Monthly Archives: January 2011

Below the Styx – Michael Meehan

This month we planned to read Ulysses but halfway through the month we revolted and chose to read Below the Styx instead. Here is the description from the  publisher…

Martin Frobisher has been beating close family members about the head with an epergne. Frobisher, successful publisher and community leader, is in the City Remand Centre, awaiting trial for murder. What shadow has fallen across the comfortable lives of Frobisher, his ambitious wife Coralie and her flaky sister Madeleine? What has led a cultivated and reflective man, known to shoo spiders and earwigs out of the harm’s way, to such reckless acts of violence?
With the prospect of imprisonment for the Term of his Natural Life, can Frobisher and his research assistant Petra find guidance in the life and fortunes of a brilliant young Englishman, marooned in Australia, ‘the land of vulgarity and mob rule’ more than a century earlier, and obsessed with the darker moments in the nation’s history? Why does Frobisher appear to care more, in the end, about the life of Marcus Clarke than he does about his own

This novel is written from Martin’s point of view and the lengths he takes to justify his actions are hilarious – ultimately he was driven to it for various different reasons, but mostly because of a fundamental incompatibility of philosophy. Interspersed in his reminisces about life with Coralie are his thoughts on Marcus Clark – a 19th century Australian writer – in fact he seems to identify with Marcus Clark I even wonder if he thinks he is Marcus Clark in a later life.

This novel is an easy read, full of interesting historical details. I think I will definitely chase down his other novels.

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Housebound- Winifred Peck

This novel is set during World War Two and it follows the adventures of a ‘lady’ trying to do the house work herself. She tries to maintain the same standard (to please her husband) as when she had two maids – there is many a comic mishap. Like when she is trying to set the breakfast table (which requires so many things) and the coffee boils over the bacon and toast.

Here is the Persephone (well a bit of it)  information …

Penelope Fitzgerald wrote: ‘If I could have back one of the many Winifred Peck titles I once possessed I would choose House-Bound. The story never moves out of middle-class Edinburgh; the satire on genteel living, though, is always kept in relation to the vast severance and waste of the war beyond. The book opens with a grand comic sweep as the ladies come empty-handed away from the registry office where they have learned that they can no longer be “suited” and in future will have to manage their own unmanageable homes. There are coal fires, kitchen ranges and intractable husbands; Rose is not quite sure whether you need soap to wash potatoes. Her struggle continues on several fronts, but not always in terms of comedy. To be house-bound is to be “tethered to a collection of all the extinct memories… with which they had grown up… how are we all to get out?” I remember it as a novel by a romantic who was as sharp as a needle, too sharp to deceive herself.’

While learning how to maintain a house, Rose thinks about what being house-bound means in a literal and figurative sense. She feels that her husband and her difficult daughter are both house-bound emotionally. The daughter, Flora, is quite a challenge. A melodrama queen whose version of her childhood has her parents (mother and step-father) plotting to harm her at every opportunity. There is a lovely American doctor who first steps in to help Rose with her house keeping dilemma’s and then coincidently Flora is his patient. This novel is set during the war and inevitably there is tragedy, but it ends with hope.

This novel is very much of it’s time and place and probably won’t appeal to a general audience, but I’m glad I’ve read it. I enjoyed Rose’s inner-monologue as she grappled with various house-hold duties.

Here are some other reviews …

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2010 Book Club Reviews

I read 37 books for this blog last year (I read other books for and  I upset one author (check out the comments). So a good reading year. My three favourite reads were:

Good to a Fault by Marina Endicott

The Legacy by Kristen Tranter

Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey.

My least favourite book was The Bookshop on Jacaranda Street – fortunately I lent it to a friend and she never returned it!

I feel quite proud (of myself) that I managed to finish both Bleak House and Little Dorrit.

In 2011 I plan to read my pile – it was a 2010 resolution as well.

I’m currently reading Magic Island: The Fictions of LM Montgomery by Elizabeth Waterson.

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