Post Script: Chamber Music – Doris Grumbach

Reflective, with a quiet voice.

Chamber Music

Chamber Music

A Novel

Doris Grumbach

Open Road Integrated Media

Open Road Media

ISBN: 9781497676701

 

 

Description:

In her later years, a woman reflects on her marriage, her stifled passions, and her life.

 

At age ninety, Caroline Maclaren, widow of the prominent composer Robert Maclaren, finally decides to tell her own story. “Perhaps the time was not right to do it before,” she remarks. But now she takes pen to paper, reliving her sheltered girlhood, her chilly marriage to a brilliant man, and—perhaps above all—the melancholy solitude in which she has lived nearly all her life. It was only when her husband fell ill that Caroline found fulfilling companionship with Anna, Robert’s caretaker.

 

This masterful tale of loneliness and of passion late in life is widely considered to be Grumbach’s finest work. Bittersweet, touching, and profoundly resonant, Chamber Music is captivating.

 

 

My View:

This narrative is very touching, reflective and paints a sad picture of life, a limited life, for women in the early 1900’s. Choices are narrow, navigated by social status, wealth and the husband’s career… and it was not the “done thing” to share, to discuss feelings and personal insights, discretion was imperative – discretion which really equalled suffer in silence. “Secrets were surely no better kept than they are now, but they lived quietly, under the breath. They never appeared in public print or were reported by professional gossips on the airwaves…this we called decorum and we lived securely under its warm protection.”

 

However this is not a negative story – it is one told quietly as if in deep reflection, of a life mostly spent selflessly bent to the will of others but a story that does ultimately rejoice in a union of likeminded souls.

 

Along the way Grumbach make some very pertinent points regarding the writing of autobiographies (though this isn’t one). She talks about timing, about aging. “Old age is a freeing agent. No one should write of her life until the witnesses and acquaintances, family and lovers, are dead…So what one tells is unavailable to verification or correction.” I agree, after all aren’t we the interpreters of our own life? I think so. We don’t need to be challenged on our personal perspectives, they belong to the individual.

 

 

Discovering Your Own Backyard.

Wine Tour - Surfers Point, Margaret River - Canapes and Champagne before the movies.

Wine Tour – Surfers Point, Margaret River – Canapes and Champagne before the movies.

During the week we were very fortunate to be able to experience an indulgent winery tour that concluded with tickets to the outdoor movies and pizza and wine under the stars  (a  wonderful Christmas gift, thankyou A & J!) and a drive home in a jag! Fantastic! What a great experience. We had the best day – and night.

Despite living in this winery region for the past 5 or so years it is easy to become enmeshed in your own small life and to forget what is out there in the greater world, just waiting to be explored.   It was refreshing to be reminded of just what a beautiful spot Margaret River is and to visit the town as a tourist is mind opening -this region is truly spectacular and there are so many different “experiences” on offer.

The tour was booked through the Margaret River Visitors Centre; travel was by Go In Style Luxury Tours (a great way to see the sights, Allan and Peter have lots of local knowledge and are friendly and helpful). We began our tour with an insiders guide to wine making at the beautiful Watershed Premium Wines – thank you, we had an excellent time being escorted round the property, seeing where and how the wine is made and then a fantastic tasting session where we discussed the virtues of the wines and which foods best matched the particular style of wine we were tasting.  Our guide was so knowledgeable and friendly, you can really tell when someone loves their job! Watershed Cellar Door – great wines and magnificent buildings! I would love to come back again and have lunch on the deck overlooking the dam and the vineyards.

 

We then headed to the magnificent Voyager Estate Premium Winery, what magnificent gardens! Spectacular!  And I have heard their High Teas are excellent – but book ahead  if you want to avail yourself of this treat.

IMG_2699

Then back into the car and off to the beach (Surfers Point) for canapés and champagne.

IMG_2732

And then:

Movies , starters, wine and pizza at Cape Mentelle Winery – fabulous.

 

DSC_7985_website

What a great day and night!

Post Script: I Was Here – Gayle Forman

This is a book that should be on the reading lists of every high school and stocked by every public library. It should be read by every book club.

I Was Here

I Was Here

Gayle Foreman

Simon & Schuster

ISBN: 9781471124396

 

Description:

From the bestselling author of If I Stay – this summer’s YA blockbuster film.

 

This characteristically powerful novel follows eighteen-year-old Cody Reynolds in the months following her best friend’s shocking suicide.

 

As Cody numbly searches for answers as to why Meg took her own life, she begins a journey of self-discovery which takes her to a terrifying precipice, and forces her to question not only her relationship with the Meg she thought she knew, but her own understanding of life, love, death and forgiveness.

 

A phenomenally moving story, I Was Here explores the sadly all-too-familiar issue of suicide and self-harm, addressing it in an authentic way with sensitivity and honesty.

 

 

 

My View:

I am a recent convert to the YA genre and it is because of novels like this that I have been convinced to extend my reading habits to embrace this style of powerful narrative. And powerful this is; through embraceable characters on a journey of healing after tragedy we are forced to think about a subject that is largely taboo or hidden in contemporary society – teenage suicide. I Was Here peels away and discards the layers of shame and myth surrounding teenage depression and suicide and opens a door for meaningful discussion – a problem shared is …an opportunity to create or at least move toward positive change. Dealing with depression isn’t easy but there are avenues to explore to assist all those concerned, you just have to take that first step – a simple discussion with someone who can help or who can direct you to help. If this book does no more than open a dialogue about these issues then it has succeeded; that this novel is engaging, well written, intelligent and insightful without being morbid, maudlin or depressing is a credit to the author’s talent. Read it. Just read it.

 

 

Post Script: The Maxwell Sisters – Loretta Hill

Choc ‘o block full of local delights – a must read for travellers, wine lovers and readers of rural romance. Come explore the Margaret River Region with me. I love a book sited in my region.

The Maxwell Sisters

The Maxwell Sisters

Loretta Hill

Random House Australia Pty Ltd

Bantam Australia

ISBN: 9780857984296

 

Description:

From the author of the bestselling The Girl in Steel-Capped Boots comes a heart-warming romantic comedy about three extraordinary women on a journey to find love and rediscover family. All families have their problems. No more so than the Maxwell’s of Tawny Brooks Winery. Situated in the heart of the Margaret River wine region, this world-renowned winery was the childhood home to three sisters, Natasha, Eve and Phoebe. Today all three women are enmeshed in their city lives and eager to forget their past – and their fractured sibling relationships. Until Phoebe decides to get married at home . . . Now the sisters must all return to face a host of family obligations, vintage in full swing and interfering in-laws who just can’t take a hint. As one romance blossoms and others fall apart, it seems they are all in need of some sisterly advice. But old wounds cut deep. Somehow, the Maxwell sisters must find a way back to one another – or risk losing each other forever.

 

My View:

This delightful read takes us a road of discovery literally and physically: discover the romantic Margaret River Wine region – host to so many great wineries, the perfect place for weddings, the perfect place to explore the regions many beautiful caves, beaches, forests and amazing sunsets. Enjoy gourmet and organic foods, sweet delights. And enjoy reading this book – it is such a bargain; you get a little bit of romance with a very satisfying ending, a lot of local wine making knowledge (thanks to Ben at Blind Corner Wines) and of course a tour of this spectacular region. Sit back, enjoy.

I love a book situated in my region!

 

Sunset -Gracetown - The Bay, Margaret River Region, Western Australia

Sunset -Gracetown – The Bay, Margaret River Region, Western Australia

 

 

 

Interview With Helen Garner: This House of Grief – Melbourne Writers Festival/ABC 2014.

 

After reading the book This House of Grief by Helen Garner I was directed to this interesting interview with the author which was recorded by the ABC at the Melbourne Writers Festival in 2014. (Thanks Tracey at Carpe Librum  for alerting me to this.)

 

This was an interesting book, an interesting interview and I can see this come to  life on screen…so many interesting facets…characters and procedures.

 

 

 

http://www.abc.net.au/tv/bigideas/stories/2014/10/01/4098308.htm

 

Post Script: House of Grief, The Story of A Murder Trial – Helen Garner

 Evidence versus character study – the human element.

House of Grief

This House of Grief

The Story of a Murder Trial

Helen Garner

Text Publishing

ISBN: 9781922079206

 

Description:

On the evening of 4 September 2005, Robert Farquharson, a separated husband, was driving his three sons home to their mother when his car plunged into a dam. The boys, aged ten, seven, and two, drowned. Was this an act of deliberate revenge or a tragic accident? The court case became Helen Garner’s obsession. She was in the courtroom every day of Farquharson’s trial and subsequent retrial, along with countless journalists and the families of both the accused and his former wife.

In this utterly compelling book, Helen Garner tells the story of a man and his broken life. At its core is a search for truth that takes author and reader through complex psychological terrain. Garner exposes, with great compassion, that truth and justice are as complex as human frailty and morality.

 

Part of a nonfiction tradition that began with Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood and continues in the works of Janet Malcolm, Erroll Morris, and others.

 

Helen Garner, born in 1942, is the author of numerous books of fiction and nonfiction. Her most recent novel The Spare Room was published to critical acclaim in 2010.

 

My View: 

This is an intelligent, unbiased and compelling account of the courtroom trial and proceedings against a father charged with murdering his three sons; the subject matter is heartbreaking, confronting and disturbing. Garner’s account is very readable; without jargon and huge amounts of legalese that allows this courtroom drama to be very accessible and at the same time, mesmerising – who doesn’t want to know what actually happened, why it happened and how? I think are all interested in how other people’s live their lives and cases regarding the death of children, which while particularly harrowing are somehow still appealing in a ghoulish way; the deaths of these children seem to affect us all, we respond emotively to this narrative and the reader is invested in the outcome of the trial and its effects on those involved.

 

Garner supplies intimate portraits of the families; their grief, their backgrounds, support networks and how they appear and respond to questioning in court. Garner interviews some of those concerned. Garner sits through the entire trial and retrial listening to the facts presented, the legal arguments and adds her own interpretation of the events and tries to discover the truth. Garner handles the subject matter and the court procedure with sensitivity and humanity. At no point did I perceive any preconceptions or prejudice in the sharing and retelling of this story – Garner simply has a desire to understand what happened and why. A desire that is left unsated. If you sat in the courtroom during the trials or just read this book you will have an opinion, a reaction to this tragedy but have no explicit definitive understanding of the events of that night that lead to the death of 3 young boys. Garner quotes Janet Malcom (in Malcom’s magisterial work The Journalist and the Murderer) – a quote which precisely sums up this court room experience “Jurors sit there presumably weighing evidence but in actuality they are studying character.” I am so pleased Australia no longer has a death penalty. I am pleased I have not had to sit on a jury, what a huge responsibility.

 

Read and be affected by this intriguing narrative.

Post Script: Monday’s Lie – Jamie Mason

Your cup will be filled to the brim with tension and menacing atmosphere.

Monday's Lie

Monday’s Lie

Jamie Mason

Gallery, Threshold, Pocket Books

Gallery Books

ISBN: 9781476774459

 

Description:

From the acclaimed author of the “ripping good” (The New York Times) debut novel Three Graves Full comes a new thriller about a woman who digs into her unconventional past to confirm what she suspects: her husband wants her dead.

 

Dee Aldrich rebelled against her off-center upbringing when she married the most conventional man she could imagine: Patrick, her college sweetheart. But now, years later, her marriage is falling apart and she’s starting to believe that her husband wants her gone…for good.

 

Haunted by memories of her late mother Annette, a former covert operations asset, Dee reaches back into her childhood to resurrect the lessons and “spy games” in which she learned memory tricks and, most importantly, how and when to lie. But just as she begins delving into her past to determine the course of the future, she makes a discovery that will change her life: the money that her mother left behind. Now, Dee must investigate her suspicions before it’s too late and untangle conspiracy from coincidence, using her mother’s advice to steer her through the blind spots. The trick, in the end, will be in discovering if a “normal life” is really what she wanted at all.

 

With pulse-pounding prose and atmospheric settings, Monday’s Lie is a thriller that delivers more of the “Hitchcockian menace” (Peter Straub) that made Three Graves Full a critical hit. For fans of the Coen brothers or Alexander McCall Smith, this is a book you won’t want to miss.

 

My View:

What a great read! I recommend pencilling an appointment in your diary (give yourself a few hours, you deserve it) and read this fast paced and addictive thriller – you won’t be disappointed. This has all the elements that I love in a thriller – characters that could become your friends (I especially loved the echo of the mother’s voice, instructing her children, showering them with love, teaching them how to be safe…). The prose is engaging and tense, with a hint of mystery and drama that keeps you turning the pages. There is no gratuitous blood shed or forensic analysis here; this narrative relies on its plot, is well developed characters, its fast pace and sense of misgiving and foreboding to engage the reader- perfect! Read and enjoy.

Read Along With Me – The Indies 2015 Shortlisted Titles

I have decided to set myself a reading challenge – to read the books shortlisted by the Independent Books Sellers –  for the The Indies Book Awards 2015. I don’t know that I will  able to read all before the winners are announced but I will  give it a try!  A few I have read in the recent past…some are now sitting on my kitchen table expecting to be picked up and loved very soon. Join me and post your reviews. Read one …or one category or read them all.

More info here:

 

THE INDIE BOOK AWARDS 2015 SHORTLIST ANNOUNCEMENT

 

Every December the 170+ independent Australian booksellers that make up Leading Edge Books take stock of the year in books and nominate their favourite Australian titles for the Indie Book Awards shortlist. The shortlist falls into four categories – fiction, non-fiction, debut fiction and children’s and YA books.

 

The Indie Book Awards shortlists for 2015 are as follows:

 

FICTION SHORTLIST:

When the Night Comes by Favel Parrett (Hachette Australia)

Amnesia by Peter Carey (Penguin Books Australia)

Golden Boys by Sonya Hartnett (Penguin Books Australia) 

The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion (Text Publishing)

 

NON- FICTION SHORTLIST:

This House of Grief by Helen Garner (Text Publishing)

Bush by Don Watson (Penguin Books Australia)

Where Song Began by Tim Low (Penguin Books Australia)

Cadence by Emma Ayres (ABC Books, HarperCollins Publishers Australia)

 

CHILDREN’S & YA SHORTLIST:

The 52-Storey Treehouse by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton (illus)(Pan Macmillan Australia)

Pig the Pug by Aaron Blabey (Scholastic Australia)

Withering-By-Sea by Judith Rossell (ABC Books, HarperCollins Publishers Australia)

Laurinda by Alice Pung (Black Inc. Publishing)

 

DEBUT FICTION SHORTLIST:

Lost & Found by Brooke Davis (Hachette Australia)

Foreign Soil by Maxine Beneba Clark (Hachette Australia)

The Strays by Emily Bitto (Affirm Press)

After Darkness by Christine Piper (Allen & Unwin)

 

Judges from the Leading Edge group of booksellers will select the Indie Book Award winner of each category and the Indie Book Awards overall winner is voted on by the Leading Edge group as a whole.

 

The Indie Book Awards category winners and the Indie Book Awards overall winner for 2015 will be announced at an event in the Sydney CBD on Wednesday 25 March.