Post Script: Billabong Bend – Jennifer Scoullar

Jennifer, If I was an artist I would be able to paint landscapes based on your words they are so visual!

 Billabong Bend

Jennifer Scoullar

Penguin Books Australia

Michael Joseph

ISBN: 9781921901935

 

 

Description:

For Nina Moore, the rare marshland flanking the beautiful Bunyip River is the most precious place on earth. Her dream is to buy Billabong Bend and protect it forever, but she’s not the only one with designs on the land. When her childhood sweetheart Ric returns home, old feelings are rekindled, and Nina dares to dream of a future for both of them on the river. But a tragic death divides loyalties and threatens to tear apart their fledgling romance.

 

This star-crossed rural romance sets Nina, a floodplains grazier, and Ric, a traditional cotton farmer, on a heart-rending collision course, amid the beauty of northern NSW.

 

My View:

 This is the first book I have read that is written by Jennifer Scoullar and I can understand why her books are so popular; Jennifer’s love of the Australian bush and wildlife is obvious, her passion for conservation is contagious and her narrative flows easily and with characters that are empathetic and likeable.

 

I was intrigued by the voice of Freeman and his stories of the river – told so beautifully and meaningfully, I could listen to more.  I learned more about Australian flora and fauna then I did in high school biology and absorbed it so much more easily than sitting in a classroom. Jennifer Scoullar has found a wonderful way to share her passions with the wider community in such an absorbing story that holds life lessons for all to learn.  A relaxed and easy read, poetic and visual – beautifully written, the landscape vivid and alive.

 

This star-crossed rural romance sets Nina, a floodplains grazier, and Ric, a traditional cotton farmer, on a heart-rending collision course, amid the beauty of northern NSW.

Post Script: What Came Before – Anna George

What Came Before

Anna George

Penguin Books Australia

Viking

ISBN: 9780670077731

 

Description:

‘My name is David James Forrester. I’m a solicitor. Tonight, at 6.10, I killed my wife. This is my statement.’

 

David sits in his car, sick to his stomach and barely able to order his thoughts, but determined to record his statement of events. His wife, Elle, hovers over her lifeless body as it lies on the laundry floor of the house they shared. David thinks back on their relationship – intimate, passionate, intense – and what led to this violent endpoint. Elle traces their shared past as well and her version of events gradually reveals how wrong she was about the man she’d loved.

 

Dark, atmospheric and gripping, What Came Before is a stunning literary thriller about the risks you take when you fall in love.

 

My View:

After reading this book the hardest question I must ask myself is which part of me responds to this book and therefore determines how the review will be written; is it the view point of a Women’s Studies Graduate (B Soc Sc), is it the view point of a once upon a time worker in a Women’s Refuge, is it the viewpoint of a worker in the Film and Television Industry, is the view point of a passionate crime fiction/psychological thriller reader or the view point of a modern mature woman who has experienced some of the manipulation and violence described in this novel? I think the answer to this question is a complicated one but I guess I will write a little from all perspectives and maybe a whole lot about how I responded to this brilliant expose of domestic violence and *limerence which coincidentally is the title of the film Elle writes in this novel – her story one of a of life imitating film… the script Dave helped to create.

 

Anan George writes a compelling narrative about spinning out of control with the giddiness of love; the type of love written about in romance books, portrayed on the big and little screen, of intense attachments and the willingness to suspend any doubts or faults of the person you attach the limerence to- besotted, infatuated, devoted…in love… doesn’t begin to describe the intensity of the feeling that you need to be reciprocated. You cannot survive without your partner and when cracks in the relationship start to show you work hard to cover them up and believe you can help mend these ugly traits.  You ignore the little warnings, hairs that rise on the back of your neck, the words spoken harshly or loudly, the grip on your arm… the simmering below the surface barely controlled violence you can feel – you tell yourself you can change them (you can’t), you blame yourself for causing the black moods (you didn’t), you look for excuses to tell yourself or try to placate the violator and try and diffuse any anger before it explodes; you become responsible for his rage (how can that be?). Eventually the limerence fades and you are stuck in a relationship that most find hard to escape without help – and the violator has already done a really good job of isolating you from your friends and support networks – work and personal and has brow beaten your self-esteem to a tatter, all that is left is an unravelling thread…Such is the love Elle feels for Dave. Such is the damage he inflicts upon her.

 

To say this is a powerful emotional read is an understatement. To say this is a powerful psychological thriller is simply stating the truth. Anna George generates such authentic voices in the voices of Dave and of Elle; the script between them, internalised and spoken is so potent and accurate the hairs on the back of my neck were standing up!  These two characters are intricately and vibrantly drawn.

 

Thorough this narrative we experience some very poignant revelations and some very clever use of stories within the story; Elle reads a book by Katherine Hepburn who painfully disclosures her own sad relationship with Spencer Tracey – a love that diminished her sense of self; “after almost three decades with Spencer Tracy, the great Kate hadn’t known why she stayed with him. She hadn’t known his feelings for her. But she’d tended to him happily and tried hard not to ruffle him. She’d even tried to forsake some of her best qualities because she suspected he didn’t like them. Because what they had, for her at least, was bliss.” Elle eventually recognises that she too has surrendered her own sense of self to appease her husband and subdue the menace that lives within him. Her film now imitates the life she now has – of two dancers out of sync, out of step… involved in a dangerous dance.

Elle’s life, like so many others, is one where domestic violence is a lesson learned firsthand. As Elle states; “She was taught nothing of the risks posed by those who claim to love you, the risks that manifest at night in family kitchens, or after the party. It would have helped, she thought, if someone had explained the warning signs: the mood swings and outbursts. And what they were; covert attempts to control. Then she could have had a language and a context for how she felt today. Better she would have been forewarned.” Thanks Anna George for opening up this dialogue, for giving us words and language and emotions and consequences that enable such conversations to be had.

 

Control…treating women as objects, possessions, using violence, threats, manipulation and abuse; physical, sexual and psychological (and in some cases economic control over) are all part of the bag of tricks used to control others (usually women). As Reg (retired Queen’s Counsel) states to Dave “You cannot kill your wife because you have lost control of her…And we cannot continue to blame women for their death.”… “I gather you were hoping for reconciliation and she was being difficult? What precisely did she say or do?”Reg suggests it is preferable to face the consequences than hide from them…no chance. Dave cannot take any control or responsibility for his actions. It is always someone else’s fault. “She made me….”

 

Back to the book- a stunning cast, a wonderfully complex plot, a few twists and turns and a surprise ending; drama, tragedy, love, marriage, death, violence- real and perceived …dark and atmospheric, this book has it all and shares it’s story powerfully and honestly.

 

 

 

*Limerence is an involuntary state of mind which results from a romantic attraction to another person combined with an overwhelming, obsessive need to have one’s feelings reciprocated. The psychologist Dorothy Tennov coined the term “limerence” in her 1979 book Love and Limerence: The Experience of Being in Love to describe the concept that had grown out of her work in the mid-1960s, when she interviewed over 500 people on the topic of love.[1]

More recently, limerence has been defined in relation to obsessive compulsive disorder as “an involuntary interpersonal state that involves intrusive, obsessive, and compulsive thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that are contingent on perceived emotional reciprocation from the object of interest”.[2] Limerence has also been defined in terms of the potentially inspirational effects and the relationship to attachment theory, which is not exclusively sexual, as being “an involuntary potentially inspiring state of adoration and attachment to a limerent object involving intrusive and obsessive thoughts, feelings and behaviors from euphoria to despair, contingent on perceived emotional reciprocation” Attachment theory emphasizes that “many of the most intense emotions arise during the formation, the maintenance, the disruption, and the renewal of attachment relationships”.[4] It has been suggested that “the state of limerence is the conscious experience of sexual incentive motivation” during attachment formation: “a kind of subjective experience of sexual incentive motivation”[5] during the “intensive…pair-forming stage”[6] of human affectionate bonding. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Limerence

 

 

 

Post Script: Let Her Go – Dawn Barker

Intense, fast moving with contemporary social issues, a great read.

Let Her Go

Dawn Barker

Hachette Australia

Hachette Australia

ISBN: 9780733632228

 

 

Description:

How far would you go to have a family? What would you hide for someone you love?

 

Confused and desperate, Zoe McAllister boards a ferry to Rottnest Island in the middle of winter holding a tiny baby close to her chest, terrified that her husband will find her or that her sister will call the police.

 

Years later, a teenage girl is found on the island, unconscious and alone.

 

When she recovers and returns home, she overhears her parents discussing her past and the choices that they’ve made. Their secrets, slowly revealed, will shatter more than one family.

 

Let Her Go is a gripping, emotionally charged story of family, secrets and the complications of love. Part thriller, part mystery, it will stay with you long after you close the pages wondering…What would you have done?

 

 

My View:

Have you ever read a book where from the very beginning you go “oh no, something terrible is going to happen, I can just feel it?” This is one of those books; from the very first page I was hooked and I was on hyper alert, I just knew this narrative was not going to end well.  I was conflicted, I was so engaged with the narrative, with the characters, with the plot lines but at the same time I really didn’t want to turn the next page and discover that the “worst” had indeed happened. I read about one hundred pages and had to take a break; I needed an emotion free few days before I could pick this up again and complete the read.

 

And what a read it is – as with Ms Barker’s earlier book, Fractured, the characterisations and psychological profiling are superb. Ms Barker weaves an intricate plot that presents the reader with many contemporary social issues to consider and to place one’s self in the characters situations and wonder “what would I do/have done, would I do things differently?”

 

The pace is fast, the action and drama intense and personal and yet so easily identifiable with situations in our own lives or the lives of people we know and love it breaks your heart.  After finishing this book my only regret is that I will not be able to attend the Perth launch of this fantastic book.  Bravo Dawn Barker, I hope the launch goes brilliantly.

 

 

My View:

 

Drum Roll…..The Winner is

 

For the first time, out of a selection of 10 finalists, the Documentary Australia Foundation Award for Australian Documentary awarded a generous cash prize of $10,000 to acknowledge excellence in documentary production.  The winner of the Documentary Australia Foundation Award went to 35 Letters.

“The winning documentary is an inventive and deeply moving account of 31-year-old Melbourne writer Angelique Flowers, who is given only months to live, and the different ways in which she and her family face her impending death,” said DAF Award for Australian Documentary Jury Member Dr Mitzi Goldman.

“Unflinchingly, this film shows us Angelique’s desperate search for a way to die with dignity – one made all the more difficult by her parents opposing belief that she should die as God intended, and her sibling’s determination to help her die as she chooses, even though it is against the law.  Dealing with difficult subject matter that is universal in its urgency and relevance, the film tells a very personal story in an artistic and honest style that delicately balances personal suffering with the larger ethical and moral questions posed by voluntary euthanasia. This is a brave and confronting attempt to bring a subject rarely discussed in Australia back into the public arena.” ( extract courtesy of Sydney Film Festival 2014)