Maxine Beneba Clarke was born in Australia to parents from a distant background of Africa, whose ancestors were taken as slaves, ended up in the Caribbean, then more recently in, the UK and finally, back to her parents here in Australia. Judging from the stories that she tells of growing up in suburban Sydney, she’s a bit younger than me, and that makes these stories even worse for me. The way she was treated, for being a girl of colour, in a very white society. I hated these stories, and I can only hope that I was never part of the nasty racism, the casual comments or the lack of understanding that anyone not caucasian has been through. And it’s not over. This is not a thing of the 80s or 90s, it still happens. This is an important memoir, an important book that we should read, and I can only hope it will make society more compassionate.
This is not at all the type of book I read – I have very little interest in the Port Arthur Massacre or looking into the killer’s background of mother. I read this because it was on the Stellar Prize long list and I have put my mind to reading all the books that got there – partly to be contributing a bit to the pocket of contemporary female authors, and partly because I do love me a list. Anyhow, I thought that this was going to be a look at the way the media in general treated the massacre. Instead, it was essentially a critique of another book – Born or Bred by Robert Wainwright and Paola Totaro – a book which used parts of Martin Bryant’s mother’s journals allegedly without her permission.
I suspect that this type of enquiry is important – that a book which has been written with questionable ethics should be challenged and there should be some accountability. I just don’t think that I needed to read a whole book about it. It’s possibly very good academic writing, but it’s just not my cup of tea.
Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Jacob is sixteen, in high school and hating work part-time in his family’s business. He loves his grandfather and all the tall tales that he told of an island with children with amazing powers – floating and being invisible and all sorts. As Jacob has grown, he realises that these are just stories about monsters from a man who fled the Nazis in World War Two. But when his grandfather passes away, Jacob realises that he must investigate this island find out the truth.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I really like the way the author has tied the images in to the narrative and created a strange world – even a lot of parts of the real world are strange and mysterious. I think the audience for this book is probably hard to nail down – if you go too young, it may provoke nightmare material, but it’s not as gory and intense as recent popular YA novels such as the Hunger Games or the like. I definitely want to read on, to more adventures of these strange characters.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (2016) Film Review
After his grandfather’s death, Jacob (Asa Butterfield) and his father Frank (Chris O’Dowd) head to Wales to check out the island that may hold some secrets of his grandfather’s past – and he finds the time loop that contains Miss Peregrine and her home.
After loving the book, I was concerned about the film. But special effects have meant that it has been able to keep the spirit of the book beautifully. It was interesting to see how much the end was changed – unless I remember the end of the book incorrectly, it was extremely different. But I really liked the way the film used the technology to really bring to life the bad guys as well as the talents of the Peculiar Children.
13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher – Book Review
Clay Jensen is a fairly normal, quiet teenager who has suddenly come into possession of a series of cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker, a classmate who has recently completed suicide. The tapes are being passed around the people who Hannah claims played a part in her decision to die. There has been assaults and friendships gone bad, betrayal and loss.
I watched this after watching the series, and it meant that it didn’t have as much impact as I think it may have reading it first would have. I think I spent a lot of time noticing the differences rather than enjoying the book as it unfolded. I think that it is a very troubling story in that it is difficult for a dead person to put the blame of all of their problems on other people – even if those people have done terrible things. I also think that the book only touches on the depth of most characters, and that the series was able to explore things a lot more, which presents its own problems….
13 Reasons Why – TV Review
Because Hannah is no longer there, and we are getting the story through the tapes and through memories, especially those of Clay, the TV show is told in two main ways – partly as a series of flashbacks, and partly as current events in the post-Hannah world. This means that we get to know the characters a lot more, see their flaws and this makes the idea of blame coming from beyond the grave even more problematic. It also makes Hannah more flawed as a character, which I think works well because it de-romanticises her, giving the real sense that her blame is very much her own opinion, and not straight out fact.
There have been a lot of claims, especially since the television series came out and the story has been able to reach a wider audience, that this could set off other people who may be having a tough time and feel that suicide may be an option. This is coming from professionals and I think that they have a very valid position that comes from research and experience. I also think that there are issues, particularly in relation to the way women and girls are seen and treated in society, that are handled very well in the show. It is very much worth watching the documentary, 13 Reasons Why: Beyond the Reasons that plays afterward if you let it carry on automatically on Netflix. I think that the show is flawed, but I think that the show is important, and has importance beyond the original premise. I don’t know what to do about those who may have more difficult issues that are pushed by watching the show, but I feel like perhaps it may help to open up conversations about some of these issues.
Read by Michael York
Finally, I have read this book! I’ve been meaning to for so many years but just kind of haven’t, but I know it is in the same esteem (and somewhat similar style) of 1984. And wow, how wonderful.
So, it is the future, and everything in the world is controlled, from birth to the sleep learning of status and structure, to the set careers and playtime fun through to death and the recycling of the human body. Sex is a normal interaction like conversation, spending time alone is considered freaky, and no one reads. People are bred and conditioned into several groups, from the Alphas who control everything and have the most fun to the Epsilons who are deprived of oxygen during incubation in a test tube (people are decanted, not born. No-one actually carries a baby anymore). And to avoid emotions and anything unpleasant, people take Soma, a drug that can stimulate good things and send people on holidays in their mind.
Bernard is an Alpha who feels that things are not quite right, and when he goes on a holiday to a savage reservation in New Mexico with Lenina, a woman who plays by the ‘normal’ rules of sex and dating, he discovers an Alpha woman who was abandoned there many years ago. She was pregnant, an unacceptable state in society, and has become an alcoholic who sleeps with men to get drink. Her son is now an adult, and Bernard delights in bringing him back to society to be shown off like a trophy, like a novelty, a creature who, despite his recitation of the famous line from Shakespeare’s The Tempest (Oh brave new world that has such people in’t), finds society disgusting and disgraceful.
The one thing I found difficult from the reading of the book by Michael York was the range of accents he (or the producer) chose during the reading. Bernard is Welsh and The Savage and his mother are from the North of England, possibly Birmingham as a couple of examples. This creates a different reading to it which I’m not sure was intended by Huxley, and I wonder if it added a sense of class that changes things. It’s a shame in a way, because I think I would have preferred to have kept it relatively neutral.
What is the purpose of a memoir? Having recently loved Magda Szubanski’s, and also The Hate Race by Maxine Beneba Smith, I found this a tricky one. See, the characters are great, fascinating, unusual, and it’s a strange life the author had, somewhat disconnected to her parents and yet close to them and thus disconnected from those around her. Yet I felt like I needed something more – some kind of theme, or a through line, or something.
It’s beautiful and yet disconnected. I enjoyed it, but I get the feeling that there will be a lot of people out there who will really love it.
Read by James Franco
I had no idea what this book was about, just that I’ve been meaning to read it for years. I knew it was a classic, and I knew it was about war. I did not expect time travelling or aliens or… well, any of that. And wow. It’s pretty hard to describe this book succinctly, but it’s about the bombing of Dresden, about a group of American soldiers who were prisoners of ware and were there for the aftermath, about a man trying to write about it and then… yes, aliens and time travel and etc. etc.
Initially, I was disappointed that it was read by James Franco. He’s okay, but I found his voice a bit monotonous. But, as it went, I found that his voice was prefect for this text – it had the resigned tone of someone who has lived through hell and needs to tell of it, but also kind of can’t. The only issue I had with it as an audio book was I couldn’t get a strong sense of the structure of the story, but I still really loved it.