Book Review: The Spare Room by Helen Garner

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Reading The Spare Room by Helen Garner reminded me very much of reading Glenice Whitting’s Something Missing. Not because of their stories or characters but because I know Glenice and when I read her book, I realised that it was based heavily on and drew extensively from her own life. I don’t know Helen Garner personally at all but I’m starting to wonder how much of her fiction is actually fiction. Almost everything she’s written that is classified as such seems to have a real life twin.

Helen (yes, the main character’s name is Helen – more evidence of a thinly veiled story) has agreed to host her Sydney friend, Nicola, in the spare room of her Melbourne home while she undergoes three weeks of cancer treatments. Nicola has always been a bit flighty and end-stage bowel cancer isn’t going to change that. She’s already done the chemo, the radiation; it hasn’t worked. So now she’s placing her faith in the Theodore Institute where they intravenously pump her full of Vitamin C, have her hold electrodes while in an ozone sauna and perform cupping, all to force the “toxins” out. Nicola’s immense pain is proof that it’s working, they say. Continue reading

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Book Review: The Interpretation of Murder by Jed Rubenfeld

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Jed Rubenfeld is a modern-day Renaissance man. A professor of law at Yale University who has also taught at Stanford and Duke, he is an expert on constitutional law, privacy and the First Amendment. He studied theatre and Shakespeare at Julliard and wrote a thesis on Sigmund Freud during his senior undergraduate year at Princeton. He is also the author of six books, two of which are novels. It seems as though there’s nothing he can’t do. If I didn’t admire him so much, I’d be horribly jealous. (Well, maybe I can do both at the same time.)

The Interpretation of Murder was his first novel. It’s a very intricate weaving of true events and characters with fictional events and characters. Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Sandor Ferenczi, Ernest Jones, Abraham Brill – all real life figures in the early 1900s movement of psychoanalysis, which was new, controversial and in competition with neurology – mingle with the fictional Elizabeth Riverford, Dr Stratham Younger, Nora Acton, George and Clara Banwell, Coroner Hugel and Detective Littlemore. There’s a miniature essay at the end of the book clearly outlining what’s real and what’s not and the artistic licence taken, which is a good thing because the blending of them is seamless. Continue reading

Book Review: Messenger (The Shifter War Book 1) by KK Ness

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I don’t normally read fantasy fiction but with a terrific cast of characters and great writing, this is the kind of book that could change anyone’s mind.

Danil is a scavenger in the deadlands (barren for centuries after a widespread scorching event that ended the Great War) that separate the kingdoms of Roldaer and Amas. Danil and his fellow humans live in Roldaer under the rule of King Liam and his numerous magi, powerful sorcerers. Amas is the land of shapeshifters. Born into human form, they gradually discover their true form, basically their spirit animals, and then can transform at will and back again. Continue reading

Book Review: Secret Smile by Nicci French

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This book was so engrossing that I started reading it late one evening and then couldn’t stop. I finished it in one sitting as I kept thinking, “Just one more chapter,” and then not being able to stand not knowing what was going to happen next. By the time I was finished, six hours and 310 pages had gone by and so had most of the night, as well as any opportunity for sleep. Continue reading

Book Review: Kill the Possum by James Moloney

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I was in the middle of reading another book – a long, dense, important but mentally draining book – and decided to take a break and read Kill the Possum, knowing it would be a shorter read, something I could get through quickly. But if I was hoping for an easy read, I was sorely disappointed. This was a hard book to read. Not because of the writing but because of the story. This is every blended family teenager’s worst nightmare. Continue reading

Book Review: The Wife of Martin Guerre by Janet Lewis

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This book was on the English reading list when I was in Year 12 but it wasn’t one of the texts my school selected for us. I’m almost glad because so many of the books we did read have gone on to become my least favourite – maybe it was the books themselves, maybe it was the way they were taught to us but I can’t deny the pattern.

The Wife of Martin Guerre could have been called “The Husbands of Betrande de Rols”. Based on a true story in sixteenth century France, Bertrande is married off at a very early age to the son of a well-to-do local peasant family. She’s too young to take on the duties of a wife so she returns to live with her own family. She’s fourteen when her mother dies and it is deemed an appropriate time to rejoin her husband and take up the role she has long been destined for. Continue reading