Tasmania Here I Come

I am so looking forward to the official launch in Hobart of my collection of short fictions Flame Tip (Hybrid Publishers).

I’m hoping for a good turnout at Fullers Bookshop 5.30pm on Thursday 23rd March. I feel very lucky to have Tasmanian-based author Katherine Johnson (author of Pescador’s Wake and The Better Son) with me for some Q&A fun.  Book now to secure a spot. Hope to see lots of friends, readers and fellow writers.

You will also catch me at the Hobart Bookshop on Saturday 25th March at 10am (love Salamanca!) And I will be taking a trip up to Launceston on Wednesday 29th March where I will be signing books at Petrarch’s. I don’t get to Launceston very often so I really hope some of you readers and book lovers will pop in to say hi.

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In the Quiet by Eliza Henry-Jones: Review

It is not a normal thing for me to rate a book by the number of times I cried, but in this case – the case of Eliza-Henry Jones’ debut novel In the Quiet – I can’t help myself. Six times! That’s out and out ugly cries, by the way. I teared up on a number of other occasions.

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Published in 2015 as part of a three-book deal with Harper Collins, In the Quiet was shortlisted and longlisted for a number of awards. I sought it out now because I am hoping to interview the author for the ‘Australian Women Writers Challenge’ in the not too distant future as her second novel Ache is due for release in May. Ache is an extremely powerful four-letter-word and it strangely jumps out at me from the opening paragraphs of In the Quiet: “If I could still feel, I’m sure the yearning for them would be enough to make me ache” (2). Our dead narrator is thinking of her family who she watches living on without her, at the same time remembering snatches of a life lived happily; a life that she can no longer participate in. Henry-Jones alerts us to the state of our narrator in the opening sentence (“I don’t know how I died” (1)) but leaves the unravelling of the circumstances of her death until the end.

The narrator – Cate – has left behind a husband (Bass), a daughter Jessa, and twin boys Rafferty and Cameron, and she says of her children: “Jessa and Rafferty both have a hardness in them. Something Bass calls guts and I call the quiet.” (7).

In an ingenious unfolding of memories interspersed with the current goings on in the lives of Cate’s family following her death, we learn about the different ways people have of coping with grief, the impact of secrets, the heart tugs of unrequited love, and the regret of words left unsaid. A mother quietly mourns her daughter:

Just in case you’re floating around somewhere, I love you. I think about you every day. Your children are beautiful. I miss you. (158).

I can’t write about the times I cried, for that would involve spoilers but, in one instance, Henry-Jones lets you feel it building, until you are almost calling out a long desperate nooooo, until your breathing becomes ragged and you almost refuse to read on. Well that was me, anyway.

There is a suspense that carries the story almost maddeningly and it is hard to put the book aside. I was amazed at the depth of the characters and the confidence of voice and structure shown by such a young writer (born in 1990) so I am looking forward to reviewing her second novel. With multi-book deals, it seems it is often hard to live up to expectations created by the starter. Here’s hoping Henry-Jones does it.

This is a deliberately short review. Looking forward to interviewing the author soon for the AWW Challenge.

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Searching out other reviews for In the Quiet, it soon became clear that the book didn’t affect us all the same:
A review for the AWW Challenge on Book Muster Down Under cites the “compelling voice” of this debut.
Antonia Hayes for the Sydney Morning Herald says it is a book guaranteed to make you cry and calls it “a surprise find”.
Kate W in her review on Books are my Favourite and best  found the narrator too detached and “wanted scenes that made [her] sob”. Just confirms how different we all are as readers. I found Cate’s detachment necessary and, well, there’s no doubt about the sob factor where I’m concerned.
Cassie Hamer sums up neatly when she says she leaned in to listen, becoming engrossed after “invad[ing] the book’s personal space”.

Links to other reviews can be found on the AWW Challenge website.

BOOK DETAILS:
ISBN 97814460750360
Henry-Jones, Eliza: In the Quiet, Fourth Estate, Sydney. 2015.

 

 

 

 

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Letter to Pessoa by Michelle Cahill: Book Review

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I am keen to read a couple of books due for release over the next couple of months but, feeling somewhat guilty over my tardiness in producing a review for the Australian Women Writers Challenge, I’m reviewing here a short story collection (my favourite fodder) published last year.

Michelle Cahill’s poetic roots shine through in this startling collection of stories: each an homage to a literary figure, from the poet Fernando Pessoa to JM Coetzee. Many of the characters are familiar but they may not all be known to every reader and yet it doesn’t totally govern the readability of the collection. Even if some of the allusions pass you by (I’m sure I missed plenty of subtle references and intertextualities), it doesn’t affect the next story.

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For review purposes, I sought some clarification by reading the author’s note on the publisher’s website but phrases such as “I wanted to cultivate an aesthetic which expressed contingency without shame or compromise” and “I haven’t rejected structure, but I have trusted the spaces where narrative collapses” didn’t help me in my quest for further enlightenment. I mean this as no criticism, just an observation that my brow may not be as high as Cahill’s intended readership.

The stories don’t read in that usual epistolary way of a letter from one person to another; to me they are more like a series of tributes.

‘Chasing Nabokov’, in which Cahill transplants Nabokov to contemporary Sydney, is one of my favourites, even with its uncomfortable Lolita-mirrored premise. There is still something unsettling about a young narrator (surfie-chick) who is cautiously aware of a forty-year age difference, taking us from “the loose folds of skin around his neck [that] resembled a toad’s” (210) to “I felt I would let him do anything, my body a throbbing receptacle for his love.” (216).

‘Duende’ is a tragic love story: poetry and loneliness in Spain, an uncoupling of men and an unravelling against a backdrop of bullfighting, complete with Hemingway’s Death in the Afternoon. There is a deep sadness and release in “The river is a ballad, twisting, weeping, bleeding.” (52), followed by hope and lightness in the final sentence:

 It is a perfect day, the sun hot, the sky intensely blue with the soft motion of pigeon wings breaking the light. (53)

‘Letter to Neil Young’ resonates with me:

The road taught me what I know about love and losing. I can tell you how it tempered me like a drug, sedating and comforting me. (138)

And, just imagine:

 I knock once. The white plyboard door is ajar. I can hear an echo of Kurt Cobain, and your voice, the metallic whine of a harmonica. (139)

I can’t resist this final appeal to the senses:

 Agarbathi incense floats through the house and maybe I’m guessing but something like the chocolatey aroma of Alaskan thunderfuck … (140).

I love the front: Madeleine Kelly Treatment for Hysteria II (2008) and there’s some exceptional writing between the covers.

Check out Jonathan Shaw’s review.

BOOK DETAIL:
Cahill, Michelle. Letter to Pessoa, Giramondo Publishing, NSW. 2016. ISBN: 9781925336146

 

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Flame Tip Review

Yay!

Another great review

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Hooked

I seem to have been chained to my keyboard for days so I took some time out today to visit a local art exhibition, the What we do in Queensland exhibition at Artrageous Arts and Crafts/Gallery 4017 in Deagon.

I am familiar with Tamika Petersen (both the artist [my friend] and her art) and the main reason for my visit was to see her work exhibited. Although I had seen a picture of the largest of her pieces on her Facebook page, I was not prepared for the impact of ‘Hooked on Bliss and Chaos’ in all its bruising glory. Check it out . . .

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I am not an art critic and don’t pretend to any expertise but, as the saying goes, I know what I like. So I’d love to give a shout out to a couple of artists in particular, based on nothing more than my own responses to their work.

Amy Crow’s ‘Alone – Diamond’ kept me so spellbound I forgot to take a pic, despite going back three times.

And I connected deeply with Rhiannon Hetherington’s large and bold works. ‘Radiating Love’ was a stand-out for it’s – well – radiation of love. Again, no photo, but here’s another one of Hetherington’s that caught my eye again as I was walking out the door.

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Stunning!

If you get the chance, I urge you to get along to Gallery 4017 in Loftus Street, Deagon. The Artrageous Experience space is fabulous, especially the garden area out the back.

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More information about the venue

More information about the exhibition

 

 

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Flame Tip: first review

Wonderful review by Lisa Hill at ANZ LitLovers.

flame-tip-front-325x475-front    Can barely wait for the release!

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And then there were four . . .

Absolutely thrilled to have made the final four in the Hal Porter Short Story Competition. And I’m in extremely good company, having just read R.J. Tennyson’s winning entry. Congratulations R.J. and congrats also to fellow finalists Roger Vickery (NSW) and Melisabeth Cooper Fell (VIC). And thanks University of Queensland Press for the lovely books.

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