Monthly Archives: March 2014

The Gravity of Birds – Tracy Guzeman

The Gravity of Birds - Tracy Guzeman

The Gravity of Birds – Tracy Guzeman

This is my latest book club selection. I knew nothing about it prior to reading it – quite refreshing really.

Here is the blurb …

Sisters Natalie and Alice Kessler were close, until adolescence wrenched them apart. Natalie is headstrong, manipulative—and beautiful; Alice is a dreamer who loves books and birds. During their family’s summer holiday at the lake, Alice falls under the thrall of a struggling young painter, Thomas Bayber, in whom she finds a kindred spirit. Natalie, however, remains strangely unmoved, sitting for a family portrait with surprising indifference. But by the end of the summer, three lives are shattered.

Decades later, Bayber, now a reclusive, world-renowned artist, unveils a never-before-seen work, Kessler Sisters; a provocative painting depicting the young Thomas, Natalie, and Alice. Bayber asks Dennis Finch, an art history professor, and Stephen Jameson, an eccentric young art authenticator, to sell the painting for him. That task becomes more complicated when the artist requires that they first locate Natalie and Alice, who seem to have vanished. And Finch finds himself wondering why Thomas is suddenly so intent on resurrecting the past.

In The Gravity of Birds histories and memories refuse to stay buried; in the end only the excavation of the past will enable its survivors to love again.

 I found this novel compelling. I read fast to find out what happened next. Did he? Did she? Did they? It is definitely all about the plot I can see it being made into a fast paced movie. I had to keep reminding myself that some of the characters were elderly. I do have a few lingering questions about a couple of things, and is it possible to keep something secret for so long when more than one person is involved in keeping the secret (I feel sure there must be death bed confessions that spill the beans).

More reviews …

http://www.bookreporter.com/reviews/the-gravity-of-birds

http://thewritesofwoman.wordpress.com/2013/08/22/the-gravity-of-birds-tracy-guzeman/

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The Long Prospect – Elizabeth Harrower

The Long Prospect - Elizabeth Harrower

The Long Prospect – Elizabeth Harrower

Elizabeth Harrower has been rediscovered by Text – I have read The Watch Tower (no review – sorry) and was keen to read this one as well.

Here is the blurb …

Sharply observed, bitter and humorous, The Long Prospect is a story of life in an Australian industrial town.

Growing up neglected in a seedy boarding house, twelve-year-old Emily Lawrence befriends Max, a middle-aged scientist who encourages her to pursue her intellectual interests. Innocent Emily will face scandal, suburban snobbery and psychological torment.

Originally published in 1958, The Long Prospect was described as second only to Patrick White’s Voss in postwar Australian literature.

I struggled with this novel. I don’t know why and once I was past the middle I just zoomed through it. Lilian (Emily’s grandmother), Paula  and Harry are all terrible characters. Lilian, in particular, is spiteful and hard. Emily is cared for from a physical point of view; fed, clothed, educated, etc, but no one looks after her emotionally she is ignored and teased. Max is the one person who pays her attention and hopes to help her escape through education, but ultimately he is defeated by petty squabbles between Lilian and her cronies. Ms Harrower writes about seemingly small minor events that have an enormous effect on someone’s life. Billie and Rosen are both jealous of Max and insinuate that his relationship with Emily is not innocent. Lilian doesn’t believe it, but is looking for a way of getting rid of Max and Emily and so goes along with it. Max leaves and Emily moves to Sydney to live with her parents (who are forced to move in together to provide a home for Emily). So one small act of petty jealousy and four lives are dramatically altered.

This is a quiet novel about psychological development. What effect does neglect and negativity have on a person’s character? What happened to Lilian? Will Emily end up the same as Lilian?

 

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My Life in Middlemarch – Rebecca Mead

My Life in Middlemarch - Rebecca Mead

My Life in Middlemarch – Rebecca Mead

I read about this book in The Australian on the day we had a guest speaker (Tim Dolin – he was fabulous) coming to speak to my group, so obviously I had to get a copy.

Here is the blurb …

New Yorker writer revisits the seminal book of her youth–Middlemarch— and fashions a singular, involving story of how a passionate attachment to a great work of literature can shape our lives and help us to read our own histories.

Rebecca Mead was a young woman in an English coastal town when she first read George Eliot’s Middlemarch, regarded by many as the greatest English novel. After gaining admission to Oxford, and moving to the United States to become a journalist, through several love affairs, then marriage and family, Mead read and reread Middlemarch. The novel, which Virginia Woolf famously described as “one of the few English novels written for grown-up people,” offered Mead something that modern life and literature did not.

In this wise and revealing work of biography, reporting, and memoir, Rebecca Mead leads us into the life that the book made for her, as well as the many lives the novel has led since it was written. Employing a structure that deftly mirrors that of the novel, My Life in Middlemarch takes the themes of Eliot’s masterpiece–the complexity of love, the meaning of marriage, the foundations of morality, and the drama of aspiration and failure–and brings them into our world. Offering both a fascinating reading of Eliot’s biography and an exploration of the way aspects of Mead’s life uncannily echo that of Eliot herself, My Life in Middlemarch is for every ardent lover of literature who cares about why we read books, and how they read us.

I really enjoyed this book – part literary criticism part memoir – I’ve thought more about Middlemarch and I think I have gained a greater insight into the novel. I want someone to write something similar about all of the books I read.

I do think you need to have a passing knowledge of Middlemarch to read (or at least appreciate) this book.

More reviews …

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/26/books/review/rebecca-meads-my-life-in-middlemarch.html?_r=0

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/arts/review/rebecca-mead-reads-meaning-into-george-eliots-middlemarch/story-fn9n8gph-1226814705811

 

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Filed under Non-Fiction, Recommended