors name – you still get the challenge of finding a book that fills it, without causing panic because nothing fits in – this takes the fun out of it. So in 2019, my goal is to fill whatever categories I can. And if there are some where I don’t find a book, or a book does not appeal to me, I will give it a miss – and just let it happen as it happens.

In my mind, a challenge like this whilst fun, can also be inhibiting, which is why in the group that does this challenge, I’ve suggested a list of other challenges in case others want to take those on as well as this one or instead of – something I might do, or tweak them for my individual needs.

So ends another year of reading challenges.

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Check in #5: Australian Women #60 to #78

AWW-2018-badge-roseIn what is likely my final Check in for 2018 for the Australian Women Writers Challenge, I’m making my list a little longer as it did not make sense to make another post for one or two books, given I did this in blocks of fifteen – and am debating whether to do monthly, or blocks of ten for next year to increase my content output. Most books are already out, but the seventy-sixth book is only out in January, and based on challenge rules and discussions with a fellow participant, counts in both years – as the review goes up in 2019. This is one of my wrap up posts for the year – still to come, my overall challenge, my Australian Women Writer’s Challenge, my overall reading log and number books read over the past twelve months, and my wrap up post for book bingo, which in theory, should include the intro for next year and that means I need to pick a book to read for the first square I’ll be marking off on the fifth of January, 2019 for book bingo with Theresa and Amanda.

My past check-ins have each had fifteen books – but given how close to the end of the year we are, I did the final seventeen in one post. Over the year, I have read a wide variety of books by Australian Women, but mainly Young Adult, Fantasy, Kids, and Historical Fiction or Crime. Of these books, Graevale, We Three Heroes, Lenny’s Book of Everything and Fairy Tales for Feisty Girls have been amongst my favourites, for various reasons.

Graevaleis the fourth book in the Medoran Chronicles and sees Alex and her friends trying to prevent their visions of the future coming true, now that Aven Dalmarta sits on the Meyarin throne. He is a threat to all Medora, and Alex must find a way to unite all the kingdoms and species. Despite resistance, for the most part, she succeeds. Until it comes to Graevale and the Shadow Walkers – whose indifference to the message she has been delivering around Medora will lead to a series of catastrophic events with devastating consequences.

In the same series, is We Three Heroes – a trio of novellas told from the perspectives of D.C., Bear and Jordan across the series, based around key events that affected them as well as Alex. Chronicling their lives before, and after they met Alex and became the group of friends we love, as they navigate Akarnae and the ups and downs of life as their world heads into a war that they may not be able to win.

Taking quite a different turn, is Lenny’s Book of Everything.  A story about a family, a brother and sister whose lives revolve around building an encyclopedia letter by letter, and a rare genetic disease that makes Lenny’s brother Davey keep growing. With a bittersweet storyline told through Lenny’s eyes about these years and her search for her father and his family, this book will make you laugh and cry in equal amounts and stay with you long after the last page is turned.

Finally, for everyone who always wanted to be the princess but be more than the girl waiting to be rescued – the girl who can take care of herself and where sometimes, the prince changes his fate for her, we have Fairy Tales for Feisty Girls. Filled with four fairy tales where the girl traditionally must wait for the male to come, these tales show Rapunzel, Thumbelina, Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood taking charge of their own fate, as inventors and activists, adventurers and scientists within a fairy tale word frame. A wonderful addition to a growing fairy tale collection of traditional and reimagined ones.

The Final Seventeen:

My stats and final comments will appear in my wrap up post in the coming days – but to finish off the year, I am looking forward heading into the 2019 challenge as the YA editor for the AWW blog as well as everything else. This has been a great challenge and I have had some excellent crossover with other challenges, that I hope to continue into next year.

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Last Woman Hanged by Caroline Overington

last woman hanged.jpgTitle: Last Woman Hanged

Author: Caroline Overington

Genre: True Crime

Publisher: HaperCollins

Published: 14th December 2015

Format: Paperback

Pages: 400

Price: $22.99

Synopsis: Two husbands, four trials and one bloody execution: Winner of the 2015 Davitt Award for Best Crime Book (Non-fiction) – the terrible true story of Louisa Collins.

In January 1889, Louisa Collins, a 41-year-old mother of ten children, became the first woman hanged at Darlinghurst Gaol and the last woman hanged in New South Wales. Both of Louisa’s husbands had died suddenly and the Crown, convinced that Louisa poisoned them with arsenic, put her on trial an extraordinary four times in order to get a conviction, to the horror of many in the legal community. Louisa protested her innocence until the end.

Much of the evidence against Louisa was circumstantial. Some of the most important testimony was given by her only daughter, May, who was just 10-years-old when asked to take the stand. Louisa Collins was hanged at a time when women were in no sense equal under the law – except when it came to the gallows. They could not vote or stand for parliament – or sit on juries. Against this background, a small group of women rose up to try to save Louisa’s life, arguing that a legal system comprised only of men – male judges, all-male jury, male prosecutor, governor and Premier – could not with any integrity hang a woman. The tenacity of these women would not save Louisa but it would ultimately carry women from their homes all the way to Parliament House.

Caroline Overington is the author of eleven books of fiction and non-fiction, including the top-selling THE ONE WHO GOT AWAY psychological crime novel. She has said: ‘My hope is that LAST WOMAN HANGED will be read not only as a true crime story but as a letter of profound thanks to that generation of women who fought so hard for the rights we still enjoy today.’

~*~

It is said that history is written by the winners, those left behind and those in power – and there is some truth to this. How many stories have been lost to us, how many accounts of events and different accounts have been lost to us because other groups and the other side has not been allowed to wholly contribute? As someone who studied history, there are many events and stories that I never learnt about in class and have often stumbled upon by chance through other reading and research. One of these previously unknown stories was that of Louisa Collins – convicted of murdering her two husbands after four trials, and in 1889, she became the last woman to be hanged in the then colony of New South Wales, after her hanging was a little more traumatic than it should have been.

In Last Woman Hanged, Caroline Overington looks at Louisa’s life before she was accused, her marriages and the events that led to each death, based on evidence and documentation that is available. As she observes throughout the book, the lack of Louisa’s own voice in letters or diaries illustrates the lack of power and agency women had in the colony of New South Wales during the nineteenth century. Indeed, each of the four juries that served on the trials were men from a specific class and professions – which Caroline points out limited the jury pool if certain professions could not serve – did this truly reflect a jury of one’s peers? Surely not, but Overington also acknowledges that this was how it was done – and whilst it is unusual for a modern reader, in the context of the history, it does make sense, though we may not like it one hundred and thirty years in the future.

What is interesting is that after the first trial ended in no conviction based on circumstantial evidence (which would be thrown out briskly these days, or efforts made to ensure it proved the crime beyond a reasonable doubt), the Crown ordered three more trials in an effort to come to a conclusion. It seemed that there was a determination to convict Louisa – with two dead husbands and ten children – some of whom were still at home and quite young – of a crime that she may not have committed. That circumstantial evidence was that both husbands had died of a rapid sickness, and there were traces of what appeared to be arsenic – a substance found at some of the places of work for men of the period, in rat poison and other areas around Sydney – and rat poison, such as the Rough on Rats used as evidence based on the testimony of Louisa’s daughter, May. Based on this evidence, Charles, her first husband, and Michael, her second, could have been poisoned anywhere – work, something that they ate or drank, or perhaps even medicine they ingested. Today, Louisa’s case would likely have been thrown out very early on if the only evidence was circumstantial.

Overington does more than examine the trials though – she looks at the beginnings of the suffrage movement and the impact that women like Liza Pottie had on trying to help Louisa – though these attempts would be futile and any evidence to suggest Louisa was innocent had had nothing to do with either death, or even just one – would come too late for Louisa, and further investigation, despite pleas from women who backed Louisa and eventually, Louisa herself.

History tells us that Louisa was without a doubt guilty – four trials were conducted just to reach that verdict, and one wonders why – if nothing could be proven, the charges were not dropped as one might expect them to be in other cases. It feels like the lingering question is why – why were people so bent on convicting Louisa on circumstantial evidence? The Rough on Rats could have been used for any reason, such as killing rats, but also, could have been accessed by anyone in the house – not just Louisa. We will never know why these questions were not asked or looked into further – it might have saved a woman’s life.

Whether she was guilty or not cannot be determined now, nor can we change the past – the charges, and execution or the way Louisa’s case was handled with inadequate defence – by not questioning the validity of the circumstantial evidence, Louisa’s fate was sealed. This is an intriguing read, about part of Australia’s history not often taught in courses, and one that has to be sought out by those seeking to learn more. Hopefully, this will allow more stories of those silenced in the records of history to be told – and in doing so, will allow for a more well-rounded historical record that shows the complexities and grey areas of history, not just the black and white we see so often.

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