03.05. Absolutely thrilled that Favel Parrett’s Past the Shallows made the Miles Franklin shortlist

I am so thrilled that Past the Shallows made the shortlist.
I would love this book to get as much attention as possible- it is an absolute gem- I reviewed it in January – Review of Past the Shallows.

Here’s what the judges thought:
“Past the shallows is a moody, gripping book about love and dysfunction. Three brothers – Joe the eldest at nineteen, Miles in the middle and Harry around eight – survive the death of their mother in a car crash, but cannot escape the fury of their father, whose anger is reflected in the moods of the oceans of southern Tasmania, where he is failing to make a living as an abalone fisherman. Joe has left home, and the story concentrates on Miles and Harry. Miles has to work on his father’s boat, while Harry tries to find balance in the normalcy of the everyday, befriending a town outcast and his dog or staying with his best friend. Miles and Harry try to avoid their father, and look after each other in small protective ways. Neither can see a solution, and Miles feels burdened by the responsibility, and love, for his young brother. The unresolved circumstances and fleeting memories of the crash which killed their mother drive the corrosive family dynamics.

This story is sparsely and simply told, with an unwavering clarity. Parrett’s controlled, unadorned narrative completely immerses the reader in the marginalised and isolating world of the boy’s circumstances: the all-pervasive, random violence of their father, the ocean which both supports them and drains them, and their own strategies for surviving their situation. Harry – despite what he has endured, still innocent, gently thoughtful and sustained by his love of, and trust in, his brothers – is the heart of the story. Harry is almost tangible, so truthfully does Parrett realise his character: he is indeed a remarkable achievement.

Past the shallows is an intensely moving novel, about the importance and sustaining power of love and responsibility, and the tragedies which can unfold in their absence.”

The other shortlisted books are:

Blood by Tony Birch
What the judges thought

All That I Am by Anna Funder
I loved Anna Funder’s Stasiland- I’m really looking forward to getting around to this one at some point too.
What the judges thought

Foal’s Bread by Gillian Mears
What the judges thought

Cold Light by Frank Moorhouse
What the judges thought

I would love Past the Shallows to win- but maybe I should read the other books first!
Have you read any of the shortlisted books? Any particular favourite?

11.04. Looking closely at someone you love

Today’s like is inspired by a page I was reading today in “Catching Fire”, Part 2 of the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins.
In it, Katniss is watching Peeta as he paints.
Perhaps its something we should all do with our loved ones more often. Take a look. Look closely. Appreciate them.
“I like to watch his hands as he works, making a blank page bloom with strokes of ink, adding touches of colour to our previously black and yellowish book. His face takes on a special look when he concentrates. His usual easy expression is replaced by something more intense and removed that suggests and entire world locked away inside him…I don’t quite know what to make of it. I also become a little fixated on his eyelashes, which ordinarily you don’t notice so much because they’re so blond. But up close in the sunlight slanting in from the window, they’re a light golden colour and so long I don’t see how they keep from getting all tangled up when he blinks.”

Take a look. Tell me what you see.

04.02. Pigeon English by Stephen Kelmen

Travelling days are a great opportunity to relax for the day, get a bit of reading done and recover from sensory overload. I picked this book up at Orly airport on the way to Berlin and read it over the course of a couple of flights.
It sounded promising, it was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2011 and the cover has recommendations from the Guardian and Emma Donoghue. But to be honest, I was a little disappointed by this book- though it was an easy and enjoyable read.
It’s the story of 11 year-old Harrison Opoku, newly arrived in an English public housing estate from Ghana. And it is told in Harrison’s voice. He is an endearing character, an innocent surrounded by evil and danger. The book is funny in parts, as Harrison relates the world just as he sees it. But the pervading feeling of the novel is ominous, opening as it does at the scene of a murder- the murder of a “half friend” of Harri.
Kelman is keen for us to have a sense of how social injustice impacts even the strongest family, as Harri’s sister and mother find themselves increasingly compromised and out of control. The pervading sense of menace throughout the book is very strong and compels you forward through the novel.
Just a bit disappointed, but 3 stars all the same.

21.03. Bookstores and book challenges

I love that Abbey’s in Sydney is supporting the AWW Book Challenge in their display.
When recently in Sydney I made a point of popping by.
Ended up buying Part 3 of The Hunger Games and the new collection of short stories by Nathan Englander. Ripping through them, they are terrific. Review to follow soon.

Also of late, I’ve been following Jillian and her #theclassicsclub on twitter. It seems like a great initiative to me, and when I started thinking about it, I realised there are heaps of classics I’d love to catch up on- many already in my bookshelves at home. So I’ve decided to join in the fun.

I am planning to read 50 classics in the next 5 years…by 31st December 2016.

Wish me luck!

My list currently has 69 books on it. I will only read 50, but wanted to leave myself some wriggle room.
I feel like I covered alot of English literature at school and at uni, so I have sought out alot of American and foreign classics that I hope will broaden my mind.
I’ve also tried to include quite a few women writers- I feel like women get a dud run in most classics lists once you get past the Brontes and Jane Austen.
And I’ve thrown in a couple of graphic novels, some poetry and short stories, one play and a kids book to keep things interesting.

The prize I intend to gift myself at the end? I think I will put $5 in a special jar for each classic I read and at the end go out for a classic dinner- that’s a pretty good budget for a fancy night out I reckon!

So here are the books on my list:

THE ONES I HAVE FINISHED (I’ll be constantly updating this. Click through on the title to read what I thought.
1. Their Eyes Were Watching God Zora Neale Hurston Completed 26.03.2012
2. Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy Completed April 6 2012

American Classics

3. Heart of Darkness Joseph Conrad
4. A Confederacy of Dunces Toole, John Kennedy
5. Everything is Illuminated Jonathan Safran Foer
6. Stories Dorothy Parker (Short Stories)
7. The Scarlet Letter Nathaniel Hawthorne
8. Jazz Toni Morrison
9. The Wasteland T.S. Eliot (Poetry)
10. The House of Mirth Edith Wharton
12. Breakfast of Champions Kurt Vonnegut
13. The Princess Bride William Goldman
14. Infinite Jest David Foster Wallace
15. Fear of Flying Erica Jong
16. Fahrenheit 451 Ray Bradbury
17. A Streetcar Named Desire Tennessee Williams (Play)
18. The Complete Poems Emily Dickinson (Poetry)
19. Where the Wild Things Are Maurice Sendak (Children’s Book)
20. What we talk About… Raymond Carver (Short Stories)
21. Junky William S Burroughs
22. The Poisonwood Bible Barbara Kingsolver
23. The Village David Mamet
24. War all the Time Charles Bukowski (Poetry)
25. Breakfast at Tiffany’s Truman Capote
26. The Man with the Golden Arm Nelson Algren
27. The Complete Maus Art Spiegelman (Graphic Novel)
28. Catch 22 Joseph Heller
29. A Heart So White Javier Marias
30. Blue of Noon Georges Bataille
31. Midnight’s Children Rushdie, Salman
32. The Name of the Rose Eco, Umberto
33. The Bone People Hulme, Keri
34. The Master and Marherita Mikhail Bulgakov
35. Like Water for Chocolate Esquivel, Laura
36. The Little Prince Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
37. Les Fleurs du Mal Charles Baudelaire (Poetry)
38. The Second Sex Simone de Beauvoir
39. Suite Française Irène Némirovsky
40. Bonjour Tristesse Françoise Sagan
41. The Leopard Giuseppe di Lampedusa
42. The Prince Niccolò Machiavelli
43. Siddharta Herman Hesse
44. The Lost Honour of Katarina Blum Heinrich Boell (Novella)
45. W.G. Sebald Vertigo
46. Austerlitz W. G. Sebald
47. Things Fall Apart Chinua Achebe
48. A Bend in the River V. S. Naipaul
49. Waiting for the Barbarians J.M. Coetzee
50. Never Let Me Go Kazuo Ishiguro
51. Kafka on the Shore Haruki Murakami
52. Persepolis Marjane Satrapi (Graphic Novel)
53. The Namesake Jhumpa Lahiri
54. Crime and Punishment Fyodor Dostoyevsky
55. A Small Circus Hans Fallada
56. The Tale of Genji Murasaki Shikibu
57. The Lover Marguerite Duras
58. Mario Vargas Llosa The Real Life of Alejandro Mayta
40. Gigi & The Cat Colette
59. To the Lighthouse Virginia Woolf
60. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy John Le Carré
61. Songs of Innocence & of Experience William Blake (poetry)
62. The Turn of the Screw Henry James
63. Tales of the Unexpected Roald Dahl (Short Stories)
64. Collected Poems Judith Wright (poetry)
65. The Female Eunuch Germaine Greer
66. My Brilliant Career Miles Franklin
67. Songlines Bruce Chatwin
68. Monkey Grip Helen Garner
69. Gigi & The Cat Colette

18.03. Bookclubs, real and virtual

I love my book club.
I’ve mentioned it before. But every month I think how lucky I am.
12 boisterous women, all different ages and viewpoints. We’ve come to know each other well, and most of the afternoon is devoted to sipping wine and catching up on the month’s shenanigans. But we do discuss the book. We’ve been going for 6 years and have had engagements, babies, breakups, the works- just like in those bookclub novels.
This month, we talked about Marieke Hardy’s You’ll Be Sorry When I’m Dead which I reviewed here.

The general consensus- enjoyable but superficial. Being in Melbourne, it was interesting to be reading about such a colourful Melbourne identity. Listening to the girls, there are certainly some very colourful stories floating around about Marieke that have not been printed in the book. It also seems that publishing the book has sent massive waves through Marieke’s circle of friends.
A wonderful book for a gossipy afternoon in the shade of a friends back yard.

I’d love top hear about other bookclubs out there. The ratio of gossip to books and the favourite books you’ve read…