Book to Screen: The Gone Girl Guest Review

As a book nerd, I’m always uneasy when a tale I love becomes a movie.   I’ll admit I was really sceptical about the Gone Girl film adaptation, however, upon seeing the trailers and hearing the first critiques, I definitely had to see it.

But I am not a movie nerd. I wouldn’t know the first thing to look at when reviewing a film. So I decided to examine the flick through someone else’s lens: Director and Producer, Regan Wood from Hit 66 Sound & Screen This is his guest review:

Ben Affleck really does have a bum for a chin. Now this may not be the first thing you notice about the film Gone Girl, but as his jaw line does play a part in the story, it will certainly not be the last. In fact, your last thoughts will be the most difficult to predict.

As the bulk of the tale is a riddle wrapped in a mystery, cloaked in a conundrum, it’s hard to mention any details for fear of revealing the more important plot points. You have no doubt seen the trailer: Nick Dunne’s on-the-rocks marriage is put on hold as his wife, Amy, goes missing with signs pointing to foul play. It’s not long before the neighbourhood, spurred on by a spiteful media, begin to suspect the husband of committing the act himself. But like I said, to dig deeper would deprive you of discovering the twists and their counterparts, yourself.

What I can talk freely about is the cast. Whatever you think of our new Batman, he does put in an experienced and worn-thin turn as the suburban husband. If fact, his solid calm and unclear ends, mirror the very pace and sculpture for the film. The bit players, Tyler Perry and Neil Patrick Harris, normally seen as comedians, fill out a committed and melodramatic cast. But it is Rosamond Pike, the preverbal Girl ‘Gone,’ who is the stand out. And, once more, for your own good, I will not brandish any details but to say if she does not receive an Academy nod come February, the system is seriously corrupt.

The real star here is Director, David Fincher. Clearly and wholly the most talented lens man working in Hollywood today. Gone Girl shares DNA with Fincher’s 2006 film Zodiac. There is a stillness and an emptiness that, with the help of Trent Reznor’s haunting score, is punctuated with sharp unease and the sure threat of violence. As a film maker, I have studied his technique avidly, but have neither the capacity nor the patience to recreate it. As this is his sixth book to screen adaptation, authors are no doubt writing tomes with his deft hand in mind.

So, without spoilers or much else really, Gone Girl is worth every cent of your ticket price. It is classically made; no CGI, no explosions, no 3D. This alone is reason enough to spend the 160 minutes soaking in it’s painful and razor edge grip. Go in without expectation. Whatever twists you do predict, and there will be a few, nothing will prepare you for the poisonous hollow of an ending that will stay with you well into the week.

Lost & Found by Brooke Davis

lost n fI recently had to tell my toddler that our beloved family pet had died. I was dreading the conversation, knew it would be coming soon. Our gentle beagle boy was very old, lived a rich and utterly spoiled life, but was riddled with tumours, and we expected it to be any day.

How do you explain death to a child without frightening them? Without confusing them, or, if I’m honest, inviting questions that I had no idea how to answer.

When I told her, I said ‘I have some sad news.’ Told her that he had died last night and that it was ok for us to feel upset because we will miss him.

“Will he go to the vet?”

“He went to the vet darlin, but he was too old to fix.”

“Will we still see him?”

“No.”

“But I love him.”

And that was it. As a child, she was able to articulate in four words, the unfairness and grief of losing someone you love. As adults, we wrap grief in complexities, in conditioning and expectations of how we should feel. We then add remorse… or worse; guilt, and then try to follow a process that allows us to cope. But ultimately, aren’t we thinking the same thing as my little girl? But I love them. It’s not fair. I want to see them again.  

That childish insight is exactly what makes the book Lost and Found so breathtaking and so engrossing. Death through the eyes of pragmatic seven year old Millie Bird. Millie examines death with curiosity and naivety, and when her own father dies, and her mother abandons her in a shopping centre you will want to bundle her into your arms and take care of her.

It’s clever, it’s authentic, and it’s heartbreaking.

Soon Millie crosses paths with two older characters who are struggling to make sense of loss and love, just as much as their little counterpart.

Karl the Touch Typist is eighty seven when he farewells his beloved Evie, and his son kisses him on the cheek, leaving him in a nursing home. Seeking something else, he escapes the home to go in search of meaning and purpose.

Agatha Pantha is eighty two and has confined herself to her house since her husband died. She is eccentric and belligerent, hurling abuse at passers-by and complete strangers. Until she spies a little girl, obviously living alone in a house across the street.

The writing is perfection. You will slip comfortably into the Australian landscape, as Davis sets the scene with the nuances of our urban and rural culture. You will see Millie in your local shopping centre, see Karl clutching a coffee mug in a café you have visited, and hear Agatha screaming insults from a familiar home on a tree lined street in the ‘burbs.

Davis has created a tale that is both hilarious and healing. It makes you ask questions. It immerses you in each character, their memories and their discoveries.

Whilst the concept of loss is woven into each chapter, there is also an underlying theme of humour, self-reflection, and the intricacies of human interaction. It’s as much about living as it is about death, and at the heart of it all are three lovely characters; unlikely friends who take you on a moving journey to find Millie’s Mum… and something else.

In Short: Read with a lump in your throat and a smile on your lips.

Grieving for Dummies… or anyone really.

It’s been over two months since my last post, which has, of course, broken my resolution to write frequently and regularly. But I’ve been finding it hard to write something new. Something to push my last post down from the top of my feed. Somehow it doesn’t feel right to post a new reading recommendation that would sit atop my more important words for my late cousin. It seems flippant to bang on about a book that’s a ‘must read’ and relegate ‘Words for Lori’ a little lower on the page.

I’ve been trying to think of something to write that contributes to the below, which was written in grief, just before the funeral of Lori. A little time has passed, and the grief feels different, but it is still stubbornly there with no sign of abating.

And then I got this text message:

Phone message (3)

A reading recommendation from a group of bereaved parents (one of whom is my best friend, hence the explicit language.) They said the book has helped them with the unimaginable grief of losing a child. “It’s actually really therapeutic and funny too.”

The thing is, I already knew about the book. Lost and Found by Brooke Davis has caused a huge stir in the publishing world (which I am a part of). The author, Davis, was the talk of London Book Fair this year, and the rights to her debut title became the subject of a huge international bidding war.

In real life, the author’s mother died in tragic circumstances, and writing this book was inspired by her loss. In June, during her first media interview with Australian story, she said:

“There’s this idea that grief has a beginning and an end and with it comes all these buzzwords and concepts about stages of grief, like anger and denial and acceptance and closure.

 

“That way of announcing how grief should be makes everyone feels like they’re doing it wrong. And there’s no wrong way – it’s all right.”

So now I am reading her book.  I’m about halfway through, and it is utterly breathtaking…  (Review to come)

It’s made me think more about grief though.  Did you know there is actually a Grieving for Dummies book?  That may sound facetious, but I actually understand the demand for a title like that.  It’s hard to get a handle on grief, and to accept that it will be with you throughout life.  It doesn’t go away, it evolves. The pain of it, perhaps, becomes bearable with time.

Well, that’s my understanding of it anyway.  Yours is most likely different. 

When I was in high school, I had a friend whose father had passed away when she was much younger.  Occasionally she would miss a day of school, and I’d ask her if she was sick. “I’m just grieving for my Dad,” She’d tell me with clarity. Huh?  Didn’t he die, like, ages ago?

Looking back now I amazed that she was so mature, calm and at peace with her grief.  (She obviously has a remarkable Mum!)

And when I heard of the girls who recorded their late sister’s voicemail greeting, just so they could listen to her voice, I thought: ‘god, how torturous.’  But then I found myself trying to remember that same girl’s laugh, her voice, and our conversations: so is the recording in my mind really any different?

In our culture, we are taught about coping.  We value resilience, and courage, and a stoic nature.  We express our sympathy with floral tributes, and poems in the newspaper. In the media, a carefully placed tear on an interviewee’s cheek gets a zoom in.  If the grief becomes too confronting – think sobbing, snot, swearing… let’s break for a commercial while *subject name* gathers themselves.

Personally, I pride myself on keeping it together. So I was mortified at Lu Lu’s funeral when I FULLY snorted (think Daddy Pig) into the microphone while crying through a poem reading! (At least she would have found it an amusing sound!) But why did I feel like I had to ‘cope’ in front of a crowd?

It seems jarring when exposed to another cultural expression of grief on TV. Of screaming, and chest clutching, and falling to the ground while a body, wrapped in cloth is carried above an armful of relatives through dusty streets. Why does it seem so chaotic? Because their grief is not subdued or organised? Perhaps that is the truer way to demonstrate respect for the lost. To show it and let it consume you physically. I know in moments of sheer desperation, behind closed doors I have fallen to the ground. Overcome.

I have wanted to scream in the streets about the unfairness and sorrow. But I’ve been conditioned this way. So I don’t.

So I’m not surprised that Grieving for Dummies exists, because we try to identify the right way, the dignified way to mourn our loss. And everyone’s way is different, and it can be confusing.

The sneaky thing about grief is that it is often tied to other, more paralysing, emotions: guilt, remorse and regret. Until you process and move on from those hurdles, the healing really can’t begin. And don’t be alarmed when grief catches you unawares. In a moment you weren’t expecting to feel it, and there it stabs. Take a breath. Be kind to yourself.

cupcakeFor me, it is grief that makes me find a quiet spot, and share a cupcake with my memories on January 2 every year.  It is grief that makes me hate certain Beatles songs, and love others.  It is grief that gives me nightmares, or warming dreams of childhood games with all my cousins.  It is grief that makes me sip tea from the same special cup each weekend. It is grief that makes me love the smell of Nutrimetics lipstick, and it is grief that makes me hold my breath when looking at a dog collar hanging in the cupboard.

It is grief that makes me write this post, and read that book.

 

Post Script:

In the text message, ‘VSK’ refers to the organisation Very Special Kids, which provides respite and end of life care for families children with life-threatening illnesses.

To read more about Brooke Davis, see the ABC news article I have referenced here.

Saying Goodbye… Words for Lori

On Wednesday 7th May 2014, I told a friend a silly story of my childhood. Of Wizard of Oz Games with my cousins, where I played the Lion because I liked to say ‘put em up,’ ‘put em up.’ Where Carrie played the witch because she was the most skilled method actor, and where Sally played Dorothy, because… well because she was the boss. Each and every time we claimed our roles, and knew our lines. Got into character. And there you were, trotting along on your hands and knees down the stone driveway – the ever-faithful (and speechless) Toto. You were always the ever-faithful, quiet one. The amiable. The kind.

On Wednesday the 7th May 2014, we lost you Lu Lu.

As children we played till the sky grew dark, and our Mums grew cross. Born in ’82 there was just nine months between you and Regan and eight months between Carrie and I; we were closer than just cousins.

You were a sweet toddler, and a warm child with tomato sauce on your cheeks, Cheezel dust on your fingers, and a hyper colour T-Shirt slung over your bathers.

With just one boy in the family, you were often relegated to play the role of Prince Charming or my boyfriend – despite your desire to wear the high heels and fur coats too. While our ‘dating’ play seems a little strange now, at the time, the game meant little more than being ‘grown up’ eating our spaghetti bolognaise at a big table, WITH A CLOTH, and a FLOWER and a CANDLE! During the meal I always pushed your Mum’s spaghetti to the side of the plate, and you did the same to my Mum’s dish. Another Mum’s recipe was simply never the same.

In our twenties we saw each other often. My fondest memories are of us eating deep fried anything, watching terrible horror movies adding our own narration. Bumming smokes, and drinking Bacardi, solving the problems of the world in the cold winter air.

On one of our few ‘kid free’ nights we celebrated a birthday in the city. An apartment on Southbank, a meal of Chinese dumplings, a bucket of cheap wine, and a ghost tour of old Melbourne Gaol. The tour guide (a b-grade actor dressed as prison warden) was interested in our welfare and our experience at the Gaol. Wanted to make it authentic, and spooky and scare our girly pants off. That, and stare at our boobs. You showed your naivety then Lu Lu. While Carrie and I laughed into our palms and briskly tried to escape his weirdness – you asked more questions. Wide eyed, spooked and intrigued. Thankfully you also wore a scarf!

We giggled in fits, as you and Carrie tried on a Ned Kelly mask, staged a bag snatching, arrest, and murder – all in costume (meant for school excursion visitors) until we were politely asked to move on by our pervy, but clock watching, guide.

One of your favourite quotes; just for shits and giggles, explains many of our actions and activities. They weren’t ground-breaking, or law-breaking or trail blazing or unique. But shit… we had some laughs.

When Ella took us all by surprise and entered this world on my birthday, you gave her my name as her middle. Unselfishly, you wished me a happy birthday, while I sat awestruck at your new baby girl, your calm and your love for that little mystery bundle, who had become your everything in just a moment.

The kindness and warmth you demonstrated as a child never waned. As a young woman, you believed in justice, in giving people the benefit of the doubt, and in seeing the good in people – even when they didn’t always deserve it. You were a devoted aunty, niece and sister. You were compromising, gentle, thoughtful and clever.

The last time I saw you, you were pretty, and smiling, and serene. We waxed lyrical on a hot summer’s night about your sister’s happiness, the CFA, destination weddings, our girls, and our futures. You were loved that night, on that special occasion – although I forgot to tell you so.

If I had that evening again, I would have not rushed a goodbye hug. I would have kissed you twice, and held your slender fingers, and told you that you were beautiful, and to take care of yourself, get some rest, and I’ll see you soon. And I would have made sure I did.

I am so sorry Lu Lu. Sorry that I let inconsequential shit get in the way of a phone call or bad Thai takeaway and simple ‘how are ya?’ I’m sorry I didn’t understand just how unwell you were. I’m sorry that I didn’t tell you how much I wanted you to get better.

I’m sorry that I can’t help plan your hen’s night and make you wear a penis tiara. I’m sorry that I can’t make fun of you in a wedding speech, and I’m sorry I don’t know Gavin well because he was so special to you. I’m sorry that you won’t see Ella as a young woman because I know she will make you proud, and I’m sorry you won’t lament your wrinkles, or hold a grandchild, or have too many candles to blow out on a birthday cake. But most of all, I am just sorry. Sorry that your body was too tired and worn out. Sorry that you have gone and we can’t have you back. Sorry to say goodbye. So late.

Happy Birthday to Me… and please vote!

They see Easter is a time for new life right? Well just one year ago, the tiny project that is theBOWreview was born. Yep, its official – my blog is one year old!

And here I am reflecting on the same time last year when I started my long weekend jotting down name ideas for this very blog. I purchased my domain name, chose a WordPress template, started working on an About Me post, and promised myself that this would not be like my other fads in life. This project was a keeper.

In truth though, theBOWreview has been a long time coming. The idea came about some years ago when a friend was going on holiday and she asked me what she should read on the beach. Then I found myself sending her a mini review on everything great I had recently read, and I bloody enjoyed writing it for her. I suspect she ended up just buying a Marian Keyes at the Newslink, but none-the-less, it ignited an idea.

It wasn’t until I couldn’t read every night, that I realised how important books were to me. You see, when I had my baby three years ago, we were blessed with the most adorable, clever and breathtaking night owl that ever graced the planet. We went through around nine months of sleep deprivation. The kind of tiredness only a sleep school patient would understand. Getting up eight times a night, rocking for an hour to be rewarded with a 40 minute cat-nap, when ‘Me Time’ was closing your eyes while on the toilet kind of tired. In fact, my life was such a blur that I didn’t even think about books or how much I missed them. Of course, people recommended books to me, (please god, will they just shut up about Tizzie, fucking, Save our Sleep Hall?) but I was rather tired, cranky and generally too spaced out for any meaningful action such as a library visit.

So it was actually two Easters ago that I was reminded of my love of reading, and the seed of this new baby was sewn. A holiday weekend away from home, not long after being discharged from sleep school ‘training’ (controlled crying with Temazepam for Mummy) and we all had started to get some rest. After such a long time getting by on broken sleep, a nap during the day and 7 hours uninterrupted at night, I was like a 20 year old drinking red-bull at a dance festival grinding away on my jaw.

But what to do during those daytime naps? Yes napping myself was an obvious option, and I definitely opted for it as often as I could. But on this occasion, after checking Facebook for the nineteenth time that hour, I was drawn to the iBookstore on my phone. Reading on a tiny phone screen definitely goes against the grain for me, but there was no bookstore anywhere near our holiday spot, and I was onto my second G&T anyway so couldn’t venture anywhere in a vehicle.

And there I found myself downloading my very first eBook. Now I can’t say my judgement was particularly good at that time: We need to talk about Kevin was probably not the ideal choice for a Mum whose child seemingly had an evil agenda when it came to sleep time, however I read that bastard in a day and a half. Books were back.

THAT look!

THAT look!

 

So as I write this post and reflect on why I started a blog, I think about significant events in my life and how books were intertwined with them.  I’ve always considered the characters in books my friends.  As a child, if you interrupted my reading you copped a death-stare; a look that I still demonstrate to this day if you mess with my lit.

 

 

One day I hope to write a great Australian novel, or the story of someone excellent and inspiring. But right now I don’t have the discipline, plot ideas or will-power to start working on this dream. But the commitment to writing a least a monthly post, and the thrill I get when people have read, it is sustaining me and my creativity for the time being.

And I’m proud that after just a year of fiddling about with this thing, that people are responding, and that I’ve stayed motivated, and that I’ve even worked out what the hell a widget is in WordPress.

I’d be grateful if you’d vote for me in the Best Australian Blogs competition People’s Choice round. The blogs shortlisted in last year’s comp inspired me to take part, and I’ll be honest – my artistic ego would get a huge boost knowing that you like me – even just a little bit when there’s nothing else interesting happening on the interweb.

In Short: Happy birthday to me. Thanks for reading!

Vote for me by following this link:  http://svy.mk/1jn6yQW
I’m listed as theBOWreview (about 3/4 down the page). You can also click on the Best Australian Blogs Logo, as seen in the sidebar above. #bestblogs14

Easter Reading

To me, Easter holidays always meant reading. By this time of year, visits to the beach were futile in the Melbourne climate, relatives began to hibernate after the Christmas and new-year gatherings, and the end of daylight savings had taken the twinkle out the pre-dinner playtime, and summer festival frequencies.

As a girl, I always looked forward to Easter school holidays. There were elements that were a given – a little more interest in RE classes before school finished for the term, the pumping fish ‘n chip shop trade on Good Friday, the customary egg hunt through backyards across the nation, the smell of burnt sultanas under the grill and buttery hot cross buns, and the all-day telecast of the Good Friday Appeal humming away as the soundtrack to the start of your holiday. Each year I pledged some pocket money in the hope that my name would appear in the ticker across the bottom of the screen, or better yet, be read out live by a Home and Away star!

But over and above these, was the opportunity to spend time snuggled up on the couch, or in bed reading. Getting through chapter books; Roald Dahl, the Baby Sitters Club, Paul Jennings, and Sweet Valley High. I spent most of my Easter break reading books. And in fact I still do.

Those four precious days off work, and an inability to visit the shops on Good Friday, offer me savoured reading time, and I look forward to it every year.

So I thought, this year, why not get in touch with the Easter Bunny, and encourage him to give kiddies a book as well as sweet sweet Cadbury Crème Eggs! Fortunately I managed to get hold of his gmail address (he hardly ever checks twitter) and so thought I would share and invite you to send him a letter or picture, letting him know what else you want for Easter.

See the picture above for details on how to receive a letter in the post from the Easter Bunny, and go in the draw to win a kids reading pack by writing the best message. (prizes drawn and announced on my facebook page so please LIKE!)

In Short: Ask the bun-man for a book as well as some chocci!

The site of the last execution in Iceland, where Agnes was beheaded.

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

Burial RitesYet again a book has sent me falling down a rabbit hole.  I am fascinated, engrossed, compelled to find out more.  More about Agnes Magnusdottir, the last woman to be executed in Iceland in 1830. And here I am google imaging her, scouring Wikipedia, and historical records in search for an image, a grainy photo, a look at her handwriting or court records, or something more to put a face to the main character in Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites.

So powerful is this debut novel, that I feel as though I know Agnes’ intimate and innermost thoughts, and at the time of reading I felt the icy chill of the inhospitable country, the heartbreak, the indignity and isolation.

Of course I love a good piece of historical fact-ion; a reimagining of true events that occurred over 180 years ago.  After visiting Iceland as a mere 17 year old, Hannah Kent was inspired to research and interpret the life and execution of Agnes, who was sentenced to death for her part in the gory murder of two men on a desolate farm.

While awaiting execution, Agnes was housed in the rural home of an official, Jon Jonsson, and his wife and daughters.  In Kent’s novel, the family is horrified to have a murderer in their midst, and are scared and disgusted at times by her presence.  However, her sheer human-ness and vulnerability fascinates Jonsson’s wife Margret, and soon the family are conflicted by an unavoidable sympathy, and a begrudging like for Agnes the woman.

There are moments in this book that are truly breathtaking.  Details of the brutal murder emerge gradually, as do the hardships of Agnes entire life.  The end will have you utterly convinced that Kent was there, 183 years ago on that chilly hillside.  And a simple gesture made towards Agnes in her final hours will have you sobbing for its simple and divine meaning.

Kent spent much of her life planning and researching what is a remarkable and moving novel.  I am envious of writers like her: people who have the ability to pick away at facts, and find their own interpretation of a story.  But to tell that story with such truisms and authenticity that it is hard to dispute the reality of it.  So Hannah, I am supremely jealous of your talent, but moreover grateful that you have slaved away to perfect and deliver such a gem to hungry readers like me!

In Short: As crisp and breathtaking as the chilly landscape of Iceland.

 

Picture above: The site of the last execution in Iceland, where Agnes was beheaded.

Photo Credit: http://bit.ly/1hFAO8V

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

dr sleepMy husband is a newspaper man.  He subscribes to his reading material of choice both digitally and in print.  Nothing makes him happier than hearing the thunk of the cling wrapped paper hit our driveway on a Saturday morning.

He reads the papers from cover to cover, but he starts at the back pages for sport.  He knows every sporting result, every match up, every ladder.  He also knows world events, politics, and what’s hot and not this week.  He reads book reviews to get ideas for me, hates Andrew Bolt, and has a special patronising voice that he reserves for reading out the guilt laden and superficial advice from the Body & Soul section.

On Sunday, he savours the broadsheet.  In the morning he uses it as a plate to eat his egg sandwich, yolk and salt dripping on the parts he’s already gotten to; and at night he pours over the extras and inserts while elbowing me in bed as he tries to manoeuvre the 3 metre pages.

So while I can say my husband is an avid reader, it’s normally The Age annual footy guide that takes pride of place on his bedside table.

Last night I went to bed late.  I expected him to be snuggled up with the light off, snoring gently after a hell of a week.  However there he was, legs tucked up to his chin, no blanket, eyes boring holes into the crisp white pages of Stephen King highly anticipated new book.

When he finally looks up, his eyes are wide and he’s bitten his lip.

Holy shit, this book is getting good.’

When I first saw the movie The Shining, there were so many creepy elements that affected me.  The dead twins in the hallway, the trademark Kubrick direction, the 70s bowl haircut on the kid who spoke to his finger, and none more than the hideously sexy ghost who seduces ‘Heres Johnny’ John Torrance and then turns into a naked rotting corpse in his arms.

And it’s only moments into reading the sequel Doctor Sleep that this ghoulish character returns and you’re reminded that you’re back reading the master of the supernatural genre.

The tale picks ups decades after the horror at the Overlook Hotel took place, with little Danny (Doc) Torrance all grown up and battling with the demons of the past.  He’s been drifting, fucking up and trying to escape both his father’s legacy and the events of his childhood that haunt him.  He self-medicates to drown out his ‘shining,’ but soon, remnants of his supernatural abilities re-emerge and the meeting of teenager Abra Stone forces him to go into battle to save her soul.

While a whole bunch of cool mind-reading, ESP, telekinesis stuff goes on between Dan and Abra, there is evil lurking nearby.  A travelling tribe of highway folk called the True Knot are in search of sustenance.  And they want Abra.  Part vampire, part kidnappers, part murderers, they are led by a powerful, engaging, and chillingly evil woman in a top hat who drives an RV.

In true King style, the action and spooks are from start to finish.  There is real substance to Dan’s personal struggles as he fights his demons in a gritty and authentic portrayal of addiction. There is a love story of sorts between an unlikely pair, and the plot is fast moving, uncomplicated and tense.  The baddies are really bad, and the goodies are genuinely flawed.  It also gives the original The Shining more depth and intrigue, as the story travels back in time to Danny’s awful memories of the hotel on the hill.

While there is always a risk of a King ending being just that bit too epic (think the giant spider in IT) the climax here is cleverly crafted and will not disappoint.

In Short: “Holy Shit, this book is getting good.”

Jasper Jones by Craig Silvery

Jasper-Jones (2)To me, reading a good piece of Australian literature is of equal importance to my cultural identity as Anzac Day, a beach Christmas, a day off for a horse race, and the smell of burning eucalypt.

I love when I read an Australian author and slip into the familiar landscape and scenery, the language and dialect, and the society and ideologies. Like being wrapped in a comfortable blanket, I’m home, at once. However, the good authors always manage to make that blanket just a little bit itchy at times, forcing me to shift position and think on what I am actually cosy with.

Craig Silvery has mastered the art, and it has taken me three months to digest this book and finally write a review. I’ve been mulling over it and chewing on the plot for ages because of the notion that this is close to the best book I’ve ever read.

Set in the regional mining town of Corrigan in 1965, Jasper Jones is a thoughtful, wise, coming of age story. It is heartbreaking, tense, hilarious and riveting.

On a hot, summer night, our reluctant hero, thirteen year old Charlie Bucktin is woken by an urgent knock on his window. An outcast in the country town, mixed-race Jasper Jones urges Charlie to join him outside and help him with a desperate situation.

Jasper had always been a boy who both intimidated and intrigued Charlie. The scapegoat for all the town’s mishaps, but stoic in the face of prejudice. When Charlie follows Jasper to a secret glade across the bush, he bears witness to a horrendous discovery. Forced to keep the secret, an unbearable weight on his shoulders and in his gut, he is thrown into turmoil as all around him the town and his loved ones erupt into fear.

What is so sophisticated and charming about the story, is that while there are horrible things going on in both Charlie’s life, and more broadly the town, he still manages to cope. To carry on like a normal teenage boy; love-sick and precocious, rude to his parents, and sarcastic and playful with his best friend. Perhaps it’s the arrogance of youth, but it makes it so real. It gives the character credibility: even though shit is going down, the rest of the world doesn’t cease to function.

One highlight for me, was the relationship Charlie has with his best friend Jeffrey Lu; an overzealous Vietnamese boy and Cricket tragic. The dialogue between these two made me feel as though I was eavesdropping on my little brother and his friends. So authentic and genuine, I was laughing out loud, falling in love with the wit and sharpness of their exchanges.

This story touched me on many levels. It has a solid and unexpected plot, believable characters, and a familiar but uncomfortable setting that gets under your skin from the first hint of summer heat, sleepless nights, and small town stereotypes.

In Short: Authentic and Amazing. A modern day classic akin to Harper Lee’s Mockingbird.

Gift Ideas and Reading Inspiration

night sinsIdeas for the ladies in your life

The Light Between Oceans ML Stedman: utterly moving

Oh Dear Silvia Dawn French: hilarious and heartwarming

Night Sins by Tami Hoag: Thrilling crime

white-earthAnd for the blokes

Pure by Andrew Miller: award winning historical fiction

The White Earth by Andrew McGahan: Australian Drama

The Tour de France; The Good, The Bad and the just plain weird: self explanatory huh?

baby litFor Young Readers

Vanguard Prime Series by  Steven Lochran: super adventures for pre-teens

Matilda by Roald Dahl: who doesn’t love reading and magic?

The BabyLit Series: Board books for brainy babies

Life in Outer Space by Melissa Keil: Sweet and funny YA.

writing-fifty-shades-of-gray-bdsm-erotica-reminders-ecards-someecards1And for someone you hate

Fifty Shades of Grey by EL Gross.  The good news is that op shops are teeming with copies of this series so you won’t have to spend more than it’s worth.