Fishing the River of Time – Tony Taylor

24722132This is a wonderful meandering memoir of fly fishing, salmon, the importance of wilderness, environmental follies and meeting a grandson for the first time. 80 yr old Taylor flies to Vancouver Island in British Colombia from Sydney to meet his grandson to introduce him to his passion of fly fishing. While he waits for grandson and son to appear, he thinks back to his first sojourn by Lake Conichiwan. I learnt about how both countries are grounded on massive granite basoliths yet, while one country had an abundance of nature, the other did not. Why? Well, Canada is the land of the Great Lakes and Australia is … not. Why such an abundance of nature on a naturally acid rock? Interesting and educational musings while fishing. I also learnt that hooking a fish through the mouth doesn’t hurt it as the mouth is cartilage … I must say I was relieved to learn that. But there was one thing that bugged me … Why write about the guilt of long distance flying when he was blithely driving about in a car quite often without any thought about the environmental impact?


Suite Francaise – Irène Némirovsky

43944.jpgWow, what an incredible story. And to think that it was the first draft! I was just blown away. Just marvellous but sombre and illuminating. I wanted to read it slowly to let the images and feelings seep in. Yet I wanted to cram it all. It is a mirror of humanity when disaster strikes. What cunning Némirovsky shows and also empathy. Empathy for some from the regime that murdered her and her husband. Némirovsky wrote this masterpiece at the very time events of WW2 were occurring. The first part is the Paris Exodus and the second,  a snapshot of a small village during the Occupation. What do humans do in times of crisis? Inbuilt prejudices don’t disappear. The echelons of society bemoaned having to travel and live in close proximity to the less well-to-do. Do people help each other? On some occasions yes. Wonderful observations about human nature. The image of a man from the cultural elite carefully packing his treasures, the poor family with a new baby stealing food from the hoard of one of the upper crust. I loved the Viscountess Mortmont’s frustrated musings about the village schoolteacher who lives an exemplary life. But how could she? She was unbaptised and didn’t attend mass. It would be understandable if she had countless lovers or was an alcoholic, but as it is, her behaviour  confuses the simple villagers…. Gosh, just wonderful.

The two appendixes at the back show her plans for the book and the second, letters from her and her husband to various friends and publishers. Then a sudden silence as Némirovsky is arrested and taken to a concentration camp. The last letters are frantic cables from her husband trying to find out where she is and determine if she is still alive.

A sobering end to what was promising to be a wonderful story.


Forever Foreign: Expatriate Lives in Historical Kobe – Keiko Tamura

My mother in law gave us this book because we are going to Japan for a holiday soon, 7668076and one of the things we are going to do is visit the graves of my husband’s grandfather and grandmother. They lived in Japan for most of their lives and there is a chapter about them in this book. The book uses the Williams collection about expatriates in Kobe, Japan; the archive is currently held by the National Library of Australia. Williams collected information about foreign expatriates because he thought that the information would disappear without intervention. And his prediction is sort of right – the author found out that hardly anyone remembers them. The most touching story was that of Mary Kirby, who although she had a English father, she was deemed Japanese because her mother was. Her father forbid European men to the house and so her social life went nowhere and she ended up in penury after her father’s death. I loved the photographs in the book – they make the characters come alive (you can see some of them in the Google Books preview). The photograph at the end of the book is fabulous – it is the backs of a European man and a Japanese woman taken around the turn of the 20thc. Williams didn’t leave much information about himself – he was the recorder, not someone to be recorded.

I’m glad I read this book – I got a real insight into non-Japanese people’s lives in Japan during the interwar years including the upheaval caused by quick and massive industrialisation. I also felt that the businessmen who settled there were using Japan to make themselves rich. But the Japanese government were sort of using them too. There is information about the cemetery that the foreigners are buried in and I felt a little sad about how little it is visited. But is it really that bad not to be remembered?

The Annotated Alice – Lewis Carrol

982630Gee the Victorians were weird! We think adults having child friends is very iffy these days but maybe it wasn’t that strange in Victorian times. Carrol wasn’t a pedophile, just a very socially inept man who was more comfortable with children and his siblings. This is the first time I’ve read Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, and I wouldn’t have understood many of the references without reading the annotations. The logic puzzles were fun and I really enjoyed reading the annotations about these and other pieces of philosophy. The Annotated Alice has real value here.

I wouldn’t have realised that Through the Looking Glass is a chess game if I hadn’t of read the introductory essay either (I’ve only ever played chess once or twice). I don’t know if I would’ve enjoyed these books as a child, though I did like time travel via a looking glass (I loved Come Back Lucy – a TV series where a child goes back in time to the same house she is living in but 100 years earlier). Wonderland and Looking Glass are quite violent – there is lots of hitting, shaking, shouting and throwing things. Alice is quite petulant and bossy; a rather spoilt child. But! There are some pieces of nonsense and fun poems that still charm. ‘You are old father William’ is one and the other ‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves…’. I’m in two minds about The Walrus and the Carpenter as it is about trickery. The introduction is worth reading and I had to chuckle at “the Bible and all other great works of fantasy…” Maybe these stories are better read aloud – that’s how they were first told anyway.

My Place by Sally Morgan

I first read this for year 12 English and I don’t think I was1144682 mature enough to appreciate it at the time. As well as that, the truth of the atrocities and inhumanity shown to the Aboriginals was not taught. In fact, a lot of untruth was taught in Australian History. So as well as not being mature enough to appreciate it, it was almost considered fiction because we students didn’t have the full story.

What a heart rending memoir. At times I was close to tears and at others I was laughing aloud. I was also breathless at the treatment and attitudes. No wonder Morgan’s grandmother and mother didn’t want to tell her and her siblings about their heritage. Think that we are above the US because we never had slavery? Wrong! Aboriginals were slaves but to salve the conscience of the Europeans, they were called servants (women housekeepers and nannies) or workers (the men working at the big cattle stations). Education was kept at a minimum and permits were needed to travel away from your owners. No wages were paid (it was illegal) but a pittance was given as a sort of token. Women were property of the white men and the children from these unions were taken away. Children were taken away from their mothers anyway.

As well as the atrocities and inhumanity uncovered by Sally in a quest to find out who she really is, she finds out why she and her grandmother have such an infinity towards the wildlife and the land.

This is not the only story. The story also includes the horror her father encountered during his imprisonment during WW2. He and other Allied soldiers were in a prison nearby a concentration camp in Germany which housed Jewish people who were going to be killed. He said the sounds and smells from the camp were horrendous. He never recovered from the experience but the psychiatric treatment available in Australia then was ineffective and cruel.

A wonderful memoir and well worth reading again.

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